Sundays Well Cork City €3.8 million
Sq m 514 (5,500 sq ft)
BER Rating: D1
Best Feature: Best in town
WHAT’S the best family home in Cork? Woodlawn has to be a top contender, on any of several fronts.
A new-to-market arrival this week, it is priced at €3.8m with estate agent, Malcolm Tyrrell.
Woodlawn is described in Mr Tyrrell’s pages-long Cohalan Downing sales brochure as “one of Cork’s finest homes.”
Mr Tyrrell’s possibly even underselling Woodlawn with that ‘one of the best’ description: to adapt one of comedian Tommy Tiernan’s quips, not only is it world-class, but it’s in Cork.
Woolawn’s simply a great house and home.
Read on, in our first ever six-page cover-story editorial spread, and worth every inch of it.
Location? Elevated, in more ways than one. It’s in the very heart of venerable and genteel suburban Sunday’s Well, within a walk of Cork City centre, via the North Mall. Rock-solid setting, proven, and approved of by generations of families.
Provenance? It’s Georgian, dating to the mid-1800s, and so is one of the earlier homes on this leafy, riverside Sunday’s Well stretch, opposite equally-leafy Fitzgerald’s Park.
Size? It’s 5,500 sq ft, yet, strange to say, it’s a home that many families could quite easily fill (it has just four bedrooms, for example) with all the principal rooms up front for sun and extraordinary, verdant views.
Those views include almost two acres of private, manicured and pedicured, woodland grounds, stepping down in tiers to the River Lee far beneath, interspersed by some specimen hardwood trees, including a beech of immense girth, suggesting a few centuries of happy growth, and some oak coming along nicely, a century or so younger, by the extensive, private length of riverbank (the area’s popular with salmon fiends).
Quality? Impeccable. Substantially remodelled, with lavish investment by several owners since the millennium. Woodlawn is now in the best, most comfortable, easy-living condition it has ever been.
Interiors? Perfectly pitched: they respect the house’s age, and character, but with a contemporary twist.
Amenities? Within walking distance of the city, services, schools, University College Cork, the Tyndal Institute, the Mardyke, Fitzgerald’s Park and Apple’s European HQ — home to some 2,500 employees.
Mod cons? Yes, but none too obvious. Full, high-speed broadband, of course, for working from home, along with sound system that has flush, ceiling-set speakers in most rooms.
It’s already a hugely bright house, thanks to due-south orientation, plus tall windows, and double-aspect in key rooms, but at night its lighting style also come into its own.
It has pre-set/controllable settings for day-into-evening atmosphere, on into night, for reading, TV viewing, and more, plus lighting discretely hidden away in cornice work and other reveals, and there’s as much thought gone into lighting external features as internal ones.
Potential? Woodlawn is already quite perfectly realised, but planning has additionally been granted for a guest apartment/gym, on two levels, to be part-excavated beneath the drive-in, raised car-park terrace, which has a two-roomed gym under it.
The car deck/terrace is one of several spots here, at this hide-away home, catering for car-borne arrivals and departures, and is a key attribute of the property, as off-street parking is at such a premium along Sunday’s Well’s main stretch.
In fact, a lower level car-port, on the property’s so-sheltered western wing, has a handy turntable for quick and easy vehicle turn-arounds, one of just a handful of these simple expedients for tight turning settings, and it’s adjacent to a stunning, high-walled courtyard and water feature by the expansive kitchen’s entrance.
Perhaps the subtle catering for cars (in a suburban house, where a family could quite conceivably reside without so much as a family car) is explained by the background of the house’s owner.
Woodlawn was last bought by Cork motor-dealer supremo, Bill Keary, and his wife Marian, eight or nine years ago, in an off-market, high-end deal.
They bought Woodlawn from businessman/developer/shipping agent, Gerry Callanan, of Boqueira bar and Carton Wharf (Youghal) fame in the hey-day, who both redeveloped and built top homes in Sunday’s Well, with Woodlawn as his signature or premium buy, spotting its potential when he had acquired it (also off-market) from the Kiely family, of local medical lore, who’d had it right through the mid-1900s.
Whatever it is about being twice-acquired in off-market deals by canny Dubliners, it’s now open to all comers to acquire, to locals and blow-ins alike, as it gets launched by Mr Tyrrell, in Cork, along with Marcus Magnier, of Colliers International, in Dublin, for a bit of capital city chutzpah and overseas connections.
At a price of €3.8m, the market for such buys is pretty rarified, especially outside of Dublin — but, to repeat, this could be Cork City’s best house as it fits well-heeled niche needs.
It’s as perfect for night-time entertaining as it is for day-to-day family life, and so could suit a captain of industry or some corporate giant, or could even be bought by the likes of an Apple or an EMc as a company house for passing execs — they’d find little to quibble with living here, if they have to be lured to Cork.
It could suit the likes of a proud Corkman, like Roy Keane, as he’s been actively looking for a (albeit relatively modest) Cork base in the past 12 months — once inside the wall-sized sliding gate, it’s completely private, and the fact it’s notionally northside is a bonus.
It could suit a local or relocating Lotto winner, who doesn’t want to leave town for a country estate — Woodland has within its grounds an orchard, a majestic expanse of tiered terraces, and river frontage, after all.
And, it may suit a buyer with Cork roots, living abroad, used to sky-high prices in London or California, and who wouldn’t bat an eyelid at paying a fraction of those locations’ eye-watering house prices for a Cork trophy home.
In fact, that latter profile exactly fits the London-based oil industry individual who paid circa €3m over a year ago, via Mr Tyrrell, for Kinsale’s Fastnet House, the extraordinary, contemporary former home built by Howard Holdings’ Greg Coughlan.
Heck, it could even get a buyer ‘trading down’ out of Dublin, such
as a tecchie or a tribunal lawyer, for example, who’d be selling a lesser home in the capital’s flat southside suburbs for a higher sum, for a top lofty perch on the banks of their Own Lovely Lee.
“We’ve had eight great years living here, it’s been a very happy family home, but we’re now at a stage where we want to downsize for the future,” says vendor, Bill Keary. Typically, as a car dealer, he takes a no-nonsense approach to the family’s decision to move on and trade down, now that their children are gone, the first grandchild has arrived, and he and Marian are not making enough use of the house as a couple.
Plus, there’s practically nothing left to do, bar that optional guest wing with planning in place, to a design by Dublin-based Quilligan International architects.
Simply put, the Kearys have done the house a huge service during their time and tenure here: so much is new, from the slate roof down and from the sash, casement windows and French doors inwards.
Nothing jars, nor is in the wrong place. It’s all been extraordinarily sensitively done, and all the decor needs is for new owners to put their own pictures on the walls, and favourite glass or sculpture in the many internal and external display niches.
Woodlawn is distinctive from the first approach (though it’s barely glimpsed from Sunday’s Well Road) and a key original design feature is the city-side, rounded end bay, with very deep, overhanging eaves with corner support brackets; elsewhere around the house, stout decorative corbels are studded along the eaves. It’s all quite classical French-looking.
Steel windows at ground level are now replaced by numerous sets of French doors, in painted hardwoods, with slender profiles opening to an expansive, two-tiered terrace, with an external footprint as large as the house itself.
It’s a perfect balance, as the aspect is full-southerly, and the light tone of the quartz-like stone bounces light and almost reflects heat back toward the house’s eight-bay facade, with several plantings of wisteria softening the already-elegant front elevation.
Landscaping and planting, by the way, are top-drawer: it’s been reported that previous owner, Gerry Callanan, spent hundreds of thousands of euro on plants and trees, and that investment is continuing to pay handsome dividends.
Unusually enough for a Georgian home, this house is utterly asymmetrical, with the main entrance at the east or city-end gable, by the main-approach drive and steps, with a large hardwood door (and its over-large brass knocker) making its own arrival statement.
Yet, that’s nothing compared to the sheer elegance of the main, 17-ft by 17-ft hallway, with 30-ft high ornate ceiling and cantilevered-style curving stairs to the upper landing. The cliche about ‘they don’t make them like they used to’ comes to mind, except for the fact the painstaking craftsmanship of much of the conservation, remodelling, and adaptation is a match for the skills of those earlier masters.
Quality, natural materials are key to the look (designer Peter Johnson, of Quilligan International, worked with the current owners), so there’s Portland stone in the hall, and large oak-parquet floors in a herringbone pattern in much of the ground-floor rooms and landing, with under-floor heating reserved for the hall and for the 24-ft by 18-ft drawing room, with striking steel radiators of various shapes and heights in other parts of this re-worked home.
Woodlawn’s a wide house, making very best use of its southerly, sloping-site setting and aspect, so ranged across the front is that drawing room, an adjacent sitting room with quality chimney-piece, and the far end is home to a 32’ by 27’ family kitchen/dining room, with study tucked away, yet with a south-facing window.
Most day-to-day family life will take place in this exceptional contemporary space (it’s about one third of the house’s 2,450 sq ft ground-floor space), and the owners managed to raise the ceiling height here by almost two feet to keep balance and proportion.
The quality kitchen, in solid oak, was done by Pat Ahern, of Glenline, who also did much of the built-in joinery in other rooms, and Bill Keary reckons he’s one of the most under-rated firms in the business. The enormous island, with numerous drawers, is topped with double-deck of emperador- brown marble, and appliances are Miele, in the main.
This great room has several access points to the front and side terraces and courtyard garden, complete with electric awning — so it’s a place that encourages making the best of any passing rays of sunshine.
Woodlawn’s smart layout sees the rear, north-facing section housing a large utility/laundry room, with pull-out shelf units giving access to services and ducting.
There’s also a guest WC back here, near the hall, and a second, hardwood staircase with craft-made handrails, giving further access to the 2,350 sq ft first floor, and it then leads to the 500 sq ft second floor, which is home to an eyerie-like fourth bedroom and bathroom.
This uppermost room has a very individual, spacious roof-top sit-out balcony, with glass balusters and discreet fire escape — and the views are just immense, down over the canopy of greenery that is Woodlawn’s private gardens, on to Fitzgerald’s Park, over towards UCC’s equally green-looking Quad and sprawled Brookfield campus, and out west to County Hall and the Lee Fields. Be still, all proudly beating Cork hearts.
Despite the considerable area of the first floor (at 2,300 sq ft it’s the size of a pretty decent family home, in any case) it’s home to just three bedrooms, and, as a result, there’s no pinching of space in any room.
The master bedroom’s above the main drawing room, and equal-sized, at 24’ by 18’ with double-aspect.
Off to the front is an en-suite, and walk-in robe/dressing room, and this capacious store has a second door back out to the landing where, directly facing, is a second, larger dressing room, and which could as easily be used as a further bedroom.
This level’s two other bedrooms share access to a walk-through closet, as well as to a further bathroom with stand-alone roll-top cast-iron bath, plus corner shower, and the secondary staircase is a handy access point for these rooms — great for surreptitiously dropping down stairs in the middle of the night to raid the large, American-style fridge-freezer.
Bathrooms are top quality, but ‘brand’ names and/or bubbling baths are conspicuous only by their sheer absence, as is any sense of bling — it is low-key, muted style and comfort all the way.
Every bit as tasteful is the landscaping outside, with a Mediterranean flair, with drifts of lavender, clipped bay topiary and colour-flecked beds and shrubs, with rhododendron, camellias, lilac, laburnum and it’s all been lit for night-time enjoyment (the terrace’s four wide steps have subtle strip lighting, too).
The gardens are topped and tailed by lawns, with sleepers retaining gravel steps. and the middle section is given over to an orchard with four. long rows of fruit trees. and below that is a mini-forest of acers.
To have all this quality and space, with bespoke touches and lush gardens, all within a short walk of the city centre and Lee river frontage, is what gives Woodlawn its top market edge.
In terms of Dublin comparison, it would and should be up there with the best of, say, Killiney residential spreads.
As it comes along with its €3.8m price, Cork’s Woodlawn is certainly going to be a test of the uppermost end of the recovering market outside of Dublin.
Boom-time Cork prices did hit €4-5m in the city, while the most recent top Cork results have been closer to €2m in the city (Blackrock’s Rectory,) €3m in Kinsale (Fastnet House) and €4m in West Cork (Glandore’s Seamark.)
As an open-market offer now, and after its two previous off-market swoops, Woodlawn can keep its head up with the very best of them.
VERDICT: Hard to beat.