Stellar space in this 1950s Douglas home

This suburban 1950s home has almost doubled its original size in a magical makeover says Tommy Barker.

Stellar space in this 1950s Douglas home

Douglas, Cork €445,000

Sq m 154 (1,600 sq ft)

Bedrooms: 4 plus attic

Bathrooms: 4

BER : C3

Best Feature: Imaginatively reworked

Pictures: Denis Scannell

‘FOR SALE’ sign now joins the sun-screening ‘sails’ which deck the walls and shelter the side and back patio doors of the recreated Douglas semi-detached family home called Villa Nova, in one of the city’s resurgent property hot-spots, in Ballincurrig Park.

These triangular sails are a year-round feature of this home, fastened with stainless steel yacht fittings and tensioners, giving a somewhat jaunty maritime first impression. On a visit, inside and outside around its decking and timber screens, the surprises and personal tweaks just keep coming.

Oh, and there’s also a h ard-working, bomb-proof outdoor pizza oven made up from a kit by the owners, topped with a mosaic dome, and regularly pressed into service, come hail or shine, summer or winter. Plans to slow-cook a Christmas turkey in it were only just passed up on, for caution’s sake.....

The Hegarty-built 1950s house was extended and upgraded in the early 2000s by its current occupants who invested as much imagination, creativity and thought into it as they did money: the result is a house that’s very different, yet very amenable, to a range of family sizes and ages, all at the one time.

Effectively now doubled in size, Villa Nova is set on a wedge-shaped corner site inside the entrance to the niche cul-de-sac Ballincurrig park, within an easy walk of Douglas village on the one side, and also a slightly longer walk to the city centre on the other.

“We bought it because of the proximity to schools, and bus routes and services,” say the owners/vendors who purchased in 2002, in a strong but as-yet not overheated Cork suburban housing market.

They extended to the side, did a full internal overhaul, opening up rooms and injecting it all with stylish panache, art and wallpapers, and also easily accommodated a very adaptable attic level room. It’s described as a family suite, with attic level extra bathroom hidden behind a novel wall of polished walnut floor boards.

Then, they used the same visual trick downstairs as a wall feature, mounting similar high-gloss walnut timbers in a panel in a dining space, with rope lighting running around the perimeter, out of sight, but creating an even evening glow. If you saw it in a boutique hotel bar, you’d be impressed. Here, it’s just right at home.

With its houses set around a central block, and with a handful also along the main Douglas Road, Ballincurrig houses have always had a bit of a premium appeal, and a good clutch have had significant extensions added in the past decade or so on re-sale: Villa Nova was one of the earlier examples, and still has a fresh feel 12 years after being done.

The owners bought back then from Billy Casey of Casey and Kingston, and now the resale in 2015 is with Sam Kingston of the same firm.

Mr Kingston guides at a quite modest €445,000, and it’s going to show very well, and be bid up quite smartly too, one would imagine, going on the shortage of similar stock, the quality of the work done — and on the latest sale in viewing activity in the estate.

Two other, neighbouring Ballincurrig semi-detached houses have just very recently gone sale agreed: Cohalan Downing got c €350,000 for a fairly original one about four doors down and which had been on and off the market for a while.

And, Mark Rose of Rose Property Services had a much-extended west-facing semi of 2,100 sq ft (also with an adaptable attic room) soar past its €490,000 guide after it appeared as House of the Week here two months ago: it’ s understood to have gone ‘sale agreed’ around €580,000.

Sam Kingston says the 1,600 sq ft Villa Nova (that floor area’s excluding attic conversion) was “finished to the highest standard, in one of Cork’s most sought-after locations,” and its key selling points are accessible location, and the fact it’s such a walk-in job. If one or two bidders fall heavily for its extra touches, it should have a bit of wind in its garden sails.

The house extension shape and outline was more or less dictated by the shape of the wedge site, wide to the front, and tapered to the back, where the back corner is filled in by a triangular garden shed, complete with rainwater barrel for water storage and discretionary garden watering.

Because of the peculiarity of Ballincurrig’s layout, some houses and gardens tend to overlook others, or to be overlooked, to various degrees, and here at Villa Nova that’s minimised as much as possible by planting of lush screening bamboos to the front and at the front/side garden with its hidden pizza oven and al fresco dining spot.

There’s also timber fencing on top of the front boundary wall, while behind, more landscaping is tasked with adding colour and screening. The side boundary wall, for example, has a row of half a dozen or so prunus trees, now in early summer finery, and they give structure as well as boundary definition.

There’s a good stretch of lawn in front for kids to kick a ball on, or have a trampoline, and there’s a far smaller small patch of green behind, along with raised decking, raised beds, and lots of planting.

Most outdoor relaxation and activity here seems to concentrate on the side garden, which is entirely decked, with painted boards, and has seating and plant stands along side walls also made in decking timbers.

The house’s gable has its lower section in horizontally-clad cedar sheeting, with stainless steel outdoor lighting, and has two screening sails overhead, anchored to the wall and to a stout garden post, like a jib and genoa.

You could quite easily imagine yourself at a some harbour marina bar, a glass of vino or beer in hand, and the smell of pizza or joints of meat cooking in the outdoor bread oven. And, the wrap around counter by that domed oven is supplemented by a strong barbecue construction, with hinged steel hood over the cooking griddle.

Thanks to the bamboo screen, as well a head-high wooden screen by the front drive, it’s easy to forget you’re on a corner setting in a park — the very most has been made of the site, thanks to some clever thinking.

The house’s front facade has been given a lift in the extension process, with permission granted for two single storey bay windows, with the bays topped with small clay tiles, while the strong, black painted hardwood front door has a distinctive, arched panel overhead with lead flashing, and contrasting black and white step tiles: it gives a certain amount of weight to the entry point.

Inside, the best use has been made of space and light: a new stairs and landing configuration was needed to give access to the two sides of the first floor, and now the hall’s double height, with a feature open tread timber and steel staircase, sourced from Italy.

Off to the left at ground level are two reception rooms, now interconnected and running front to back, each with matching fireplaces.

The old kitchen space of the original house is now a ground floor guest WC, and utility room, and to the right, in the new build section, is a kitchen/dining rooms, with front bay window (big enough to hold a double seater sofa) , side garden access, big breakfast bar divide, and top-quality units in a gloss finish from House of Coolmore, while worktops are in an unabashed red glistening quartz.

The colour red features again in tall, wall-mounted radiators in the dining space and main, double-height hall, while floors in these linked areas are light-coloured tiles, with cherry wood floor in the two, far-distant reception rooms.

There are four bedrooms up on the first floor, well-decorated with some striking papers, colours, paintings and art prints, and as at ground level, there are some quite unusual light fixtures, sourced from a shop called Light, in Douglas village at the time of the build project... done, unusually enough, with family in residence for most of the works.

One of the four bedrooms is en suite, and the main family bathroom has foregone the traditional bath, opting instead for a large corner shower with enough space left over for a casual chair, to drape clothes and towel over.

A big bonus at Villa Nova too is the way the builders managed to get good staircase access up to the attic level, with Veluxes to the rear in the roof, and up here now under sloping ceilings are a step-in wardrobe and some storage, a long room with roof lights, handy for a day-bed, games, office, etc (it’s not deemed bedroom space under building regs) and there’s a very good bathroom at the far end, behind a hidden, flush panel door finished in the same glossy walnut boards as the rest of this arching wall.

As it comes to market late this spring, Villa Nova is showing very well thanks to its assertive and accomplished decor, and maximum use of space and site: where others may have seen restrictions due to aspect and shape of site, the owner here saw opportunities and solutions.

VERDICT: Pizza oven, and house, to go.

“Its current occupants invested as much imagination, creativity and thought into it as they did money”

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