ANS of TV’s Grand Designs are well familiar with a so-called Rolls Royce of the kit or system-build homes world, called Huf Haus.
After a particularly dramatic Huf House featured on the home building programme in 2004, it spawned a surge of interest and commissions, so that now there are at least 250 Huf houses in Britain and Ireland.
And, at least on a par with 100-year old firm Huf is another, comparable German company called DaVinci Haus, a /mere’ 75 years in the game, consistently building to the same highest standard, and producing about 60 low-energy homes a year from their factory in Essen.
About 17 Da Vinci houses so far have surfaced in Ireland. after an agency opened up in Waterford in the mid 2000s: one is built high on a hill, in Kinsale, and it’s for sale.
A quick trawl of the ’net shows when these Huf and DaVinci post and beam homes come up for sale in the UK, they almost invariably are in spectacular locations, and usually priced in the multi-million pound league as a consequence.
Kinsale’s offer, up on chi-chi chic Compass Hill, falls just shy, as it’s priced at €1.35m — or £960,000 — by selling agent Ron Kruger, of Engel and Volkers’ Kinsale office.
It first came for sale late last year in a low-key way, but is now going out there, full-on, as summer comes around, and as its utterly expansive estuary views come into their own.
Impressive and all as the house is (and these builds do have their own, eh, ‘huf’ficiondos), the setting is quite an equal partner in this particular property package.
Within a walk of Kinsale town centre, its elevation on the scenic Compass Hill walk gives it views of Charles Fort, of the outer harbour by the boatyard, down over Castlepark, its marina, James Fort, back around to the inner harbour and up theBandon River too.
It’s 180 degrees, or more, of simply captivating views, frequently cut through by flocks of birds going up and down river. Behind the house? Fields of pasture, home occasionally to horses, and to rabbits.
Called Ard na Gréine, this seven year old Irish transplant sits surprisingly easily on this landscape, and is home to three generations of the one family living under its low-pitch roof.
Its owners still talks with some awe of the time they built here, and of the standard achieved by the German crew who travelled over to deliver and erect it, on a site (1,500 sq ft ground footprint) precision prepared by locals the Farley brothers, overseen by Ballinspittle-based engineer Igan Gillen.
“It was supposed to take three days to build, but in fact it took four days,” one of the owners admits with a smile, recalling the very windy first day which left the hardy crew washed out.
After a spurt to get the frame up and weathertight, specific trades came over for tiling, plumbing, electrics and carpets over three months more: then, they even cleaned the windows before they left it all behind them in walk-in order.
It’s practically unchanged, and even carpets are pristine still due to a no-shoes policy inside.
The house is a bespoke adaptation in the DaVinci mould, with its main living areas all upstairs, best-placed for the views, and with floor-to ceiling glazing, there really is a floating or flying carpet impression on the upper level, enhanced by its extra high (say, 12’?) ceiling up to the roof’s apex.
Surprisingly, the plans went straight through planning, but that was only after lots of information and detailing was provided to planners, and it replaces an earlier cottage dwelling on the site, which is sort of the end of a line of two-storey builds, helping to get the extra height allowed, on a cut-into half-acre site.
Bedrooms are all doubles, at the garden or lower level with garden access, with the best two at the front corners,with double aspect and en suite bathrooms, and the master suite has the best of the bedroom views, and its over-size private bathroom has doors opening to a side garden.
Sanitary ware is Philippe Starck-designed Duravit, with Hansgrohe taps, Kaldewei baths and Breuer power showers, and there’s also a main family bathroom and laundry/’engine’ room, spot-on for overnight airing and drying of clothes.
Energy usage is low, not too far off passive levels as there’s so much heat-soaking glazing, filled with inert krypton gas and with high air-tightness levels, the latter somewhat negated by Irish planning regs necessitating vents to the outdoors.
Main living space is largely open plan, but even though you’re technically ‘upstairs’, the entrance from the car parking area on the site’s upper end with ‘bridge’ access means no steps to climb to gain entry.
Handily, a second ‘side’ door is almost alongside the heft entry door, and is used for bringing in shopping to the kitchen/utility, and dumping sports gear into the bargain.
Apart from a discrete study/TV den and landing with guest WC, there’s a clear 40’ run of open living/dining/kitchen space and glazing right across Ard na Gréine’s front, where there’s access to a viewing balcony in the middle.
Stand out here, and you might notice the handrail’s ever-so gentle curve on top: it’s to encourage rain water to run off as smoothly as possible, though even that’s not as neat a trick as the downpipes from the roof gutters.
These drains are in clear plastic, so when there’s a downpour the water can be seen swirling down in a vortex (of course, this being Ireland, it also means having to clean the odd bit of green algae off the insides for best effect.)
This house’s kitchen is set towards the back of one end of the super-airy living space, German engineered and precise, with views over the serving island and appliances are from Siemens; planning was granted day one for a large, square east-aspected glassed balcony off the main kitchen area, designed as a sort of outside room for town and fort views, but this hasn’t yet been added on — hardly necessary, as nearly every room has a view.
This DaVinci masterpiece is well worth a view.