It’s Georgian on the mind in Blackrock Road home

Tommy Barker revisits ‘Arundel’ 10 years since it was last on the market and witnesses an utter transformation.

It’s Georgian on the mind in Blackrock Road home

Blackrock Road, Cork €1.1 million

Sq m 252 (2,700 sq ft)

Bedrooms: 5

Bathrooms: 4

BER: TBC

Best Feature: Restored and hugely extended Georgian

THE GEORGIAN era Blackrock Road, Cork city home called Arundel is all grown up - again, Literally.

Back in 2005, this 1798-rooted, three-storey house came up for sale with lots of grace, but not a huge amount of space.

We described it back then as having not so much hidden depths as hidden shallows, as it was — in effect — just one room deep in its main core area, and with each of those three stacked rooms on the left hand side lifted by graceful bay windows, overlooking the long rear garden.

All three of these 23’ deep rooms are as elegant as in time of yore (only more comfortable), but they now have a rival for affections, the super-sized kitchen/family dining room to the back.

Not only is a whopper, but thanks to an architect’s input, it’s the ultimate contemporary lifestyle box ticker, almost a home within a home.

Back then in ’05, as the market climbed to its peak, Arundel had carried a €750,000 price guide, when we noted that rank and file houses on this chic suburban road lined with period homes of different eras were hitting the €1m mark.

Arundel was bid well past its own asking price, to an undisclosed (pre-Price Register days) sum by its family buyers, who were then relocating from Dublin, and keen to buy in Blackrock.

And, the location is indeed ace, just two or three doors away from Barrington’s Avenue which links to the Atlantic Pond, on the Blackrock village side.

Then, after it purchase, it got the mother and father of upgrades and extension, a major undertaking, taking until 2007 before the young family could move in.

Now, another move is afoot, and Arundel comes for sale as a top-to-toe job, done with huge attention to period detailing, and modern sensibilities and comforts too.

It’s just hitting the June market, with Sherry FitzGerald’s Sheila O’Flynn and Ann O’Mahony.

Having had a few sales on the Marina sub-€1m, and another under offer at over €1million, they guide the walk-in order home Arundel at €1.1 m million.

Thanks to a part two-storey extension, and then a farther-reaching single-storey extension going out into the garden to snatch westerly light, there’s now a sizeable 2,700 sq ft here in this most comfortable of homes, with add-ons.

As if the house isn’t big enough now as it stands, there’s also a decent garage-sized store off in the back garden, beyond the extension, and that’s now linked via a covered BBQ space to a Shomera home office/play room/den, with west aspect... and there’s still lots of garden left over as the house’s site is just so very deep still.

Deep? At one stage, the grounds back here of these homes stretched back as far as the old banks of the River Lee, and there was an enormous orchard between the Blackrock Road and the river.

Now, the Lee has been marshalled and straightened by navigation walls along the Marina, and houses have filled in the spaces where the orchard held sway.

Arundel changed too along the way and down the centuries. It had started its days as a quite modest cottage, but as its then-owner became more prosperous, it went up in the world and the grandeur stakes.

The three levels of bay-window-ended rooms were added on, on the city side around 1820, closing off access to the orchard and making it, in effect, a mid-terraced house and today it shares external facade features such as corbels under the eaves and tall window opes with its neighbours on the right.

It has the older, more original sash windows on its front than its terraced neighbours who have a mix of windows types: Arundel’s clearly look most ‘at home’ and, preserved, are a real asset to its period home credentials. They are rightly listed for protection, even though the house itself isn’t.

The owners got onto the Irish Georgian Society in Dublin when the started to tackle their ambitious project there, and brought on board with them Cork architect Pat Higginson of McNamara Partners, charged with respecting the old, and designing and creating the new.

According to the owners, “the entire house was rebuilt internally as when we started we could stand on the ground floor and look up to the pitch of the roof. Everything was rebuilt. Therefore the spec is of the highest standards of a modern house, in keeping with its Georgian ancestry.”

Builder was Brendan O’Driscoll, second generation following in the footsteps of highly regarded builder Jerry O’Driscoll, and the project saw original features like the second floor’s fireplace kept and renovated, the old sash windows with slender glazing bars early glass were worked on, and shutters restored and pressed back into use — the secondary glazing of the day.

Floors at ground level in the older, front section of the house are in lustrous, hard-wearing Denya timber from West Africa seen in the ground floor 23’ by 15’ dining room, the hall’s parquet, the study and downstairs bathroom.

The stairs got a tweak and a twist in it, now on the right hand side behind the front study, next to a guest WC, and then, back again, the reinvigorated house opens out to whole new dimension once you hit the great modern family space — home first to a kitchen, then dining space by the huge sliding doors/windows.

Off in the far, distant corner, is a casual seating section, big enough to hold two sofas, other occasional chairs, and a wood-burning Jotun stove.

Given the quality of build, high insulation standards and passive solar gain from the west-facing phalanx of glazing, this is already a toasty room, warmed with underfloor heating under marble tiles and “there’s nearly complaints that the room is too warm when we light the stove,” the owners admit.

Matching the room’s sheer floor area for scale is the kitchen island, an enormous central piece in massively thick walnut, multiples the depth of standard unit tops, and adrift on its expanse is an oval-shaped sink and insinkerator.

Credit for the kitchen goes to Pat Aherne and Cork firm Glenline, and it is a cracker of good design, complete with sturdy Falcon range cooker, and backed up with lots of Neff appliances.

Oh, and there’s an under-counter wine cooler as well — to save the trek out to the garage/wine cellar out in the garden.

The especially made big kitchen/casual dining table came from Lanes/Cedarlan, and the enormous glazing section — a mix of solid frames, sliders and French doors to the back garden are by Munster Joinery, while engineer working with architect Pat Higginson was Jack Cahill.

“We hardly went outside of Cork for anything,” says the woman of the house of the pretty far-ranging project done after a six month planning wait, and she recalls knowing on first viewing that this was indeed to be the house they wanted when coming back to Cork and her local roots.

She viewed it on her own, and swiftly phoned her husband to give him the good news that she had the house found.

From the front, four- bay facade and glimpsed from the road, the house doesn’t seem to have changed much at all, and quite modestly certainly conceals all that’s gone on in extending behind, and refurbing top to bottom in front.

The top floor is home to the master bedroom suite, with widows to the front and that great bay behind, and then across the front of the house’s top floor runs a walk-through dressing room and robes, to a smart and well-specified en suite shower room, with double shower.

As in the other bathrooms, richly glazed tiles suit the period, without being slavish copies or too-neutral creams.

The middle level is home to three double bedrooms with built-in beds for out-of-sight storage, plus main family bathroom with mosaic tiling and an extra bulbous bath, there’s a nice landing linking the old (front) and new (rear) sections.

Still a wonderful room here is the first floor drawing room, with double south-north aspect with bay window, plus original fireplace with gas insert. It’s lushly carpeted and the curtains are silk for finery, a contrast to the wool and other natural materials used elsewhere

They weren’t cheap, but they’re top quality and just ‘right’ for the rooms. In keeping with the owner’s commitment to using Cork traders, suppliers and craftworkers, the curtains, sofas and other furniture came from Ken Jackson Interiors in the Marina Commercial Park.

Heating is via gas, and apart from the underfloor source in the capacious extension, other rooms have ornate Victorian-style cast iron repro radiators looking snugly at home, while more out or sight (but not out of earshot) is the centrally-controlled multi-room wiring for sound.

Named after the family seat of the Duke of Norfolk, Arundel had under 2,000 sq ft when it last changed hands, but now on its return to market is an utterly transformed home of 2,700sq ft, expensively recreated, with its trio of delights, those stacked bow-ended rooms, keeping all of the aesthetic and practical appeals first envisioned almost 200 years ago.

Save for those three rooms, those who viewed Arundel back in 2005 will scarcely know it now so complete is its transformation.

The attributes that swung its competitive sale a decade ago are still here too, needless to say: the Ballintemple/Blackrock Road location is evergreen in popularity and equally leafy in character, with the amenity Marina/Atlantic Pond on its doorstep and the city centre a short commute.

It’s still mid-terraced now, of course, but now that the work’s all done behind, that’s hardly much of a hindrance and the front’s wide enough, and deep enough, to allow off-street parking behind high, solid gates, with a separation of outdoor sandstone paved seating area by the fan-lit front door for midday sun-taking.

VERDICT: Over 200 years old — and better than ever.

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