Ardnagrena is a large but graceful gem which has been well maintained and sensitively updated, writes
There's a motto much quoted in the medical fraternity, right back to the founding of the Hippocratic oath ‘First, do no harm.’ Google had a clunker version, ‘don’t be evil,’ which it later changed to the more positively assertive ‘Do the right thing.’
All varieties of the exhortation appear to apply in the case of Ardnagrena, a much-loved period family home on Cork City’s Blackrock Road, which steeps in retained glories of original, Edwardian era architecture, finishes and flourishes.
Likely to date to 1908/1910, it’s quite a classic of the era, instantly and aesthetically pleasing, and then given a steroidal boost to its venerable age by dint of being well-aspected, full south to the rear. And, it’s in an stunning suburban Cork location to boot, a location enjoying another century of basking in the warm glow of coveted addresses, and premium property prices.
Ardnagrena’s owners have been lucky to be here for 30 years or more, and are now selling up — albeit a bit reluctantly — with a family having moved from appreciative youngsters to fledged adults.
It’s just too big, and there are rooms hardly visited anymore, and it’s better to move while still active and able, they reason, preparing to downsize in the Blackrock/Ballintemple locality, but only going next home hunting seriously once they are ‘Sale Agreed’ here. It may not take too long.
The ‘real deal’ Ardnagrena is fresh to market, for the first time in decades, listed with estate agent Dennis Guerin of Frank V Murphy & Co auctioneers, who guides at €1.275m, and it’s one of the most attractive and original homes to come along on this coveted Blackrock Road stretch for some time.
It’s towards the city end of Ballintemple and Blackrock, and thus within an easy walk of the city centre, and cafes are popping up at both ends of this affluent stretch, the most recent being the Kendellen family’s Basil Cafe and Market, which claimed on its Facebook page to have served specially-ordered bangers and mash in a special delivery to one Ed Sheeran, when the tousle-topped, loop-linked balladeer played three sell-out nights at the new Páirc Uí Chaoimh GAA stadium over the Bank Holiday Weekend, less than one kilometres from the suitably red front gates and door of Ardnagrena.
Almost directly across the road too from this particular property is Cleve Hill, with its bunch of mid 1900s semi-ds being joined this year by the c 31 new builds at the Citidwell developers’ upmarket housing development Botanika, also itself a sell-out, at new home prices of up to €850,000 a pop.
While Botanika homes are A-rated in BER terms, there’s still a cohort who’ll opt instead for period home roots and originality, and in this style Ardnagrena follows the 2018 launches to date of the likes of 120-year old Eskbank (€875k with Cohalan Downing), on 0.2 acres on the Old Blackrock Road, and the immaculate 1912-built Rathcoola, on the Boreenmanna Road, listed at €920,000 in April with Kevin Barry of Barry Auctioneers and already marked ‘Sale Agreed’ (for more than its asking price) on its sign boards.
Serene in its own setting, Ardnagrena is on a half acre of private grounds, most to the back and south-facing so that the very largest portion of its ground are both sunny and private?
Private? There’s even a secret, walled orchard about the size of a tennis court, home to mature fruit trees and a hidden oasis for birds, bees, butterflies, and scrumpy fans. It’s separated from the main back garden by high hedges and by an old stone wall in limestone, with some old cobbles or sets that may well have come this way after the Blackrock train and tram lines were taken up.
Meanwhile, screening from the public road comes from high front walls, and a setback entrance stood over by a sentinel old ‘wedding cake’ tree, gone just a bit wild.
There’s lots of off-road parking, and a sort of open double garage/car port, while the front entrance to the house proper is around on the side, with the kitchen overlooking the garage and the roadway. (One of the owners grew up in a Ballintemple house down a very long avenue, which she hated at night, so she says she loves being able to see the passings to and fro by her gate now all the more.) So, coming up to Ardnagrena from a gravel drive and stone steps/path, there’s the appeal of an original front door, with old brasses and painted in British post box red, framed by a stucco arch in the plastered gable, with quarter moon glass side panels. The top of the door has ornate stained glass panels, the first of many exuberant bursts of beautiful original feature stained and leaded glass sections.
Decorative glass, in a sort of Art Nouveau flow and looping flourish, features also alongside, in the top section of the dedicated dining room’s windows, in six top panels in the drawing room’s deep bay window, and, again, in another south-facing reception room, with French doors to the terrace and rear garden.
Virtually every room here has original windows in situ, and they are such a huge part of this home’s aesthetic that interfering with them in any significant way could well be a heresy: remember the injunction, do no harm?
Fortunately, given that there has been such a surge in the past decade or two of companies well able to produce convincingly replica sash windows, there has to be a cohort of companies who also tackle any necessary work on casement and top-hung windows, and many of the frames may well now accommodate the new, extra slim double- glazed panels designed for period homes.
In any case, make haste slowly might be good advice, making the merest of any interventions to these precious windows.
Internally, Ardnagrena has been well kept, and also in situ are feature-like simple coved ceilings, timber-clad window bays, picture rails, original floor boards, old doors with brass handles, and ground floor fireplaces, one in brick and mahogany, another with a stripped pine surround.
The stairs and hardwood handrails are utterly original too, with a large window set over the return, with four-over-one pane configurations generously framed in curtains, swags, and pelmets, like a mini or domestic dramatic version of those you’d see in a Victorian theatre.
There’s an understated, timeless decor style, appropriate to a house of 110 years of age. It has been gently nudged along, but not bowdlerised at any stage.
There are three reception rooms, two of them elegant south-facing, one as nice as the other, while a third is kept for formal dining, plus a lean-to garden room/sun room off the hall, where visitors are first greeted by an original mosaic tiled floor.
Heart of the home, and the owners’ own favourite space, is the kitchen/family dining room, with breakfast bar, and hand-painted units, done originally by House of Coolmore. It’s alongside a deep side annexe, used as a laundry/utility rooms, with two ceiling mounted Sheila Maid clothes airing racks on pulleys.
Overhead, up the carpeted stairs and return and wide landing are four bright bedrooms, one with an en-suite hidden through a door in a wall of built ins, and a narrower stairs leads up to an attic level with two more rooms/bedrooms/dens.
Warmth comes via oil central heating, and the deep colours of the hall, stairs and landing in a burnt red, and a green in the kitchen, along with copious paintings and prints, indicate a home that will be as embracing in the evenings as by day.
Agent Dennis Guerin started with a well-impressed first private viewing last week for a family keen to trade up in the Blackrock/Ballintemple hinterland and, despite the rather elevated price guide/value, can well expect to be busy with viewings as the well-kept gardens come into their star turn season.
Some great ideas for you to use in your home and where to get them...
1. A marriage made in heaven? A venerable, tiered ‘wedding cake’ tree stands waiting for new suitors by the Ballintemple entrance to the Edwardian era Ardnagrena. It’s just across the Blackrock Road from the new homes’ scheme called Botanika
2. Dress to impress? You might not get away with such drapes, and fabric frills and pelmets in a suburban semi-d, but at a period home like this, it’s appropriate attire
3. Open the door, and letters in? Make a suitable opening arrival salvo with an entrance of this calibre. The arch-headed door, with Deco-style stained glass handiwork, really sets the tone, further embellished by being painted in an unabashed English post box red
4. Return to sender? The flip side of this front door is in an enveloping Irish post box green, matching the green entry point’s original mosaic tiled floor
5. Soot yourself? The brick surround in this open hearth original chimneypiece bears testimony to blazing fires, and homely nights in
6. Upwardly mobile? The quality of craftsmanship throughout the early 1900s family home par excellence is evidenced by the detailing in things like the serried rank of turned, tapered and fluted mahogany spindles
Should be long gone by autumn.
Blackrock Road, Cork City
Size: 276 sq m (2,900 sq ft) on half an acre