Rachel Allen’s TV shows were filmed in this extensive home next to a beautiful beach and nature reserve in East Cork.steps into a real dream home.
IF THE hard-working kitchen of this east Cork house looks familiar, well, it is. You’ve seen it on the telly, lots of times. It’s Rachel’s everyday kitchen.
Well, Rachel’s Everyday Kitchen is the title of one a dozen culinary books by the TV chef, restaurateur and food writer, but this here is also the everyday kitchen of this wing of the extensive Ballymaloe Allen clan, Rachel, Isaac, and their sons Lucca and Joshua, and daughter Scarlett.
It works its passage, and, like her recipes, it is well tested, and has been the set-piece for four or five series of her many cookery series shown on RTÉ, BBC and worldwide.
TV crews, ten-strong, have easily slotted into this space, with lighting, sound, and smells all in the mix, and often against a backdrop of the room’s back wall of glass, with the ocean, and Ballycotton Island, in the frame. Yum.
And, it’s now for sale, wrapped as the heart of a modern, contemporary, accommodating yet simple, family home of almost 3,000 sq ft, on the edge of a nature reserve, by a beach that runs for kilometres.
With one son, Josh, now moved out, living locally and working on the Allen family’s farm, and Lucca also set to flee the nest soon enough (with a budding Formula Four race car beckoning, just as he finishes his Transition Year), and with a natural propensity for design, Rachel and Isaac Allen want to experience another design-and-build, close by. Hence the launch of their open and airy family home for sale, guiding €850,000 with estate agent Clare O’Sullivan of Sherry FitzGerald O’Donovan in nearby Midleton, who says “its unique design has entertaining at its core.”
The Allens are starting out of a design path for their next home, and Rachel says it will have “touches of Scandi, and barn, and lots of glass, and hopefully a courtyard,” and already the pages of a notebook are filling up with ideas and sketches to share with an architect.
So, here’s the one they prepared earlier, built back in 2004, by craftsman Will Kenneally who’s responsible too for most of the buildings in Ballymaloe Cookery School.
Naturally, it was designed for cooking, for day-to-day family life, entertaining (an end of the TYO school year for Lucca saw 25 teens sleep over for a home-catered party). It was designed by the duo themselves, on a 1.75 acre site that was part of Allen family lands by the long, Blue Flag beach and wildlife reserve at Ardnahinch.
There’s a strong, local Shanagarry feel and flair to it, wittingly or unwittingly, as those who’ve visited potter Stephen Pearce’s former Emporium (now the Shanagarry Design Centre) might spot: rough sand and cement plastered white walls, simple floor grids, lofted spaces, exposed roof beams, and big, big windows for local sea and Ballycotton views. Hey, there’s even a large, circular window in this private home, all very much a tribute to Pearce’s own aesthetic, and it’s an influence Rachel Allen is glad to acknowledge.
“I love Stephen’s design,” she says, relishing the chance now to work up a new palette on the domestic front, and says “I’m looking forward to it, I love design, and would love to be a shoe or fashion designer, or a garden designer,” giving the Irish Examiner false hopes of a scoop (‘I’m in the wrong business... Rachel’s shock admission’).
But Rachel does have some form in those other fields, as her mother, Icelander Hallfrídur Reichenfeld, was involved in fashion design and owned several shops, while her father Brian O’Neill ran Winstanley shoes. And the gardens of the Ballymaloe Cookery School would inspire anyone.
But, fans will be glad she’s sticking to the busy day job(s), and here’s a taste of home.
There’s a deep, and tall, central core, up to 27’ wide and over 60’ long, from the front door to the back wall of glass, in five large panes set in iroko frames. Apart from the core, hub activity of cooking, all else is oriented to the view, to the south, to the sun, to the sea, and to the winking lighthouse beam-sweep on Ballycotton island by night, and dots of the harbour village’s lights all in a row along the shoreline across the bay.
Ceiling height is maybe 25’, with exposed beams and trusses way up high, and the heating comes from underfloor, under concrete flags.
Thanks to high insulation levels in the roof (double what was the norm back in 2004) and a block-on-flat cavity construction, with double glazing and lots of glass to the south, it’s all surprisingly easy to heat, they say.
Of course, it does rather help with the heating load when you have a large, (very large) black, four-oven Aga on the go, thrumming away ’round the clock, most probably, next to a gas hob on thick teak worktops, with a bank of three electric ovens, one atop the other, and with another, larger, gas-fired hob on a marble-topped island.
That very island has had so much TV show exposure already that it could qualify for a walk-on part, though it hardly needs to walk: it’s set on wheels, small lockable ones, so that it can be positioned in various spots for filming, often with the sea in the background. Who needs a studio?
Despite so much calorific capabilities (of both kinds) and a stainless steel splashback on the side wall by the Aga, and an armoury of knives and prep boards, it doesn’t feel overly commercial, just ruggedly purposeful. New owners, if they’ve any aptitude for cooking, will fit right in.
Apart from the huge kitchen presence (rarely has the descriptive cliché, ‘the heart of the home’, rung so clearly), down in one of the home’s two side wings is a large utility room/pantry/store, with a 15’ wall of shallow shelves and deeper cupboards for displaying and storing ingredients, condiments, bottles, bowls and assorted paraphernalia, for home and TV show use, including heirloom china from Rachel’s grandmother.
Oh, and this behind-the-scenes kitchen also has a pair of electric ovens, used for recipe testing when the pressure is on: “I have to use electric ovens instead of the Aga to be absolutely precise when testing recipes,” explains Rachel.
It’s not all work, thankfully. Set four steps down from the kitchen/dining room is the 27’ by 24’ living area, with triple aspect, and five very large windows overlooking patios, garden and ocean views, and the seating arrangement definitely is included in the sale as a fixture and a fitting.
Large and U-shaped, it’s made of concrete and can comfortably seat ten or more around a low ottoman table, on neutral grey cushions, recently redone in Kerry wool and “I think I’ll do curtains in Kerry wool in the new home,” muses Rachel, another idea for the notebook.
Also as solidly unmovable as this block-built, rendered sofa is the bed and headboard in the main 33’ by 19’ bedroom, built in the same simple, sand and cement-finished concrete style. This room is off on the ‘western’ wing side, down a long hall past one of the current four bedrooms, daughter Scarlett’s. It’s by far the largest of the four bedrooms, down a few steps from the hall, with high
ceilings, and a very tall wall of built-ins, with hardwood doors, done by local man Michael Tattan of MTA1, who also made the ten-seat main dining table in the kitchen. There’s a few steps up to a private bathroom, with sunken bath, and the couple’s bedroom has a set of French doors out to the garden and west-facing patio/dining space.
The sun wheels around the back of the house, through the day, and over in the ‘eastern’ wing is the pantry/utility, two relatively slender rooms for the boys, a bathroom and, replicating the master bedroom on this side, is a 21’ by 18’ sitting room, also down a few steps off the second hall. It too has a glazed door to a patio/dining space. The Allen family use it as a teen den and gaming hangout spot.
Embraced to the south, above the living area, is a large external balcony accessed from a stairs in the ‘west wing’, by the main core’s feature two-metre diameter circular window, and the couple had thought about enclosing this balcony given the views it has, but haven’t yet acted upon it.
Also on this seaside 1.75 acre garden plot, across an oval, mini-racetrack like drive, is a large, lofty double garage, suitable for conversion to home office, a granny flat or work studio, subject to planning permission, but used so far for housing cars, race karts and boys’ bits and pieces (Isaac Allen had an earlier career in metalwork and furniture-making, and some of his seating handiwork is in daily use at home here.)
On a pre-sale launch visit, it seems like a well-set modern seaside home that has been well and truly used and colonised, has continuously entertained and accommodated. Almost hidden by the front door’s steps, to the right, is a set of hardwood double doors, leading to a semi-basement where the heating is powered from, used too for drying beach and surf gear, wetsuits and wet dogs, with a petflap, but no ovens, it seems.
That plant room powers the underfloor heating for the house above, where a style setting is, it turns out, as cheap as chips. The main floor is done in simple, concrete patio flags, costing about €1 each, with wide grouting bands between, and all given a well-worn polished lustre as a top coat.
What’s the finish, the Irish Examiner asked innocently, thinking possibilities of polish, lacquers or linseed oil, perhaps.
Nope. It got a top dressing of oil and vinegar, effectively a French dressing, only for concrete floors “though it took days to get rid of the smell of the vinegar — we had to leave the doors open,” they recall, of a recipe that might not be exactly be repeated in their next home project.
Shanagarry, East Cork
Size: 269 sq m (2,895 sq ft)