It’s a place where the soul replenishes, a retreat, an escape from the world, whilst having it right on your doorstep,hears
- €3.1 million
- 297 sq m (3,200 sq ft)
It’s a place where the soul replenishes, a retreat, an escape from the world, whilst having it right on your doorstep, Tommy Barker hears
The family who built Avalon dug deep, in terms of time, thought, money and site excavation, when it came to their house design and its exact, precise, site setting — so much so, that their mid 2000s-built 3,200 sq ft home is virtually out of sight from land, road and from the sea — it’s a sort of a ‘stealth’ plane hideaway.
With Northern Ireland and UK family roots, and involved in the international aviation sector, proximity to an aiport for work, and to the sea for quality lifestyle reasons, was a site selection critera when they went on a home hunt, honing in pretty rapidly on the Kinsale area of coastal Co Cork.
They wanted proximity to a town and services, yet also privacy, while they wanted their chilren to be brought up in Ireland “to understand what being part of a community meant. We felt that many parts of the the UK had lost that and it was very important to us.” First they looked at the traditional Kinsale ‘honey spots’ of Ardbrack and Summercove, and liked the notion when put to them by a local Kinsale resident that Sandycove a 10 minute spin out of the town, over the tidal river Bandon and out by the ocean and an island, was the place many Kinsale people aspired to retire to.
They fell for scenic Sandycove right away, and came across a site just the far side of the hamlet, on a height. It was set back a few fields and maybe 400 metres from the shoreline, but had some outstanding views, including over the mouth of Kinsale harbour towards the Sovereign rocks and the Bulman buoy.
Curiously, although county planners had stipulated the house for which they’d give outline planning was to be as unobtrusive as possible given the location in ‘an area of outstanding natural beauty’, as well as historical interest by an old ruined church and graveyard, they’d allowed it on a high point, almost on the skyline.
Having engaged Cork architect John Morehead, the family instead made a case to relocate it to a natural dip in the landscape, and created ditches to look like the field and site had always been there and “clad the house in a dark grey colour to help disguise it even more.” In further contrast with Celtic Tiger times of McMansions boasting of their presence, stones from the site were used for gate pillars and boundary walls, and “to ensure the house was as unobtrusive as possible and with the least visibility from the ocean (an optical illusion as we can see the Bulman buoy clearly but our house cannot be seen from there) our architect actually went out in a boat to prove this,” says one of the owners.
The most significant challenge was in engineering the build down lower into the scooped-out site. Then, they opted for direct labour, with a raft of skilled trades on baord for the various elements, aiming for “clean lines, 90 degree angles, simplicity, plays of light on white on white. ‘Simple ‘proved to be harder to achieve — it shows even tiny flaws so perfection was the by-word for the build.” The family credit designer John Morehead of Wain Morehead Architects (WMA) of listening, and delivering, on design and functionality demands, favouring open and adaptable spaces, capable of a couple of uses, and efficient use of space, with every room, even the ‘transition’ spaces used fully: at c 3,200 sq ft, it’s neither too small, nor too big, and in any case “Ireland has enough ‘Southforks’ already!”, they quip.
As they expected, it’s proven very popular with visitors and relatives who come to stay, and was laid out so a section can be used by guests almost in a self-contained way: “Avalon is a place where the soul replenishes, it’s a retreat and an escape from the world, whilst having it right on your doorstep. It is quiet, calm, private, beautiful and is a sanctuary,” enthuse the house’s vendors, who’ve loved the lifestyle, able to dip as readily into Kinsale as the sea at Sandycove.
Despite being set low on its two acres, there are views to beguile, in any and all weathers, with large, undressed windows specifed (save for white black-out blinds) almost as pieces of art by themselves, and even from the centre of the home there are views to be had, in just about every direction. Meanwhile, the external layout means there is some point in any weather to sit outdoors, and enjoy a morning coffee, out of the wind, or a glass of vino with a sunset at the day’s close, plus there’s a fire pit, and an outdoor hot tub.
Even in fog, there’s a special, ‘brigadoonish’ and maritime feel to the setting, the owners rhapsodise, with the moon reflecting on water by night, scudding clouds whip the seas to a mixed palette of blues, greens and greys, and yachts racing out of Kinsale also bring colour on their spinnakers and hulls on finer days.
In summer breezes, a 50 acre field turns into a sea of blowsy barley, and in storms “the house comes into its own. The wind howling around, the rain beating down, the sea raging against the headland, the Bullman buoy disappearing under massive swells, the Sovereign Islands being covered by huge battering waves, Courtaparteen having vast quantities of water thrown against it. Storm Ophelia was a masterclass in nature at its most furious and we took a battering as it was hitting us from 90 degrees head-on. We survived with no major damage but it was absolutely astonishing to watch.” High-end from top to bottom, Avalon itself ‘stormed’ onto the international market during summer ’19, carrying a hefty €3.1m price guide with Roseanne DeVere Hunt of Sherry FitzGerald’s Country Homes division, along with Sherry Fitz’s Cork residential agency and while it has had receptive viewings, it’s yet to get any bidding traction as 2020 kicks off.
As noted in our End Year review last week, Kinsale accounted for 10 of Cork’s circa two-dozen €1m-plus property sales, with €2m secured for a home/site in Ardbrack, which is likely to be demolished.
Sandycove has never commanded the sort of prices achieved around Compass Hill, Summercove and Ardbrack (though sources say an exceptional Georgian property here may come to market soon to stir the pulses): €3m is the sort of level set by Ardbrack’s Fastnet House, former home of the late Greg Coughlan of Howard Holdings, so Avalon has set the bar very high for itself. The agents say “it’s a property that will take its time to find the right buyer.”
A 2020 Vision, cool, calm and collected, contemporary Avalon has the X-factor in its scoped and scooped out site.