Just 10-foot wide but this Clonakilty townhouse has a big heart

Attention to detail and a remarkable use of space combine in this charming Clonakilty home, writes Tommy Barker.
Just 10-foot wide but this Clonakilty townhouse has a big heart
Pictures: Kieran Hayes

Attention to detail and a remarkable use of space combine in this charming Clonakilty home, writes Tommy Barker.

There's quite a big boast attached to Chapter Eight, which might be one of the narrowest houses around — the selling agent says “it’s one of the finest townhouses to ever come to market in West Cork’s Clonakilty”.

“It’s like it’s been restored and finished with a toothbrush, such is the attention to detail and finish,” says auctioneer Andy Donoghue of Clon-based Hodnett Forde, who’s just listed the surprisingly spacious three-bed home for sale.

Despite being just 10ft wide inside, it’s got 1,220 sq ft, thanks to being spread over three floors, or even more, thanks to internal split levels, in a deep structure.

A bit like a Dutch townhouse in a spot like Amsterdam — where homes traditionally were slender because local tax was calculated according to the width of their facades — Chapter Eight makes the most of every square inch, is three rooms deep, and yet manages to be surprisingly bright as well as unexpectedly accommodating.

And to continue the ‘toothbrush’ analogy, this 100+-year-old house on Clonaklity’s McCurtain Hill by the barracks and a public green by Assumption Place, is gleaming, with ‘whitened’ exposed and repointed stone walls, painted and showing the undulations of its original build materials, along with some lacquered timber window heads and beams.

Gleaming too are the steps on the house’s core connection — a spiral staircase with pitch pine treads, lustrous under protective layers of lacquer.

Also with a similar finish are the original, retained timber stairs between the first and second floor, sanded right back, with the tracery of old (treated) woodworm grooves aglow under yet more layers of clear finish.

It’s all a labour of love, it’s been a project for years for its occupants, and now they are moving on, set to build from scratch, closer to the sea.

Chapter Eight is home to a Polish family, Monika Milewska and her teenage son Julius, with her partner Piotr Forys, who’s a busy builder working for a Bandon firm with projects right across Munster.

It’s home too to their son, three-year-old Piotr, a 13-year old golden retriever called Beckett, and a cat.

Yet, despite all that life, in the very heart of Clonakilty town, it’s spotless, head to tail and top to toe.

Space comes from the fact the house itself is about 50 feet deep, and there’s a bit of genius in the way the mid-section works, linked by the spiral stairs between the ground and first-floor level, where there’s a gable window for vital light.

Like a mini, Clon version of Dublin’s famed The Winding Stair Bookshop on Lower Ormond Quay, Chapter Eight matches masses of bookshelves around the landing, testament to a family for whom books, CDs, DVDs, and board games aplenty really matter: it all makes for quite the cocooning space.

Then, as an unexpected surprise, this landing has a gable tilt and turn window that effectively acts as a small door to the world outside.

When the Irish Examiner visited, and little Piotr looked set to venture out the window of this first-floor room, there was a panic — but not from the family themselves.

Turns out the side pedestrian lane, which leads to Kilgarriffe church and cemetery, rises up the side of the building, and so the ‘drop’ from the window is only a large step.

That side lane to the elegant limestone 200-year old Anglican church, designed in a familiar ‘Board of First Fruits’ vernacular style on extensive town acreage, is locked by day, and only open on Sundays for worshippers’ access.

The church, 200m back from the house (it’s not the one visible in the above photo), forms a splendid backdrop to this home’s elevated rear-patio garden, with raised decking, garden shed, high stone walls for safe sense of enclosure, and with the super-tall floral spikes of echium plants hoving into the view from the garden of the house next door, to which No 8, or Chapter Eight, is attached.

This house’s name is marked on a stone plaque to the right of the entrance, while 10ft away on a pillar, the far older name of Kilgarriffe Church is depicted, by the locked gate.

According to Hodnett Forde’s Andy Donoghue, the Polish couple chose the name as there are several other No 8s on McCurtain Hill, which has mix of various sized homes in pairs and rows and tiered terraces, some with deep bay windows onto the street, while 200m down the hill is the epicentre of the town, by a splayed junction by Ashe Street and Astna Square.

This is town-centre living par excellence, with an older age profile, says teenager Julius Milewski, who thus far has had the town’s amenities on his doorstep, as well as the local community college within a stroll.

As Chapter Eight started its first viewings yesterday, it was set to impress and has already created a bit of stir, says auctioneer Mr Donoghue, who expects it to appeal to singles, couples, and relocators.

It has charm in spades, and rooms of immense character, and yet is quite practical.

It’s got central heating, but the stove in the middle can heat the place quite effectively for much of the year, and has all the essentials, easy to keep with timber, tile and laminate floors, and top-quality joinery.

Two of its pristine three bedrooms have a good separation, one from another, and one up on the top floor to the front has feature lofty vaulted ceiling for an additional airy feel (and, possible mezzanine?)

The back bedroom once had a similar high ceiling, but Piotr Snr dropped it to create an attic storage space.

Other rooms include a front living/dining room, an embracing central room with spiral stairs and stove, back kitchen with modern units and casual dining table, guest WC, and utility, with access to the stepped west-facing back yard/garden, as neat and effective as a ‘room outdoors’ as the unexpected number of rooms within.

Hodnett Forde’s Mr Donoghue say of the recent remodelling that there’s “an incredible attention to detail, combined with a remarkable use of space, which makes this home stand out as one of the most attractive houses to come to the market in 2020.”

VERDICT

A lovely job done, on a lovely old home, in an equally lovely and historic part of the town of Clonakilty.

Clonakilty, West Cork

€255,000

Size: 113 sq m (1,225 sq ft0

Bedrooms: 3

Bathrooms: 2

BER: D2

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