Cover Story: Dun Ard big enough to be a holiday camp

IS there a place called stop? Not if you’ve the energy of the family who’ve expanded their horizons at Dun Ard.

It’s a home that has grown, and grown, filled out and filled in, and had just about every extra added as well — in generous measure, too.

Now that everything has been done (including adding on an entertainment room, a cinema, an outdoor sports court, and a courtyard/amenity area that would put most hotels to shame) it’s clearly not possible for this couple with energy to burn to rest on their laurels. So, they’re off again, to take on a period house renovation. Large, of course.

Dun Ard last changed hands about six years ago when the owners bought a large, 3,000 sq ft home with land in a lovely country setting at Kilmona, half way between Cork and Mallow, at Grenagh/Whitechurch.

After their busy tenure here, it now is nothing like what they bought “but we could see the potential”, says the woman of the house, who trained and worked for many years as an architectural technician.

Now, it has had a four-car car port on one side and a two-storey extension added on the other end, which gave space for a master bedroom upstairs, and an enormous kitchen/family room underneath. This extension alone runs to 1,500 sq ft, bigger than the average Irish family home, so now the house is 4,500 sq ft, and every square foot has been reworked.

To get an idea of how much controlled thought and effort has gone in here, just consider that the heating (including underfloor heating at ground level) alone is in eight zones. Quite possibly one of those zones is for the giant, multi-person jetted bath in the palatial-sized master bedroom’s en suite. It’s probably good advice to start the taps running about an hour before bath time.

Yet, big and all as this house is, it isn’t remotely the full story: the residential area is 4,500 sq ft, but that doesn’t include the adjacent entertainment/games room/dance room, with snug seating, home bar, mirror ball and disco lighting, giant pub-sized TV screen and his and hers WCs.

Nor does it include the massive paved courtyard with outdoor fireplace and barbecue area, shading pergola (put up by hubby one quiet weekend), hard and soft landscaping and covered walkway linking the boot room/utility with the covered car-port for weather-proof access.

Similarly, it doesn’t include the vast attic, the size of many homes’ entire whole upstairs, and all neatly laid out for storage. In fact, there’s enough Christmas decorations boxed away up here among banks of snow drift-like insulation to do up Patrick Street, it seems.

There’s even decent stair access to the attic via a hidden door — so, if you are of a mind, every day can be Christmas.

So, Attic? Tick. Courtyard? Tick. Games room? Tick. Garage — yep, there’s a commercial-sized garage and compound hived off beyond a hedge and fencing. Tennis court? Absolutely, though its perimeter fencing has been adjusted so that the court can also be used for basketball, soccer and even kids’ hurling.

Not finished yet...there’s also a hen-house (pampered hens, broccoli and pasta’s their staple feed) and a fenced in hen-run grazing compound that’s proven to be fox-proof.

Off the decking area, separate to the courtyard, there’s a dog run for an even more pampered pet — with its very own doggy veranda above the kennel. It prompts a re-working of a crude expression, which now more nicely reads as “it’s the dog’s veranda.”

Is anything missing? Well, there isn’t a stable block (yet) but as an acre and a half of the four private acres of grounds is left to grazing, putting up a block for a few ponies or a hunter will be a breeze.

This entire lot (and the house’s internal description is yet to come here) is new to market with agent Michael O’Donovan of Sherry FitzGerald. He sold it to these vendors six year ago as a far lesser size and stature property, for pretty much the same sum as it now comes back up for sale — so everything spent since enlarging it, and enhancing it, will be to the next owner’s benefit.

Price guide is €650,000, and it goes without saying that you couldn’t put all the elements here into one package for anything closely approaching that sort of sum, so there’s huge value to be had, stresses Mr O’Donovan.

He bills this five-bed house with swagger as “absolutely stunning”, and says that for a family looking for a home with all the bells and whistles, amenities and amusements, this has to be an option, in a out-of-town location that’s just a 15 minute commute to the city centre.

To motorists used to travelling the Cork-Mallow road, the turn-off to Kilmona and Dun Ard is by the stone sculptures of oversized milk churns: take a right turn here, under the rail bridge, and up and out the road another mile or so, and despite tight zoning and planning, the townland seems to be hosting several large new one-off home builds at present.

He stresses the level of decor, feeling of quality and attention to detail, pretty much in every room of this re-worked home which has been rewired, replumbed, reconfigured and with a mix of some very large rooms, and more contained ones — such as the nine-seat home cinema, with proper cinema seats, and sound. There’s even a popcorn maker for the full night-out/night-in experience.

The owners stress they didn’t just throw money at the place, they bargained, bided their time, waited for smart buys or opportune purchases. So, the cinema seating came from a contact, the massive entertainment room’s telly cost buttons as a bar was shutting down, the courtyard paving came from a UK site where an architect didn’t like the slabs’ hue and insisted they be carted off site, and a giant statute of a Buddha was almost a give-away when an interiors store relented and sold it for a knock-down price: ‘he ain’t heavy, he’s my buddha?’

The ground floor has a formal drawing room to the right, which leads to the home cinema, a decent hall and stairs leads up to five bedrooms, and to a lounge-sized landing with a few big sofas easily fitted in.

The back of the house has several practical utility/play/office rooms, and the new wing is home to a 38’ by 20’ kitchen/dining room, with ceiling height up a block course or two to keep the almost 800 sq ft room in proportion.

There’s a dining room compartmentalised off to one end, with a main family living area by a fireplace in the other direction. There’s a back wall of glass looking over a decked terrace, over the rear garden andgames court, with long rural views out beyond the Cork-Dublin rail line (just underand out of sight).

Kitchen units are in Wenge timber, topped with white quartz, there’s a couple of high-capacity Fisher and Paykel fridges, and a suite of Neff ovens, including a steam oven. It’s clearly a space for serious cooks (or a cookery school?) and a corner door opens to reveal a larder/pantry to get the ball rolling.

“It’s a great house for entertaining,” say the owners, quite unnecessarily, and parties have included major family events, First Communions, 40ths and whatever you’re having yourself. Indeed, there’s no end of places to play or entertain, or train, and as you’d imagine, it’s a very popular spot they add for children’s friends to visit, have sleep overs at, catch a movie, and hit the games court too, for a bit of real physical activity. For sports-mad parents, Dun Ard could easily be Ireland’s most comfortable boot camp for future stars.

When the other stars come out, at night-time Dun Ard is just as impressive upstairs. Noting it’s got five beds, two en suite and a main bathroom with contemporary stand-alone oval bath is sort of understating the description — the master bedroom raises the bar, more than somewhat.

At about 750 sq ft (that’s the size of a good two-bed apartment or mews house) this parents’ suite puts five star hotels to shame.

It’s got a dressing room that’s more wander-through than walk-through, there’s a WC completely separate to the soaking bathroom, and the bedroom area alone is 19’ by 16’, with a sofa almost lost at the end of the double bed with lofty bed-head, armchairs scattered about, and there’s a balcony/terrace beyond a gable wall of glass with sliding doors, and glen views beyond again. Only an ascetic or agrophobe could feel out of sorts in all this space and luxury.

The master bedroom suite even has a stepped entrance lobby, where the far end is home to a seriously luxurious bathroom, with a double shower on one side, double or his and hers bowl sinks on a raised marble plinth, and the mother and father of all Jacuzzi baths also set into a raised brown marble plinth or surrounds. It’s simply huge, and is watched over by a clothes mannequin that could as easily be a lifeguard: it’s a bath for strong swimmers.

VERDICT: Fit for any clan or Gathering, this is a home that’s also a holiday camp.


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