The setting alone of this house - called Tearmann, after the Irish word for a place of sanctuary and built to passive house standards - encourages a bit of indolence: there’s little as calming as lolling by water.
River Bandon, Cork €1.8 million
Sq m 374 (4,000 sq ft)
Furthermore, the luxury of living beside water beats mere occasional 'lolling,' with river views, moving water sounds and tides, and attendant and abundant wildlife, well, it is indeed something special.
Tearmann - up for sale this week as a pre-Christmas treat if you have been very, very good - does ‘special’ down to a tee, and right up to a tree, with three external balconies off main bedrooms, like a trio of crow’s nest perches among even loftier trees, amid Scots Pines and hardwoods, on the tidal reaches of the River Bandon.
A late-in-the-year property market arrival, sanctuary-like Tearmann, looks identifiably Irish on the outside, with sandstone on its facades in place of freckles. But, inside with its multi-tiered curvy interior and almost mono-chrome colour palette, it’s all utterly calm; it’s quite international spa-retreat in feel, with temple-high core with vaulted ceilings, internal arches aplenty and gentle, rounded bends and curves.
Tearmann could have been a nightmare to build. Yet, though it took close on three years, its owner who’s now looking to sell on appears quite unstressed by the level of involvement she committed herself to.
Keen to be a big, key part of this dream, hidden home project on an archly-rare site, she even enrolled on a course on passive house building designed for building practitioners, as well as having studied interior design. As a result, she not alone knows the provenance of every plate and picture, but also knows its plumbing and pipe runs, its phenolic insulation board placing, every detail down to nuts, bolts and hermetic Siga taped seals. She has, in a manner of speaking got all her ducts in a row.
Initially, Tearman was designed with family full-time occupation in mind. But, as the project inched from site purchase to planning, to design, to detailing and delivery, the family sort of grew up in the interim, got used to city living, the convenience of take-aways and UCC campus proximity, and politely declined to be unearthed and replanted to a riverside idyll.
So, not to leave the idyll go idle, Tearmann took a latter day change of direction, and has been available for high-end holiday lets for the last few years, earning its keep and wowing visitors/guests with its standards (and at about $500 per night, but it has slept over a dozen a time in comfort, in up to five bedrooms.) It has garnered an almost embarrassing slew of five-star ratings on Tripadvisor and comparable sites, from visitors from all continents and corners of world.
Among those who stayed was the British paralympic sailing team when it competed in the World Championships, hosted in Kinsale. They were enraptured, reckoning it was very disabled-friendly, despite having its four/five bedrooms over three levels. Coincidentally, Tearmann was designed to accommodate a lift, and has access points at the main ground/entry and lower ground level, while all Hansgrohe showers are easy access, wet-room style without shower doors or other impediments.
Tearmann was painstakingly built by the highly-regarded builder Dan Murphy from Crossbarry, and architect was city-based James Leahy - known for curvaceous designs and funky roofs. Here, his centrepiece is the cylindrical main living area, rising 23’ to a domed ceiling, and with a sweeping, arcing Egyptian limestone feature staircase. Sustainable design consultant was Xavier Dubuisson of XD Sustainable Energy Consulting, and the build process has its own book of details and photographs showing how it achieves (but uncertified) PPHI A1 standards: the mid-wall of curtaining triple glazing by Optiwin hits .79w/m2k efficiency levels, for example.
There are two heat recovery operations, by Paul Fenton Services Glanmire, providing unobtrusive fresh air circulation and moisture removal, and also centralised is the Beam vacuum system, plus wiring for sound on two levels, with ceiling-set speakers, along with alarm, electric gated access with video cam, and more.
Back to ducts and ducks in a row, this quiet building interloper slotted itself into a sloping, riverside and wildlife-rich site with a boat mooring at its boundary, hs h steps to the water’s edge, along with right of way access to a very old landing deepwater jetty glimpsed through the trees.
It’s all a bit of a ‘hide and reveal,’ set in woodland, on eleven acres, with Kinsale town and the sea beyond downriver, and Innishannon and all points leading on to the wonders of West Cork going upriver. Nearby Dunderrow (home to Eli Lilly) has a popular bar, Fields, and a new national school, and arty Kinsale’s many restaurant, bars and attractions are just three miles further afield by road, alternatively accessible too by boat. Handily, Kilmacsimon boatyard is a kilometre upriver.
Add a location 20 minutes from Cork city and its employment bases, plus airport, and you suspect that Tearmann will cast its sales net wider than its immediate setting and hinterland. Its selling agents Sherry FitzGerald clearly have both local and international markets in mind as they bring this highly-rated home to home hunters at the upper end of the scale.
The setting is utterly low-profile. Anyone (politician/rock-star/Russian billionaire, London banker with bonuses, low-profile wealthy Cork buyer) could be here and be absolutely untroubled by the world beyond its electric/video-intercom access gate down an unremarkable country lane cul sac.
After all, when the late star Michael Jackson hid almost in plain sight from the world’s media with his three children seven years ago, he did it at Ballinacurra House, just a mile or two down-river. American singer Tori Amos has a Georgian home also here on the Bandon rive, and her Kinsale hideaway part-inspired her 2011 album, Night of Hunters.
For home hunters looking for Big Game and trophy buys, Tearmann’s guided at a cool €1.8 million. Estate agent Sheila O’Flynn in Cork City (who has hit the €1.5-2m target in the city in the past couple of years,) is acting along with Dublin-based David Ashmore of Sherry FitzGerald’s Country Homes division (linked to Christies in London,) who also has had a hand in their high-end West Cork properties like the Lisselane Estate near Clonakilty, and actress Maureen O’Hara’s Glengarriff waterfront demesne with islands.
In contrast to those higher maintenance estates, Tearmann can almost be a ’lock up and leave’ for those who are buying as a second/holiday home prize. Some won’t bat an eyelid at the price guide: Ardbrack overlooking all of the glories of Kinsale harbour had four very different houses make over €1m in the past year, and the most recent record was the €3m paid for Fastnet House, bought by a London-based, Cork-born businessman in his thirties.
Ironically, for those who are quite able to buy at the upper end of the price scale, there’s a bonus here at Tearmann that will go on giving. Thanks to exceptionally high build standards, massive insulation levels, air-tightness, plus things like two banks of solar panels, this 4,000 sq ft home is cheaper to fuel than a one-bed apartment. The owners reckon running costs average about €300 a year, with oil-fired central heating ticking over in underfloor pipes, beneath polished limestone floors, on Ducon concrete slabs. In addition, the library-like seating area off the high-volume central living/dining space has an inset 16kw, extra wide Stovax wood-burning fireplace, providing extra space-heating oomph, from logs harvested from the house’s acres of wooded grounds and wending paths.
Construction finished four years ago, but its genesis goes back to 1999 when the couple got wind of the possibility of buying this eleven (then overgrown) acres down a country lane by Dunderrow (and there may now be an option to buy even more land from the original landowners, Sheila O’Flynn suggests). It then took many years to get planning permission to build anything at all, and then the actual build period stretched to almost three years.
Now, from the outside (and from the very few places it can even be glimpsed from) this 4,000 sq ft home over three stepped levels doesn’t look like it’s bristling with engineering and eco-efficiency, but that’s down to things like site specificity and planning dictates. Planners at the time dictated that it be faced all around with stone, so that gives it a more of a visual heft than the usual or sometimes stereotypical eco-build. Here, Tearmann’s build is solidly traditional, superficially to the eye at least. It’s got a roof of thick, rough edged slate, the warm-toned sandstone came from Wexford, and the highly efficient triple-glazed windows came from Scandinavian firm Optiwin as, back when materials were being specified, Irish companies weren’t doing triple glazed.
The top floor is home to what’s virtually a self-contained suite, with enormous circular viewing roof-topping terrace, and two other bedrooms have smaller balconies with river views, while the lower-ground level has a private den, or optional fifth bedroom, with external grounds’ access. The low-key kitchen, and the many, many built-ins in cherry wood were done by Doneraile joiner Tim Hamilton; units curve around the central stairwell, with thick granite tops abutting the broad arc, a nightmare to scribe, accurate to within a millimetre. Ovens and hobs are by Gaggenau, and off behind is a utility the size of a county home kitchen, with separate, screened- away individual, presses for up to a dozen small appliances. No rooting at the back of dingy cupboards for a toasted sandwich maker, juicer or fryer, this is one of the luxuries of space, where economics meets ergonomics.
Internal walls are all finished with a pale, near-white sand and cement render, rounded in many cases over arches, around corners, over doorways and low, irregular dividing walls, and it all contributes to a restful adobe sort of feel.
Except for the scarcity of piercing blue skies and turquoise waters, it could be Greece, it could be some Maldives island spa, but it’s not. It’s on Cork, Kinsale and West Cork’s doorstep. Only hidden.
VERDICT: International standard, locally-grounded.
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