Small and cute like a mouse

Mouse House cottage near Kinsale dates to 1895 and is lovingly, cosily appointed within

Belgooly, Cork €479,000
Sq m 116 (1,250 sq ft)
Bedrooms: 3 Bathrooms: 3
BER Rating: Pending
Best Feature: Far from mousey

WHAT’S in a name? In the case of south Cork’s Mouse House, everything. It’s overrun with ‘mice’, but not real ones, rest assured — so put the cat on stand-down. But there is a menagerie of mice: from toy mice to ceramic mice, wooden mice to woolly mice, mouse sketches, drawings and paintings and punning images of mice going about their business.

Mouse House is the quirky name the owners gave this diminutive house when they bought it, starting an amusing avalanche of mouse-themed house-warming, Christmas and birthday gifts.

Small and cute like a mouse

Aside from mouse mementoes, there are other winsome animal decorations, from stuffed teddy bears to bunnies, in this random bestiary, in happy, rustic repose near Cork’s Kinsale.

New to market, The Mouse House is a one-off, a traditional, 1895 Irish cottage brought to an entirely different level thanks to the ministrations of its residents of the past decade or so.

The owners, a couple of interior designers with both Cork and UK roots, have run a London interior design service specialising in fabrics, and their expertise and taste is to be seen in abundance in their Cork hideaway — it’s the cat’s pajamas.

They bought a basic, century-plus cottage, well-built and pretty, but unremarkable. It retains attractive features, such as stone walls, slate roof, brick window reveals, and a stone chimney breast at it core, with intact roof timbers.

Small and cute like a mouse

Backing onto July fields of ripening barley, the grounds run to less than the typical ‘cottage on an acre,’ but have been kept as well as the house itself, colourfully planted in country-cottage style, with attractive seating spots, plus a slightly sunken lawn area, like a tiny amphitheatre.

It’s been a great party house: with occasional gatherings of 50-70 guests at this off-the-beaten-track setting, a mile or so off the Cork-Kinsale road between Belgooly and Riverstick.

A quite-famous near-neighbour, who has a stellar reputation as an art/furniture maker to the super-rich is Joseph Walsh, who came from a nearby farm and who now has the design and manufacturing Joseph Walsh Studio, further up the hill from Mouse House, where as many as 20 craftspeople work, from places as far away as Japan.

Some of Walsh’s extraordinary, fluid-like pieces, in exotic woods and other materials, sell for hundreds of thousands of euros —which may put the asking price on Mouse House into some sort of wider context. It is selling for €479,000,via Cork City-based estate agent, Dominic Daly, and that’s certainly at the upper end of the price scale of houses in this vicinity.

Small and cute like a mouse

You could get a 2,500 to 3,000 sq ft modern build in this hinterland, with bells and whistles, for that sort of sum — but Mouse House is a bit more special than mere price per square foot.

And the sale includes lots of the furniture, finishes, fabrics and softening touches, and bolts of interlined curtains, exquisitely finished: given the quality of these items (from the knowledgeable, specialist owners), that’s quite a consideration.

Daly bills Mouse House as a hidden gem with a stunning interior, and it certainly pulls off the trick of seeming bigger within than it does from without.

It has three bedrooms, two of which have en-suite bathrooms. The two main bedrooms are at ground level, and the third is a hideaway upstairs, above the high-ceilinged main living room; it’s just full of charm, even if short of headroom for anyone approaching 6’ tall. Children or guests will love it.

More demanding guests can have the en-suite guest bedroom by the entrance porch.The main bedroom is away at the house’s other end, effectively a wing on its own.

This bedroom is in two sections, separated by a gentle arch. The entry end has a cast-iron fireplace with gas insert and is a lovely, tranquil setting, while the bed’s in a larger section beyond, with ceiling extending up to the roof’s apex, with exposed rafters painted or stained in a dark colour. It’s all quite Englishey/Tudor, and the same feature high ceilings are in the main living room, and in the rear extension’s formal dining room.

The master suite here also has a walk-in wardrobe/dressing room, and a private bathroom, and next to the plush, red bedhead on the gable end is a door to the gardens — what better way to greet a summer morning than by flinging open a door to flower-strewn grounds, scents and birdsong....that’s the sort of lyrical lifestyle Mouse House projects, though it might be different in late November.

Then again, there’s that fireplace for winter cosiness.

This home is about 1,250 sq ft in all, and main rooms, with a sense of airiness, are that great bedroom suite, the main living room with its tall chimney breast and wood-burning stove, and the dining room behind.

Every square inch of the property is used and colonised, and the dining room theme is taxidermy, with lots of stuffed animals and birds in glass cases. Curiously, though, there are no stuffed mice.

On the building front, Mouse House’s entry point is at the western end, by the gravel parking drive, and there’s a neat porch to a small hall, with guest bed and kitchen off it.

The kitchen’s compact (rooms get bigger past this homely hearth,) but is well-kitted-out, and has a a large, six-burner Belling range cooker with flip-up glass hob top, allowing it to be used as a prep surface; but when hinged up it works as a splash-back.

The room has painted beams at lowish ceiling height (the attic bedroom’s directly above it), the floor’s in good terracotta tiles and there’s a corner banquet seat with table for casual dining, snacking and breakfasts.

If standing at the sink, the view through the window is due south, over immaculate lawns, flower beds and hydrangeas. The boundary’s a country lane with verdant ditches, and beyond are fields, fields and more valley fields.

Core of this home is a 16’ by 12’ living room, with 15’-high vaulted ceiling, and lofty chimney breast in exposed old stone.

Set the stove going and heat belts out for hours; slack it down, and you’ll get 24 hours of residual warmth, according one of the owners.

Facing this hot-spot hearth is the open-tread timber stairs to a wee landing and under-the-roof bedroom with narrow arched door, and Velux for views back over fields of barley and mature ash and sycamore trees.

Back down in the living room, a key focus is the half-door to the front garden (see p1 pic) and most of the old stone walls in this room (bar the central heart) are exposed stone, painted white.

It means little insulation value, and the well-kept wood windows are mostly single-glazed, so it’s a house that will need its stove kept going in colder months.

Double doors to the back of this room open to the dining room,

with another set of double-glazed doors out to the back of the house and field views.

There’s a mini-kitchen, or wet-bar, tucked away off the dining room, and you begin to see how this house manages to hold dozens of guests at parties.

Having four spill-out options (ie, doors) to the gardens helps, too, of course, and off past the parking spaces and a few signature palm trees is a detached garage, and a wooden shed on a stone terrace, which is quite grandiosely described as a pavilion area for barbecues.

As it comes up for sale now, Mouse House is coming up on 120 years of age.

It’s a racing certainty it has never been more comfortable, or accommodating, or picturesque.

Special buyer needed.

VERDICT: Bigger and better than you’d ever suspect.


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