Distracting views are a feature of this quality beach-side home on a mature landscaped site, writes Tommy Barker.
Fountainstown, Cork €775,000
Size: 277 sq m (2,980 sq ft)
Best Feature: Seaside setting and quality build
Where you go for your holidays often ends up influencing how, or where, you live portions of your life much later on, and that’s exactly the case here at Camross, a home by Fountainstown beach.
There’s a multi-generational Fountainstown link for the family who built this serenely-sited house, as recently as 1999.
They first came here to the south Cork coastline community in the early 1900s, renting local farmers Regans’ own house, getting milk daily from their cows.
As was the way when looking back from this distance, days were long, lives were carefree, and the sun always shone. The water didn’t seem that cold, either?
Years on from those Fountainstown idylls, the family went on to buy a small, old mid-1930s dwelling as close to the water as they could, for the next generation’s holidays, and they came down from different, urban lives in Cork, and later from Dublin each year, decamping for the summer to their beachside bliss.
Those summers spent of mothers and children in and around Crosshaven’s bays and beaches such as Fennells Bay, Church Bay, Myrtleville and Fountainstown, for months on end, is very much a Cork phenomenon for the fortunate few, with dads going up and down to the city weekly for work and the irksome intrusion of jobs.
Fewer still, though, did that summer commute from Dublin to Fountainstown, as became the case here.
Tides came and went, and time marched on and, when retirement beckoned, the couple, now with grown children and grandchildren living in Dublin, decided to move here full-time, forsaking the east coast for the south coast, city for seaside, and work for leisure.
They knew they’d need more space in Cork to decant their lives and possessions into, when they sold up in Dublin, and so they drafted in the services of Cork architect John Lynch (now retired from RKD McCarthy Lynch) and they came up with this replacement, all 2,900 sq ft of well-built elegance, a take on the bungalow outline that gives back merit to an often abused (or, under-worked) house design type.
Built by the highly-regarded Jerry O’Driscoll, this good-sized bungalow is easy on the eye, with a lower level skirt of red brick, going right to window sill height and with brick sill and brick banding behind in the crisp white plaster render.
It was designed in a quite classical style, with deep eaves, and column supports, creating an almost veranda-like sheltered spot by the front porch, with a curved seating out spot by the front door, finished with a terracotta floor tile.
On a bright sunny day, it’s positively Mediterranean, even if the views across the water are of the distinctly Irish headland of wood and fields at Ringabella.
Curves feature too, prominently, in the asymmetric facade: There’s an off-centre bay or bow curve in front, home to a lovely lounge and the window’s arc draws occupants out towards the centre, for the range of views through any and all of the upright glazing panels: it’s quite the commanding bridge of a ship position.
Then, there are similar but tighter bows left and right on the end gables.
The bow on the right by the entrance drive is home to a master bedroom suite, while the one on the left is a breakfast room and, alongside, is an optional bedroom, now used as study/den.
It has a double aspect and distracting views of water and waves from the front window, doing its best to negate or undermine any intentions of work at the desk placed optimistically in front of it.
There are two further large rooms overhead, under the natural slate roof, which had to be painstakingly crafted, first by carpenters, then by slaters, to cope with the three tapering roofs over the projecting bays, topped off with lead flashing.
These upper deck rooms have light coming in from Velux windows on the back roof section only.
Unusually, both owners and architect John Lynch agreed they didn’t want the purity of the profile of the roof line in front broken up by the insertion of further Velux, or clunky dormer windows.
The upshot is a lovely, unsullied front appearance, but occupants of those upstairs rooms (kept for guests and grandchildren, in the main) don’t get to see the sea from the bedrooms.
Now that Camross is up for sale, with a deal of regret and reluctance, might its new owners maintain such an aesthetic line of defence?
Or, will they seek to find a sympathetic dormer solution/compromise to open up the views from on high?
It wasn’t a planning issue at the time, it was a design principle, and in later years, many of the new-builds on this Fountainstown hillside sharing similar views have been allowed to be heavily glazed, many to very contemporary beach-house templates.
In fact, a very near neighbour to Camross, billed as ‘Seaside House’ appears in the 2016 Irish Building and Design awards’ Home of the Year, one of four in the category, and built by Murphy New Homes.
The owners, builders and architects Hogan Architects Urban Design were due to find out only last night, at a black tie gala event in Dublin, if their Fountainstown home beat off the other three category finalists.
Seventeen years on, and more senior, Camross is now utterly at home on its own site, which has been considerably landscaped from day-one and now is super-mature and well colonised by planting, and colourful shrubs so that its upper sloping sections (and high-level sitting out space) are fully greened in, and largely self-maintaining, while the sides and front have carefully tended lawns, beds and shrubs, and shelter for birds.
Finding out what would survive the exposure to salt and wind did have an element of trial and error, the owners admit, but now the result is of a bedded down, happy-at-home horticulture.
On a very equal par to the quality of the house is the specific site setting, almost the last house in along a short cul de sac lane paralleling the rocky and indented shoreline, between the beach and slipway, and the Shell Hole, and Camross’s owners kept a boat for ever and a day, used for fishing.
They recall glory days of seas frothing with spratt and mackerel, and of pulling up their own lobster pot, but they do say that hauls and catches in recent years have dwindled, with lobster now almost entirely absent. Or, just cuter?
While the man of the house fished, or boated, children had the option of tennis in the nearby club, or learning dinghy sailing over in Crosshaven a few miles away and, in its glory days, Fountainstown had three shops; now, there’s one shop/cafe, with Angela’s having replaced Peggy’s of old, but there’s still ice-creams to be had.
Estate agent Catherine McAuliffe of Savills is selling Camross, guiding at €775,000 and she knows it’s going to find an appreciative buyer, who’ll almost certainly use it as a full-time residence: It’s too good not to.
There’s every chance a lucky new owner will have spent happy childhood days at Fountainstown or Crosshaven, buying
with both head and heart. It’s the second house built on this superb spot, superior in just about every way to its predecessor, and it’s in immaculate condition throughout, with a detached double garage/workshop around to its rear, complete with a winch set in the floor for moving boats about (though we’re well up from tides).
There still is a small, wooden tender dinghy or punt tied up out of the way under the roof, while bits and bobs for boats and fishing lines are hung on the walls.
Ms McAuliffes notes the home “is in exceptionally good decorative order and has been finished with an understated quality both internally and externally”.
Old, quality pitch pine from the stoutest of timbers of the earlier house on Camross’s grounds has rightly been reintegrated.
They were used by cabinet maker David Gay to fashion the country-style, top-quality kitchen units, island, and dresser, and they’ve been cut and planed too for use as floorboards in another rooms.
Of necessity, the pitch pine had to run out sooner or later, so, in one upstairs room the last planks are used around the edges of a bedroom, with a carpeted section in the middle; nothing wasted.
Other quality joinery is evident elsewhere: even the main, front double doors to an internal porch are in solid timber and, inside, there’s an immediate uplift, thanks to the double-height hall/stairwell, with a bank of Velux windows in the ceiling’s slope.
Off to the back is a kitchen/breakfast room, floored in Italian marble with a pantry alongside, while the kitchen has a warming, always-on Aga oven, “which makes the best Christmas cakes ever”.
Although the kitchen has no sea view (the adjoining breakfast room does have, though) it is in many ways the traditional heart of the home, much appreciated too by the family’s well-fed cat.
Keeping the entire ground floor cosy and warm for felines and humans alike is oil-fired underfloor heating; it’s throughout the ground floor, except in the pantry, which was always envisaged as a cooler, food-storage space.
(Main laundry/utility functions, and boiler, meanwhile, have been confined to the separate, plumbed utility room, built across the sheltered back patio as part of the detached garage structure, which means there’s no intrusive noise of whirring washing and drying machine inside the house.)
Camross has a formal dining room, towards the back with a reclaimed pitch pine floor, but the best room is undoubtedly the front, bow-windowed, carpeted drawing room with large open, antique fireplace, in red Cork marble, with polished brass trim and a raised fire basket.
The store of logs, handily, can be augmented by driftwood, harvested almost on the doorstep.
Elsewhere, there’s a second ground floor en suite bedroom, and the main family bathroom is at ground level too, extensively tiled on the floor and walls, in the same up-market Italian marble as in the kitchen.
The room has a deep, free-standing bath, plus separate shower, handy for warming up limbs after a day out on the beach, in the waves or on a boat.
VERDICT: Life on an ocean wave.
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