Tommy Barker says Ashdene’s a recultivated period beauty.
Blackrock Road, Cork City €975,000
Size: 277 sq m (2,991 sq ft)
Best Feature: Rosy in the garden
Set to leave generational family hands after many decades (and only because of a growing, lively brood of children) is ever-so graceful Ashdene, a late Victorian original with exquisite gardens on Cork’s increasingly re-gilded Blackrock Road.
It has retained architectural features, up in the good ‘front room’ especially, and also upstairs, plus it has a modern stepped-down garden room behind, along with a smart side wing add-on for light in the deep, kitchen core.
It has fragrant, sectioned gardens set to burst into summer bloom, a deep site with parking in front, and ‘all’ for a price tag just shy of €1m.
Agent Sheila O’Flynn of Sherry FitzGerald guides Ashdene at €975,000 for its owners, who are relocating and trading up.
For most others, Ashdene’s already an aspirational trading-up dream, des res, complete with rose-garlanded trellises and arches, and garden path to a postcard-pretty home-office/shed that has earned its keep, wired for warmth and wi-fi.
Dating to the late 1890s, or the very early 1900s as Victoria’s reign gave over to a spell of Edwardian architecture, Ashdene’s a robust, and recultivated, period semi-detached family home on the city side of Cork’s Ballintemple village, along the Blackrock Road.
It’s part of a short run of paired elegant and enviable homes, close to the Lindville development where kids roam free around the old tree-lined avenue.
It’s close enough to the city centre to walk to, and has Crab Lane national school on its doorstep.
Ashdene’s ‘offspring’ can walk from breakfast bar to desk in five minutes, a commute that may prompt a refrain of ‘The School Around the Corner....’ just the same.
When the current, young family acquired it back around 2002, Ashdene hadn’t been lived in for nearly 20 years prior, and was bought from a grandfather’s estate, needing attention from the roof down, and inside and out.
The back garden, back then, was one mass of briars: what’s here now in the grounds is unrecognisable by comparison, laid out to a plan by the late Brian Cross, but adapted as well when the jig-saw pieces began to fall into place and as new planting flourished.
At the time of purchase, and prior to children arriving, the couple were working abroad, and it was done up and rented out.
Its charms grew on them, and they resisted knocks on the door and offers to sell, and went on to renovate further and to extend and upgrade when they moved home to Cork, and into Ashdene.
Yet, for all the work done, and its many creature comforts, it has kept the aura of a home of some age, not over-restored, but it has its contemporary inserts and adaptations to serve modern family lifestyles and living patterns.
“Whatever we have done, or had done, we would have struggled to get it ‘very’ wrong; the house kind of speaks for itself,” say the owners, “our job was simply to preserve and gently enhance wherever possible and try to adapt it to more modern-day living.”
Those changes included redoing the kitchen, which links to a family dining section, and then a short few steps drop you down to the garden room/family room extension, with huge sliding door to the limestone paved terraces, and with the glory of the gardens, with rose-bedecked arches, beckoning beyond.
This all-weather, family-traficked garden room is extra-high ceilinged, with four Veluxes on high for capturing east and west light, and there’s a large fireplace, plain white marble with black limestone hearth, with a glass-fronted gas fire.
As Ashdene faces due south onto the Blackrock Road, the immediate rear of the house has a north aspect, so the garden room with its distance back from the rear of the house helps to address this, while the mid-section kitchen has a side, gable window for moring light, and west light comes in too from Veluxes over a colonised side passageway.
Not only does this side add-on help get light in, it has also created a tucked-way section at one end for toy storage, and a computer/workstation at another end, so it means a careful, distant eye can be kept on what’s being viewed on-line by smallies.
Back off the kitchen too on this side is a walk-in pantry, with banks of shelves for provisioning said smallies, and across the way is a utility and guest WC.
The kitchen itself is pure heart of the home, with large Aga, and back up for summer months of a side oven and hob, and baking’s a daily event.
Units are painted timber, worktops are granite and the splashback’s in small metro tiling, all combing for a look that’s not going to date or go out of fashion. Flooring looks like walnut, but is in fact a dark, Canadian Maple.
Keeping true to the house’s roots, too, is a reinstated serving hatch from the hard-working kitchen to the formal dining room, which in turn has been opened out to the front drawing room with its window bay, and open fireplace from O’Neills in Dublin, with raised fire basket in a brass-trimmed surround.
These adjoining carpeted ‘good’ rooms have 10’ high ceilings, plasterwork and matching ornate acanthus-leaf plaster roses.
Front and back, as a result, there are large linked yet differently purposed sections, more formal to the front, more hustle and bustle of daily living behind, a blend and meld allowed by having almost 3,000 sq ft, all-in, and three floors of accommodation.
There’s the patina of age to the place yet too; it’s not been over-restored.
Windows are orignal sashes, and shutters work, and new shutters were put into bedrooms that didn’t have this practical, period-home touch.
The hall has kept its original encaustic tiles, and the stairs is a series of steps and returns, carpeted underfoot, and with walls crammed with family photographs, and niches everwhere filled with books.
As are the bedrooms, books galore.
On the evidence of homes such as Ashdene, Kindles haven’t killed off the joys of reading pages and tales, on paper, between bound covers.
This house’s main bedroom occupies the full width of the front of the first floor, with three sash windows facing due south and each has working shutters.
Access then was created to a former bedroom behind, used as a large dressing room/en suite with rain forest shower head, and this back room looks out over the glories of the rear garden.
The family bathroom (with stand-alone old cast iron, roll-top and claw-footed bath and wainscoted walls, plus separate shower) is back off the opposite direction, by a stairs return, leading to a very private back bedroom, also en suite with shower.
There’s more to come, up on the second floor are three more bedrooms, perfect for children with lots of slope-ceilinged character, and cuddies for books and toys.
Two are to the front of the house, with pitched slated dormer roof and feature, narrow arched windows, and there’s a third room to the back.
Coming now for sale in great shape, Ashdene is likely to go to the top of many growing family’s ‘if only’ wish-lists, but it’s bidding pool may extend further than that expectation.
A near neighbour, and broadly similar semi-detached home of the same early 1900s era called Toorak, sold swiftly back in 2013 for €770,000 to an older couple trading down from a multi-million euro Blackrock period home sale.
And, for those moving back to Cork from foreign climes, well, it doesn’t get much leafier and lusted-after (recent sales will testify to this) than the Blackrock Road, with every sports amenity – including the River Lee and Marina – within a walk, jog or buggy push.
Amenities in such proximity facilitate busy families and life
styles, while the world outside can be shut away by simply closing the painted wooden gated for car parking, giving free run of front and back for play dates and pets.
Credit for the ‘architecture’ of the garden goes to landscape artist Brian Cross, who suggested the laurel and beech side fringes of the graveled front, interspersed with standard roses, also suggesting the rose-entwined arches and the winding path in the back which adds to the interest, intrigue and variety.
Those arches (garden photographs here are from last summer) come in contrasting red, white and pink roses, Chevy Chase and Rambling Rector, with a further rambler insinuated into the laurel hedge, and a specimen rose adds fragrance to framing around the front entrance door.
Other planting includes hedges of laurel and copper beech, acers, clematis, cornus/dogwoods, magnolias, fruit trees and old crab apple, but seniority goes to a gnarly, c 300 year old olive tree, bought as a special purchase and set amid a raised stone cosset on the terrace.
Then, there’s also youthful (but maturing) jasmine, camellias by the sliding door and the recently re-paved terrace, in limestone and old limestone flags.
Book-ending the garden, by a raised vegetable bed box, is the winsome wooden house, another touch of Victoriana, but insulated, with electricity and broadband, useful as a den or a home office.
Sherry FitzGerald have open viewings today, 1.45-2.15pm, but leave the secateurs at home.
VERDICT: Ashdene’s hugely attractive and accommodating. And, the garden is the and the icing on top.
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