Trish Dromey reports on a waterside, Glengarriff home that takes its inspiration from America’s east coast.
Glengarriff, Co Cork
Size: 315 sq m ( 3,400 sq ft)
Best feature: the balconies
THE features and décor in this Glengarriff property owe much to American influence, but the views across the bay to Whiddy and Garnish islands and the rugged contours of Beara, are entirely unique to west Cork.
The American style decked balconies on this modern dormer property do however, offer the best possible vantage point from which it’s occupants can view the verdant wooded hillsides and watch the sailboats and cruise ships travel across the harbour below.
This spacious five bed house was built by an Irish couple who returned to Ireland in 2003, when the property boom was still going strong, and who spent two years creating their dream home.
They had lived for several years in the US, where as a builder, he had worked on high-end houses in Boston.
Possessing a site with a view, they wanted a house which gave them some of the American style features and comforts they had grown accustomed to.
Although they had lived in timber-framed houses in the States they were surprised to discover that people here seemed skeptical of them.
Timber decking was another must have for the couple who say that this now ubiquitous feature found in a multitude of Irish gardens, was only beginning to make an appearance here.
They got an architect to draw up a design — but treated this as a starting point and made hundreds of changes.
Looking at it they immediately decided they didn’t want conventional small windows or single doors and that they did want decking and decked balconies.
High up on their list of priorities was something which they had not been able to have in the US, a fire.
Making up for the years they had to do without the type of warmth and cheer only provided by a real fire, they didn’t adopt half measures when it came to shopping for one.
Inside the front door in the hallway, set up high on a Liscannor stone chimney breast, is a double sided stove which also heats the dining room on the other side.
The architect’s plan called for a wall in this location, but the lady of the house had come across this type of fireplace in a magazine — “ I loved the idea of having it as welcoming feature in the hall,” she says.
In another magazine she found something which was much more than just a heat source — a log burning stove made by French company Focus which is dramatically suspended from the cathedral style ceiling in the sitting room.
This serves as a focus, a talking point and might almost be considered a sculpture. The owners say, incidentally, that it also provides great heat.
A very unique Irish feature that the couple had also set their hearts on was Liscannor stone — which now features very prominently in the hall, the sitting room, the dining room and the stairs.
“Coming back on holidays we had always admired stone houses — something you don’t see in the US.
"We didn’t have planning to put in on the outside so we put it on the inside instead,” reveals the man of the house.
To build the property, he recruited a crew of tradesmen who had, just like him, returned from working in the building trade in the US.
“Almost everyone who worked on the house had come back from the US — we had the people we needed to build a timber framed house and a carpenter to put in the decking.”
It also meant that the couple had the carpenter they needed to create the type of New England style staircase that they wanted.
Altering the layout to turn a small bathroom into a cupboard and a large bedroom into a bathroom, they opted to put a row of long full length windows at the back of the house, and to put double doors almost everywhere.
They also decided that wanted black old style cast iron radiators like the ones they had in the US and found a company in Cork city willing to make them — including tall ones for the kitchen and bathroom.
Their kitchen, located at the front, opening out on to the decking, has an unusually large walnut topped island unit in the centre which comfortably seats four family members and serves as the kitchen table.
This works so well that plans to put in a kitchen table were abandoned years ago.
Around the sides of the kitchen are a generous number of maple shaker style units, painted grey green and black, with granite worktops.
“We wanted a large double US style fridge and fortunately were able to order one from a shop in Cork — they are everywhere now but weren’t at the time.”
Off the kitchen is an elegant oak floored formal dining room with a long table and wainscoting effect moulding on the walls.
The lady of the house and peruser of home décor magazines, found an elaborate chandelier in a shop in Cork which she says was just what she needed to complete the room.
Situated in a single storey section at one end of the house, is a high ceilinged sitting room with a multitude of large windows, an expanse of Liscannor stone and a remarkable suspended stove.
The owners say that when they built the house, all the ground floor rooms at the front including kitchen and sitting room had views of the Glengarriff Harbour: “Since then vegetation and trees have blocked the view but we can still see the sea from downstairs when the trees are bare in winter.”
An extra spacious ground floor master bedroom with an en suite overlooks the garden at the back while a second ground floor bedroom has double doors out on to the decking.
Smaller rooms at this level include a shelved utility room as well as a rather Victorian looking guest WC, decorated in red and black.
The front hallway has in addition to the welcoming stove, Liscannor stonewalls which extend along the front and up the stars. Here too is the carved New England style staircase which is painted cream with oak steps and banisters.
“You can see that this is US style stairs because the spindles go directly into the treads,’’ explains the man of the house.
Lit by four large Velux windows at the top and a modern version of a chandelier, the staircase has a Liscannor stone wall at one side and a huge black mirror at the other, which the couple found in local Dutch furniture store, Kramers.
Upstairs, a room which was originally meant to be the bathroom has been shelved for storage while a 17ft long room at the front which should have been a bedroom has been commandeered for use as a very generous bathroom.
Floored in black and white Italian marble, this has a large curved corner bath, double sinks and two elaborate tall silver mirrors, which create something of a Venetian effect.
The first floor master bedroom at the front has the largest balcony and the most impressive views.
Decorated in beige and cream, this has double patio doors and six Velux windows, three on each side of the roof.
“You can watch the ferry go across to Garnish from here and in the summer you can see the cruise ships in the harbour,” say the owners.
The second upstairs bedroom is also spacious and has a balcony at the front and the third bedroom, now used for drumming and exercising instead of sleeping, also has a small balcony.
On a site of more than three quarters of an acre, the house has a very large decked veranda at the front with a covered over section for the BBQ — something which wouldn’t be required in the US but seems eminently practical for the Irish climate.
The front has lawns and a driveway while the rear has gravelled parking area and a stepped garden with a huge green area which has been used for soccer.
Located at Reenmeen East, the property is situated in an enclave of six individually built detached houses off the main road ,just 2km on the Cork side of Glengarriff.
Selling agents Denis Harrington are guiding it at €695,000 and say that in terms of the quality and the finish it is one of the finest houses on the market in the Glengarriff at present.
As a spacious and scenic property in a very popular tourist spot, he’s expecting it to appeal to overseas buyers and says the area has in the past seen purchasers from Holland, Germany, the US, and the UK buy holiday homes in the areas.
“The house also has a lot to offer an Irish family and could appeal to a buyer either returning or retiring to the area,’’ says Mr Harrington who thinks that it wouldn’t be beyond the bounds of possibilities for this to be used for exclusive guest accommodation.
As one of west Cork’s best known scenic tourist destinations, Glengarriff has been attracting holidaymakers and holiday home owners for generations.
Surrounded by rugged hills and woodland, the seaside village is possibly most famous for offering boats trips out to Garnish Island, which warmed by the waters of the Gulf Stream, has Italianate gardens planted with exotic species.
Other local attractions include the Bamboo Park with tropical plants and walkways located at Reenmeen close to this house.
There are also walking trails in the forests and hills, kayaking in the sheltered waters of the harbour as well as shops, restaurants, pubs and hotels.