Tommy Barker visits a house that has been lovingly created by an artist and designer couple.
EXPERIENCE pays off. Having done three house renovations/extensions for themselves, as well as design consultancy for lots of other people, you’d expect artist and designer Brenda Harris and her husband David to get their own place fairly right. You’d be underestimating them, though: this Ardmore home is a quiet stunner, inside and out, among the very best in its classy class.
Good taste is often deemed to be a relative or personal thing, but if there’s any sort of objective judgement about it, well, welcome the home of good taste.
The package starts with the location: a mile or so over the hill, past St Declan’s Round Tower beyond this most pretty of west Waterford seaside villages. This 4,000sq ft house, built in 2006 as a home for these relocaters, faces west along the mile of curving sandy shoreline of Whiting Bay at Ardoginna — a good bass fishing spot, and also popular with kayakers, bathers and walkers.
There’s only about a dozen houses here in all in this pastoral, coastal setting among rich farmland, and most of the house are fairly top-end too.
David and Brenda went for a different planning to that granted for this site, going for the less contemporary, more timeless look, and quickly rooted it to its 0.8 acre site by dint of careful landscaping and considerable planting.
The outside, with its distant views to Cable (or Capel) Island and lighthouse at Ballycotton, is very much the room outdoors, with outdoor fireplace/oven, a fire-pit for log burnings, discrete planting between drifts of coralled gravel, and concrete patio spaces broken up by subtly-place rounded beach stones.
And, productive raised beds hemmed in by sturdy old scaffolding planks two and three timbers high, are bursting right now with herbs, vegetables, and edible flowers. But, when eventually lured indoors (and there’s lots of access points to make the indoor/outdoor journey too) the kitchen competes for the title of hearth of the home.
A huge block of an island, more of a landmass really, anchors the room, with thick teak tops, and solid teak also graces the worktops around the Rangemaster gas and electric stove. Units are made up in solid timber, by the Victorian Salvage Company, and they have the confident heft of units that will last generations. This is an unflashy, but serious kitchen area, and the couple know their food, and have catered for very large parties of visitors with some elan — a skill that has passed a generation, as their son is now a professional cook in Dublin.
Brenda describes the feel as a cross between French and New England style, obviously mediated by her own flair, and what’s evident here are a keen sense of how to order and arrange space, and sticking with simple, quality materials. Thus, floors in the three reception rooms (two with solid fuel stoves) are solid oak, several rooms have painted wood sheeting (simple vertical boards, not tongue and groove) and colours are mostly from the Farrow and Ball range, muted and restful, contrasting with her own more vividly colourful paintings, mostly still lifes and abstracted landscapes.
Brenda resisted the urge to go with a distinct nautical or marine theme (ie, no blue and white palettes) but there’s a sandy beach feel nonetheless, nowhere more evident that in the couple’s one large master bedroom. Here, all colours are whites, and off-whites, with the floor painted polar white, there are French doors to the patio and the best of views, while behind is a calm bathroom, with an antique French double-end cast iron bath with claw feet, plus separate power shower enclosure.
Insulation levels are very high, behind an air-tight membrane and windows are triple glazed: heating bills are a meagre €600 per year, fairly remarkable given the floor area (2,700sq ft at ground level, and about 1,300sq ft of open, airy adaptable/ convertible studio space overhead, with office and bathroom.) A bank of solar panels on the roof gives free hot water for most of the year.
Brenda and David (a trouble- shooting business coach) are moving back to Dublin for work reasons, and note that since they’ve arrived, the commute time to Dublin has been slashed, thanks to new motorways.
Ardmore is now a two-and-a-half hour drive to the capital, while Cork city is 40 minutes away. It’s also within easy reach of the Tipperary horsey set who favour Ardmore’s charms.
Selling agent for this Ardoginna home is Robbie Grace of the Real Estate Alliance network in Callan, Kilkenny, and he seeks offers around €800,000. When people come to call, they’ll find it is place that will sell itself.
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