As a nation we’re “house proud beyond belief” — keeping one eye on tradition and the other on innovation. If that observation, made at the outset of tonight's episode of Dermot Bannon's Incredible Homes on RTÉ One, were to take shape in bricks and mortar, it would surely be as this limestone-hewn coastal dwelling in west Cork.
This Goleen residence made headlines when the celebrity architect revealed to my Irish Examiner colleague Ciara McDonnell that the 2009-built design was his favourite house in Ireland.
This series of Incredible Homes was filmed as Covid-19 was starting its sweep across Europe and the rest of the globe, and the crew set the second episode in Ireland. By the time filming started here, it was a different world. “I couldn’t wait to get under the porches of some of Ireland’s incredible homes,” says Dermot.
“We were all staying at home this summer, forced to explore our own backyards by a challenging world and a new way of life — but I think we should embrace it as a positive. We get to travel new roads and rekindle our old childhood relationships with the beach, the bog, the Sunday game on the radio in Dad’s car, or jumping off the pier on warm summer’s day.”
And for Dermot, his own odyssey could not have got off to a more auspicious beginning as he descended on the limestone house designed by Níall McLaughlin.
“I’m starting my journey in beautiful west Cork and on a day like today it’s as magical a place as any you could find anywhere else in the world. It’s also the location of a very special home, one that I‘ve waited 10 years to get to see,” says Dermot.
As he arrives in Goleen, Dermot is as bright-eyed as a child on Christmas morning. 'You can’t imagine how excited I am to visit this house,' he says. TV viewers who watched Dermot meet the building's architect Níall McLaughlin, earlier this year, will have a fair idea
As he arrives in Goleen, Dermot is as bright-eyed as a child on Christmas morning. “You don’t know how excited I am,” he says.
Those of us who watched, earlier this year, as Dermot met his idol McLaughlin in Room To Improve: Dermot’s Home will have a fair idea.
“I know this building. I am a huge fan of the architect Níall McLaughlin; I’ve known his work for years. I’m really excited. Because it’s almost like meeting a hero — the building being the hero. If you can imagine posters you would have had up on your bedroom wall as a kid and then you get to meet (the people in them), this is what this house is like for me.”
Its front section is the original cottage, built in the 1980s, which now forms the grand entrance to a myriad of interconnected buildings, rooms and courtyards.
From the outside, because the house is clad in the limestone of the surrounding area, the building is part of the landscape, and inside, the landscape is part of the interior. “You have got this amazing volume, this mono-pitched roof which creates this really, really beautiful space,” says Dermot.
While its ownership is not referred to in the show, local and property industry sources say the residence was the holiday home of former attorney general Peter Sutherland, who died in 2018.
The house appears to be hewn from the limestone of the rocky landscape surrounding it. This means as it ages, the building will look “like every other rock that is bursting up through the green grass, the heather and the shrubs”, breathes Dermot.
The home perches on the Mizen peninsula and from inside, large windows maximise the expansive ocean views. It’s a “simple, stealthlike structure” that delivers on so many different levels. “Every single detail is thought through,” notes Dermot.
Yes, that would be 850 drawings’ worth of details, confirms the builder, Kieran Crowley.
Aged 17, Kieran started working with his uncle’s construction firm and took over the company in 2006. This project was one of the first jobs he undertook.
As for the builder’s favourite room? It’s the study or office, a little retreat you voyage to by going outside and crossing a little bridge over the water feature.
The room, which Dermot describes as “presidential” also focuses the eyes back over to the headland.
When he first saw this unique great-escape style study suggested on the drawings, Kieran admits he had his doubts. “Our original thoughts were that this isn’t going to be very practical in West Cork because you’re going to have to nearly put on oilskins to go out to the study, but it’s only one step, it’s a foot,” he says.
And there we have it in how rapidly these pandemic times have changed our view of our home’s functionality. Similarly with the master bedroom: Normally a walk-in wardrobe would be located a little off the room, but here the wardrobe area is like an ante-chamber or corridor, “creating a decompression chamber from the rest of the house”, as Dermot notes.
Back out to the study and Dermot and Kieran agree it’s precisely its isolation and privacy that make it so perfect. “We’ve all been working from home for the last while and who wouldn’t love a room that is separate from the rest of the home just to go to,” says Dermot.
- Dermot Bannon’s Incredible Homes airs on Sunday, October 25, at 9.30pm on RTÉ One and on RTÉ Player