Kenmare beauty may tempt a celebrity or two

Stoneacre combines a top-end finish by its designer owners with gorgeous gardens and a spectacular setting, writes Tommy Barker.

YOU’D expect the private home of a couple of seriously talented interior designers with an international clientele to be pretty good — maybe even exceptional.

But, you might not expect the two and a half acres of recent gardens to give such a house a fair run for its money.

Welcome to success, at Stoneacre, a house of two equal halves, inside matching outside, with peerless good taste, outclassing most international design-savvy boutique hotels — and clearly still a home.

It is a possible property contender for globe-trotting home-hunters like Katy Perry and Russell Brand, who’ve said in recent weeks that they’d like a Irish pad in Cork or Kerry, prompting a tabloid to claim ‘Perry for Kerry’. It’s perfect for such a well-heeled pair, but only if they want a far quieter, meditative life than they’ve had up to now.

Newly up for sale, this luscious home, with a world-class finish and an unerringly restful atmosphere scanning Kenmare bay was built as a low-key home by design duo David and Sarah MacGinty.

They’ve done spectacular houses from scratch, and makeovers and commercial projects all over Ireland, from the nouveau riche at Abington in Malahide to hideaway Munster mansions for the seriously rich, and serially discrete.

Unsurprisingly, commissions and work at the very top end of the building and design game in Ireland have dried up. The couple, who moved to Kerry in the 1990s from London, are now taking their enterprise to Cape Town in South Africa.

Hence, the sale of Stoneacre, a whole lot more than the sum of its internationally-sourced parts, and a special Irish spot to savour.

Stoneacre began its rise out of three rocky and boggy fields a decade ago, was painstakingly built during the boom over a two-year period, but has none of the bling of that era. Quite the opposite, in fact; it’s a masterclass in understatement, from the outside, especially, where its grey/green paint shade under a slate roof makes it recede almost too-modestly into its scenic setting.

It is a seriously grounded, and thoughtfully designed and delivered 5,000 sq ft home that can justify something like its €1.8 million price tag via agents Savills in Cork and Dublin. Auctioneer Catherine McAuliffe of Savills is confident of its prospects. Once she gets people to see it, the house will sell itself on appeal, says McAuliffe (see www.stoneacre-kenmare.com). .

International buyers will be courted, and wooed, and won over by the package, because of Kenmare’s known cachet and enduring appeal. Stoneacre, which is two miles from the town at Killaha West on Beara’s north shores picks up 180 degrees of Kenmare bay and island views, with the MacGillicuddy Reeks as a scene-stealing backdrop.

Kenmare has found favour in the past with the likes of Woody Allen, Mia Farrow and Michael Flatley. Currently, Riverdance producers Moya Doherty and John Colgan have an impressive Kerry home nearby on the peninsula. One of Kenmare’s strongest house sales was the €5 million paid at market peak for a waterfront property on 11 acres at Dawros Point — with its interiors done by the MacGintys.

Stoneacre is itself an international blend, with Irish planners dictating a low-slung shape because of the landscape (but balking at suggestions of a grass roof), and building and design materials came from the US, Europe, China, Britain and Ireland. Money wasn’t spared, nor effort, nor attention to the tiniest detail.

The build is a mix of traditional block and American oak post and beam structure in the lofty 55’ by 22’ main living, dining and cooking area. This multi-purpose room, open up to the vaulted roof, is primely placed for views and access to lushly-landscaped terraces via fold-back doors. Visitors here are conflicted by the sheer quality and feature touches inside, versus the attractions and lures of the gardens and views outside.

Flooring throughout the ground level is polished and stained concrete, poured in one continuous 25 hour session, necessitating 10 lorry deliveries, hand-trowelling, power floating and constant smoothing. Two weeks later, it was ground and stained to the subtle swirls that set the literal concrete backdrop to the rest of the restrained decor.

Instead of skirting boards, hemp rope cleverly covers the join between walls and floors — a natural, simple touch — and internal plasterwork is soft and slightly rough for a gentle look, offset by earthy Farrow and Ball-range colours.

Heating is underfloor, and highly efficient, and insulation levels are superior, says David MacGinty. This is thanks to block-on-flat wall construction with inner-leaf Quinlite blocks, dense Xtratherm insulation and Vrogrum argon-filled windows and doors in Australian oak, painted on the outside to match the creeper-clad walls.

Oak as a material surfaces fairly frequently here, in doors (pewter handles) and frames and in the bespoke kitchen, including its feature dividing columns on the huge kitchen island, topped with a ton of teak, 3”deep.

Oak is also there in the skeletal steel stairs, keeping a family faith with the old, retained native Irish oak trees dotting the gardens.

The sink’s a Belfast one, ceramic, the cooker’s an Aga, as you might expect, and worktops are granite, as they are in the pantry/utility rooms. The kitchen is a cook’s dream, and the space it bookends (this room alone is over 1,000 sq ft) calls out for parties, gatherings and conviviality. The hefty oak dinner table by I & JL Brown in Britain, seats 10 in Philippe Stark ‘Louis Ghost’ clear acrylic chair style.

Stoneacre has most of its space at ground level, but two of its six bedrooms are upstairs, in dormer rooms, each en suite and joined/separated by a slender steel, glass and timber walkway cutting through the double-height entry hall, under a glazed apex roof.

Heating is underfloor, all six bathrooms are top-drawer, with fittings and sanitary ware/taps are by Duravit and Dorn Bracht. The master bedroom’s en suite has a large double ended bath, placed for bay and mountain views during long, warm soaks and privacy can be adjusted by a tilt of the plantation shutters which are a feature of many rooms here.

The floor plan is thoughtful, pretty much as you’d expect from such a couple, and one wing serves (if needed) as a self-contained guest or granny flat, or seamlessly blends back in with the rest of the house bulk thanks to adaptable design and uses.

Everything has been carefully thought through here: light switches and sockets are smart, in clear glass with insets which can be painted or papered to match walls, by British company Forbes & Lomax, and the few radiators needed upstairs have flat panel fronts, painted to match the walls, and visually retreat into them as a result.

Lighting for the most part is recessed spots, with some feature wire track spot lighting picking out some of the array of decorative and craft items sourced from the corners of the world, and sundry trade fairs.

Stoneacre was built between 2001 and 2003, after a one-year planning wait, on its private and elevated hectare (more land may be available in front from the farm who sold this site in 2000) and it is all now massively and intelligently transformed with the same care and eye as the house’s inside — and is clearly Sarah’s passion.

The first thing to be built on the site, in fact, was a proper glasshouse, showing horticultural intent which is now in clear and lush evidence all around. Planting includes David Austin roses, an array of climbers, rhododendron and azaleas, and all old trees have been kept, especially some fantastic oaks (one crying out for a treehouse or swing), as well as stands of ash and silver birch.

Fully organic and threaded by sinuous paths, ponds, a wooden bridge and walkways, Stoneacre’s medley includes a stone-ringed amphitheatre lawn, herb garden, sunken BBQ terrace, vines and two vegetable gardens, one with high, raised beds, promising easy pickings for lazy gardeners - or those with bad backs.

There’s no end of sitting out and pottering about spaces, including steel and glass garden rooms and glasshouses from Reenmeen in Glengarriff. There’s also a workroom and garden store, a polytunnel, hen-run, woodland garden, and the eye keeps being drawn back to those great, inspired, linked ponds, fed by a stream and favoured by a fish-hungry heron.

It’s all a haven for wildlife (calling Russell Brand?) and grazing visitors to Sarah’s garden include wild deer who seem to roam Kenmare freely.


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