Large country home in the city is a beautiful rarity

It’s not very often that you get a home of this size and quality near Douglas, and mere minutes from Cork city centre. Tommy Barker admires the perfectly up-to-date Lisheen, a fine large home sitting pretty on over 0.6 of an acre in leafy Woodview

Woodview, Douglas, Cork - €1.4 million

Size: 328 sq m (3,531 sq ft) on c. one acre

Bedrooms: 4/5+1

Bathrooms: 4

BER: D2

Best Feature: Suburban bliss

At various times in its c 80 years of history, Lisheen’s grounds spanned acres of prime Douglas village real estate and, for quite a period of that, its gardens even hosted a tennis court. The 1929-built home’s current owners even had a busy soccer pitch on the go when their family was growing up.

Set just in the angle bend in salubrious Woodview, a park which links Cork’s Douglas Road to the mid section of the Well Road, Lisheen’s original grounds shrunk just a tad over several changes of ownership. A corner got hived off for several houses to be built in tucked-away bits behind trees (the name Woodview wasn’t conjured up out of thin air) in fits and starts, and it seems the property has been generous in bestowing sites along they way to several of its mere handful of appreciative owners. It could be compared to a cut-and-come-again salad, for all of its bounty.

The previous owners, who sold this elegant, dash-faced suburban home (it wouldn’t look out of place in Dublin’s Foxrock) in 1995 only moved towards the property’s original entrance gates at Woodview’s road angle, and built a new home there.

And, now, the family who bought 22 years ago have done pretty much the same thing, building inside the gates, and they too are now reprising the ‘jump over the fence’ (see pic, right) to an A-rated new build, full of warm memories of their years in Lisheen, and all their work with it.

Incredibly enough, it’s still on grounds of over 0.6 of an acre, which is very rare so close to Douglas, especially on the inner or city side side of the since-sprawled village; and, decent match for a site of this considerable size is the area of the family home, Lisheen, at its core.

It’s 3,530 sq ft within, after two sympathetic extensions plus an extra sun-room add-on which maximised its potential after it last changed hands in the 1990s, and it’s all quite lovely, right down to its quite formal, Zen-inducing contemplative garden pond.

Now, it’s for sale and deserves to create a bit of a splash and ripples in Cork’s house market, especially among the better-heeled home hunters.

It’s guided at €1.4 million, and without a doubt is one of the best Douglas homes and gardens to come along in the past several years.

Large country home in the city is a beautiful rarity

In fact, there’s been a relative dearth of top-quality Douglas houses of this calibre for those with sufficient means to even consider, compared especially to the likes of Blackrock a mile or so away, where €1m-plus sales have been, eh, ten a penny, and several hit multi-million euro amounts.

Having said that, though, there have been a couple of strong prices recorded not too far away from Woodview and Lisheen.

The Edwardian classic Ellerslie, on the Well Road, turns up on the Price Register as a €1.5m sale in late 2016, after a relatively long period on the market, having launched at €2.85m in summer 2014.

Another house, Curraghbeg, in a cul de sac off Woodview, in tired order but on a whopping 1.5 acres, had launched around the same time, in 2014, guiding €1.8m via Savills. It surprised just about everyone when — a year later after very little action — it was suddenly bid to €2.4m by two enthused parties, the successful bidder understood to have a background in IT. Nothing visible has happened to forlorn Curraghbeg since, it appears.

Large country home in the city is a beautiful rarity

Also sold well on Woodview, back in 2010, was the detached Harrodean, backing on to Hettyfield, making €1.04 in depressed times, and Woodview is notable for the number of similar era dash-finished homes of some substance, many of them under red tile roofs.

Now, selling agents for Woodview’s Lisheen are Sheila O’Flynn of Sherry FitzGerald and Hugh McPhillips of Marshs, and they guide at €1.4m, this may appear just the target; might it overshoot?

With its warm, pink-painted dash walls, wisterias and feature Romeo and Juliet balcony over the entrance porch in the sheltered ‘L’ embrace of its wings, it has huge charm and visual appeal, great comfort, and lots of quality space and build quality behind the scenes. After reworking and re-roofing and wiring and plumbing, it is in fine physical shape too, and it feels private and away from the world on its own exceptional grounds.

Yet, a six minute walk will have occupants strolling into the very heart of Douglas, between its two shopping centres, within reach of dozens of shops, cafes, bars, the library, and schools.

Large country home in the city is a beautiful rarity

Think of it as a country pad in the city, complete with choirs of birdsong, and a pesky heron who keeps the pristine pond as his own, personal, Koi sushi wet-bar.

The feature pond, at its centre a perfect square with a fountain (currently not working) within a run of channels in a square shape, is up on a slight, flat elevation, in a spot that at one stage was the tennis court. It constantly draws the eye from the rooms to the rear of Lisheen, and no more so than from the re-ordered kitchen/family dining room.

On moving in here 22 years ago, the family reordered what had been an original traditional layout where the kitchen had been tucked away, out of sight, consigning those using it to a modicum of drudgery, no view, and a separation from the day-to-day hubbub of family life.

So they extended at single-storey level into the garden, for a 33’ long, hospitable cooking and eating room, with a dark blue Aga at its heart, amid large banks of painted units and an island with granite tops. Flooring is hard-wearing Amtico, which extends into the garden room/dining section surrounded by a bow of tall windows, culminating in a set of hardwood painted French windows which open to a south-facing patio.

Large country home in the city is a beautiful rarity

“Where else would you want to put a kitchen, only overlooking the garden?” one of the owners who is as equally into gardening as cooking asks rhetorically, able to enjoy the fruit of both at the same time.

Pristine beds of shrubs, camellias and perennials ring the patio, done out in thick flags of Liscannor stone with visible old ‘worm’ fossil patterns in the flags, of which there are very many. The patio surrounds the curve of the garden/dining room and goes back as far as the house’s other side, where the also added-on formal dining room too has painted hardwood French doors to the gardens and lawns.

On a balmy, warm evening, and with a gang or guests calling around, it must be hospitality central, and it’s little surprise to see the barbecue unit stored out on this section, ready to be fired up at a moment’s notice.

Thanks to the various well-considered additions, there’s now any amount of living spaces, as well as a very attractive hall with original narrow-strip oak floor, and original wall panelling, which would have been a dark, varnished stealer of light, but has since been lightened up after being painted in an off-white/cream.

Large country home in the city is a beautiful rarity

The same quality woodwork continues up the stairwell, and is also original. The internal hardwood doors and handles, which have been retained, are a sign of the original build quality.

Upstairs, Lisheen retains much of its initial layout as it wasn’t extend at at first floor level. So, off the L-shaped landing are four bedrooms, two of them en-suite, one with a cast-iron fireplace, a shower room, and a study/bedroom five. Plus there’s a door out to the balcony above the terrazzo-floor porch. Particularly good is the master bedroom suite, which is double aspect, and has a walk-through wardrobe/dressing room leading to a luxury 13’ by 9’ bathroom, with separate central bath and power shower.

Below, the formal 30’ by 13’ drawing room with bay window has a period open fireplace, with burnished brass trim fringing a large fire basket for logs or coals. This very comfortable room extends now into a formal dining room section with garden access.

Eschewing the formality of the ‘good’ rooms, right alongside is a den/study in what was the original kitchen section by a large utility, now a practical 18’ by 10’ hanging out space, much appreciated by the family for the teenage years, as it has yard/back garden external access, so friends could come and go without disturbing the rest of the house.

Also handy is a detached garage with part-conversion to en suite bedroom, useful for an au pair, a granny, an independently-minded teen... or an adult offspring moving back to the family nest to save on rent, and still have some personal space.

Large country home in the city is a beautiful rarity

Back in the main residence, there’s also a very comfortable double- aspect family room at the far end of the lovely, wood-panelled hall, with another fireplace; bookshelves line the walls between the art, and there’s a side door to a five-sided gable end sun room/conservatory, which has patio access for yet more interconnection between the outdoors and the indoors.

Lisheen is now quite central on its ground well in excess of half an acre, which means several garden ‘rooms’ are created with distinct feel and personalities, from the children’s garden to the tiered lawn and pond, to a shrubbed garden with rhododendron. There’s a mighty, fine weeping willow, many acers, and planting is now well established for year-round colour and interest.

On the practical level, there’s plenty of parking and easy turning once within Lisheen’s repositioned entrance gates and pillars just past the hived-off site when the departing family’s new build is in the final stages of completion, and gardens re-bedding down either side of the new divide.

Architect for the quite tall new build was Tom Coughlan of Coughlan De Keyser Architects, who also reordered Lisheen for the same clients in ‘95 when they took it on.

A new concrete post and wood fence now separates Lisheen from the new, adjacent domestic arrival, and trees have been planted to add further screening and reinstate privacy over the next few years, while windows in the new build on this side have respectfully been kept to a minimum to allow each home its own breathing space. (Indicative of just how fast such screening can take hold, laurels planted by Lisheen’s owners when they moved here about 20 years ago by their home’s boundary with Endsleigh estate are now part of an almost impenetrable screen some 15’ thick.

Large country home in the city is a beautiful rarity

Birds seem to love the gardens, none more so than the herons who’ve feasted on koi out of the pond’s wet bar, and a neighbour’s cat come around on the prowl, on the off-chance of a bit of a sporting engagement with the same herons.

Coming up now for resale via Sherry Fitz and Marshs and, after four families of owners over 88 years to date, Lisheen is ready for a new family with children and pets, seemingly needing little or nothing done to it bar any personal, discretionary alterations, whenever suits.

Given its location, condition, space, gardens, and quality, it’s a prize up there for the fortunate few.

VERDICT: Top home


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