Tommy Barker visits a high-spec home which was good to begin with, and has been further improved.
Carr’s Hill, Douglas, Cork €765,000
Size: 255 sq m (2,745 sq ft)
Open viewings: Monday/Wed, June 19&21 from 5pm to 5.45pm and Saturday June 24 from 12-12.45 pm or by appointment.
Pictures: John Roche
The houses in Cork’s The Vicarage scheme were good when they were built, day one, oh about a decade ago — but, now, with its wisteria climbing vigorously up its front facade, and a knockout rear extension, No 11 is a stand-out example of how they can be further improved.
The project, off Carr’s Hill on the edge of Douglas village, was undertaken by developers Frinailla, who’d flown very high in Cork terms (and who’d bought sites very high too), over a few short years.
When they built, they generally used good architects, and were active and ambitious, assembling major sites such as Grand Parade, Watercourse Road, the Good Shepherd Convent in Sunday’s Well, and Victoria Cross among others, and also bought a whopping 70 acres for house building outside of Douglas.
Many of their sites were mothballed for years, or Nama’ed and/or re-sold, but The Vicarage with its 17 homes designed by Kinsale architect Richard Rainey did get launched, and built, starting to sell in 2008 as the market went into decline, only to get whacked altogether by the global banking crisis and Ireland’s own, painful twist on it.
Right by the entrance to The Vicarage, Frinailla also built dozens of good quality apartments, over basement parking, in two blocks in a scheme called Temple Grove, and last year 35 of those apartments were sold off in one lot to a private investor, for c €6m.
When The Vicarage launched in 2008, there were two house types, each detached, with a high spec, smart home wiring, underfloor heating, and they were sized from 2,000 sq ft to 2,368 sq ft, and priced at c €850,000 to €1.1 million. Ouch.
After a half dozen or so sales, activity slowed and some later sales had a lower specification or level of fit-out and finish: the Price Register shows nine sales since 2012, at prices from €299,000, and the two most recent ones were at €555,000, in 2015, and €635,000 earlier this year, when No 13 sold.
The place is back on buyers’ radars, and as the landscaping has matured, it’s all looking very well indeed.
Now, with it own facade ‘landscaping’ of frond-ly Wisteria, No 11 The Vicarage is fresh to market for its owners who’ve been here from quite early on.
Having bought it in 2008 before starting a family, they opted to extend the house four years ago, as their brood grew to four lively children.
Now, they’ve spotted something else and are hoping to trade up to that other goal, hence No 11’s arrival to market with Sheila O’Flynn and Ann O’Mahony of Sherry FitzGerald.
It has grown substantially out the back thanks to the ground floor add-on, so now has 2,745 sq ft in all, over three levels of extremely well-kept and well-specced space.
The entrepreneurial couple are in the hospitality business in Cork city and county, so it isn’t much of a surprise to find that the kitchen is what motivates them, and it’s what they designed the rear extension around.
As it turns out, it’s the absolute making of the place, the hub of a busy family home.
You sense that it’s good and special as soon as the the front door opens, and you get to see through hall to the show-stopping kitchen space off in the near distance, and beyond its huge sliding doors to the landscaped back garden in the further distance.
You know from these bearings too that there’s a whole lot of home in between, and it’s almost an effort to pay any attention at all to the excellent, and well-sized, wood-floored front sitting room en passant, or to the enormous, person-sized gilt mirror on a side wall: you just want to see the back.
When they bought, pre-children, the kitchen was just about OK size-wise, but like many other buyers at The Vicarage, it was one of the first things they sought to alter.
Over the past few years, a number of other home owners along the scheme’s two sections (sort of inner, and outer, in cul de sac Vicarage,) have followed suit with larger kitchen add-ons or knock-throughs.
Here, they went big, deep and wide and open plan, yet with clearly-defined sections, for cooking/entertaining/gathering, and family chats and catch-ups at the island. To the side is a more formal dining space, where a light oak dining table can easily seat eight-plus.
Then, screened visually by open book and display shelves, and delineated by a few tiled steps down from the kitchen, is a casual family lounge, with double door access to the rear sandstone paved patio and other big, circular outdoor seating suite of table and chairs.
However, most times the family access the patio through the enormous, easy to slide wall-to-wall doors, and if the weather’s any way kind, they are open all the time... it’s a lively household.
Here, the fit-out was done by Kube Kitchens, with Miele gas hob and appliances on the long island which, like the other run of units, is topped with cream quartz work-surfaces.
A higher band, in a sort of gloss wood-look veneer, runs by the island’s length and along one end facing the living/dining quarters mainly so that any mess on the tops isn’t in full view of everyone.
Overhead, the flat roof of the extension houses two glass panels or roof lights, and there’s a clerestory window up above the wall of splash-back for westerly light.
There’s masses of storage underneath all the units, in pull-out drawers and cupboards, plus there’s also a utility with side passage access.
And, while venting a hob on an island is often a problem, the solution opted for here was a funky- looking recirculating extract, fashioned like a light fitting or shade.
It vies for visual attention with the even funkier lights, four of them, hanging around the island and on coloured and coiled flexes. They were spotted as feature fittings in Brown Thomas’s children’s department, and the owners tracked them down and ordered them online.
Lighting elsewhere is also above the standard, while decor otherwise is generally muted, allowing the colour in fabrics, blinds and sofa to sofas, to make the visual statements.
A few rooms have wallpapered accent sections, and the owners are glad they followed their painter’s advice not to paper the stair walls if they planned on having children... it wouldn’t have lasted the drag of small hands, they concede.
Off the kitchen, and running back towards the front of the house, is a long relaxing TV/family room, with square bay window to the front of No 11, fringed by that vibrant wisteria.
The main, more formal front sitting room, right of the hall, also has a large bay window, and gas-insert fireplace.
Carpeting on the stairs hushes the sound of foot traffic up and down, and the first- floor landing is decently sized, with access to four bedrooms, a main bathroom with Jacuzzi bath, and hotpress.
The en suite master bedroom is to the front of the family home, with door access to a glass-balustered balcony, overlooking a cobbled drive and open green area across the cul de sac road, while bed no 5 is up on on the top floor level of this compliant three-storey build.
Up at this highest level, and usually kept for guests, is another good-sized, double-aspect bedroom, with shower room en suite, plus there’s a door into a walk-in wardrobe set in under a sloping roof section, forming part of the facade’s lofty front gable apex.
That slope definitely means it’s a walk-in robe rather than a walk-in dressing room, as it would be hard to spin arms around in to find sleeves!
Upkeep and decor levels are uniformly good, the house is pre-wired for audio/video/smart home features, and heating is underfloor, at ground level.
Smarter than all the wiring, in some ways, is the way the family have gated and covered over part of one side passage of the house between front and back gardens for bikes, sport gear, drying etc.
Smart, too, is the height positioning of the Velux windows over most of the Vicarage’s 17 homes, above average head height, so that light gets in abundantly, but neighbours don’t overlook one another’s privacy.
That’s a boon at No 17 too, and it means that the above-average size back garden is granted additional privacy, and it comes with extensively landscaped colourful borders, full of bird life and bird song, cherry blossom trees and fruit trees, and in the middle is a well-kept lawn or well rehabilitated lawns.
Sandstone paving, on two levels with steps, spans the full width of the pack of the house for dining and barbecues, and from here the long distance views are towards Carr’s Hill and Maryborough Woods and Douglas Golf Course.
VERDICT: Already good, and made even better.
“Having bought in 2008, the owners opted to extend the house four years ago, as their brood grew”