It's the lap of luxury in a thoroughly modern Cork home

Top-class architecture and a beautiful leafy landscape have made this southside home a little Hollywood on the Lee
It's the lap of luxury in a thoroughly modern Cork home

Crisp modern lines set against mature trees greet visitors arriving at 3, Oakwood on Cork's Maryborough Hill. Pictures John Roche

A CONTEMPORARY home as good as 3 Oakwood could grace the Hollywood Hills overlooking Los Angeles; it could as easily sit on the Côte d’Azur, or be slotted into Dublin’s Dalkey, Cork’s Kinsale, or adorn some sweet spot in the Channel Islands.

But, instead, it graces a hillside east of Cork city, overlooking Maryborough Hill and Douglas, in a setting that’s now broadly suburban.

Close-up, all is green, amid trees including mature silver birches, on a site bought back about 15 years ago, for this one-off build, one of six built on the approach drive to the original period property, Douglas House. 

When it was built, this architect-designed villa-style home — arranged on a sloping site and with its unabashed crisp lines and flat roof —sort of stood out to occasional passers-by, and to the architecturally curious, by dint of its crisp modernity.

It was one of six homes built on serviced sites on lands previously owned by the Horgan family of Douglas House, well known in previous decades as livestock breeders, cattle exporters, and racehorse owners.

Some of the gardens and grounds, and the exceptional private courtyard, enjoy a warm southerly aspect. 
Some of the gardens and grounds, and the exceptional private courtyard, enjoy a warm southerly aspect. 

The Horgans sold their Maryborough Hill land for the development now known as The Paddocks on the foot of Maryborough Hill, and later on the original Douglas House was converted to apartments with several new blocks of quality units built on its immediate grounds.

The upper side of their hillside approach was then also carved into a half dozen sites, of c 0.6 to over one acre, and the one closest to Maryborough Hill was bought in 2004 for a reported €720,000 by rugby’s Ronan O’Gara, who built a large family home there at Oakwood’s entrance.

Meanwhile, a 3,500 sq ft house in between the O’Garas and No 3, named Kendal, sold in 2018 for €1.455m, having previously featured extensively in these pages, and currently has the builders in, doing a rear kitchen add-on.

As is often the case when families can afford to match building ambition with landscaping budgets, the passing of even a decade serves to take the bare look off these new, sizeable site interlopers, and pretty much all six now are exceptionally private on their heavily-treed grounds.

So, the shock of the new is long gone from No 3 Oakwood: it’s only when you wend your way up the curving drive past the bespoke, pressed metal electrically-operated gates that it starts to stand out as being as exceptional as it truly is.

And, now that’s it’s for sale, and available for in or around its €1.5m asking price, its cover is blown for now, revealed in all of its high-end, site-specific, design glory, and its readily-spotted quality finishes and touches.

It was built in the mid-2000s as a trade-up family home for a business/retail couple who had been living in a development over in Montenotte, with south-facing views over Cork city.

The finish is top class throughout, including the kitchen by Martin Kiely, and appliances from Neff and Fisher & Paykel.
The finish is top class throughout, including the kitchen by Martin Kiely, and appliances from Neff and Fisher & Paykel.

They swapped that home for a far larger house, north-facing, but with the bulk of its gardens, grounds, and exceptional private courtyard getting a warm southerly aspect as another bonus.

The years have flown by, the offspring are reared and flown, and No3 is now on the open Cork market, priced at €1.5m by selling agents Sheila O’Flynn and Ann O’Mahony of Sherry FitzGerald. 

It’s a stand-out purchase option for anyone that fancies strong architecture, top finishes, privacy, and what’s deemed to be a top Cork residential location.

The couple used the services of Wilson Architecture, and Tony Kelly — a designer with them at the time, who since went on to found Kiosk Architects — oversaw the detailed delivery, with a crew of West Cork builders first in for the challenging-enough build, and seasoned builder Danny Murnane who saw it to final fruition and flourish.

They also were lucky enough to get the services of landscape architect Martin Hallinan to work with them on their private project: The award-winning designer normally does large commercial schemes, such as at the National Stud in Kildare, CityWest in Dublin, and the elevated acre garden cocooned in the embrace of the Elysian tower in Cork City.

Thus, the finished blend combines house with rock outcrops (massive stones were unearthed in quarries in Carlow to sit in the landscape), sculpture, water feature, and some inspired themed planting.

Innovatively, behind, an elevated screening section is planted with gorse, a robust ‘wild’ bush with its distinctive yellow blooms, and coconut smells: The gorse corrals one garden route, wittily known as the goat path, to the higher ground, with a plateau for ball-kicking. 

This upper garden tier opens up even more expansive city and suburban vistas, as well as suggesting scope to do something in the future with No 3’s extensive membrane. Roof terrace, anyone?

Light spills on to the American maple flooring at No 3 Oakwood on Cork's Maryborough Hill.
Light spills on to the American maple flooring at No 3 Oakwood on Cork's Maryborough Hill.

The main house weighs in at about 3,500 sq ft, with very open plan main living spaces. It has lots of indoors/outdoors access points and balconies, and features an upside-down layout, to maximise views and to work with the particular site’s slope and orientation.

Three of its four en-suite bedrooms are down at the lower ground level, with two having their own garden patio access points, and all are served by a long and wide corridor, used as a home office and ideal too as a play space.

But, good and all as the lower ground is, it’s the entry level/upper floor that is the knockout, what with its full-width kitchen/dining/living room, with rear high and glass-ceilinged winter garden overlooking a sheltered patio. 

This level is also home to an angled/L-shaped corridor with feature corner coiled stainless steel radiator, a large utility with separate access and massive storage, guest WC, and a master suite with oversized double-aspect bedroom, private bathroom with jetted bath, and a walk-in robe/dressing room.

The inside-outside flow is boosted by a private balcony off the main bedrooms, and another wrap-around balcony in a maintenance-free material (engineered timber) which runs in front of the rest of the house’s first-floor façade, past some cedar sheeting, to give end-to-end external links, and yet more courtyard access.

It’s floored in Italian travertine, which is also inside on the floors in a more polished state, and a real statement piece is the almost monumental-sized block of quarried rough travertine, pitted with holes and indentations, subtly lit, and with water pumped though it as a signature statement work of art.

It stands on a stainless steel grille above a sump, and so it is a safe installation for children and dogs or other pets to be around.

The courtyard is a sun-trap, and as beautiful at night when lit up and seen from so many of the internal vantage points and the long through-views.

Three of the en-suite bedrooms are at ground level, and two have their own garden patio access.
Three of the en-suite bedrooms are at ground level, and two have their own garden patio access.

Back inside, there’s plenty to catch and hold the eye. Ceiling heights in the main are above spec, and lighting is by Wink, while the kitchen is by top maker Martin Kiely, with Neff appliances, and Fisher & Paykel dishwasher.

Flooring in the reception areas is wide plank American maple, running without the interruption of door saddles. Windows are by West, and sanitary ware is Duravit, with super high-end Vola taps, while music is on tap via Bose speakers.

Sherry FitzGerald say the bespoke home “perfectly combines stunning aesthetics with practicality,” adding that the site’s very effective too for family fun, given the expanse of flat lawn by its higher section.

Other practical touches include having the main or formal front entrance close to the access to the utility behind a cedar screen, so getting bins out, or shopping in, is a smart selection next to the parking/turning slot.

Separately, and almost over-archingly, the house’s exterior is distinguished too by the amount of blue-grey limestone on external walls and pillars, laid on flat, horizontal dry-stone-style, with an arty craftsperson’s eye and hand.

VERDICT: There are very few contemporary homes of this calibre in Cork's settled suburbs.

Maryborough Hill, Douglas, Cork €1.5m

Size: 324 sq m (3,500 sq ft)

Bedrooms: 4

Bathrooms: 5


Best Feature: Stunning design and delivery

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