In a class of its own: Old School House for €550,000 gets top marks 

A former Church, then a school, now an outstanding family home, the Old School House in Glantane gets an "A" grade in home renovation and restoration
In a class of its own: Old School House for €550,000 gets top marks 
Pictures: Denis Minihane.

THE ecclesiastical appearance of its windows is the first clue to the ancestry of the Old School House in Glantane where the owners re-designed with history in mind to produce fairly dazzling results.

There’s a reservoir of memories sunk deep in this building, which began life as a Church of Ireland, before swapping contemplation for education.

A fireplace of basic masonry set into a deep hearth was uncovered by the current owners when they stripped back a wall after buying the property in 1992. That fireplace, now a beautiful entrance hall feature, was at the head of a former classroom where pupils supplied the turf as a sort of quid pro quo for the opportunity to learn.

The original fire irons used are also on display after the owners located them in the portion of the building that served as the school master’s residence.

The owner says the building was originally divided between accommodation and education, with a staircase to an upper level in the schoolmaster’s quarters while the classroom was a single level space that stretched up to the rafters.

Subsequent to its use as a school, it served as residence "for several generations" to the Coleman family, but while a Thomas Coleman does feature in the Folklore Commissions' School Collection as Principal of Glantane National School in 1938, it's not clear if he was a member of the same family or even the same school.

Interestingly, Mr Coleman's entry notes how, after the amalgamation of the boys' and girls' schools in Glantane in 1930, he continued on as Principal, but his wife, Mary Coleman, who had been Principal of the girls' school, was given the role of "Privileged Assistant". 

Where the privilege lay in the downgrade is anyone’s guess.

While the social role of the building in its community was repurposed over the years, certain physical characteristics remained that were positively exploited by the current owners. For instance the original parlour in the schoolmaster’s quarters.

“We kept it the same size and we kept the original fireplace, just replacing the tiles and the surround,” the owner says.

A suite of furniture that came with the house was re-upholstered - it's a perfect fit and style for a ‘parlour’ - and the luxurious Zoffany wallpaper is in keeping with the olde-worlde charm.

“It’s really gorgeous at Christmas, we call it the Christmas room,” the owner says.

There’s pretty much a room for every season in the €550,000 Old School House. The most striking is the ‘Outdoor Room’ added when the owners extended a decade ago. To paraphrase the Gaiety panto radio advertisement, This is no Ordinary Extension. The work of Cobh-based architect Peter Buckley, a raised ceiling creates a great sense of air and light but it's the installation of bi-fold patio doors, set at right angles and with no corner post that really create the "Wow" factor. It effectively removes a wall, opening the space up fully to the outdoor patio.

Four veluxes and a series of curved-arch windows (by Tipperary-based Youghal Glass) maximise the light.

There’s a cream Stovax stove, mounted on a limestone flag, which makes the room just as functional in wintertime, but is “also nice on those cooler summer nights”, the owner says.

Outdoor furniture is easily moved outside thanks to those folding doors, overhung by wisteria, producing white and purple blooms. The effect really is very much swanky Italian villa, and in fact the owner did have plans to grow vines, which she never quite got over the line.

Plenty of other planting did get over the line, initially with help from Nangles. 

There’s half a dozen acers spread around the grounds as well as cherry blossoms, purple and white lilac, and magnolia trees.

To the front, just inside one of three entrance gateways, is a small orchard, with a pear tree and three apple trees, just the right number to ensure cross-pollination and an annual crop.

Purple agapanthus, a bank of deep pink hydrangeas and a smattering of tropical tree palms line a stepped terrace to the rear, behind the breakfast patio, which gets the sun in the morning before it moves across to the Open Room patio later in the day. The breakfast patio can be accessed via patio doors from the kitchen where the centrepiece is a stunning breakfast bar/island combo.

“Everything happened here when the kids were little,” the owner says.

“Homework, colouring, eating. It was also great for entertaining.” The high-grade cabinetry in the kitchen was by Celtic Interiors, based at St Patrick’s Woollen Mills in Douglas, while the totemic symbols of country - an AGA and a Belfast Sink - represent a nice blend of old and new.

“The AGA is a lifestyle choice really,” the owner says, “the kids would sit up on it on cold mornings to warm up, and it was great for slow cooking and airing clothes.” 

There’s a coloured glass porthole window, a red marble countertop and floor to ceiling shelving and wall units, incorporating two wine racks.

“It’s my most favourite space in the house and the most practical. Everything is accessible. You can see exactly where everything is on those open shelves,” the owner says.

To the rear of the kitchen is another family living room, with a bookcase by Celtic Interiors, and a Norwegian Dovre stove mounted on a limestone flag and set against a sandstone wall. The room is framed by those beautiful ecclesiastical windows set into the sandstone brickwork. This room opens onto the kitchen through double doors and another set of double doors at the far end of the kitchen open onto a formal dining room, opening up the entire space when required.

“It’s been a great room for entertaining, we’ve had some great times here,” the owner says.

In the centre of the dining room is a super-sized tropical hardwood table, made in Clonmel, overhung by a Waterford Crystal chandelier which in turn is outshone by a magnificent atrium roof light.

"It was fabulous dining here at night time, you could see the beautiful floodlit silhouette of St John the Baptist Church, directly across the road," the owner says.

Off one side of the kitchen is a modern annex or “utility wing” with a king-size utility room, a brown marble wetroom with separate de-robing area, a room currently in use as a linen cupboard but which could easily be a bedroom or study, a downstairs bathroom and a huge cloakroom.

This whole area is wheelchair accessible. In fact, downstairs, in general, is wheelchair friendly, with all those double doors.

The owner says the wetroom was a godsend.

“It was brilliant for kids. We decided not to put in shower doors and you could just spray the whole place and hose it down and so it was easy to clean.” 

On the opposite side to the annex beyond the kitchen is a music room with more double doors to the patio. 

At the far end of the house, to the front, is yet another family room, a more kid-friendly hangout “the furthest room from the parents” the owner says.  The kids also had a den above the detached garage which has solar panels on the roof.

The renovations carried out to the Old School House since 1992 - which added about 2,500 sq ft to the then circa 2,000 sq ft property - included adding a complete upstairs level, as well as replacing the roof. There are five bedrooms, all doubles, including one master bedroom ensuite. This is at the newer end of the house and has an ensuite and walk-in wardrobe. The room that previously functioned as the master bedroom in the original part of the building has a Jack and Jill wardrobe and beautiful shelving by Celtic Interiors. There’s more fabulous shelving on the landing, sitting into the exposed brickwork of the 3’ thick walls, and an exposed original window arch at the top of the handmade stairs.

There’s a Stira to the attic, which has a plywood floor.

The main bathroom has a lovely free-standing roll-top bath.

All said, the overriding characteristic of this house is quality - in its appreciation of its legacy and in its response to the challenge of turning a unique building into a stunning family home.

“It was a very happy house and an ideal home to rear a family,” the owner says. It was also ideal for pets, with a dedicated dog house the size of a garden shed and a fenced-in run to the rear, running onto the acre behind.

Seamus O’Keeffe of Mallow-based Seamus O’Keeffe, who is joint selling agent along with Pat Murphy of Murphy Browne, says Glantane Village is a vibrant, close-knit community with many amenities.

“The national school is a 10-minute walk from the house with a footpath from door to door. There is a very strong GAA club, Community Council, Pitch and Putt club, Pre school and homework club in the village which is six miles from Mallow town and a 40-minute drive to Cork city.” 

VERDICT: A masterclass in reworking an old building into a unique, livable space.


Size: 420 sq m/4520 sq ft

Bedrooms: 5

Bathrooms: 5


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