Tommy Barker on an ideal suburban sanctuary for putting down some roots.
CALLING in favours from family members helped in no small way towards making this suburban home a bit of a place apart.
The couple who bought An Grianán eight years ago, then in a more original, old-world state, had fairly ambitious plans from the get-go, but they had the comfort factor of knowing the area — and the neighbours — intimately.
The woman who bought, extended and moved in here in 2001 grew up in the house right next door, over the fence, and so literally had no bets to hedge in making this mini-leap into the Douglas, Cork, market.
An Grianán is in Browningstown Park, a network of settled mid-1900s semi-ds off the main Douglas Road, with schools all around. In fact, a real feature in the south-facing back garden is the high, retained limestone wall (part of a former lofted greenhouse, built for the original Victorian Endsleigh House and which at one time housed a swimming pool) which screens the house from the grounds of Regina Mundi secondary school.
A previous owner was, by coincidence, a school principal, and a fluent Irish speaker, so perhaps the name came from the An Grianán centre in Co Louth, used as centre for craft excellence by the Irish Countrywomen’s Association? Whether or not, there’s certainly craft excellence on offer in this take on the name: skilled carpentry, for example, came gratis of one brother, and another brother who runs the Gallaun Forge in Nohoval in south Cork came up trumps with wrought iron stair and rail balusters, curtain poles, bespoke light fittings and more — all, by the way, included as fixtures and fittings in this new-to-market sale.
The owners, now the vendors, have just built a brand new large home in the Ballinlough area, and are all set to up-sticks, but what they leave behind at An Grianán is a ready-made and ready-to-move-into option for today’s house seekers wanting to do little, or no, work to their buy.
It has all been done here at the craftily extended Browningstown semi-d, priced at €475,000 by estate agent Mark Kelly of Lisney: it could well prove to be one of his easier sales this year. The work all done seems quite faultless, to the high standard evident in these photographs, with a solid, impressive heft and good taste: by a coincidence, one of the vendors’ grandfathers was a mason, who actually worked on these Browningstowns houses for their builders Mullins, in the 1950s. Key to the appeal (apart from the back garden’s full-south aspect) is the sizeable rear extension, which adds about 400 sq ft to give an overall floor area of about 1,550 sq ft. Quite cleverly, it was built to take foot-traffic, and a low surrounding wall around the sturdy flat roof gives screening for, oh, sunbathing? Morning coffees and birdsong off the master bedroom, handily reached via French doors?
Most of the space is downstairs, with a great flow of back rooms, from kitchen/dining through to rear reception, with a more formal front room kept for TV and quieter moments. Kitchen units (topped in granite, and integrated appliances are Neff) are low-key, timeless, done in solid oak, and made by the well-regarded David Kiely, while the built-ins in the two main bedrooms are done by a different firm, O’Mahony O’Donovan, in solid woods like walnut and maple, to a similar high level of finish.
The roof in the kitchen/family/dining area’s extension has two pyramid-like skylights through it, to draw in natural light, and their frames and surrounds are also in quality oak joinery, with double-glazed triangular panes inset.
Floors are all well done, with hard-wearing, no-fuss tiles in the kitchen space, with Colorado Pine used in the rest of the back spaces. The hall has kept its original narrow strip oak floor boards, and overhead in the three bedrooms the original pine boards shine through.
Fireplaces in the two main reception spaces are impressively-blacked cast iron, with tile inserts, and the first floor fully-tiled bathroom has a new shower, plus bath. Apart from the bedroom built-ins, and the many kitchen presses, the hall has two storage/cloaks spaces, and the house has lots of bookshelves, waiting for new titles. There’s a pressed concrete front drive and garden, and lots of colourful planting fore and aft (a Lilac tree out back is a beauty, but the retained stone wall is the lofty star.)
An Grianán is a home, and the departing couple with young family vouch for good vibes and good neighbours... but then again, they would, wouldn’t they, thanks to close family ties and roots?
As they move onwards and upwards, they say they’ll be sorry to leave. Someone else’s gain, though.
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