Tommy Barker visits a 1930-era and highly Deco-rated property, which is almost like two houses in one
IT’S all go right now, out the way from Cork city centre, to the western suburbs, to Victoria Cross, Dennehy’s Cross and beyond, even out to the Model Farm Road, by this home called Millcove House.
Leaving Washington Street, with your back to the new Capitol development, with Facebook up top (and Lifestyle Sports and Home Sense at ground level), you’ll pass the sizeable, new student accommodation block flying up on the old Muskerry Service Station site.
Next, by UCC’s main campus, you’ll see the work starting on a new pedestrian bridge from Western Road/Perrotts Inch field over the Lee’s south channel to the lower grounds by the Glucksman Gallery and the new Student Hub site (the pedestrian bridge also is by Glucksman architects O’Donnell and Tuomey).
Further west again, the work is wrapping up on the new Western Road bridge access to the Bon Secours hospital campus, in lieu of the old Western Star pub site. Victoria Cross’s former Crows Nest bar is a work in the wings, with yet more student accommodation planned for UCC. While on the Model Farm road property, several new homes/developments are also coming down the tracks, including nine luxury builds by Into the Future Homes/Rockforest, close to the Lee Garage.
Serene past it all, and above it all too, is the 1930s era Millcove House, in a top location on Cork city’s Model Farm Road.
Its current owners bought it 28 years ago, when they embraced it with gusto. Opting to enlarge it, as befitted a detached home on a large site in such a salubrious suburban setting, they also decided to work with the era of its original 30’s build, and skillfully knitted into their changes an Art Deco feel and flair.
As a part result, it’s almost like two houses, one front, one back, and has grown considerably too along the way, swelling in fact from a little over 1,100 sq ft to now rest at about 3,500 sq ft, including a top floor large ‘rumpus’ room as the icing on top of what’s clearly an accommodating family home.
It’s on a deep site looking over the Model Farm Road and the Lee valley, over to the hills running west to east, and including the outline of Our Lady’s above the Lee Road. After a ‘phase 1’ in 1989, it then got a further going over and freshening up about 15 years ago, when a dining room was added, also to the rear, complete with roof lantern for lots of overhead light. Meanwhile, the gardens were laid out from the get-go (including the matching copper beeches by the entrance gates) by the astute and aesthetically aware garden designer, the late Brian Cross, and have continued to evolve over time, yet remain relatively low-maintenance.
There’s parking for up to six cars, or a family fleet, with a reserved area for a boat and trailor in front, while the extra long back garden is bookended by a tall stand of evergreen trees, including beeches, which long pre-date this house, and which are a real crowning glory of the exceptionally private property. Cleverly, the south-facing back garden in broken into defined areas, including oversized patio with hexagonal slabs, shrub beds, shelter-belt of hedging, and a compact, ground-set water feature by sculptor Ian Wright, based in West Cork, whose garden ponds depicting giant gunnera leaves are almost as identifiable as his cast mouldings of various, curvy parts of women’s anatomy.
Anatomically speaking, and despite its seaside-sounding name, Millcove House is slap bang on the exclusive stretch of the Model Farm Road, close to the entrance to Mount Mercy girls’ secondary school, and opposite the Department of Agriculture laboratories. It’s within a walk of the CUH/MUH hospital complex, via Bishopstown Avenue, as well as being close to UCC, CIT, the Technology Park, Rubicon Centre, County Hall and to the Bon Secours hospital also: medics can be expected to head up the posse of better-heeled home hunters, given it has a €1.3 million price guide, quoted by estate agent Johnny O’Flynn of Sherry FitzGerald.
The agent says the several stages of extension and reordering, overseen by a seasoned architect, “plays on sightlines, light and aspect to its advantage,” and in fact its sheer depth can be tantalizingly glimsped once in past its entrance porch and into the entrance hall. This is where the Art Deco theme first takes hold, with double doors picking up a Bauhaus/Deco touch and detailing, dovetailing a central round with horizontal glass panes to match the hortizontal glazing bars in the house’s main windows, right the way around, spanning new and old sections.
There are complentary white and peach-coloured marble fireplaces almost facing one another across the opened-up front section of Millcove House, one in the hall, the other across the far end in a living room, subtly different, but each to a definite Art Deco template. They were commissioned from a specialist fireplace maker in Tralee.
Coming in from the country too was the narrow strip maple flooring, lots and lots of it, sourced from the old Star Ballroom in Millstreet and pretty much used throughout the entire ground floor of the original house. It was then quite closely matched by more modern narrow strip maple, in a variety of rooms to the rear.
In anticipation of coming to market for its owners who are trading down, the solid wood floors have been recently sanded and resealed and are glorioulsy pale, working well with the white painted wall and the feature, corner paint effect Art Deco motifs, done several decades ago by artist Geraldine O’Riordan and now almost timepieces in themselves.
This span of interconnecting suite of front rooms, with some original Art Deco items of furniture, is calmness personified, mixing with a glass-topped table made up of small, Philippe Starck-designed stools, some woven Moon chairs, the fires are gas-fuelled so won’t be creating dust, and there’s an original bay window also.
When adding on, almost 30 years ago, the owners opted to go slightly to the side and even more so out to the back. Knitting it together in front is the full-height coloured glass feature, from ground to just under the eaves, and it’s right by the ‘new’ stairwell’ which is pure Deco, with curved free-standing side rails coiling down to a handy understairs storage (home to a deepfreeze), and simple steel handrails on the party wall: it’s all quite glamorous 1930s cruise ship in its effect.
Other walls have been curved when opening up some front rooms in what’s an attractively assymetric dwelling with a fascinating mix of contemplative spaces, studies, book-lined den, dining room, side hall, back hall/utility, and kitchen/breakfast room, with lots of glazing by a breakfast bar overlooking the rear terrace.
It’s sort of a home to wend a way around, with lots of rooms and optional uses, without being overly compartmentalised.
Given the attractiveness of the mature gardens to the back, and as this is where the light all floods in from, it’s hardly surprising that nearly all of the current owners’ family life revolved around this ‘half’, and wraps into a family room in the house’s mid core complete with telly, wood-burning stove and wall of display shelving for family memorabilia, and Art Deco items.
As a theme, it’s far from over-done though, it’s subtle, as is the lighting, and also standing the test of time is the Glenline fitted kitchen with solid wood units in a dark shade, updated simply by newly-fitted appliances, and topped with granite worktops.
As a serviceable back-up to the kitchen, the utility, with garden access, and laundry appliances in situ, is fed easily by a laundry chute from the master bedroom’s en suite bathroom directly overhead. Why doesn’t every house have such a simple fixture integrated? (And, who’ll come up with as-easy a way to get fresh laundry back upstairs, onto beds, and into closets? Oh, it’s called ‘staff’.) Also showing what you can do when enlarging, and reconfiguring, is the side-by-side presence of not just one, but two, WCs, one for men, one for women.
Or, one for the woman of the house, the other for the boys, as with a home full of sons, some youthful inabilities or inaccuracies were allowed for.
Some, too, were unforseen. It’s only in very recent times the adult ‘boys’ have confessed up to their distant teenage years shinning up a wall and clambering out a Velux window, onto a roof valley, for a sneakey cigarette, so they wouldn’t leave a tell-tale tobacco smell lingering in the house itself.
That lofty eyerie was despite the ‘best laid plans’ and all that, as when extending, the family deliberately created a large rumpus room at second floor/attic level, with proper stair access, about 400 sq ft in all of unhindered area, with the four ceiling slopes encased in bookshelves and storage space, study desks and more (one wall shows only a handful of mis-flung darts marks.)
Millcove’s middle level is home to five bedrooms, all doubles, spread across the front and back ‘wings’. There’s a fine master bedroom with five piece en suite with a corner bath and power shower, plus that swooshing laundry chute, and there’s also a very decent-sized and extensively shelved dressing room.
Another bedroom shares a bathroom in a Jack and Jill set-up, and there’s a further shower room for all others.
Internally, decor level throughout is all crisp and fresh, as is the entire of the exterior. The front drive is freshly tarmaced, the walls of the original house have been externally insulated, dashed and painted, and the late 1980s extension has been upgraded with pumped extra insulation, while the roof is almost mansard in shape, with deep overhanging eaves.
As if the house itself, with add-ons and attic den was not spacious enough, with some 3,500 sq ft in all, the Brian Cross-designed gardens conceal a further room. Back by the far boundary is a 150-sq ft garden room, art, music or hobby room, block built, simply roofed, with power supply and outside tap, a get-away from it all, for whoever gets here first.
VERDICT: Perfect for trading-up families with means.
“Despite its seaside-sounding name, Millcove House is slap bang on the exclusive stretch of the Model Farm Road”
Model Farm Road, Cork
Size: 325 sq m (3,500 sq ft)
Best Feature: Deco-rated, in a residential hot-spot by , colleges and hospitals
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