On Cork’s Blackrock Road, Sunlea has roots in 1920s, but as Tommy Barker discovers, it’s bang up to date in style
Apart from a setting right in the heart of Ballintemple village on Cork’s Blackrock Road, one of the loveliest of the features of Sunlea greets you at its unusual, keyholed shaped front entrance porch.
It’s the opening itself, a generous wide circle to the top, in an arching, gauged brick, dropping down to a worn-smooth limestone stone threshold.
The sweeping rounded outline in brick is original to the Ballintemple house’s 1920s roots, and the doors and side panels now house effectively a broad, sweeping circle of stained and coloured glass depicting an upbeat sunrise (or, sunset) scene in a valley setting.
It’s more than quite lovely when the light blazes through.
Brickwork is quite a feature too of Sunlea, in its bigger picture.
Brick features extensively on the lower half of the front facade, it has been matched over the entrance with salvaged brick when a first floor en suite was grafted onto a front master bedroom, more salvage brick features in the low wall of the rear, added-on sun room/living/dining extension, and, if you crane your head upwards, take a look at the chimney lofty brick heights, the gable one in particular being a slender, soaring example of brick courses and craftsmanship.
Back down at ground level, the aforementioned feature stained-glass door has started opening and shutting quite a bit more since Sunlea launched for sale just last weekend for its trading-up owners, who’ve been here for a number of years and who have made gentle, regular improvements and alterations, while keeping faith and in tune with original fittings.
The semi-detached home, across the road from the Ballintemple deli and pharmacy, and a stone’s throw from the Venue bar and the all-new Páirc Uí Chaoimh, is new to market with Sheila O’Flynn of Sherry FitzGerald for its trading-up occupants, moving to a nearby suburb a mile away, and it’s priced at €665,000.
Were Sunlea the exact same house, only detached, you could add another €200k possibly to that asking price and, once visited and its privacy savoured, you’d hardly be aware of its attached status in any case.
Detached/semi-detached status, and the notional (or, nonsensical) distinctions drawn between them (a status anxiety divide for some,) is just the sort of debate our Ask Audrey column each Friday may very well pick up on, but suffice to say, this venerable pair of semis is so well built, you’re not going to be hearing too much knocking coming through the walls from next door, for either party, either side of the party wall.
There! Another germ and gift of an idea for the all-seeing, all-hearing Audrey and her awareness of Cork class foibles and middle clas milieu.
Anyway, here we are, in southside central, at a Blackrock Road address and a real des-res, with privacy, parking, gardens, south-facing to the back, and within a walk of the city centre: Sunlea’s going to be busy with viewings, and bidding.
Apart from being well-preserved, in excellent condition and smartly presented for sale, the house (and its neighbour) has some architectural distinction, and the duo merit separate mentions in the Buildings of Ireland survey as “an interesting pair of houses having a number of unusual architectural features, including the circular entrances and very tall brick chimneystacks.
Prominently located above the street level of Blackrock Road, and on a corner site, these buildings are distinctive in the streetscape and unique to the immediate locality.”
Protective high front walls grant decent privacy to the pair’s individual approaches and front drives, and once past Sunlea’s cobble lock front drive and easy parking, the threshold stone here under the door is worn-smooth limestone, leading straight to an original encaustic tiled hall floor, and doors left, right and centre off it.
Here, a set of double doors straight in front, glazed and with stained glass feature touches also, open to a cosseting family room.
Doors are pine, and architraves are in stripped and waxed old pine, setting a harmonious tone of 100 years of fabric tradition: also retained in a few key spots (hall and front living rooms, for example) are the old, brass light switches on timber mounts, turning on and off with satisfying ‘click.’
But, the house which is just shy of 2,000 sq ft is no museum, it’s a busy family home, and has been extended to the back at ground floor level, across the full width, to accommodate a family room and dining room that links both to a reworked kitchen, and to the original back living room via an open arch.
Now quite enclosed, that family/living room with its walls painted a deep burgandy colour, has a good oak floor, with boards laid on the diagonal, ceiling height is good, there’s some coved plasterwork and a retained, open cast iron fireplace is going to ensure it’s entirely cosy of a winter’s eve.
A good flow of rooms sees the bright seating area next to the extension’s dining area, continuing the same diagonally-laid oak floor, walls are salvage brick and, again, an older section of Sunlea now houses the replacement kitchen, with painted wall and island units, topped with black granite and in timber, there’s a matching dressing and larder press, while an old cream, oil-fired Aga is a working stalwart, doing water heating as well as cooking duties, with a younger stripling of an electric oven and hob next to it for quick meal turnarounds.
The single-storey, slate roofed extension (with terracotta ridge tiles to match the house’s main roof) opens to the sunny back garden, patio and long lawn via double doors, and another garden access point is from the utility by the kitchen, and the house’s more formal sitting rooms is to the front, with canted bay window holding an upright piano, high coved ceiling and original open cast iron fireplace in a white marble surround.
Sunlea was built as a three storey home day one, with slate-hung, flat roofed attic dormer to the front, and a pitched attic dormer to the back.
This highest level houses two attractive bedrooms, with sloped ceilings, and an east-facing Velux draws lots of light right down the stairwell to the mid-level.
Here, on the first floor the current owners made tweaks, so at present this mid-section has two bedrooms only.
One, the master to the front, now has an en suite set above the hall, and down a few steps from the double aspect bedrooms for a nice sense of separation.
What was a third bedroom across the landing has been converted to a dressing room/walk-in-robe, but it’s an entirely straightforward matter to turn it back to bedroom duty again, should next owners wish.
Bedroom 2, meanwhile, overlooks the back garden, and a has good quality, built-in staggered bunk/twin bed unit, with integrated storage presses.
Also at this mid-level is the main, fully family bathroom, where the bath has old brass taps and there’s an overhead shower unit.
Likely to a be swift summer seller, Sunlea’s in excellent order internally and externally; next occupants can just move in, change a paint colour or two if they wish, or just get the place ready for Christmas, and roll out the welcome mat for 2018.
VERDICT: Sunlea side out.
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