Tommy Barkervisits a charming city home that has just come on to the market on elevated Lover’s Walk.
Tivoli, Cork City €595,000
Size: 213 sq m (2,300 sq ft)
Best Feature: Stand out setting
There’s only ever been two families of owners of the 80-year old sunny suburban home called Dun Rua, and this ‘red fort’, built in red brick to a Canadian design is now ready for a third, new arrival.
Dating to 1936, Dun Rua is in the Woodhill Park estate above Lovers Walk in Tivoli, where one-off homes were built over several decades and generations in the former orchard grounds of the once-famed Woodhill House: that demolished neoclassical 18th century mansion stretched down to the River Lee, and was originally owned by the Penrose family and associated with Robert Emmet and his lover Sarah Curran.
Today, there’s a ‘new’ 5,900 sq ft Woodhill House, for sale for €1.7m down from an earlier asking price of €2.4m via Savills.
Or, for about one third of that sum, €595,000, Savills may also sell you Dun Rua, coming to a late 2016 market, one starved of good trading-up family homes within a short reach of the city centre.
Dun Rua’s a detached four-bed home of great charm and warm decor, on a south-facing tiered site of 0.45 of an acre at Woodhill Park, a cul de sac which holds about a dozen family homes in all, some quite large, and pretty much all on very mature grounds.
There’s only ever the occasional sale, while neighbouring parks such as the Tivoli Estate and Falcon Hill only slightly swell the numbers of trading up stock in this lofty, hill-set Montenotte hinterland.
It’s within a bracing ‘up and over’ walk of the city centre, via Lovers Walk and the Middle Glanmire Road through to St Luke’s Cross, and while that’s sort of a switchback along old genteel neighbourhoods, there’s a flatter option and that’s to drop down to the Lower Glanmire Road via Beales Hill and to head to town along the river.
Facing the Marina, Dun Rua’s one of the homes you’d glimpse from across the River Lee and from the leafy Marina: these are the houses on high that seem to bask in sunshine all day long.
And, from inside in Dun Rua, you have views directly across the river to the new, re-emerging Páirc Uí Chaoimh stadium, so you’ll be privy to the roar of the crowds wafting over the water on big-ticket GAA days, as well as getting a premium, overarching ear-full of various rock stars when they line up to play gigs at the reconfigured Leeside stadium, post rebuild.
Who’ll play the Páirc will be a point of curiosity for any and all those up here ‘on the hill,’ and Dun Rua’s current family owners moved in in 1989, a year after Michael Jackson played Cork, and two years after U2’s Joshua Tree performance here on the Marina.
The early 1980s and 1970s saw the series of Siamsa Cois Laoi concerts, whilst the last decade the most regular gigs were adjacent, in the Marquee. Bruce Springsteen played one of the last-ever concerts at the old Páirc, in 2013.
During their years here, the now-trading down vendors undertook a series of improvements, adding a double-glazed sun room to the front in cedar, which links through to a family/room, dining area and on to the house’s rear with a new bespoke, hand-made kitchen in a brightened up extension.
They also added a first floor sitting out balcony off the en suite master bedroom, which has the best of the property’s southerly views and they converted the attic level, where there’s now a landing, oodles of eaves storage, a dormer multi-purpose room with further eaves access, and a shower room.
They re-floored much of the main living spaces, in oak and salvaged narrow strip maple, but rightly they kept the hall floor in its pristine encaustic tiling, a reminder of the house’s 1930s Art Deco-era roots.
Also much appreciated are the original door handles in brass, which get re-lacquered every few years, and distinguished too are the picture rails, the bit of extra height in the ceilings,and just the sheer rock-sold nature of its build.
The main portion of this brick-finished home is quite square, with equal roof pitches on all four sides, and as the house’s plans came from Canada, the roof was built to withstand many metres’ of snow on top, and to shrug it off as readily.
Builder day-one was Edward Barrett, and framed on one of the walls are the original, hand-coloured plans for the house’s design, next to a receipt for its costings. It weighed in at £1,250, plus a further £80 for extras, in pre-war ’36.
Even 80 years ago, this hillside was all greened in: now, after decades of domestication, the sloping grounds of Dun Rua are a blaze of colour, with trees and shrubs (various flowering and fruiting cherry trees, eucalyptus, copper beech, magnolias, etc) rising up the entrance drive, around its side, and over and onwards and upwards to the tiered back garden.
There’s a sort of secret sitting out garden first, on a height with the house’s first floor and running back up and away from it, and the next tier above is fenced in, and used for soccer and other ball games.
At one stage, the house’s current owners toyed with the notion of building a new home up on the back height, which could be reached via the back of Woodhill, but have simply decided to sell and move on after children have all but flown the coop.
For any new arrivals, there’s scope and potential for various adaptations. Right now, the first floor has three good bedrooms, one en suite with large sit-out viewing deck/balcony, plus good main bathroom.
Meanwhile, the fourth bedroom option is downstairs, left off the hall, in what could also be used as a study, and adding to the range of use options is the extra space up at attic level, where there’s a further room and extra bathroom.
To the side of the house, by the front driveway, is a well-built and reinforced detached garage with electric roller door: given that this separate build is also south facing, it could be made over to a bright home office with a bit of added glazing and/or linkages to the house itself.
As it stands, Dun Rua has c 2,300 sq ft and its best rooms are, indeed as you’d expect, to the front for light and views.
A south-facing 15’ by 12’ living room is a sort of quiet room, deliberately kept without a TV, so instead there’s a piano, radio and record player (the owners collect old gramophones and wirelesses.)
That snug double aspect room, with mahogany surround fireplace and open fire, has a second door, leading to the main family living area, and that’s the house’s best, family-friendly feature.
Loosely divided into four separate zones of uses, and almost 50’ deep from front to back, it has a seating/basking sun room in front, casual seating next up, with enormous L-shaped sofa, then dining/breakfast section with banquette dining in a specially commissioned and crafted bench seat section.
Flooring finishes shift from narrow quality maple to pale porcelain tiles for the hard-working heart of it all, the kitchen.
Here, the custom-built and commissioned units are in hardwood, in maple with cherry wood inlay, on three side with a modern Stanley range cooker, all against a backdrop of metro tiling, under two over-head Veluxes in a sloping ceiling to maximise light.
There’s good display shelving and book shelves, and a modern maple mantle and a fire surround made by Hans Leptien frames a cast iron fireplace with gas insert: across the room’s c 14’ width is further storage, by the door to a utility room which, handily, has both front and back garden access, a point appreciated by the family dog, who’s now learned how to open doors as he and when he wishes.
Well-selected new lighting adds a contemporary look to the Deco-era home which hasn’t forgotten its roots and heritage, yet it’s one that has been gently nudged into the 21st century too, with zoned gas central heating, alarm, well-finished modern bathrooms and more.
Having bathrooms/showers on each of the three levels (there’s one tucked away in the guest WC downstairs) is a bit of a boon, too.
Dun Rua starts its first viewings Tuesday next at 1/1.30pm, and it’s likely that many will stand in some thrall at the views up and down the Lee, from Blackrock along the Marina towards the docks and the Elysian tower, while at night the views are equally captivating, especially from the master suite’s sit-out balcony.
Monday’s ‘super moon’ was the best, it’s said, in over 70 years, and this house was a mere ten years old stripling when that over-sized lunar orb came previously out to shine so spectacularly.
Among the most recent comparable sales on this look-out perch was Fernleigh House in Tivoli Estate, a completely redone 2,250 sq ft five bed home of similar vintage.
That high-end home (also with viewing decking/balcony) featured here as a Cover Story back in May of this year, guiding €645,000 for its architect owner who bought only two years beforehand. It sold for well over its asking price, likely to be over €700,00.
Dun Rua’s selling agent Michael O’Donovan of Savills remarks “for those looking for a family home close to the city whilst still being able to enjoy privacy and sanctuary, look no further.”