Mosely Villa has Grand De­signs touches

Tom­my­barker re­ports on a classic old Cork city villa which has been thor­oughly — and spec­tac­u­larly — mod­ernised

Irish Examiner - Property & Interiors - - Property -

ONE of the great joys of prom­e­nad­ing along Cork’s Black­rock Road is the sheer va­ri­ety of hous­ing, span­ning up to four centuries of the best of do­mes­tic de­sign, rang­ing from early to late Ge­or­gian, Vic­to­rian and Ed­war­dian, as well as 20th and 21st cen­tury de­sign and nice de­vel­op­ments.

Now, one of the most vis­ually ar­rest­ing, with its bo­somy-like fa­cade of deep dou­ble bay win­dows and one of the old­est too — dat­ing to the late 1700s — is up for sale, guid­ing €1.5 mil­lion.

Called Mosely Villa, it’s an ut­ter sur­prise, once past its el­e­gant, em­braced, Tus­can pi­lastered and ped­i­mented Ge­or­gian villa-style door. That main en­trance, in the shel­ter of the deep bays with their tri­par­tite sash win­dows, leads to an outer hall or ante-cham­ber, where the new-look and high­qual­ity tone is im­me­di­ately set, thanks to a wide, piv­ot­ing oak door, faced in leather ... and it’s al­ready enough to stop you in your tracks, to feel and to touch.

Within is full of many more sur­prises all un­der­pinned by smart de­sign from a team of de­sign pro­fes­sion­als with an un­stint­ing spend on fin­ishes with a re­stricted palette and su­pe­rior crafts­man­ship. This is un­der­scored by a stel­lar lo­ca­tion and south-fac­ing crisply land­scaped back gar­den and makes this a Mun­ster prop­erty mar­ket ar­rival to stand up and take note of.

Mosely Villa has come back to mar­ket af­ter a trans­for­ma­tive con­ser­va­tion, ex­ten­sion, and con­tem- po­rary ex­ten­sion project; it last sold in the early 2000s, when it graced these pages, al­beit in a tired state, show­ing its ven­er­a­ble age.

The Ir­ish fam­ily that bought back then jumped for it im­me­di­ately on its mar­ket ar­rival, know­ing it needed con­sid­er­able ex­tra in­vest­ment, but reck­on­ing it was worth it as it was to be a home for life when they pre­pared to move from coun­try to city.

That clearly was the in­ten­tion, given the scale of fur­ther spend­ing to fu­ture-proof it for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions. In fact, while the front and side walls, and rooms shapes have been re­tained in the orig­i­nal sec­tion, beyond that’s it’s a whole new world and a brave new build.

It has prob­a­bly been dou­bled in size, and now runs to over 3,200 sq ft, plus it has a top-notch, but lowslung base­ment, home to a suite of ser­vice rooms, banks of stor­age, a comms room, boiler/util­ity room, and a slick media room, with glass ceil­ing set into the rear, south­fac­ing pa­tio to flood it with light.

Im­mac­u­lately and painstak­ingly done from base­ment to chim­ney pots, and to a level that could hold its head up in any city or sub­urb in the world, it’s only now be­ing sold be­cause the fam­ily got a chance to tackle an­other res­i­den­tial project. As it comes for sale with Ann O’ma­hony and Sheila O’flynn of Sherry Fitzger­ald, it’s an en­vi­able walk-in job, a mix of very old and very new, with the ‘very new’ very much the pre­dom­i­nant feel.

Lo­ca­tion is just on the Black­rock side of Cork’s sub­ur­ban Ballintem­ple vil­lage, and it’s a stretch where some of the city’s strong­est house sales have been recorded, both in booms times, and postcrash re­cov­ery, with a few in re­cent past top­ping €2 mil­lion, and then get­ting up­grades.

Mosely Villa is right next door to the pic­turesque Litch­field House, a Straw­berry Gothic de­light and one-time home of Ge­orge Boole, UCC’S first maths pro­fes­sor — the man whose Boolean al­ge­bra fa­cil­i­tated the in­ven­tion of mod­ern day com­put­ing.

How might the same, in­quis­i­tive Ge­orge Boole have mar­velled if he were able to look over the di­vid­ing wall to Mosely Villa today, a cen­tury and a half af­ter his math­e­mat­i­cal in­sights, and see how they can be utilised in a pri­vate home?

This ‘villa’ now has com­plete ‘Smart’ home wiring and a rack of ma­chines in its base­ment comms room thrum­ming the com­put­ers and tech­nol­ogy to run a raft of build­ing func­tions, from ac­cess, alarm and se­cu­rity con­trols, au­dio visual sys­tems, so­phis­ti­cated light­ing, heat re­cov­ery sys­tem and un­der­floor heat­ing at both ground and first floor lev­els, and more, much of it tip­ping away un­ob­tru­sively yet at oc­cu­pants’ beck and call, all in the back­ground.

Ini­tially be­hind the re­birth and new life work­ing with the fam­ily buy­ers at this ven­er­a­ble villa was Dublin-based ar­chi­tect Una Mc­quillen, and as it moved for­ward, an­other con­ser­va­tion ar­chi­tect, Mar­garet Walsh — who’s

“A stel­lar lo­ca­tion and south-fac­ing crisply land­scaped back­gar­de­nand makes this a Mun­ster prop­erty mar­ket ar­rival to stand up and take note of

based closer to Cork in Clon­akilty — came on board for the project’s de­liv­ery.

It must have been quite a slow pro­gres­sion, post-pur­chase. It ap­peared here in print in 2001, and was sold for c £425,000 (€539,639) in 2002 by Co­ha­lan Down­ing in a steadily ris­ing mar­ket, and the own­ers say they’ve now en­joyed every mo­ment of the c 10 years they been here, ar­riv­ing with young fam­ily in tow.

There were lots of dis­cus­sions with plan­ners as it was a listed or pro­tected struc­ture, with lots of al­ter­ations hav­ing been made in the in­ter­ven­ing centuries, from the time it was first built up to the 2001 sale. Cork City Coun­cil Conser- va­tion Of­fi­cer Pat Ruane was very un­der­stand­ing, say the house’s now-ven­dors, and while the orig­i­nal front sec­tion is most true to the pe­riod roots, the back is a nec­es­sar­ily mod­ern ad­di­tion, clearly de­lin­eated, and the ex­ca­vated base­ment is un­der and to the back of the mod­ern ad­di­tions too.

The builder who con­fi­dently took on the con­ser­va­tion and new­build sec­tions was Michael Han­ra­han, and row­ing in be­hind his clearly tal­ented crew was a car­pen­ter the house’s own­ers knew and ad­mired his work­man­ship.

It was a trust or faith well in­vested, as the wood­work (nearly ev­ery­thing is oak,) is ex­em­plary, in floors, doors, door cases and deep­win­dowframes,with­theopes en­cased in oak (like a mod­ern ver­sion of static shut­ters?), with a shadow gap also in the link to the smooth-ren­dered walls.

So sub­tle that you’d nearly miss

it is the fit­ting of the ‘float­ing’ oak stair­case, a real eye-catcher in the house’s new core, by the kitchen/cir­cu­la­tion sec­tion. Set be­tween a wall along the side of the new ex­ten­sion and framed on the other side by a wall of glass, it has steel run­ning through it for sup­port, and is en­tirely sup­ported through this con­struc­tion, and not sup­ported by, or linked to the wall, or to the glass. From un­der­neath, or from us­ing them, you see the nar­row­est of gaps of sep­a­ra­tion, while in­set light­ing adds to the float­ing and shad­owy aura.

Sherry Fitzger­ald’s Sheila O’flynn says Mosely is “like a pri­vate re­treat from the city with walled in, mag­nif­i­cently land­scape de­signed gar­den, fac­ing south to the rear, en­tirely ren­o­vated 10 years ago, with the high­est qual­ity fit-out through­out.”

Even though it can be glimpsed and ad­mired on a walk or a drive-by, it’s re­ally very pri­vate. Aes­thet­i­cally pleas­ing solid wood gates swing back to re­veal a front drive with nar­row strips of lime­stone paving and off-street park­ing for sev­eral cars. The perime­ter bound­ary walls are planted up, and the wall by Litch­field Cot­tage is clad in nar­row, hor­i­zon­tal strips of tim­ber, with one sec­tion con­ceal­ing a store with di­vid­ing sec­tion or bin stor­age, out of sight and out of mind, and hand­ily just in­side the gate for bin days. An­other wood-clad sec­tion, down Mosely’s western flank hinges to dou­ble up

as a se­cure side gate on the way to the back gar­den and lime­stone ter­races, handy too for keep­ing dogs safely away at the back from cars.

Apart from plat­inum-stan­dard lo­ca­tion, and pe­riod roots, one of the things that drew the own­ers to this prop­erty in the first in­stance was the rear gar­den as­pect, it’s prac­ti­cally di­rectly south-fac­ing, which means the new ground floor sec­tion is flooded with light: how could it not be, when the south and west-fac­ing walls are all glass?!

It’s ab­so­lutely the scene-set­ter, with a long din­ing table (seat­ing 10) and fam­i­lyfriendly liv­ing space down three steps from the kitchen and its enor­mous is­land. Views to the pris­tine lawn and land­scaped rear gar­den and ter­race, com­plete with tree ferns and var­i­ous fea­ture box shrubs in high and low con­tain­ers, flow al­most from the cen­tre of the build­ing, down the gar­den’s 100’ length.

Adding to the use­ful­ness of the par­tic­u­lar site/grounds is the fact there is sep­a­rate, rear ac­cess off a quiet, al­most pedes­tri­anised back lane, where some of the neigh­bour­ing prop­er­ties have built small mews homes in re­cent decades.

Here at Mosely, that mews op­tion is still here for fu­ture own­ers (the ven­dors had it in mind too for their re­tire­ment years, be­fore get­ting itchy feet again) and so right now there’s a very prac­ti­cal back yard, a large shed with power sup­ply, and stor­age for any amount of sports and other gear, all com­pletely out of sight (save for the se­cu­rity scan­ners) of the main house and its lus­cious lawn views, book­ended by a pris­tine white wall and lau­rel hedg­ing, all quite the Grand De­signs look of the noughties and still quite a cur­rent vogue look.

Gar­den de­signer was Dublin-based Bern- ard Hickie, who came up with the clean plan of large for­mat French lime­stone ter­race paving, cen­tral rec­tan­gle of lawn, and perime­ter raised bed plant­ing of broadleaf ev­er­green trees, oc­ca­sional tree fern and un­der­plant­ing in a mix of fo­liage, and flow­ers such as dra­matic large drifts of dark vel­vet/black and white tulips which have just passed their prime this spring as the house and grounds go on sale view­ings.

The ini­tial re­ac­tion from the ear­li­est view­ings in the past week is that peo­ple are wholly im­pressed, says Ms O’flynn, not­ing that while it’s pri­mar­ily go­ing to get trad­ing up in­quires at the mar­ket’s up­per­most end, it also has one or two traders-down who may en­gage; but, early days yet, and it’s to a stan­dard that those who’ve been liv­ing abroad would jump to, know­ing they’re get­ting a world-class job, in Cork. Like.

In­ter­nally there’s an adapt­able lay­out, with re­cep­tion rooms left and right of the cen­tral hall, each with so-deep bow win­dows, with faith­fully-recre­ated, curved tim­ber sash win­dows, in three panes each, top and bot­tom.

The re­cep­tion to the left opens, via yet an­other en­gag­ing and broad pivot door, to the kitchen, and the room op­po­site is a quiet den, or op­tional bed five for older off­spring.

Over­head, the re­tained out­line of the orig­i­nal bed­room means one of the four first floor beds is on the tight side, but it’s per­fect as a nurs­ery, small child’s room, den or study, and older chil­dren will rel­ish the prospect of ‘mov­ing down’ by the front door, as a thresh­old step to late teenage free­doms, with a bow win­dow to the front, and a smaller bow with gar­den ac­cess door to the back and side pa­tios.

All bed­rooms are well-specced, wired for sound and light­ing and IT, and the mas­ter suite’s out to the back, in a wood-clad buil­ton above a por­tion of the mod­ern liv­ing room ex­ten­sion. This suite has a large south-fac­ing win­dow over­look­ing a gravel roof, be­spoke dress­ing table, and fac­ing the bed is a unit with TV screen which re­tracts down into the desk-like frame out of sight, when not in use. The pri­vate bath­room suite un­sur­pris­ingly is to five-star lev­els, with Boffi san­i­tary ware, his ’n’ hers cir­cu­lar wash bowls, large power shower, lime­stone clad walls, and lots of stor­age, while a sep­a­rate walk-in robe is fin­ished with Max­alto fit­tings.

The kitchen’s enough to im­press the most se­ri­ous of chefs, done by Bulthaup, with top Gagge­nau ap­pli­ances: these in­clude a fan and steam ovens, cof­fee maker, a large fiver­ing gas hob on the enor­mous, stain­less steel-edged is­land, warm­ing drawer, dish­washer, fridge/freezer with fil­tered wa­ter and ice maker, as well as an ad­di­tional freezer. And, judg­ing by the use ev­i­dent on the gas hob, it does get lots of use.

Three steps down past a sup­port­ing pil­lar gives a light sense of func­tion de­lin­eation, be­fore mov­ing to the din­ing table, and re­laxed fam­ily seat­ing/sprawl­ing sofa sec­tion, with TV in one cor­ner, and a fea­ture, free­stand­ing gas fire­place in the cor­ner, putting a spark into the gar­den views beyond the cur­tain-glaze wall and large, full-height slid­ing door.

Light­ing is by Ital­ian com­pany Vi­abiz­zuno, al­most uni­formly —yet an­other ex­am­ple of keep­ing fin­ishes to a small num­ber of op­tions — and hand­ily, the gar­den’s large shed has a back-up sup­ply of sur­plus light­ing, qual­ity oak floor­ing, etc.

Back in the con­tem­po­rary, al­most min­i­mal­ist ex­ten­sion, elec­tric blinds roll silently down, in uni­son or in sec­tions, for sun screen­ing, and just out­side, on an old stone side wall, is a sim­ple drop-down, pop-up BBQ unit in hefty, plain cast iron like you could get a knacky black­smith to make up, ready to fire-up with char­coal and a coax­ing bit of pa­tience.

All singing and danc­ing, mean­while, is the base­ment un­der­neath, with masses (and masses, and masses) of stor­age be­hind sim­ple tall doors, plus there’s bike hang­ing racks on a wall for the ‘good’ bikes. This lower level is home to a laun­dry/util­ity and comms uses (God help you if you are the sort who can barely work a Sky re­mote) and it’s also where there’s a games room/gym/ media/home cinema, with glass roof for lots of di­rect, over­head light and airi­ness: use it as you will.

VERDICT: There’s only a small hand­ful of Cork homes done to this un­com­pro­mis­ing de­sign and de­tail level; even fewer marry that suc­cess­fully into a 300-year-old house, and even rarer is to find such an of­fer, in such a gilt-edge sub­ur­ban set­ting.

Ballintem­ple, Black­rock Road, Cork €1,500,000

Size: 304 sq m (3,281 sq ft) Bed­rooms: 4 Bath­rooms: 4

BER: Ex­empt

Best Fea­ture: Set­ting, as­pect and un­stint­ing high-spec

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