GER­MAN FOR BE­GIN­NERS

Stan and Ur­sula Ma­son have a ‘Grand De­signs’-style house — and hap­pily, they achieved it with­out any of the tribu­la­tions such houses nor­mally bring with them. Edited by Mary O’Sul­li­van. Pho­tog­ra­phy by Tony Gavin

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Life - - MY FAVOURITE ROOM -

Of the many house-re­lated pro­grammes trans­mit­ted on TV over the last 10 years, on Chan­nel 4 has been the most en­dur­ing. The rea­sons are ob­vi­ous — the end re­sult is usu­ally a mag­nif­i­cent home, but the jour­ney is al­ways a hu­man strug­gle on a grand scale. We en­joy the jour­ney, and we lust af­ter the houses. While we might take away the odd idea and try to im­ple­ment it in our own homes, in the main, it’s pure es­capism; house porn, if you will.

How­ever, Stan and Ur­sula Ma­son took it a step fur­ther. When they wanted to do ex­ten­sive work on their coun­try cot­tage, they checked out the pro­gramme’s web­site and found the ideal de­signer to not only come up with a plan, but also to build their dream home in the coun­try.

“I love We’d been to-ing and fro-ing with an ar­chi­tect; we’d had quotes for ex­ten­sions, and they weren’t com­pet­i­tive. I said to Stan, ‘Let’s go into and see what they have’. When I went into the Chan­nel 4 web­site, the name DaVinci Haus, Ger­man house de­sign­ers, came up,” Ur­sula ex­plains.

She adds, “I found out they had an of­fice in Water­ford — 24 hours later, we were in their of­fices. The rest is his­tory.”

Grand De­signs Grand De­signs. Grand De­signs Grand De­signs

This was in the mid 2000s. By then, Stan — short for Stan­dish — and Ur­sula al­ready had a lot of per­sonal his­tory to­gether, go­ing back over 30 years. Stan, who’s from Dublin, is the manag­ing di­rec­tor of a com­pany called Ma­son Tech­nol­ogy; the firm has been in his fam­ily for over 200 years and he is the sev­enth gen­er­a­tion of Masons to be in­volved. “We started off as op­ti­cians in 1780, but we’re now in lab­o­ra­tory an­a­lyt­i­cal in­stru­ments. Our prod­ucts are mainly for the phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal and chem­i­cal in­dus­tries, and for uni­ver­si­ties. It’s things like mi­cro­scopes. The most ex­pen­sive one we’ve sold so far is about half-a-mil­lion quid, and we’ve sold quite a num­ber of those,” Stan notes with sat­is­fac­tion.

Ur­sula is from Clare, and came to Dublin to do nurs­ing in St Vin­cent’s Hos­pi­tal, where she met Stan. “I got a kick in the head play­ing rugby and I was in Vin­cent’s for the weekend,” Stan says. “Any­way, when I was leav­ing, I thought I’d take out one of the nurses; we got mar­ried seven months later.” Ur­sula adds, sub­tly ex­plain­ing that there was no real need for the haste, “As my el­dest daugh­ter Sandy would point out, she ar­rived three years later.”

Ur­sula went into pri­vate nurs­ing af­ter their mar­riage, but when she be­came preg­nant with Sandy, she gave up work to de­vote her time to her fam­ily. Sandy was fol­lowed by two more daugh­ters: Jean, who lives in Lon­don; and Sarah, who’s based in Dublin, and is now also work­ing in Ma­son Tech­nol­ogy, be­com­ing the eighth gen­er­a­tion to do so.

When the girls were small, the fam­ily lived in St Kevin’s Park in Dartry, while the girls went to nearby Alexan­dra Col­lege, and in 1995, Stan and Ur­sula de­cided it would be nice to also have a lit­tle bolt­hole in the coun­try for the fam­ily, prefer­ably by the sea. “Ur­sula is from Kil­rush; her home there was on the site of a coast­guard sta­tion over­look­ing the es­tu­ary, and she al­ways wanted a house over­look­ing the sea,” Stan ex­plains, adding, “Kil­rush is 177 miles away and you’d never go there ex­cept for a long weekend; you just wouldn’t. So we were look­ing for some­where closer to Dublin. An hour-and-a-half from Dublin, sea view, a cou­ple of pubs, a cou­ple of restau­rants and a golf course. We looked and we looked and we looked.”

Their end­less search was fruit­less. “If you go down on the east coast look­ing for a house with a sea view, you just won’t get it. You will get a sea view from a car­a­van park, but there are sand dunes in front of the sea ev­ery­where else. We went up and down as far as Ross­lare — noth­ing,” Stan notes, while Ur­sula adds, “You should have seen the houses we looked at. Noth­ing was right.”

Stan goes on to make another very good point. “The east coast is dom­i­nated by sum­mer homes, and ev­ery­thing closes down dur­ing the win­ter; the restau­rants, bars, and food out­lets.”

Fi­nally, they de­cided to change tack — and Ur­sula was the one who found the right house in the end. “We changed the view from a sea view to a river view. I was a mem­ber of Mount Juliet in Thomas­town at the time, and we got lucky,” Stan says. He adds that when he would go off play­ing golf in Mount Juliet, Ur­sula would go to Kilkenny with him, but would head off for walks with their dogs — they’ve al­ways had dogs, and at the mo­ment have Poppy and Blue, both golden re­triev­ers — and she re­alised that there were lovely houses on the river. “I went to an agent and asked him

‘I got a kick in the head play­ing rugby and I was in Vin­cent’s for the weekend; we mar­ried seven months later’

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