Daffodils and all kinds of everything at Bally…beauty
Tommy Barker heads east and uncovers a turn-key property dating to the late 1880s, but extended and renovated
It would be almost an insult to Ballyonane House to call it ‘country home-lite’ — because it has all the necessary quality craftsmanship and finishes
East Cork’s period Ballyonane House has a singular calling card that’s going to reassure prospective buyers — the work’s all done, to a very high standard, and it’s going to remain comfortable and manageable to run for decades to come.
Dating to the late 1880s, and extended and renovated in tranches in the 1990s and through the 2000s, the five-bed 3,000-plus sq ft country home near Cloyne is a truly turn-key job. That makes it a rare market offering in the vicinity, in the midst of prime farmland, close to Ballymaloe, beaches, and a half-hour commute from Cork city.
Done from top to toe by its current owners, who seamlessly added a further wing after they bought it in 2000, and who more recently added on a top-drawer orangery or conservatory which rounds out its creature comforts, it’s for sale with joint agents Catherine McAuliffe of Savills and Dominic Daly, who give it a price tag of €695,000.
That’s for the main house, on four acres with an American barn-style stable block with six loose boxes, a secure garage, hay barn, classic fenced paddocks, sand arena — all at the end of a long, daffodil-dotted approach avenue, the sine qua non of a true country pad. There’s a further 12 acres of good farmland above the house, with sea views, with a €150,000 price tag for those who want more land with their country home.
It would be almost an insult to Ballyonane House to call it ‘country home-lite’ — because it has all the necessary quality craftsmanship and finishes. Rather it’s ‘lite’ because it’s all so manageable — no need for staff, for maintenance worries, repair bill headaches and so on, and the list does go on for larger, more sprawling period piles on estate acreage.
Stone-built in locally quarried limestone from Carrigacrump, and sympathetically extended in the last decade in a stone of matching quality with brick quoin features around windows, this two-storey family home is L-shaped, and now over 3,000 sq ft, all of it usable space.
Its latest addition is a 19’ by 13’ conservatory/orangery, the owners’ favourite space and added on after extensive research and quality checks of companies around Ireland and further afield.
In the heel of the hunt, it was done by Vale Garden Houses, based in the UK and supplier to Britain’s National Trust properties, with double glazing painted mahogany around aluminium frames, all topped off with a special metal box gutter, with exacting parapet lead detailing and flashing. It is complete with temperature-controlled opening roof vents for hot days (23/24 degrees and the vents open), and it has underfloor heating for all other times. You could lie on the floor at night and star-gaze through the roof, without risking chills.
Local workmen did the base and floor in preparation for the specialist erecting crew’s arrival, and they flew over for a fortnight of meticulous, painstaking work, with a lead welder (solderer?) coming for the final touches. In terms of period authenticity, finish and design detail, it leaves most other conservatories in the shade, and makes the final grand stamp on Ballyonane. Then again, in case other quality conservatory Irish companies are feeling slighted, or local home-owners want to follow suit, at least take comfort from the fact it wasn’t cheap — think in the region of £65,000, so you do very much get what you pay for. In this case, it’s Ballyonane’s best-used room.
The family who’ve relished and clearly enjoyed the challenges here are able, fit and young enough for another life project, and have bought something on a bigger scale to engage their family’s enthusiasms, able to accommodate horses, boats and more.
What they’ll take from Ballyonane House is the assurance they can build and restore and add comfort to an old house, without sacrificing old-house charm and essence and sense of place. Fortunately, too they’ve also amassed a number of contacts in the trades and professions to carry onto to their next house-in-hand.
In fact, since doing the orangery here with that UK company Vale, they acknowledge the could have gone with the likes of Niall Linehan Construction, part of the Linehan Design family business in Cork city a second (third?) generation who are at the top of their game in building, kitchen and furniture design and manufacture and who did significant joinery and built-ins work here. Niall’s recently completed some high-end orangery extensions seen by the Irish Examiner around Co Cork, showing that even if house trading mobility is at a low-ebb yet, families are spending on making themselves comfortable while they sit out a recession.
Enough, for now, about a conservatory and yes, there is indeed a house attached to this Cloyne sun-spot, and it’s a strong, robust stone home now more than doubled in size from its original farmhouse status; its owners note that there is a mirror-image of the original nearby in East Cork, so it may have been built to a proven pattern (or just done by an enterprising builder who made off with the plans!).
Just off the sun-room, through double doors and with a matching Creme Marfil marble floor is a family dining room with long pine table, and beyond is a new, bespoke handmade kitchen, crafted in solid pitch pine by a company over the county border, by Ardmore, called Waterford Wood. It accommodates everything, swallowing supplies in capacious larder presses, and camouflaging all integrated appliances, with just the Rangemaster cooker left to rightly dominate proceedings. The island is topped with 4” butcher’s block type finish in pitch pine (so, easy with the cleavers,) the run of units elsewhere is topped in black granite and there’s a gable end window seat for views east towards Ballycotton and the sea — where only an estate agent fired with enthusiasm might really claim a sea view.
But, the sea is close to hand, with coves and beaches at places like Ballybrannigan and Churchtown, with Garryvoe beyond, and the family here take horses to the shoreline for canters, riders to the sea, in about an hour’s exhilarating round trip. On return, the heated horses might get hosed down outside at the stables, but the occupants of Ballyonane have the more human rewards of the Helo steam room/shower system in the accessible utility/cloakroom which is also home to the oil heating boilers for added heat for drying-off. The utility room alongside, meanwhile also has pitch pine units, topped with Hanstone quartz, with a Belfast sink inserted for washing mucky gear, while enjoying rural plain and low valley views back towards Ballymaloe and Barnabrow from a feature corner window.
It’s possibly down to the lure of that super-comfortable sun-room that much family life tends to gravitate to this end of the doubled-up house, but when you finally get to the original wing, that doesn’t disappoint either, with lots of original retained features, good fireplaces, working shutters snuggling up to recently made hardwood double-glazed sash windows, and with typical high ceilings.
The original house portion at ground level has a study/play room with solid wood floor, and retained old brick chimney breast which recalls the time when this room was the original kitchen. This room again has superior quality cabinet making joinery featured in the built-ins for home-office use, made by Ballytrasna, Midleton firm Ronan Power in ash and walnut (all windows, as well as painted hardwood fascias, were done by Noel Barry Joinery in Midleton.)
Ballyonane has two formal reception rooms to the front of the house, either side of the hall with its feature stained glass door and tiled floor, with French Winkleman hand-cut tiles. The 14’ by 14’ living room has a dual aspect, south and west, pitch pine floor and slate and cast iron fireplace with tiled inserts, with working window shutters and heavy, lush drapes. Walls throughout all of the house, including internal walls, have been dry-lined, helping Ballyonane achieve a good C1 BER rating.
Across the hall, the dining room is also double aspect, with feature period fireplace, full-length curtains bunching on the wool carpet floor as an example of going the extra mile, yard and inch with fabrics.
The stairs is still original and untouched, save for central carpet runner held in place with solid brass stair rods, and up above, the house splits into two sections, one with two en suite bedrooms in the newer wing, and the older half is home to the en suite master bedroom and the two children’s rooms, one pretty in pink and bright as a breeze, the other a boy’s room with careful working Lego creations proudly on display.
Comfort levels up here are as high as below stairs, with original fireplaces retained but clearly not in use: after all, the master bedroom’s Ulster carpet runs right into the grate, unsullied by soot, or even a speck of dust. In the corner of this double aspect room is a great built-in corner wardrobe by Linehan Designs, with curves in all the right places, a modern insert that looks right at home in a 130-year old house.
The en suite bathroom off isn’t flash, rather it’s understated in Crema Marfil tiling, with Grohe shower fittings, and the main family bathroom has a high-level cistern, and discrete Jacuzzi bath facing a replica cast iron radiator (the cast iron rads are new, as attempts to get old, salvaged ones working and leak-free with a pressurised zoned hot water system proved problematic, say the owners.)
Clearly, the work done on Ballyonane was done for the long term, with unstinting quality materials that aren’t going to date or go out of fashion (the roofs are all slate) and even the garage and stables are done to a standard well above the average, notes Savills agent Catherine McAuliffe and Dominic Daly, the latter hoping his horsey connections will help match the house here, a mile from Cloyne, with new, horse-centred owners who want a trot-in job.
Ballyonane House Irish Examiner Article and photographs published in the Irish Examiner