Tuesday 25 July 2017

Escape the rat race to an architect-designed Laois hideaway on the market for €540k

Symmetry and light abound in this architect-designed Co Laois hideaway

The house on Lake Road was built in 1998 and has a floor area of 3,800 sq ft, with six bedrooms and four bathrooms
The house on Lake Road was built in 1998 and has a floor area of 3,800 sq ft, with six bedrooms and four bathrooms
The gardens designed by Elizabeth O'Connell
The feature staircase
The fitted kitchen
The open-plan kitchen and dining area with a floor-to-ceiling window
The reception room with a cast-iron fireplace
The billiards/party room
The gallery landing

Alison Gill

When an Irish couple living in the UK where presented with a new business opportunity in Dublin, they decided to grab it with both hands and make the move back home. It was the year 2000 and Ireland was beginning to prosper, which meant property prices were on the rise. Buyers all over the country were looking at how to make their money work for them and many were moving further out of the city to get more bang for their buck.

"What we wanted was a house with a difference, in a quiet country setting within easy access of the city and with good broadband," say the owners. "After living in the UK for a number of years, we now wanted our children to experience all that is wonderful about an Irish childhood, just as we had done."

They weren't even house-hunting when they first saw the house on Lake Road. "We came upon the house while visiting friends in the area," they say. "We viewed it and immediately fell in love with the architect Michael Rice's use of natural light and symmetry. The site is elevated and secluded offering peace and privacy. The children were sold on the attic space over the bedrooms that they could transform into a playroom."

After living in the house for a few years, the couple called on Michael Rice and asked him to design an extension. This added a further two bedrooms over a large 'party' room.

The gardens designed by Elizabeth O'Connell
The gardens designed by Elizabeth O'Connell

It's with a heavy heart that the couple are letting go of the property, but the children have grown up and moved on, so they feel it's time for another family to enjoy it.

What they'll miss most is the open kitchen area, which was where all the action took part. "Our favourite part of the house is the kitchen. It's a room for all seasons. The main window floods the house with light and sunshine in the summer, and the wood-burning stove provides warmth and cosiness in the winter. It really is the heart of the house."

The House

Built in 1998 and designed by Michael Rice, who forms his designs based on shapes found in nature; the house has a floor area of 3,800 sq ft, six bedrooms and four bathrooms. Rice's trademark of light, space and symmetry is evident throughout the house, with each room having a view of the surrounding countryside.

The house is hidden behind electric gates, so would be ideal for someone who really wants to hide away from the rat race. A tree-lined driveway takes you up to the property, with a mixture of oak, birch and ash trees forming the guard of honour.

There is a number of rooms off the bright hallway with its feature staircase. The first reception room has a window to the side and the rear and a cast-iron fireplace with wooden surround. Beside this is a home office with fitted cupboards and shelving.

The fitted kitchen
The fitted kitchen

Double doors open into the kitchen/dining area. This room has a double-height ceiling with a floor-to-ceiling angled window, French doors to the back garden and a wood-burning stove. The kitchen is fitted with cream units, an oven, hob and dishwasher. A utility room provides extra space for a washing machine, sink and more storage.

Glass doors from the kitchen lead into a second reception room. This also has a cast iron fireplace and a bay window looking out over the garden.

In the new part of the house there is the billiards or party room. This has seven windows and French doors out to the garden. There is also a bedroom on the ground floor with an en-suite shower room.

Upstairs there is a gallery overlooking the kitchen with the bedrooms leading off it. The master bedroom has a balcony, dressing room and en-suite bathroom with a corner bath.

The second bedroom upstairs has a window seat and a ladder to the loft which leads to another bedroom. Both of these rooms have en-suite bathrooms.

Bedroom three also has a ladder to the loft, and the last two bedrooms have doors out to a balcony. A shower room completes the accommodation upstairs.

The open-plan kitchen and dining area with a floor-to-ceiling window
The open-plan kitchen and dining area with a floor-to-ceiling window

The 1.9 acres outside have been designed by landscaper Elizabeth O'Connell, who made a particular feature of the hazel-lined stream at the end of the garden. Approximately 80 trees were planted in 1998 and these have now matured beautifully.

The house is connected to Eir Fibre Extreme broadband, so anyone planning on working remotely should have no problems.

The Locale

Ballybrittas is a small village in north-east Laois. It's a place that many would have passed through on the road to Limerick before it was bypassed by the M7. It's a lot quieter now with not as many stopovers for lunch, but the local community is thriving and has seen a lot of commuters move down because they were either priced out of Dublin or looking for more value for their money.

The motorway is only five minutes away, so a trip into the capital would take an hour. Portarlington train station is also only a five-minute drive, so if you don't want to face the traffic, a train journey into Dublin takes 40 minutes. Ballybrittas has a small grocery store, a pub and a garage, for bulk shopping, locals tend to head to either Portlaoise or Portarlington.

Things to Do

The reception room with a cast-iron fireplace
The reception room with a cast-iron fireplace

When the sun shines, local families flock to Emo Court House, which is only a few minutes from Ballybrittas. There is a beautiful parkland surrounding the 1790s neoclassical mansion with a lake, walking trails and picnic areas. There is also a café and tours of the house.

Another local site to visit is the Rock of Dunamase. It was the seat of the ancient kings of Laois and it is a spectacular natural feature. You won't spend the day there, but it's definitely worth taking an hour or so to admire the ruin.

Eating and Drinking

Fisherman's Inn in Ballybrittas is always a winner if you're after some traditional music or a very good pint by the fire. Just be aware that stories of ghosts at the pub have long been recounted by locals and visitors alike.

For food, the five-star Heritage Hotel is a two-minute drive from the house and has the Slieve Bloom Bar serving food all day, or the Arlington Room for special occasions or the odd treat.

The Crowd

Tourism isn't big in Laois outside visitors to The Heritage Hotel. Ballybrittas has a very tight community of locals and blow-ins with many commuting into Dublin for work. The county really comes to life every September though, when rock stars and revellers arrive for the Electric Picnic music and arts festival.

What's Not To Like

When most people think of a second home, they imagine the beach, restaurants galore and plenty of activities for the kids. Ballybrittas has none of these but this house does offer a real sense of privacy and peace. And if the Irish midlands was exactly where Michael Jackson had to come to feel he could hide away (Westmeath in 2006), then who are we to knock it?

Lake Road

Ballybrittas, Co Laois

Asking price: €540,000

Agent: Kate O'Shea (086) 7981888

Indo Property

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