For sale: Paolo Tullio's tasteful home in the Wicklow hills
The Stones, Annamoe, Co Wicklow €885,000
At a celebration of his life held in the Examination Hall of Trinity College last summer, Paolo Tullio, the much-missed restaurant critic, writer, television and radio personality, was described as an all-round polymath, and a prolific and generous host.
Paolo had a wide and varied circle of friends, and any gathering hosted by him was guaranteed to feature good food, good wine, and plenty of both. It comes as no surprise to find that his home in Annamoe, Co Wicklow, now being sold by his children, Rocco and Isabella, was designed with entertaining in mind.
Tullio collaborated with the architect, Duncan Stewart, to build The Stones in 2004/5, on an elevated site next door to his former home at Armstrong's Barn. Back in the 1980s, Tullio ran a celebrated restaurant there, in a barn that used to belong to a farmer by the name of Armstrong who used to put on the local hop.
Under Tullio's ownership, Armstrong's Barn was frequented by the great and the good of Dublin society. It closed in the late 1980s.
Later, he held cookery classes in the kitchen of his home. I attended one course, a series of convivial gatherings that wasn't overly taxing in terms of what was expected of the students. Paolo was a popular teacher, and he clearly enjoyed the classes, during which he was surrounded by a bevy of women who hung on his every word, and the stories from his home village of Gallinaro in Italy, North of Naples, south of Rome.
On a beautiful summer's day, Annamoe is looking its best, and the 6.45 acres of land that come with The Stones are alive with nature. The house is named for an arrangement of standing stones built by Paolo 30 years ago by the river. Mischievously, he placed the stones in a solar alignment that may well confuse historians of the future, and buried coins under each one.
The house is located behind electric gates and approached via a driveway off the main road just before the bridge in Annamoe, a blink-and-you'll-miss-it bend in the road about half-way between Roundwood and Laragh. A photogenic miniature pony and her foal are grazing in the paddock to the left of the drive ("free mowing" says Rocco), and the orchard of 180 apple and pear trees that Paolo planted five years ago is starting to fruit, protected by deer fencing. Paolo had planned to start making apple juice and cider from the fruit, and The Stones' new owners will be able to do just that.
Rocco and Isabella think that the house is likely to be of interest to a family who wants to practise a degree of self-sufficiency - there is a kitchen garden and plenty of room to keep chickens and a couple of pigs - yet still be within easy reach of Dublin. Best of all, they say, is the frontage onto the Avonmore, busy with trout, and the natural swimming pool of clean water that is an idyllic spot on a sunny day.
It's also where they remember long summer evenings with friends and family, with Paolo catering for the guests from an outdoor kitchen complete with - of course - wood-fired pizza oven, and a barbecue and smoker built to his own design. "He smoked anything that moved!" says Isabella. "Cheese, fish, chicken, salt - it was all delicious."
Duncan Stewart is known as an architect specialising in ecological and energy-efficient design, and The Stones was built to be a house that would be cosy in the bleakest of Wicklow winters, and economical to run. "The house really works," says Rocco, "it's always warm." The heart of the house is, of course, the kitchen, with views out over the valley and the cooking island placed so that Paolo could cook and talk to his guests as they sat at the table in the bay window.
Also on the ground floor are the dining room, painted a rich red, and the sitting room, plus the master bedroom suite, positioned for the views. Upstairs, there are four further bedrooms - all good-sized doubles with their own balconies, three of which are en-suite. There's also a library area.
Outside a barn that's as big a man-shed as any one could ever need has room to store tractors, cars, quads and all manner of tools, plus a potting shed and a separate studio/home office. The nearest shops and national school are in Roundwood, with St Gerard's secondary school an easy commute. The Roundwood Inn serves a fine chicken and chips in the basket.
Agent: Ganly Walters (01) 662 3255
Viewing: By appointment