Inspired by the architecture of the South of France, Linda MacGabhann transformed a derelict barn into a cosy home. June Edwards reports
Inspired by regular holidays in the South of France, Linda and Kevin MacGabhann craved a little Provencal-style bolthole of their own. When they saw a newspaper advert about a barn that was for sale in Kilkenny, they had a good feeling about it.
"I had seen a lot of barn conversions in France and I loved them, and was always saying I would love to do something like that in Ireland," explains Linda.
"Kevin spotted a piece in the paper about a barn that was up for sale. We decided to have a look at it on our way home from a weekend in the country, and from the moment we saw it, we knew it was just perfect, even though it didn't have running water or electricity."
"It was owned by a working artist, so they hadn't much spare money to do it up, although they had it lovely, and had great ideas for it," adds Linda.
Tucked away in a beautiful setting at The Rower near Inistioge, The Barn is a 250-year-old stone building, originally used as an out-building on an old farm nearby.
A stunning home, which Linda and Kevin and their grown-up family have used extensively as a weekend getaway over the last five years, The Barn has been completely upgraded and tastefully restored, while its original features and character have been maintained.
"It was basically a shell when we bought it but we could see the potential it had. And even though everyone told us that 'outsiders' would find it impossible to get planning permission to do anything to the property, we were confident it would work out and it did," says Linda. "We have wonderful neighbours, and even though the house has a lovely quiet rural feel to it, we're part of a small cul-de-sac at the end of a boreen, there's always someone around to keep an eye on things and there's plenty of company nearby."
Through word of mouth, Linda and Kevin were able to source local builders, wood turners, stone masons and other specialist craftsmen who bit by bit restored The Barn from the semi-derelict shell it had once been to the comfortable and stylish home it is now. A new percolation unit, wiring, plumbing, roofing and windows were also added, while original wood and stone features were restored or replaced where necessary.
With a floor area of 111sqm, this is a decent-sized three-bed home, which could be used either as an all-year-round holiday home or permanent residence. Accommodation comprises a hall, sitting room, kitchen cum dining area, downstairs shower-room and storage area, along with three mezzanine-level bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs.
Linda's love of all things French is very much present throughout the house, which has echoes of a Provencal farmhouse. Thick wooden beams have been exposed throughout the property, while the staircase to the mezzanine level is rustic style also. Floors are timber and the interior décor is one of casual country.
By contrast, the kitchen is more French contemporary with its crisp white painted units and sleek black countertops. Exposed stone features add further charm and character to this most unusual country home.
Outside there is a spacious garden with mature shrubs, apple and pear trees and a pretty winding path. A large decked area to the front of the house offers additional private space.
The rustic French country look is also carried through to the front of the house, with the beautifully restored and re-pointed stonework and timber trellising in the garden.
Location is a big plus for the property says Linda, who is Dublin-based.
"We were adamant we wanted somewhere that had a short commute so we could use it all-year round, and hop up and down for weekends or overnight stays. It's such a short drive now from Dublin to Kilkenny, and then we're in a beautiful part of Kilkenny where there is so much happening."
And with a great getaway spot like this, there is no shortage of visitors.
"The house can sleep between eight to 10, so we do most of our entertaining here. It's a great house for having guests because of the open-plan nature, and we often have great dinner parties down here," says Linda.
And with nearby Thomastown and Inistioge being active centres of craft, while Mount Juliet Golf Course is a short drive away, there's plenty to do. A great spot for families also, there are 14 beaches around the Hook Peninsula, all within easy driving distance, while New Ross town is just five minutes away, and Waterford city is 40 minutes drive.
"We've had wonderful use of the house, and when we're not here, our adult children and their friends come down. It's very much 'the gaff' for all the pals to meet up for weekends," adds Linda, who says The Barn is the perfect place to unwind.
"We are very sad to say goodbye to this house, and at another stage in our life, I would love to create the same home all over again," says Linda. "It's a very creative place, so I could see an artist living here, or a family looking for a weekend retreat."
For the MacGabhann's, The Barn will always represent their little bit of Provence. Even if there are no lavender fields around. But cest la vie!
The Barn, The Rower, Co Kilkenny. Price: in excess of €245,000. Further details Sherry FitzGerald Radford 051 426161