Victorian country house that charms with style in Kilkenny for 695k
Donaguile House, Castlecomer, Co Kilkenny - €695,000
'Houses stay put and people pass through them," says Polly Minett of the house that she and her family have spent the last 15 years enjoying. But those passing through do leave a mark and in the case of Polly and her husband, Ivan Powell, that included fundamentals such as re-roofing, rewiring and re-plumbing.
"It had been in the same family for 30 years and so there were bits of it slightly stuck in the 1970s. But they had left a lot of period features, so every room has a fireplace except one bathroom and a little study. And you still have the original Aga that was put in in the 1900s."
The house was large, running to 558sqm on two acres and had eight bedrooms, four reception rooms and some stables. Polly and Ivan and their two small children, Max and Eloise, lived in the house for a year before they started renovations, "to get the feel of where the light was and how the house functioned".
Slowly, they returned the house to something closer to its original late Victorian layout, so it now has six bedrooms, three reception rooms, a playroom, kitchen, study and office and added 21st-century luxuries, like a large orangerie and a sauna. However, they decided against putting en suites into all the bedrooms.
"We felt that putting in an en suite would change the shape of the room and they are nice-shaped rooms. They're big but not massive and actually you would have been carving them up - there's nothing worse than having a poky little bathroom just for the sake of having a bathroom."
There are lovely sash windows and shutters - "I have no curtains in the house at all" - and original pine floors. There's also a touch of the Downton's in the kitchen, where the bells alerting the servants to the master's needs are still in place. "Somebody said, 'Why don't you repair them?' and I said, 'Well, if you pay for somebody to answer them...'"
A lovely old walled garden had been completely overgrown when they bought Donaguile but has now been carefully restored with help from Polly's in-laws - her father-in-law, an avid gardener, espaliered the old plum and pear trees and planted an orchard with local varieties of apple, all of which are well established now.
There are raised beds for vegetables, a potager and greenhouse that the couple built with salvaged windows. And there's a two-storey mews house that is fully restored and could provide rental income or make comfortable staff quarters.
Donaguile is well located, it is a short walk into the village of Castlecomer and on the right side of Kilkenny for an easy hour's commute to Dublin for Ivan, who runs a packaging company, while Polly enjoys being part of the large community of artists and craftspeople who live in the area.
She's a working artist herself, sculpting pieces out of huge pieces of paper made from local plant fibres, and her work - and her feel for colour -can be seen in the interiors at Donaguile.
She also developed and runs a programme called Crafted with the Design & Crafts Council of Ireland that integrates the skill and creativity of artists with the primary school curriculum.
"I'll miss the sense of space we have at Donaguile," says Polly, "and the memories that we built up over Max and Eloise's childhood."
However, the children are grown-up now and it's time for a change, but the couple won't be moving far. They already have their eye on another renovation project not too far away.
Era: Late Victorian
Size: 558sqm plus 78sqm mews house
Agent: Sherry FitzGerald Country Homes (01) 639 9300
Viewing: Strictly by appointment