Your move in County Cork
Eithne Tynan discovers a six-bedroom home with an ancient game of strategy at its heart
Architects are famously obsessed with staircases. "The architect who does not conceive of a staircase as something fantastic is not an artist," said the revolutionary 20th-century Italian architect and designer, Gio Ponti.
The mania is not often shared by their clients, though. So often you see houses lavishly fitted out with the best that money can buy - exotic tropical hardwoods, marble floors, handmade kitchens, state-of-the-art sound systems - but the indulgence stops when it comes to the stairs.
In the middle of a hallway that cost thousands upon thousands of euros to finish and furnish, you'll see a humdrum, straight-flight, closed-string staircase, letting the whole place down.
Not so with Oak Lodge, at Shanbally in County Cork. The whole house is luxuriously finished, with the finest of materials and craftsmanship, but the staircase is the jewel in the crown.
Made from Irish oak, with details in walnut and yew, it's fashioned in a chess theme. It's a bifurcated stairwell, and a chessboard is worked into the half-landing floor. The chess king and queen form the finials atop the newel posts at the bottom of the stairs, a pair of knights stand guard halfway up, and there are castles and bishops at the top.
Despite the frightening amount of money and artistry that has gone into it, this is nevertheless the sort of stairs you could have a little fun with. Different members of the family could adopt different chess moves, for instance. One person might volunteer to move up and down the stairs diagonally. Another might go up two steps and then jump to the side. Whoever anoints himself the 'king' could climb one step at a time and then wait for someone else to move.
The stairs is not the only impressive thing in the hallway. The double front doors are solid teak and fortress-style, and the hall is 30ft long by 10ft wide with an oak and jatoba wood floor and a vaulted ceiling. Folding glass partition doors lead to the kitchen, so there's plenty of light.
All the main reception rooms are reached from here, and there are three of them, not including the open-plan dining room, kitchen and sun room.
The first of the reception rooms is a 22ft by 15ft lounge with an oak floor and a French-style fireplace. The second is a dual-aspect living room, 17ft by 15ft, also with an oak floor. The fireplace in this room is an inglenook form in red brick, with a cream Jotul stove in it. There's also a family room, roughly 12ft square, with an oak floor and patio doors.
The kitchen is 20ft by 15ft and fitted with hand-painted beechwood cabinets with iroko wood countertops. There's a centre island with a breakfast bar, also iroko-topped, and another Jotul stove set against one wall. The dining area, measuring 10ft square, is oak-floored and has a feature wall in red brick, and an archway there leads through to the sun room which has views of the garden on three sides, exposed brick walls and a vaulted ceiling with massive exposed beams, and there are double patio doors leading out to the garden.
Total floor area is 4,000 sq ft and that includes either five or six bedrooms, depending on whether or not you want a study. One has an en suite and that's the master bedroom, which is a sprawling 38ft by 12ft and has an antique fireplace in cast iron, a bay window and fitted wardrobes. The sixth bedroom, or study, has a Gothic-arched window looking onto the landing. The main bathroom, meanwhile, has twin sinks, a free-standing claw-foot bath and a separate shower.
Oak Lodge is on a quarter of an acre with an electric gate at the entrance. There's a cobble-lock driveway out the front and a Cotswolds stone patio out the back. There's also a garage in use as a games room, 20ft by 14ft, with an American walnut floor and a trap door leading to a basement storage area.
The back garden is mainly lawned, surrounded by raised flowerbeds with shrubs and ornamental trees, and there's a greenhouse with a grape vine.
Though Oak Lodge is very much a one-off, it is in a small housing development known as Ard na Gréine in the village of Shanbally, just off the N28 route from Cork city to Ringaskiddy.
Shanbally has a shop, a primary school and a pub - all a couple of hundred metres or less from the house. Cork city itself is about 15 kilometres away.
For golfers, the nine-hole Raffeen Creek Sports Club is about 250 metres away as the golf ball flies. If you want to play chess in public and not just on your own stairs, the Cork Chess Club is at St Patrick's Quay in the city.
Oak Lodge is for sale for €695,000 with James G Coughlan & Associates, (021) 425 1500.
Shanbally, Co Cork
Asking price: €695,000
Agent: James G Coughlan & Associates, (021) 425 1500