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Artistic touches bring new life to period home

Kilnamack House near Clonmel, Co Tipperary, is not your usual period country house. Instead the period features have been blended into a fun-loving family-style home by the couple who breathed new life into a long-vacant house after they bought it in 2003.

And why not, after all they both enjoy their careers, which regularly overlap in the theatrical and artistic worlds.

For instance, the lady of the house, Claudia Nauwel, once cast TD Michael Lowry as the Lord Mayor when she produced the Pied Pipe of Hamelin panto at the Source Centre in Thurles.

The Nauwels' love of Kilnamack is reflected in how they have decorated it to be enjoyed as both a living space as well as a backdrop for both husband Arno's paintings and their combined art collection. This approach is particularly evident in their use of the hall and stairwell. Although Claudia is quick to point out that it is not herself that is depicted as the semi nude in her husband Arno's painting.

When the Nauwels came to Ireland in 2002 they had never intended to buy a house as Claudia was over to organise the Kilkenny Arts Festival in 2003 and 2004 and they had decided to rent.

But one day when they were out enjoying the scenery in the Suir Valley they saw the Kilnamack House lying forlorn against the backdrop of Slievenamon, whose beauty has been extolled in Tipperary's beloved anthem.

"It hadn't been lived in for years, had no plumbing or electricity but we saw what potential it had," says Claudia.

Since then they set about not alone making it habitable but making it an enjoyable place to live and the improvement to the plumbing alone has seen the installation of three bathrooms one at ground level, and two upstairs where one of them serves as en suite for the master bedroom.

They also set about addressing some of the setbacks which the house had suffered over the centuries.

For instance a series of window taxes forced previous owners to block up windows and the Nauwels restored them to let in the light and Arno's expertise in theatre lighting was put to good use.

One of the former residents, Josephine Butler, who sold it in 1952, appears to have continued to live in an upstairs flat which was crudely partitioned from the rest of the house, where the new owner lived.

"As well as re-unifying the house we also introduced period features such as the picture rails on the high walls and the fireplace in the sitting room," Claudia explains.

The latter is one of the nicest rooms in the house as it extends its full depth with windows to the front and rear.

In all the total accommodation extends to 286.3sqm (3081 sq ft) and at ground level also includes a snug, which connects the hall to the kitchen and the rear courtyard with its stone buildings.

Off the large kitchen is the dining room as well as a utility room and it is separated from the downstairs bathroom by a lobby.

With 2.07 acres of grounds, the lovingly restored gardens are another enjoyable feature. To the front is a walkway around the walled garden where cross paths lead to a central King Crimson tree.

A pergola walkway has been planted with a variety of flowers including climbing roses and jasmine, Most of the garden is laid out to lawn, with easy-maintenance mypex and gravel borders planted with an array of flowering plants and shrubs.

A further quarter of the garden is planted as a charming orchard, comprising apple, cherry, pear and plum trees. To the side of the property is a vegetable garden.

Now the Nauwels are plannign to downsize and are hoping to sell the house for around €435,000.

Contact Knight Frank 01 6623255

Irish Independent