How does a chef design his home kitchen? This one will surprise you
Rural-style touches add country charm to this three-bed home on the doorstep of Kildare town
When Val O'Kelly and Cormac McQuaid threw a party at their Kildare home in 2006 to celebrate their civil partnership, it was only natural that Val was in charge of the cooking: he's a chef who currently runs the kitchen at the Johnstown Estate, a four-star hotel set in a Georgian house that's surrounded by 120 acres of parkland.
Despite overseeing the catering of other people's weddings, he also spent his own big day cooking for friends and family, some of whom live just nearby, at Loughlion, the house the couple now share with their dog Trixie, who Val describes as "an overweight Jack Russell who seems to get meals from two houses".
"We've since had many a shindig here because it's a great house for a party and there's plenty of parking," Val says. "All the big family birthdays are celebrated in the house - and I still end up doing the cooking."
Fifteen years ago, shortly before meeting Cormac, Val built Loughlion with his sister on land once owned by their parents, who live next door. Together, the siblings commissioned an architect to design an extra-large detached three-bed house - "we didn't want a cubby-hole design" - with open-plan living downstairs. They named the house, which is situated off the Monasterevin Road in Kildare town, after the townland in which the property is located.
Val and Cormac's civil partnership was held in Enniskillen, because it would be four years before the process was legalised in the republic and a further five years before Ireland became the world's first country to vote in favour of same-sex marriage in a referendum. When Val's sister decided it was time to move, Cormac and Val bought her out. Now the couple have put Loughlion on the market, because the expansion of Kildare town means the house no longer has the rural aspect they crave.
"When we built Loughlion 15 years ago, Kildare town was still a very small town and we were outside the town boundary," Val says. "Now we are inside the town boundary.
"When the M7 motorway arrived, the traffic became more manageable compared to the traffic jams in the town beforehand. The house has fantastic access for a new owner, because it's two minutes from the motorway. We love the house and will miss it greatly, but we like the countryside, so we're looking for an old rural house to do up or maintain."
Loughlion sits on a third of an acre, so the new residents would have ample space to extend the existing property.
Its grounds include a back garden with a painted deck and a custom-made seating area, all of which are south-facing, so it enjoys plenty of sunlight throughout the day - Irish weather permitting. Val estimates that some of the pine trees that surround the back garden and flank the front entrance are a century old. He and Cormac also developed the garden, with its mature shrubs, planting beds and hedging, themselves.
Val says: "Cormac is into garden maintenance and I'm the landscaper of the two, so we worked parallel together to get the garden in shape. We transformed it over 10 years and it was a labour of love. The back garden has a view of the farm next door and you wouldn't believe there's a motorway to the south because the garden is enclosed by maple, birch and pine trees and feels secluded."
Val is a DIY enthusiast - "it's one of the ways I like to destress from my kitchen" - so he designed a garden shed inspired by the couple's many holidays to Scandinavia. One of two garden sheds out the back, it has a sliding door for an entrance, insulation and even shelving on the walls.
At the main house, the small number of Loughlion's bedrooms belies the size of the propery - it spans 1,908 sq ft, or almost double the average size of an older three-bed semi in Kildare town.
The wainscot panelling to the walls of the front hall add a touch of the rural charm Val and Cormac are so fond of.
A set of double doors from this space, which also has a grey tiled floor and ceiling coving, leads off to the left, to the dual-aspect living room, which has a bay window to the front and polished solid oak to the floors. An open fireplace, with a feature brick mantle and hearth, forms a nice centrepiece to the room, and there are downlighters and coving to the ceiling.
The open-plan kitchen/diner to the right of the hallway is also dual aspect. In addition to shaker-style fitted cabinets, a breakfast bar, and a Franke sink, this chef's kitchen has an integrated five-ring Belling gas hob with an extractor hood and a Belling Synergie double oven.
The black-enamelled solid-fuel Rayburn range, situated beside a seated corner reading nook, add to the country-style feel of the home. Double doors open from the kitchen-diner to the couple's beloved rear garden. Also on the ground floor is a utility room - with yet another door to the back garden - and a guest lavatory.
The first-floor landing, where Val keeps a telescope to watch the stars, is dual aspect and its ceiling has downlighters, feature stained-oak ceiling beams and access to a partially floored attic.
The front master bedroom has fitted wardrobes and even a panic button, while the master ensuite has a fully tiled step-in corner shower and wall-mounted shelving.
The two other bedrooms share a Jack-and-Jill bathroom, which has a jacuzzi bath, ceramic tiles to the floor, and partly-tiled walls.
One of these two bedrooms is currently used as a large home office by Cormac, a qualified counselling psychotherapist.
The new owner may want to update some of the interior finishes at Loughlion, as there is early Noughties pine in abundance, such as to the internal doors and bedroom wardrobes.
But they could offset the cost by reducing their car usage - Loughlion is less than a kilometre away from the centre of Kildare town and its train station, and is a few minutes' walk from the bus stop for Dublin Coach service to the capital.
Asking price: €499,000
Agent: AMove (045) 542141