Sunday 20 October 2019

New England homestead: how Breda and Damien O'Neill built their American dream home from magazines

Brysam Abbeylands, Clane, Co Kildare

Asking price: €1.275m

Agent: Sherry FitzGerlad Gannon (045) 868412

Brysam at Clane is designed in a distinctive American style
Brysam at Clane is designed in a distinctive American style
The cinema room
Mark Keenan

Mark Keenan

Most of us have found our dream home at least once, maybe several times, in the pages of a glossy magazine.

And then we mull the pictures and pine over its perfect features and imagine what it would be like to own it and to live there. And then we leave that magazine on the coffee table undershelf and that's that. But how many of us actually go out and build our glossy mag dream for real?

Well wind back to 2007 and Clane-based couple Damien and Breda O'Neill were sitting at an airport in New York, waiting to fly home from a US holiday. Breda went off to buy something to read and picked up a copy of American Dream Homes magazine. That issue (March/April 2007) featured photo spreads of a number of homes in the New England style, as typically found in coastal locations like the Hamptons or Cape Cod.

Breda brought the magazine back to Damien and both decided then and there, at an airport in New York: "That's it, we're having one of these!"

Damien and Breda O’Neill browse the magazine that inspired them
Damien and Breda O’Neill browse the magazine that inspired them

The Kildare couple were better equipped than most to leap into such an adventure, having already built two homes for themselves previously. So the O'Neills hit upon the idea of building their New England dream glossy home right in their own back garden. "We loved the light coming in everywhere, we loved the space, we loved it all," says Breda.

"When we got back we sat down one night after dinner one and using the magazine for guidance, we drew our home as we wanted it on the back of a serviette."

Debutante flattering: The swept staircase at Brysam
Debutante flattering: The swept staircase at Brysam

But that's where all the spontaneity ended. From then on it was all about the prep.

Damien adds: "We drew and we drew. And we visited every supplier, plumbing outlet, joiners, heating outlets, antiques shop that we could find. We took notes. We went everywhere in search of the fittings and materials that suited the type of house we wanted."

The covered areas and garden at the back
The covered areas and garden at the back

Inititially they even considered facing their home with shingles and boards to make it more authentically American."When we looked into it properly, we saw that it just wasn't practical for Irish weather and that we'd probably also need special planning permission on top of that. Instead we looked at how we could get the rendering and windows right."

Breda adds: "The external colouring was important. It had to be either that lovely soft green or the duck egg blue. But for the latter, you'd need to be located near the sea. We are lucky to be surrounded on all sides by lovely greenery. So green it was. And we wanted to bring that inside. Most importantly, because we now have four grand children and three grown up children, we wanted a house for us all to gather in."

The cinema room
The cinema room

Only after copious supply notes gleaned on everything from the exact dimensions of the stair balusters to the exact type of windows (higher than normal, aluclad exterior and quality timber inside) did the O'Neills begin construction.

While an architect was taken on board, the plans were pretty much done in detail at this point. They got on site and it took another 15 months for Brysam at Abbeylands in Clane to become complete and ready to move into.

The American kitchen at Brysam
The American kitchen at Brysam

The O'Neills since then squeezed every drop of enjoyment from it. It has been home to numerous and memorable family gatherings.

Just over a decade later and as the O'Neills approach retirement, it's proving just a bit too big for them. And now they have new plans. "Haha! yes we're going for number four. We have ideas for another type of American home nearby, but we're not saying exactly what just yet," says Breda. It means that Brysam is now being offered for sale.

The detail to type is extraordinary.

It has American verandahs, covered pillared porches, big proportions inside, eyebrow windows and the outside is looking in from every angle. All that apple pie homeliness and craft that is New England.

You go up steps under the porch and in the front door to the entrance hall with its dramatic debutante flattering swept staircase. It's big double doors all round inside. The family room is as Hamptons as you can get over here. Svelte dark polished cherry boards, neat proportions, high smart windows and glazed timber door access to the covered verandah outside.

On the other side of the hall is the living room with a marble fireplace and another warm burst of cherry boards, in turn running into the formal dining room and then the huge kitchen and breakfastroom which is the nerve centre of this family home.

There's a poplar fitted kitchen with an elongated kidney shaped island unit, granite counter tops, marble floor, double Belfast sink, a mud room, downstairs wc and a utilty. At 5,683 square feet over three floors, it's also American super sized. But with its B1 energy rating, it has European sensibilities. There's free geo thermal underfloor heating to keep your pinkies warm as you mooch about on winter mornings.

Brysam has a proper home cinema room with surround seating and a home gym. There are five bedrooms and a study upstairs over two floors and every effort was made to have most bedroom ceilings run with the eaves line, for character and atmosphere. The master bedroom has its own full bathroom ensuite and a walk-in dressing room. Three more bedrooms are ensuite.

Born from one glossy in the USA, it is perhaps fitting that Brysam has ended up in pages of another over here. Sherry FitzGerald Gannon seeks €1.275m.

 

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