Mountpleasant, Blueball, Tullamore, Co Offaly Asking price: €649,000 Agent: Derek Byrne, Keller Williams (01) 908 1470
Offaly couple Michelle and Aidan Leonard both come from quite large families. Aidan is one of eleven siblings and Michelle has five younger brothers. And having to share so much space growing up, like many who hail from big clans, they each yearned for the space they never had growing up.
It meant they knew exactly what wanted when it came to setting up their own home – acres of room.
So when the then newly-weds built their new home in 2009, they made sure they could lose themselves in a floor area of 5,821 sq ft, the equivalent of more than five average city family homes.
Their modern mansion took the notion of a starter home to a whole new level.
Blending into the surrounding landscape with its Clonaslee stone facing, Mountpleasant looks from the front like an American prairie-style bungalow, but as it’s built on a sloping site it also comes with extensive accommodation at basement level.
When Michelle and Aidan briefed local architect Aidan Bracken with designing their dream home, they had three key priorities: it should be “spacious, modern and future-proof” – in that order.
“Even though, as the only girl, I didn’t have to share a bedroom, most of my belongings as a child would have fit into a single drawer,” says Michelle. “We wanted our kids to have loads of space to run around and call their own.”
It worked. Their three children, Joseph (11), Lily (9) and Noah (6) learned to ride their bicycles in the huge polished marble hallway with roof-height ceiling and timber beams. Outside, they have 1.5 acres of gardens with a trampoline and a treehouse to play in.
“We’ve never had reason to go anywhere else for birthday parties,” says Michelle. “We’d hire a bouncy castle and let the kids and their friends have the time of their lives.”
Having run his own timber-frame construction business since 2003, it was no surprise when Aidan showcased his skills by building his and Michelle’s own family home.
One of the things that drew this couple to the site was its elevated position overlooking Pallas Lake and beyond that, the fields and forests of the south Offaly countryside as far as the eye can see.
“The view alone would calm you down on a bad day,” says Michelle, a medical scientist who works in the laboratory of Tullamore Hospital.
In the past two years she and her colleagues in hospital labs around the country have been working flat out to meet the demands of the pandemic. Coming home to a rural idyll at the end of a long shift is a welcome retreat.
Second on the list of priorities for this pair was that their house would have its footprint firmly in the 21st century.
Aidan looked after the build and ensured it had high-end finishes such as a mixture of American white oak, marble and timber flooring, and triple-glazed Aluclad windows with pine frames inside. He says that one of the qualities of a timber-frame house is the speed of building compared with a traditional concrete style.
“From the outside, there is no difference and a timber frame house is every bit as durable as a masonry one while being much faster to construct,” he says. “This took just over six months to build.”
At the time, BER ratings were only being introduced into this country and while Mountpleasant now has a cosy B3, Aidan says that replacing the existing oil heating system with heat pumps would bring that right up an A.
The couple moved in after their honeymoon in 2009 and Michelle says she couldn’t wait to have the extended family over for Christmas dinner. “Hosting that first Christmas day in our home was a dream come true,” she recalls.
“The following year our first child, Joe, was born. We held his christening here on December 31st 2010, ringing in the New Year with over 100 family and friends.
“We set up a bar in the main hall and everyone wandered about, chatting to each other. It was fantastic that the house could accommodate so many people on such a happy occasion and is one of my fondest memories today.”
Another great entertaining space is the 42x35 ft courtyard to the rear of the house, laid out in cobblelock and Indian sandstone, with a sheltered seating area and wall-mounted open fireplace.
Inside, while you might expect a house of these dimensions to have enough bedrooms to open a boutique hotel, there are currently only four, albeit all big rooms and three with their own bathrooms.
The master is a lavish suite with a walk-in wardrobe, en suite bathroom and double doors leading on to the patio. A family bathroom comes with an extra large bath and walk-in shower.
Mountpleasant is built in an E shape, with two wings and a central section protruding from the main body of the house.
It opens into the grand entrance hall, off which to the right is a home office along with the bedrooms contained in the east wing.
In the west wing are a gym/games room, sitting room and the heart of the home – an open-plan kitchen/diner with pitched roof height ceiling, rooflights, timber beams, island unit and Rangemaster cooker.
Off this there’s a separate dining room and utility leading on to a playroom. To the rear of the house is a central lounge with triple-aspect windows, a Clonaslee stone fireplace and more of Aidan’s signature exposed beams.
“It’s just so bright, it’s my favourite part of the house,” says Aidan.
For Michelle, it’s the kitchen. “The kids gather around the island and there’s space to entertain friends,” she says. “I love it because this is where the family is.”
Stairs from the utility room lead down to the basement which contains a boot and storage area, laundry room, boiler room and garage. There’s also a separate car port outside.
Aidan suggests that either the carport or the basement garage could quite easily be converted to a self-contained apartment should new owners want extra accommodation. Such options are part of the third key requisite the Leonards briefed their architect on – to make it a future-proof home.
And while Mountpleasant delivered all the space, modernity and flexibility they asked for, they’re now itching to start a new project, building another timber-framed house a few miles away.
“This has been a fantastic home and we’re sorry to leave,” says Michelle. “I think it will be perfect for a growing family who want a lot of individual spaces. It has a great combination of open-plan areas where you can all get together and separate rooms where you can have privacy when you want.
“A lot of people are looking to move out of the cities since the pandemic struck and I imagine this will suit a family who want to live the good life in the country without being in the sticks.”
It’s 15 minutes to Tullamore and an hour-and-a-half to Dublin city.
Mountpleasant is now for sale asking €649,000 through Derek Byrne Keller Williams