Regency inspired and factory floored in Co Kildare
When it comes to building a house from scratch, there's nobody more qualified to know what kind of property would suit best than the person who truly understands the land around it.
This was the case on a site close to Dunlavin in Kildare. Local man Richard O'Toole had lived on the land for decades with his family when they owned Ballintaggart House and stud farm in Colbinstown.
In 2006, O'Toole and his family made the decision to sell the farm and main residence. It was snapped up by property tycoon Paul Newman for €13m soon after going to the market. The O'Tooles held on to some of it for future use.
After the death of his wife Annie in 2009, followed by his children growing up and flying the nest, Richard decided it was time to build a home that would best suit him in this new phase of his life.
The Regency inspired home that he built in 2011 was something that he had envisaged for a while, knowing it would sit into the land well. "The design was my idea because I thought it would fit perfectly into the site. It's on an elevated plot, so I knew the land would flow around it."
He wanted a house filled with light. "The sun rises on the left-hand side and you get a spectacular sunset on the right-hand side of the house," he says.
The property is accessed through two stone pillars with electric gates, which open on to a driveway that takes you up through the lawns and into a parking area at the front of the house.
The front door opens up into the heart of the home, which is the octangle-shaped hallway, with every room leading off it. The first door on the left is into a double bedroom with ensuite bathroom. Beside this is a similar-sized bedroom, also ensuite. The first door on the right opens into the master bedroom with dressing room and ensuite bathroom.
Straight in front, there are three doors that lead into the open-plan living accommodation which includes a kitchen, living room and dining area. The kitchen has been handcrafted with white wooden units and marble worktops. The dining area steps down into the cosy living room, making the space ideal for entertaining.
"The hallway, kitchen, living and dining area are all interconnected so you get a flow between the whole floor," says O'Toole. "You can have 50 people there for dinner, with everyone in different parts of the house and it never feels cramped. There's great circulation between that area."
Although it's a modern home, O'Toole wanted to match the old-world style of the exterior with the inside, so ended up spending a lot of time sourcing materials in Wilson's Salvage Yard in Co Down.
"The parquet floor was reclaimed from a factory in the UK and it polished up beautifully," he says. "The wood on the floor in the dining and living areas is from an Amish barn in America. I love that you can still see the saw marks on a lot of the boards. At one stage during the build, a fella was about to sand them and I had to shout, 'No! don't touch them'," he laughs.
The internal doors were also made from pitch pine that O'Toole found in Wilson's. When he saw the first finished door, he loved the texture in the wood so much that he decided to not paint them. The roof slates are blue Bangor, also reclaimed.
It wasn't just with the materials that O'Toole got lucky however, it was also the calibre of the workmen on the job. "We were lucky that we built in the recession when builders were available and happy to take on a project. We got very skilled people to do the beautiful banisters that go all the way up the stairs and around the gallery.
"You'd struggle to get that talent on board these days."
A lot of weight was built into the walls so that the windows could be as big as possible to maximise the light and views. On a clear day, O'Toole says you can enjoy a 60-mile panoramic view with the Wicklow hills on one side and the Slieve Blooms on the other. Currently on the first floor there is an open-plan living area, with an impressive half-moon feature window that looks out over the rear garden and beyond.
There's another bathroom on this level and planning permission has been granted to create a further two bedrooms up here, if desired.
The house has an impressive BER rating of B1, but O'Toole wasn't surprised that it scored highly. "Where they called for three or four inches of insulation, I put in twice that," he says, proudly. "I use very little oil and the house never feels cold. When I come back after being away for a while, there's never a chill in the house and only takes an hour of heating to warm the whole place up again. I also put in a few solar panels beside the shed that help heat the water."
The 9.2 acres around the house are mostly laid in lawn. There are two paddocks each side of the driveway that currently provide grazing for livestock. There is a stone storage shed that is divided in the middle and has two separate entrances.
The open layout of the house and the lawned gardens make it ideal for entertaining. The O'Tooles put it to the test recently when they had a party. "When my kids were going to Australia, we had a gang in the house of 200 people," he says. "There was a marquee in the back and 50-60 people managed to stay in the house that night."
The house is about 7km from Dunlavin Village, 22km from Kildare and about 20km from The Curragh Racecourse.
Bruach in Ballintaggart is for sale through Savills Country (01 6634350) with a guide price of €900,000.
Bruach Ballintaggart, Dunlavin, Co Kildare
Asking price: €900,000
Agent: Savills Country (01) 6634350