Wednesday 12 December 2018

'The brief was to bring the outside inside' - Quirky West Cork home designed around the passage of the sun

See things from a new perspective with this eight-sided Co Cork home

The kitchen
The kitchen
The exterior of Coomhola
A view of Bantry Bay
One of the two bathrooms
A bedroom
The dining/sun room
The hallway
The living room
Coomhola decking
Katy McGuinness

Katy McGuinness

Home types are generally less mixed in Ireland than in other countries, with the same cookie cutter and (dare we say) often predictable versions appearing again and again. But there's nothing usual or boring about Coomhola - it's octangular. But it seems it's not alone in that tract of West Cork between Bantry and Glengariff where it was constructed to order for its current resident.

"I had lived in a similar octagonal house in the area previously," says the vendor of Coomhola, "so I knew more or less what I wanted. I drew out some sketches and brought them to a local engineer, Sharon Walsh, and asked her if it was possible.

"After four meetings, she had it all figured out and the drawings ready to submit for planning permission.

"It took about 10 months to build, and I documented the process every step of the way. I used to go down to the site every day after work and take photographs, and I have two big albums filled with them."

A view of Bantry Bay
A view of Bantry Bay

Coomhola lies at the foot of Cnoc Garbh in the spectacular Coomhola Valley, carefully positioned on a 1.3-acre site with river frontage onto the Cooleemane, and bounded to the east by the Glash na Garbh stream.

The unusual house was finished in 2002, and the vendor has lived there full-time ever since.

"The brief was to bring the outside inside," she says. "The design is based around the flow of the day, and the passage of the Sun. So, the kitchen faces east, to get the morning light, and the sitting room faces west.

The sun-room/dining room has full wall windows facing south, east and west, and outside there's a large wooden deck that follows the contours of the house, with plenty of room for eating out of doors when the Sun is shining.

"The scariest moment of the whole process for me was when the builder laid out the pegs for the foundations and I had to say 'yes' and give him the go-ahead to proceed - because at that point I was committing to the final layout and wouldn't be able to make any further changes."

In addition to the living space, there are two bedrooms and two bathrooms, and the house has a rustic feel, with natural wood used extensively in the interiors.

The kitchen
The kitchen

Thankfully, all the agonizing about the layout paid off, and the vendor says the house has been a joy to live in, and a welcome retreat from a busy working life.

"The West Cork light is amazing for photography, and I have loved the stream that runs down the side of the house - the water is beautiful and is filtered directly into the house - and the river at the end of the garden.

"I always intended to moor a boat there so I could lie in it and look up at the sky on a sunny day but I never got around to it.

"There are little islands in the river that are awash with bluebells and primroses in the spring. I have planted lots of indigenous trees and I have really enjoyed being productive with the 10ft-high poly-tunnel, which has kept me largely self-sufficient in vegetables many months of the year."

A landscaped oval wildlife pond lies in the centre of the main paddock and ensures that there is plenty of bird activity in the garden.

There is also a wooden weather-proof shed.

The living room
The living room

Planning permission was previously obtained for a summerhouse/workshop to the northern end of the property and this could perhaps be revisited.

Cronin's in Ballylickey is the nearest shop to the house, with a more extensive range of shops and a weekly Friday farmers' market in Bantry, a twelve-minute drive away.

The town has a full programme of festivals all summer long, and is popular with tourists.

The West Cork food scene is, of course, second to none and there is a plethora of artisan producers, including Gubbeen and Durrus, and many good places to eat in the area.

In the summer in particular, the big draws are Mews Restaurant and Glebe Gardens near Baltimore, Good Things in Skibbereen, while the opening of Robbie Krawcyzk's The Chestnut in Ballydehob later in the spring is much anticipated.

Krawcyzk used to be behind the stove at the Chop House in Lismore and, latterly, Tankardstown House in Co. Meath, but is getting back to his West Cork roots with a small 16-seat venue located in a former pub. He says he'll be serving a no-choice menu and cooking over charcoal.

The vendor of Coomhola says there is a strong community spirit in the Coomhola and Borlin Valley area, and a 10-year strategy, launched to enhance broadband/mobile phone coverage, environmental issues, walking trails and other amenities, is currently in the process of implementation.

"The walks through the two valleys are beautiful and well-signposted," the vendor says.Now, though, she has fallen in love with a Kerry man and is on the move to the Kingdom.

Is she hoping to build another octagonal house?

"We'll have to see what happens," she responds. But she's definitely not ruling it out.


Bantry, Co Cork

Asking price: €250,000

Agent: Henry O'Leary Auctioneers, (023) 8835959

Indo Property

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