Wicklow country house with supermodel appeal on the market for €1.4m
Millmount House, Avoca, Co Wicklow €1.4m
Ask Eileen O'Sullivan why she was so successful as a model agent in 60s London and she'll tell you - after some modest hesitation - it's because she has "a good eye".
After all, it was Eileen who discovered Marie Helvin, a model who was such an instant hit that she appeared on both Vogue and Harper's Bazaar covers in the same month. Helvin went on to work for Yves St Laurent and Valentino and to marry David Bailey, a photographer who became as famous as the celebrities at the other end of his camera lens.
It was also Eileen who started the statuesque young model Anjelica Huston on her London modelling career - "she was with me for three years; she had a very special look" - and who brought Irish beauties Alison Doody and Marie O'Leary to the international catwalk.
So it's little surprise then that Millmount House, the place she discovered when she returned to Ireland after 35 years, is also a stunner. Sitting at the top of the steep hill in the pretty Wicklow village of Avoca, the property, built in 1848, is set in beautifully landscaped gardens with two al fresco eating areas and an orchard with apple trees laden with fruit.
It is being offered for sale in three lots: the house and 1.5 acres at €800,000; eight acres of potential development land (with lapsed planning permission for 30 houses) at €600,000; and the entire lot for €1.4m. According to Philip Guckian of Sherry FitzGerald Country Homes, given its development potential, it is likely the property will sell in two lots.
"It was the land that convinced me to buy - and the river," Eileen says of the stretch of land that runs steeply down through the trees to the spot where a mill race meets the Avoca river. "I used to call the place by the riverbank my gin and tonic spot. I had a table and chairs here. But these days it's my oasis."
It's that mill race that gives the property its name - the mill next door once belonged to the three Wynne sisters who lived at nearby Tigroney House and revived the mill in the 1920s to give employment to the area, growing plants for their dyes in their walled garden. Donald Pratt bought the mills in 1970 and the family-run Avoca Handweavers sold last year to American catering company Aramark for over €60m.
Eileen bought Millmount in 1996 and set about refurbishing it, restoring the pretty glass-windowed porch, replacing the garage and galley kitchen tacked onto the side of the house with a fine kitchen/dining extension that has bespoke top-of-the-range units by Andrew Ryan and also houses a gym and guest WC.
In the process, Eileen unearthed all sorts of historical goodies dating back to the 17th century. On a hunch, she asked her builder to take down the plaster on one wall of her study and uncovered a brick inglenook fireplace. "There are two pieces of wood in the back of the hearth that were made to look like bricks but you could remove them to use it as a hiding place for your valuables." She also discovered a wine cellar below the dining room floor large enough to house a generous supply of vintages.
The original house is modestly sized but with fine features and good proportions. There's a marble fireplace in the light-filled drawing room and many original features such as shutters, granite lintels and old beams still survive.
Upstairs there are three good-sized bedrooms, one with an en suite and a walk-in wardrobe that could easily accommodate a supermodel's dress collection. There is a second bathroom and a guest WC.
Eileen has renovated a number of properties over the years, including two in Portugal, and now she is keen to begin another on Dublin's southside and so she is selling up and moving to town.
The property would suit those wanting to downsize from a larger country house but not wishing to compromise on period details and the privacy the grounds afford. It would also make an ideal second home for someone who wishes to enjoy the Wicklow countryside but still have access to the city. Dublin is a 66km drive and Dublin Airport is 90km.
The social life in the area, says Eileen, is busy, with many a dinner party, but the area also has many fine restaurants including Bates in Rathdrum. For more relaxed evenings there's a good fish and chip shop, Hendley's, in the village and Mickey Finn's microbrewery in nearby Redcross. But for Sunday lunch, it's hard to beat Eileen's favourite, Hunter's Hotel in Rathnew.
Joint agents: Sherry FitzGerald Country Homes (01) 237 6300/ Sherry FitzGerald Myles Doyle (0402) 32367
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