Life Home & Garden

Saturday 24 August 2019

My little piece of heaven: Charity founder shows us her cottage home

Mill Cottage, Kells, Co Kilkenny: €420,000

Jadzia Kaminska in the garden of Mill Cottage which comprises a thatched cottage and adjoining stone farmhouse.
Jadzia Kaminska in the garden of Mill Cottage which comprises a thatched cottage and adjoining stone farmhouse.

Words by Katy McGuinness Portrait by Dylan Vaughan

'It was the best thing that I ever did," says Jadzia Kaminska of the decision to up sticks, leave Dublin, and move with her two daughters, Liadain and Kasia, by Fiachna O'Braonain of the Hothouse Flowers, to beautiful Kells, Co Kilkenny.

That was back in 2002 and Mill Cottage, though attractive and in good condition structurally, was in need of a serious decorative upgrade.

"I found the original brochure the other day," says Jadzia, "and the bathroom had one of those avocado suites. I'd completely forgotten."

Mill Cottage was originally home to the Mullins family, owners of the flour mill in the village which was operational until the 1960s and is now a cafe, museum and craft shop.

Mill Cottage comprises a thatched cottage and adjoining stone farmhouse.
Mill Cottage comprises a thatched cottage and adjoining stone farmhouse.
The kitchen at Mill Cottage

Initially, Jadzia and the girls lived in the reed-thatched cottage to the left of the main house, and extended into the adjoining stone farmhouse to install a larger kitchen and have more bedrooms. Once the girls had left to go to college in Dublin, though, the house was too large, and Jadzia separated it out into two sides, initially renting the thatched cottage section to a friend. Since 2014 it has been a busy Airbnb that sleeps four and rents for €120 per night.

"The cottage got us through the lean years," says Jadzia, a founder of the charity Cradle, set up in 1992 in response to the atrocities of the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The internal doors between the two sides of the house, which are divided by stud walls, remain and it would be straightforward for new owners to reintegrate them into one residence.

Both the farmhouse and cottage have entrance doors on the road side, but the main access is at the back. The farmhouse has several sets of French doors out to the gardens, and there's a sense that these doors are open whenever the weather permits, allowing an easy flow from inside to outside.

In the farmhouse, the charming kitchen has a tiled floor, Belfast sink with solid timber worktop and draining board, Rangemaster cooker and mismatched open shelving and dressers. The main reception room has wide pitch pine flooring with a large open fireplace fitted with a solid-fuel stove, and there is also a music studio that doubles as a study, as well as three double bedrooms and a bathroom.

The two-bed thatched cottage has its own access to the front and back, the reception room has the traditional stone, full wall chimney opening with a solid-fuel stove and original beam mantle and there's a neat galley kitchen.

One of the bedrooms at Mill Cottage
One of the bedrooms at Mill Cottage
The studio Mill Cottage

The acre of gardens at Mill Cottage has been a labour of love for Jadzia and her husband, Dave Donohue, a musician.

"When I arrived, there was an original orchard of apple and pear trees, and we did all the work on the lower terraces. I do a couple of hours most mornings, and then in the summer it's just a question of keeping on top of the grass. I keep hens and grow salad too - I've become a farmer!"

Outside, next to the red-roofed hay barn there's an attractive studio, where Jadzia works on floristry projects. In the summer these spaces are the focus of monthly music events, known as The Red Shed Club, which the couple have hosted over the past few years.

"They started quite small. It's a word of mouth thing. Luka Bloom played here once. I do a couple of big pots of food and people camp along the river or in the garden. Everyone donates something to cover the cost of the band and the food. We might have a hundred people here and when we want to get rid of them we send them down to Delaney's pub in the village and the session continues there."

Kells is the location of Kells Priory - Jadzia describes it as 'a hidden secret' - the largest monastic ruin in Ireland, a dramatic structure with seven fortified walls still standing. Jadzia says that the loop walk through the village and along the Kings River by the priory is one of her favourites. The river is full of brown trout that she says that she has not caught, but has eaten.

"At this time of year all the kids are swimming in the river and the canoeists are out," she says. "It's pretty idyllic."

Part of the extensive gardens at Mill Cottage
Part of the extensive gardens at Mill Cottage
A welcoming livingroom at Mill Cottage

There is a small national school in the village, along with a good local shop, Bob's. Thomastown, Callan and Kilkenny City are all a short drive away, each with a number of good cafes and restaurants. Jadzia says that she likes The Hub in Thomastown and Fennelly's Cafe in Callan. Kilkenny punches above its weight when it comes to fine dining with two Michelin-starred restaurants - Campagne in the city and the Lady Helen at Mount Juliet.

Now Jadzia says that it is time for a change; she has projects in the pipeline that have prompted the move. She leaves Mill Cottage in a more stylish state than when she found it - the avocado bathroom suite is long gone - ready for someone else to enjoy its bucolic loveliness, with a ready-made income stream there for the taking.

"It's a piece of heaven," she says.

Agent Donohue Town & Country (056) 777 0400

Viewing: By appointment only

Auction: July 6, unless previously sold

Sunday Independent

Editors Choice

Also in Life