‘All she had to do was move in and unpack’ – inside Cork beachfront property bought unseen and restored by one sister for another
2 Belgrave Place, Glenbrook, Cork Asking price: €775,000 Agent: Hegarty Properties (021) 4639411
Could you trust your little sister to go out and choose a house for you? And not only that, but also to renovate it from top to bottom and then furnish and decorate it for you? Without you seeing it? And without any contribution from you?
Cork-born sisters Maura and Odette Kearney have always had a very special relationship. Maura, who is based in Cyprus, decided in 2013 to spend five or six months a year in Ireland to keep in touch with her Cork roots and with Odette.
So she needed to buy a house for those months.
“There is a year and a half between us, says Odette. “Although she is my big sister, we have always been more like twins. We are the only children in our family and our parents are deceased. So apart from our own husbands and children, we only have each other.
“From an early age, each of us knew what the other was thinking. And so, although we have chalk and cheese personalities, we can very easily put ourselves in each other’s shoes.
So who better to pick up a house in Maura’s name than her sister?
Doubly because Odette Kearney is also a renowned interior designer based in Cork with years of experience building homes for private clients in the Leeside areas.
“So Maura was like, ‘I trust you to do this. I know that whatever you choose and whatever you do, I will like it”.
“So I put myself in Maura’s shoes for this project and did it the way I thought she would want.
“And believe it or not, the very first time Maura saw her home in Belgrave Terrace in Glenbrook was when it was completely restored, refurbished and furnished.
“Clean towels were hanging in the bathrooms and there were new linens on the beds. All she had to do was come in and unpack.”
So what did Maura say when she saw him for the very first time?
“She was blown away. She threw her arms around me, gave me a big hug and said, ‘That’s perfect! it’s absolutely perfect!’ It’s exactly what I’ve always wanted.
Odette is also aware that being wrong would have been quite a shame.
“Admittedly, I was a little nervous just before she walked through the door because it was such a huge undertaking to be conducted entirely on someone else’s behalf, but I was also confident.”
So Maura hasn’t seen her house at all?
“At first, when I was buying it on his behalf, I sent him pictures. But that was about it.”
Belgrave Place is a characteristic 19th century seaside style terrace found in both anglicized port towns all over Ireland.
Odette says No2 was built in the 1880s for British naval personnel. Cork held important locations for the British Navy and Glenbrook was among these key ports along with the nearby ‘treaty port’ of Spike Island off Cobh which remained in British hands for some time after independence.
Because naval personnel needed to have a clear view of the water and traffic at all times, the deck was built with an eagle’s nest view of the hillside, a clear benefit to the property owner. ‘today.
So, did Maura have a wish list?
“She wanted something close to home and overlooking the water, but ‘busy’ water. Like me, she loves simplicity and quality and craftsmanship. She likes things done well.
“When I came across No2 it was not much different from a period house we had lived in in Blackrock and Maura loved this house. No2 had already been redone during the Celtic Tiger years, but some important things had not been done, there were structural problems that needed to be solved.
“I thought it was perfect otherwise. It was lovely with these big windows all over the inside to let that light in, and the views were just amazing.
But it would take a lot of effort to fix it. Like any house of its time, some rooms had begun to fade and deteriorate over time.
“So we had to raise the floor slats and replace the joists that had perished. An extension had been added to the rear, possibly sometime in the early to mid-20th century, and this also failed structurally. So we had to replace a lot of the joists there in particular.
“The chimneys were in poor condition. We had to rebuild the chimney stack and all the flues that ran through the whole house. And this house had a fireplace in every room.
The distinctive cast iron balcony cage at the front of the house was also in a precarious state.
“We had it removed by crane and it went to local ironworker and restorer Charlie Tiggs who did an amazing job on it.”
In the adjoining reception rooms, the original sliding doors that disappeared into the wall were a stunning factor during the construction of the house. These have been completely removed, restored and their mechanisms repaired.
“We had specialists to restore the ceiling rosettes and ornate cornices and it was a complex job that took a full team three months.”
Next comes the furnishing of the house. “At that time the economy was in the doldrums and there weren’t many quality antiques on the market. So to find the right balance, I ordered the furniture to be made according to the house. So we called on the craftsman Martin Forde who handcrafted the main parts.
“We moved her master bedroom to the front on the first floor where she now has three windows and a balcony overlooking the sea.
“Overall, the setting I wanted for Maura was calm and with quality crafted and crafted pieces; a London townhouse look. So all paints come from Little Greene and breathe naturally. The quality British paint manufacturer is also known for its environmentally friendly formulas.
After spending many happy Irish stays here, Maura and her Cyprus-based family found themselves unable to return home during Covid 19. In the meantime, Maura and her family have since moved to Shanagarry near Ballymaloe to better enjoy the great spaces.
“We are so close that Maura now wants to move there to be near us when she comes home. So now No2 is for sale.
The three-story, three-bay home spans 2,450 square feet of accommodation.
The abundance of rooms means there is flexibility in how it can be lived in and used to help ensure the special needs of everyone in any family are met.
There is a large entrance hall, living room, dining room, kitchen/dining room, family room and four en-suite bedrooms. The family bathroom has a free-standing bath and the converted attic (currently used as a games room) has wooden planks, three skylights and blackout blinds.
The David Kiely kitchen and dining room on the garden level has skylights with electronic blinds, a six-burner Brittannia gas hob and two electric ovens. There is a granite island and a worktop with sink. Appliances are Neff and patio doors to a paved patio.
Outside there are three paved patios, one located at the front and two at the rear. To the front there is a boundary wall with off-street parking and a patio area. LED lighting is also installed with an electrical outlet. There is a jacuzzi hot tub in the back.
Glenbrook is located near Monkstown, Douglas and Cork city centre.
Hegarty Properties is seeking €775,000.