Andrew and Niamh Bagnall made the decision to move out of the city and into the country for the sake of their three small children. They wanted them to enjoy the great outdoors, while they themselves were itching to get their hands on a project.
They didn’t know if they wanted to get stuck into a big renovation job or start something from scratch. When they went to view the Carriage House in Somerville Demesne in 2003, they couldn’t believe their luck. Here was an opportunity to both restore and build something of their own.
“As a civil and structural engineer, I had always wanted to take on a home building project, so when we came across the Carriage House, we knew straight away that this was the perfect place for us,” recalls Andrew.
The old building consisted of a small kitchen, downstairs bathroom, living room and two dormer bedrooms. It came with planning permission for an extension, but the Bagnalls weren’t mad about the neo Tudor-style interiors.
“We knew exactly what we wanted, so we brought our concept to Paul Sinnott of Stewart and Sinnott Architects and they took it from there,” says Andrew.
The original house, which is a protected structure, was fully renovated along with the construction of a new two-storey barn-style extension. The massive project included matching the hallmark stone of the Carriage House with the new building; the creation of an impressive entrance hall and gallery landing; the installation of exposed timber trusses in rooms around the house; exposing a stone wall to link the old building with the new; fitting Danish double-glazed windows and doors; and putting in a new oil-fired heating system to include underfloor heating on the ground floor.
It was hard work, and the Bagnalls say they couldn’t have done it without the help of family and friends, but are very proud of the result.
Andrew thinks he’s going to be the saddest of the family to leave. “Our children, Dylan, Kate and Alanna are looking forward to a new adventure, but I’ll find it hard to leave it behind after everything we put into it. After getting the house ready for the sale we looked at it and thought, “Jesus, this really is a great house’.”
The property is part of the Somerville Estate, which was developed by Sir James Somerville in the early 18th century. Somerville was an MP in Dublin until his death, and was also appointed Lord Mayor of the city in 1736. There were many buildings on the land that have since been bought and restored, creating a little community within the grounds of the demesne.
Along with the ‘big house’, are two restored gate lodges, a renovated bothy cottage, the courtyard and clock tower that have been converted into living accommodation, and two new properties built at the stables.
The Carriage House has its own private avenue and sits on 3.5 acres of land. It’s on the west avenue, which is lined with beech, oak and horse chestnut trees. It’s this view out to the historic gardens that the vendors love most.
“Our favourite thing about the house is its emersion into nature and the fact that the large windows allow light to stream in and also frame the majestic woodland in every season,” says Andrew. “The gardens and woods are great for young children to explore and play in. We’ve had some great kids’ parties in the woods.”
At 3,660 sq ft, the house is a subtle mix of traditional and contemporary. The double-height entrance hall welcomes you straight in with a gallery that extends the whole way across to the original property. There is a fireplace with sandstone surround, natural slate floors and a precast concrete staircase that winds its way up to the next level.
An exposed stone wall leads into the original Carriage House where there’s a study or tv room with slate floors and double doors to the garden.
Beside this is the dining room which is overlooked from the balcony above and has a stove fireplace, timber beams and music system.
The living room has solid oak flooring, an open fire and doors out to the patio. This leads into the kitchen which has kept the traditional look with bespoke cream units and a red four-door Aga. It also comes with an electric hob, Neff oven, integrated microwave, dishwasher and ceiling-mounted speakers. French doors open out to the garden and there is a utility room to the side for a washing machine and dryer.
There is a large bedroom downstairs with an ensuite bathroom, making it ideal for guests or an au pair. Upstairs the master bedroom has a balcony that overlooks the woodlands, a high vaulted ceiling with exposed beams and walk-in wardrobe. The en suite has a bath and shower with a flat wet room panel.
There are two more bedrooms in the new part of the house. One is a single and the other has a walk-in wardrobe that is plumbed for conversion to an en suite bathroom. The last bedroom is on the upper floor of the Carriage House with varnished floors and recessed lighting.
The house may seem like it’s in another world on the grounds of Somerville House but it’s actually only a five-minute walk into Kentstown where there’s a shop, a pub and the local national school.
It’s an easy enough commute into Dublin with a choice of the M1, M2 or M3. It takes about 40 minutes to get into the city centre by car.
The area is also spoilt with heritage sites like Newgrange, Brú na Bóinne, the Hill of Tara and Dowth only a short drive away.
The Carriage House
Somerville Demesne, Flemingstown, Balrath, Co Meath
Asking Price: €975, 000
Agent: Halligan O’Connor (01) 6911 404
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