What happens when your period home is beyond repair? You recreate it from scratch

Asking price: €895,000

Agent: REA Boyd (056) 7764833 and Savills (01) 663 4307​

There’s always a great sense of romance attached to taking on a period home with the intention of restoring it to its former glory.

But sometimes reality bites hard on such dreams. When Stella and Denis Coughlan bought a 100-year-old cottage on a site at Thornback Road, Co Kilkenny, in 2003, they were attracted by its olde worlde character, as well as the views looking down on the city.

“We always looked at Thornback Road from years back. We even looked at fields to see if we could get a site from a farmer, but there was nothing, so we moved elsewhere,” says Stella.

“Then about five years later, I saw this house in the paper and I drove up and thought it was perfect. We weren’t sure if it was the right time for us, but because we always wanted this location, we had to go for it.

“We drove over that night and parked in front of the house and looked down and could see the whole of Kilkenny lit up like a Christmas tree and we just thought we had to have it.”

The exterior echoes the original Edwardian design

But once the restoration got underway, the building’s core problems, which had thus far been well hidden, began to make themselves apparent.

It soon became clear that vital walls were failing beyond repair and all best-intentioned efforts to bring the house back were in vain.

The couple got on to the local authority to confirm the structural prognosis and the council agreed, permitting the Coughlans to demolish the property and start again.

They were now looking at building an entirely new home. But as a tribute to the property they had hoped to restore, the Coughlans engaged an architect to see if they could replicate the original house as best they could, and on the same layout and footprint.

An aerial view of the site and workshop

Barry Lynch from EDPM Architects came on board to help them design an echo of the original and one that could also make the most of the vista on offer.

Thornback Road is 3.5km outside Kilkenny on an elevated site looking down over the city. The added bonus is that this view will never be blocked as there is a reservoir in front of the property.

The couple and their architect agreed on plans that would see the original cottage on the land demolished and then rebuilt in the very same design with the same footprint.

A glass corridor was created to link this ‘old’ building with a more modern extension, taking the floor space of the property up to 2,640sq ft. The result is Marelle.

Stella Coughlan with her grandchildren Emily, John, Lilly and Alison

Two decades later, it is still apparent that the ‘old’ part of the house is clearly in the mode of the popular Tudor revival style of the original house that was in vogue from the 1880s right up to the 1920s.

The original cottage layout is to the left of the entrance hall as you come into the house, with double doors leading into a sitting room with vaulted ceiling and wood-burning stove.

Beyond this is a bedroom with walk-in wardrobe and en suite bathroom. This part of the property could very easily be self-contained if needed for an elderly relative, an au pair or even an adult child looking for some independence.

The glass corridor leads into the double-storey side of the house. The ground floor has a kitchen with a large island in the centre, white country-style fitted units and a Belfast sink.

Hall detail with the elaborate period-style staircase

“The island in the kitchen is my favourite place in the house,” says Stella. “It really is the heart of the house.

“Everyone gathers around it. Sometimes at parties, I need to ask people to move into another room because there are so many around the island.”

The kitchen comes with extra storage in the form of a pantry and there is also a utility room for the washing machine and dryer.

The kitchen leads into another sitting room, also with a stove. From here, double glass doors open into a conservatory that is used as a dining room.

There are four bedrooms upstairs and it would be fair to call the master room a suite, as it not only has its own bathroom, but also a large glass-fronted seating area with views out over the city. There is a family bathroom on this level for the other bedrooms.

“I love working on interiors, so I had an idea of what I wanted,” says Stella. “I picked up a lot of old pieces over the years that I would have done up myself. I just go with my eye and what I think will work and put it all together.”

The main reception

The house sits on 1.25 acres, which are mostly lawned, with a variety of trees and plants providing privacy.

There is a paved patio outside the house and another barbeque area with seating further down the garden, along with a shed for storage.

There’s a workshop outside which would be large enough to convert into stables or used for a home business.

Thornback Road is a two-minute drive from UPMC Aut Even Hospital and five minutes to St Luke’s Hospital. A spin into the city would take 10 minutes, but Stella says she often walks in.

The kitchen with marble-top island unit

Schools include St Canice’s Primary School, Loreto Secondary School, Kilkenny College, St Kieran’s College and Presentation Secondary School. With the kids gone, the couple are looking forward to a new project.

“I’ll be sad to leave, but as I said to our children, home is where we all are. It will be the next phase of our lives. It will just be a house for myself and Denis, so we might buy a small house and do it up.

“We feel we need a bit of a challenge as we’re really active. I love all the DIY and decoration, so that might keep us busy for a couple of years, but at the moment, we’ve no idea what we’re doing. We’ll take each day as it comes.”

REA Boyd and Savills seek €895,000.