Waterford couple imported blueprints from the USA to build their dream home near the Comeragh Mountains

Carraig na Radairc, Faha, Kilmacthomas, Co Waterford

Asking price: €649,000

Agent: Palmer Auctioneers (051) 872061

To extend or not to extend? That is the question many homeowners ask themselves as their families outgrow the space on offer. This is the quandary that John and Monica O’Donnell from Faha, Co Waterford, found themselves in during the early 2000s.

Their children were fed up sharing bedrooms and the house they were living in was no longer fulfilling their needs, so they thought that building on was the best option. That was until John went out for a drive and came home with a new vision.

“I went past this site, and I knew it and the owner very well. I said to Monica over a cup of tea when I got back: ‘I wonder would he sell that plot of land to us?’ Then we thought, no, if he wanted to, he would have sold it by now.” But there was only one way to find out, so John contacted the landowner and asked him straight out.


Owners John and Monica O’Donnell, who installed insulated plasterboard so the house is easy to heat. Photo: Bryan Meade

“I couldn’t believe my good luck when he agreed. So I said to him: ‘Listen, I’ve come on you kind of sudden, so I’ll come back to you on Sunday evening when you’ve had the weekend to think about it.’ On Sunday, I put €1,000 in my pocket and went back to him and we agreed the price and I gave him the money as a down payment.”

A family friend had given them some architectural magazines from America and this is where the idea for the design of the house came.


One of the double bedrooms of Carraig na Radairc

“You could buy the drawings from the houses in the magazine for very small money, so I did that and gave them to a guy up the road,” explains John. “He whittled them down a bit, if you know what I mean, to take it from about 6,000 sq ft to 4,500 sq ft. It took a little bit of time, but we got there eventually.”

After a long planning process, work on the house finally began in 2008. The project went by without a hitch, with John and Monica getting involved anywhere they could.

“We got a block-layer in to lay the blocks and another guy to do the roof,” recalls John. “We did all the internal insulation ourselves and with a little bit of help, we also did the wiring, plumbing and floors.”

The result is a 4,461 sq ft ranch-style property sitting on an elevated site, with different levels and roof shapes making for a unique-looking building on the Waterford landscape.

Off the entrance hall on the ground floor is the living room to the right and two bedrooms to the left. At the back of the house is a large kitchen/dining room with a utility to the side. This open living space is the couple’s favourite part of the house.


The hallway of Carraig na Radairc

“We have an Aga in the kitchen, so when you come down in the morning and it’s nice and warm, there’s nothing better,” says John. “I often get up early on my own and make a cup of tea in the kitchen and it’s like somebody has been down before me and has the place heated up for me.”

On the first floor, there is the master bedroom with ensuite and dressing room, two further double rooms, a study and a shower room. On the lower ground floor, there is a gym and a games room.

The house has a B3 BER, which is down, in the most part, to the couple’s forward thinking at the time of construction

“We put Kingspan insulated plasterboard on the inside of the walls because my theory is that you have to keep the heat at source,” says John. “We also got the cavities pumped so the house is very easy to heat.”

It is heated by oil and there is also an air-to-water system in the basement, as well as solar panels that help heat the water.

Behind the property is a two-storey garage with a Mansard-style roof that is insulated and floored. It was built with an office in mind, but could easily convert to a granny flat or self-contained accommodation for an au pair.

Outside, there is also a smaller shed and a cobblelock patio. The one acre around the house is laid mostly in lawn, with plants and trees providing colour and privacy.

The site was well chosen and the view is something John and Monica never grow tired of. If either of them has to get up during the night, they say it’s easy to get distracted on the way back to bed once you look outside, with the lights of the village of Kilmacthomas down below and the Comeragh Mountains behind never failing to mesmerise them.


A double bedroom at Carraig na Radairc

Their children have fledged the nest and set up home themselves, with two of their sons staying close by in Faha. The O’Donnells have already built another house for themselves in the area, sticking with the American-design style, albeit on a smaller scale.

Monica was very emotional after their previous house move because they were leaving a home where the children were born and it held a lot of memories for the family.

But this time round, they both feel ready for the next stage of life and are looking forward to many more good times in the years ahead.

Irish Independent