As an Interior Designer by trade, it's always fun to get a new project, and this latest one is very personal! Let me take you on my journey of discovery. In future posts, I will detail the renovation and redesign of this charming property but first, let me tell you how and why I found it!
I sold my lovely 'Carmel' cottage in the town of Rowayton (Coastal Connecticut at it's best) in 2016. It has been a couple of years now of moving around, renting here and there while building up the online business of Wild Atlantique. I have been blessed to have rented and lived in such charming Coastal towns as Dalkey and Killiney near Dublin Ireland, and Delray Beach in Florida. The last 3 years have also been about travel too, from Europe & South East Asia to all over the Americas. Although very exciting, for a homebody/Interior Designer like me, it has had an unsettling element of feeling disconnected and uprooted. I love Wild Atlantique and it has consumed my life, but 'home' has been more a suitcase than anything else for the last while.
Having finally landed permanently in Dublin, Ireland in August 2018, I wanted to find a place for all my lovely furniture and mementos, collected over many years. (In storage now in Dublin having shipped it over from the States last year.)
But where to buy? After watching the Dublin real estate market tick up steadily over the last 3 years, I realized that buying in Dublin was going to be a major issue! A rental apartment was going to be a better fit in South County Dublin near the coast, where I love the vibe and will base the WA business. But did that mean I would never have a real family home again, for my grown children to visit with friends and their own families one day? A place where I could have an organic garden and a library for all my books, along with a big expansive outdoor area for entertaining? A weekend/holiday home with a good sized garden was sounding like a good idea, but where to choose?
After a blogging trip in the Spring of 2018, where I drove all along the 'Wild Atlantic Way' from Donegal to Kinsale in Cork, I really felt the West of Ireland is where I could see a real 'family retreat'. I have spent many years visiting the West of Ireland and have always loved the rugged mountains, dramatic coastline, misty weather, and charming towns. I did a lot of visiting here over the years with my girls and even had a design project in Foxford, County Mayo (for more about that see the prior blog entry with a write up in The Irish Times.)
I was very open to finding a place anywhere in Ireland really but I liked the Wild Atlantic Way route and wanted to be close to it. I also wanted a project/fixer upper, and as money is an issue, I decided to give the online 'Auction' route a try. These are properties listed with an Auction company (BidX1 was the one I choose.) Many properties have gone into receivership and many are owned by banks now. The banks are trying to offload assets not easy to sell, many of which need repairs or haven't been lived in or finished in many years. The real estate downturn hit a lot of people in the construction industry in Ireland hard, and a lot of these properties are only just now coming to market, after all the red tape with banks and liens have been untangled.
I looked online at properties all over Ireland and this one jumped out at me for three reasons. Firstly, I loved the look and it came with 9.5 acres. It reminds me of a 'Gate Lodge' style. Secondly, the reserve price was incredible at €43,000! Finally, it was located in Foxford, County Mayo on the main road, minutes between Foxford Woollen Mills and the Mount Falcon Estate. This area reminds me very much of where I grew up in Upstate New York. Beautiful mountains and lakes abound, and it's not far from the Coastal town of Westport, Kylemore Abbey, Croagh Patrick, Connemara, Killary Harbour, Ashford & Belleek Castles and so much more. Even better, I had a few contacts in the area to boot. (Wild Atlantique is proud to sell Foxford Woollen Mills blankets!)
So I jumped through the hoops of being able to bid online. It's a bit of a process so if you are thinking of doing the same, then be sure to give yourself 3-4 weeks to get it set up and visit any property you plan to bid on. Also important to download any relevant paperwork/legals and get a solicitor to look it over for you first. I went to visit the property and there were half a dozen other people looking at it as well. It turns out it was an empty shell inside (see photos below) so I knew it was a complete renovation, but it had a good exterior and it had a 'lost in time' quality that really got me excited to work at bringing it back to life.
I started the bidding process at 8 am sharp. It was meant to finish at 12noon. I was the only bidder for the first 3 hours 50 minutes. Suddenly, there were 5 other bidders and it went it up very quickly in 10 minutes. I finally won out at €83,000, so it was a bit more than I hoped for but still an incredible deal. Certainly, the cost will cut into what I can put into it, but nothing I like better than a tight budget. It makes for really clever design decisions and usually something 'out of the box' in the end.
The funny thing, I only realized after I had bought it, that the house was sitting on 6.5 acres and there were 3 other (approx. 1 acre each) sites that were included with the house. This was quite common in the country as people would need separate fields for different uses. One is for cutting bog (peat) for the fire, one is a meadow (hay for your animals), and the other is a meadow with fishing rights on the River Moy! That is one of the best salmon fishing rivers in Europe I hear. This was a big surprise and I am hopeful I can sell off some land to get a bit of capital to finish the house. Kind of neat though to own your own fields for hay, peat, and fishing! I went from no home at all to 'propertied woman' in a flash!
All in all, it has been a really exciting process. I couldn't be happier to know that I will get a chance to create something unique and special as a family home, with enough land to create a wonderful garden. I love what the vision for the house has been to date and will tweak the floor plan to accommodate my needs. I may even 'let' the house out to visitors as a holiday home offering an opportunity to stay/enjoy the Wild Atlantic Way region!
Watch for future blog posts to see how the property progresses and be sure to reach out with any questions or thoughts!
Wishing you all Happy!
- Karen Mackay
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