Award-winning Athy school conversion for €550,000

The Old Schoolhouse has been lovingly restored by the owners and their architect daughter

Address: The Old Schoolhouse, Fontstown, Old Dublin Road, Athy, Co Kildare R14 CR74
Price: €550,000
Agent: DNG Doyle

Back in the early 1990s Maria Kiernan of Kearney Kiernan Architects was asked by her parents to attend the auction of the old Presbyterian schoolhouse on their behalf.

On her say-so they bought the pretty Victorian sight unseen. Her father, who had trained as a carpenter and graduated to contracting, took on the former schoolhouse and residence with the aim of turning it into a family home.

As well as having their daughter buy on their behalf they also asked her to use her skills as as an architect to reconfigure it for home life. Together father and daughter have delivered an object lesson in the art of restoration by removing the exterior render to reveal the original cut-limestone building and its granite window and door surrounds, and maximised the visual impact of the property in the process.

The refurbishment marries the two former school rooms (one for the boys, and one for the girls) at either gable end, where the ceiling heights rose to over 18ft, with the smaller and less dramatic rooms used by the teachers as their private residence.

The house now opens into a very smartly panelled entrance hall where a solid oak staircase leads up to its four bedrooms. Mr Kiernan made the hand-cut arts and crafts-style stairs and panelling himself using Maria’s exacting measurements. “He always said that if you could make a stairs you could make anything,” she says.

The panels were all cut to slightly different sizes to create an optical illusion of symmetry, but somehow Mr Kiernan assembled them in an incorrect order. And while he did not respond when Maria pointed this out to him, she found they had been taken down and applied to their correct positions on her next site visit.

To the left of the hall is now an impressive living cum dining room that extends to over 10m long. Half of it remains double-height, as it would have been originally, while the other half has been enclosed to accommodate the installation of the four bedrooms upstairs.

Underfoot are the original flagstone floors which had been hidden from view under a timber floor until locals mentioned that they might still be in situ. These were painstakingly restored by Mr Kiernan.

Doors within the bay window of this dual-aspect space open out to the garden, which extends to one acre. Across the hall is a mauve-painted kitchen which also has a flagstone floor and the arch through to its symmetrical bay window is picked out in brick.

Behind the kitchen is a study that was also designed to double as a guest room or downstairs bedroom with adjacent shower room.

The four bedrooms upstairs comprise three doubles, one of which is ensuite, and a single, along with the family bathroom.

This really is an architect’s home. Its restoration won Maria’s practice an RIAI regional award. The current Dublin city architect Ali Grehan’s late father Declan Grehan, a friend of the family, was also rather fond of the place and arranged for special small slates to be made for its front bays.

Ber-exempt, the residence, which extends to about 230 sq m (2,475sq ft), sits on one acre of grounds and has a detached, double-height garage of 31sq m (333sq ft).

Agents DNG Doyle is seeking €550,00 for the property, which is almost equidistant from Athy, Kilcullen, Newbridge and Kildare town. The closest place to pick up a litre of milk is the village of Kilmeade which is about four miles away.