US designer’s Mayo escape with woodland charm for €425k

Owner bought unfinished Foxford property last year and since completion it has operated as a B&B and featured on a US TV programme

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Address: Grey Gate Lodge Foxford Co Mayo
Price: €425,000
Agent: CK Properties Auctioneers

"Forlorn and overgrown" is how Karen Mackay describes what she purchased at a BidX1 auction last year.

A local builder began construction of the property in 2008: “It had been left for a decade, really what was there were just foundations as the windows and doors had been removed, and the land had been used as a dumpsite,” says the American-born interior designer based in the west of Ireland.

Taking inspiration from the old gardener’s cottage in the Victorian-walled garden at Kylemore Abbey in Connemara, Mackay completed the build in January 2020 and subsequently ran the 252sq m (2,712sq ft) house as a bed and breakfast (on an intermittent basis owing to the Covid-19 lockdowns).

"Coming from a long line of property developers in New York I suppose it is in my blood but I left the US when Trump was elected. I had been married to an Irish man for 20 years, and also completed an MBA in University College Dublin. I studied real estate and interior design in New York, but eventually decided to set up my businesses here."


Mackay runs an interior design business along with a lifestyle company Wild Atlantique, which sells eco-clothing and décor products from her home in Foxford. She now hopes to relocate to Jersey to open a flagship shop and cafe. “If that doesn’t go through I will head to Dublin where I lived for a couple of years, as I really miss the sea.”

The cottage was featured on the House Hunters International television programme on the HGTV channel, and the interiors are a lovely blend of antiquities within a contemporary setting.

Mackay used old oak beams to highlight the vaulted ceiling in the main livingroom, and a reclaimed Georgian mantle now frames the cosy stove. The front door was custom made using parts of an old stairwell.

The four-bedroom house has one bedroom on the ground floor, in addition to a livingroom, kitchen, diningroom, utility and study. Foundations have been laid adjacent to the house for a split-level studio – which new owners could complete if a separate home office is required.

The plot originally had nine acres (3.6 hectares) – but Mackay sold two acres – the remaining seven acres comprise gardens and an acre of bog. “Despite it being on the main road [which is a 15-minute walk to Foxford village] there is a country lane to the back which leads to lots of hiking trails.”

The interiors are superb with a focus on woodland creatures – evident in the papered walls of the downstairs bathroom, light fittings and cushions – to echo the fauna on the land.

For green-fingered enthusiasts the property has an organic raised-bed vegetable garden and wildflower meadow, but could be much more given the large site.

This well-designed home, in turnkey condition, is on the market through agent Carol Kelly of CK Properties Auctioneers seeking €425,000.

Elizabeth Birdthistle

Elizabeth Birdthistle

Elizabeth Birdthistle, a contributor to The Irish Times, writes about property, fine arts, antiques and collectables