Turning a holiday house into your full-time home
Holiday houses that are big on memories or in great locations can spark a life change
Alan Coleman and Brian O’Briain with Charlie at home in Kilcorney, Kilfenora, Co Clare. Photograph: Eamon Ward
Having a holiday home can be a wonderful luxury; offering the opportunity to escape city life for a few days of rest and recuperation at the coast or in the wilds of the countryside.
But owning a holiday home also provides other options such as the chance to sell the original family residence and downsize, retire to the seaside or turn the second home into an office.
Brian O’Briain decided to start a new chapter in his life when he moved back to Clare from the UK and set up a coffee business. After years of living in the UK and returning to Ireland for holidays, O’Briain, who used to work for British Airways, decided to come back home to his native Clare and set up a coffee roasting business in what was his, and his partner Alan’s, bolt hole by the sea.
“Alan [an accountant originally from Dublin] and I had been living in London for many years but always came back home regularly,” he says. “We loved being at the coast in Clare and on one trip we came across this fabulous little cottage in a remote area near the beach. At the time, the price was too high and we weren’t in a position to buy, but it was always there in the back of our minds. Then a few years later, we discovered that the property was still on the market, so we bought it with the view to having our own holiday home in Ireland where we could get away from the craziness of our busy city lives.”
The house purchase prompted O’Briain, whose father had recently passed away, to re-evaluate his life and he decided that Ireland really was home, so he relocated to Dublin where he undertook a Master’s degree in international business practice while Alan continued to work in London, and the pair regularly visited their coastal property.
Then in autumn 2013, O’Briain was offered the opportunity to work as a consultant from home and decided to move lock, stock and barrel down to Clare where he would live and work and get stuck in to his new venture – anamcoffee.ie.
“Deciding to live in the house full-time was a fantastic move,” he says. “I absolutely love it there; it is so peaceful, the views are amazing and although our nearest neighbour is 1km away, everyone in the locality has been so welcoming.
“We had spent a lot of time doing up the house and when I started living in it full-time, it really came into its own. Then we renovated an out-house to set up the coffee business which we launched a year ago in July 2016. I am kept really busy here during the week and Alan comes home from London every Friday evening for the weekend, so we really have the best of both worlds.
“It has been an amazing adventure so far and we are both really loving the place – I am a bit of a risk taker and giving up my secure job in London to move back was certainly a big risk, but I feel so incredibly lucky and am enjoying every minute of it.”
Emma Lynch has also put her former family holiday home to good use as not only does she now live in the property, but it is also where she runs her design business – lambdesign.ie.
The four-bedroom house in Brittas Bay, Co Wicklow has been in her family since the 1950s – firstly as her grandparents’ holiday home, then it became the place to which they retired.
But after her grandfather died, it was sold to another family who lived there for 20 years and when they put it on the market two years ago, Lynch jumped at the chance to buy the property back.
“When I was growing up, I spent all my summers and weekends here and it was a very special place for me and my family,” says the designer, who is married to Peter and has two children (Cleo, 6 and Hugo, 3). “So it was miraculous fate that we got the chance to buy it back as I really wanted my kids to experience all of the things I did as a child.
“It’s full of memories and is a truly special and magical place to grow up. My kids are never indoors and spend their lives on the beach no matter what the weather and they have a huge garden to build dens in and make up games just like I did as a kid.”
Although it had been many years since Lynch had stayed in the bungalow, much of it remained unchanged so she was able to retain the aspects she loved and give it her own personal touch.
“The house was in its original state [when we bought it] and it was like going back in time when I walked in,” she says. “The smell and the features were all the same and it was so nostalgic. It was also great because I was able to put our own stamp on it and while it very much looks like it did from the front, the inside and back are completely transformed and people get a real surprise when they walk in as it is a really young, fun and bright house now.
“It was important for me to keep the front of the house looking like it did when my grandparents owned it as I didn’t want to lose the sense of it – really I wanted it to look the same but a new and improved version of itself.”
And running a business from home can be really convenient, particularly when you are a designer and your window overlooks the sea.
“The house is perfect for what I need and is really inspiring because the setting is so stunning,” says Lynch. “We are so close to nature all around us and also the actual house inspires me every day because it reminds me of what I achieved by myself without a professional architect or designer – so it gives me confidence to advise other people on their own projects.”
Hugh Duffy, who is originally from Mullingar, spent most of his working life in Dublin where he lived with his wife, Dorothy, and their family. Sadly his wife died in 1995 and when his three children flew the nest and he retired in 2000, the businessman made the decision to sell their family home and move to the holiday cottage in Connemara where he had spent many happy vacations.
“I bought the house in 1966, over 50 years ago, as a place for us to go to at weekends and during the holidays,” says Duffy. “It cost €17,000 way back then and we fell for it as soon as we saw it because it is in a beautiful position overlooking the water – it’s incredibly peaceful – and the children had so much freedom there so they loved it too.
“After Dorothy died and I retired, I found the house in Dublin to be far too big for me on my own, plus I realised that a big city isn’t really the place to be when you have retired because even though I had friends and acquaintances there, it was nothing like village life where everyone knows you and has time for a quick chat or a smile; it’s just a friendlier place to be.”
The father-of-three, who had a very varied career working in hospitality, broadcasting and publishing, has been living outside Cleggin in Co Galway for five years and says having the option to move into his holiday home is something for which he is very thankful.
“When we bought the house all those years ago, I never envisaged that I would be living here on my own at any point, but I am so grateful for it now,” he says. “I just love being here and don’t miss Dublin at all. I have one daughter living nearby so I get to see my grandchildren on a regular basis; and I am surrounded by beautiful scenery as well as all my books, so I couldn’t really ask for more.
“I know of other people who are making a similar move in retirement as the only downside they can see to country living is being far away from a hospital – but I’m not bothered about that as you could nearly be as long trying to get across a city with the traffic – so I’m prepared to take the chance.”