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how we live

'The view changes every hour': Saoirse's cliff-edge home with a lighthouse in the garden

The 200-year-old house was built for Youghal’s lighthouse keepers.

About you

Name: Saoirse Fitzgerald (@thelighthousekeepsher)
Age: 34
Occupation: Business consultant and interior designer
Location: Youghal, Co Cork

About your home

What type of house is it? My home is a 200 year old lighthouse keeper’s house. I bought it three years ago, and restored and extended it two years ago. Before that it was the home of every lighthouse keeper that manned the shores here in Youghal.
How many bedrooms? The house originally had four bedrooms, but I converted one of the upstairs rooms into a bathroom.
When did you move in? We finished the renovation in July 2018, but I was still living and working in London until late last year so I was over and back. I rent the place on Airbnb when I am travelling from time to time, and hopefully will be able to do that again when we emerge back to our new reality.
Who lives there? Just me, although, it is the kind of house that always has people coming and going and popping in. Hopefully we’ll return to that normality soon too when restrictions ease up.

What made you choose this home over others?

I spent my twenties living and working in cities around Europe. When I turned 30, I felt I would like to have somewhere to call my own. I saw this place in a newspaper article, flew home and viewed it. I spent my school years in Youghal, and had never considered buying here, but once I saw the place I immediately fell in love with it. It wasn’t in perfect condition, but it had character oozing from its walls and I knew it had the potential to be a special place.

What is your favourite place in your home?

This changes all the time. The conservatory is the place we spend most time: eating meals, having a glass of wine, reading, doing yoga. You’d be surprised at how much activity there is outside on the water and in the air: birds flying, fishing boats going out to sea, jet skis, otters, wild waves.

With the rise and fall of the tide I get to see something different every hour. The bathroom that looks out to the sea is very peaceful, so that is definitely one of my other favourites. 

Is there any part of the home you don’t like?

No, I love every inch of it. Even my attic! The attic isn’t renovated, but there is such beautiful brickwork up there, and it’s a treasure trove of old newspaper cuttings from all the lighthouse keepers over the years. This home feels like it holds a lot of memories and  you feel that warmth throughout the house.

Is there any part of your home that makes it unique?

First, the layout. The entrance to the house is from the street level, which is the first floor of the house, where the bedrooms are situated. Then you go downstairs to the living area which can’t be seen from the road and has total privacy. From downstairs, we have a 180-degree unobscured view of the landscape and the sea.

Second, I think the craftsmanship makes this home unique. It was built by the same engineer and crew that travelled the coasts of Ireland building lighthouses and keepers’ houses on the island. Materials were chosen with the intent that they would survive the test of time, and would withstand extreme weather, and the stones and brick were sourced locally.

And finally, we have a lighthouse in our garden – it comes on at dusk every night, which I guess makes the place unique too.

How does an average morning and afternoon go in your home right now?

I always sleep with the wooden shutters open so I wake when the sun comes up, usually around 7am. I put on the kettle and have coffee, sit in the swinging chair and read a chapter of a book (I am trying to get better at reading more books). After that, I do a short online workout and go for a quick dip.

Breakfast is my favourite meal so I have that in the open plan dining room, and work begins at 9am.

At lunchtime, I usually go out the beach for a walk. I got a new patio area last summer, which feels like having an additional room so I try and eat outside if I can.

The property itself requires a lot of maintenance, and the windows take a battering from the sea so they need cleaning every two weeks. I try to do one or two main jobs around the house per day.

How does an average day end in your home right now? 

I finish up work around 5pm if I can and typically prep dinner. Then I go for a walk for about an hour and maybe do an hour of yoga in the conservatory, followed by a bath. Then, it’s time for dinner which we would have in the conservatory. If it’s the weekend, we would sit outside with blankets and a lantern, watch the lighthouse and enjoy a cocktail. Bed is usually around 11pm.

Is there anything you’d do differently if you were designing this home again?

There isn’t really anything I would change. In time I’ll do more with the garden, outhouses and attic, but I need to brush up on my gardening skills first! This home is a protected structure, we made as many changes as were allowed (like making downstairs more open plan), but there was lots that I loved in the place already.

‘We’re living on the land while we build our future house’: Inside Suzanne’s not-so-mobile home in Galway>

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