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"It's not supposed to be something straight out of a magazine" - A beautiful Cork home that oozes personality

As part of our Dream Home series with Allianz Insurance, we look at a one-of-a-kind home in Cork that was made in its owner’s image.

HOME IS WHERE the heart is.

It’s where you go to sleep, where some of us work five days a week and where you relax and unwind and take refuge from the busy world. It’s only right that we care deeply for it and take pride in our home.

We’ve teamed up with Allianz Insurance to showcase some of Ireland’s loveliest homes to demonstrate the care and love we put into them. Whether you are a home owner, renter or landlord, Allianz have a home insurance product to protect your much loved property. Find out more here.

The second home in this series showcases how your home should reflect your personality – even if it’s not to everyone’s taste.

The Black House

Dave is an interior designer and project manager with RJ O’Brien building contractors, his family’s business that was set up by his dad over 50 years ago. With a passion for design and a keen eye for antique furniture, he knew that when it came to creating his own home, he wanted to do it his way.

Me Dave in the kitchen of his home.

It’s certainly clear from looking at what he built – a gorgeous and unique home christened ‘The Black House’ – that he did exactly that.

I would describe my house very much as marmite,” said Dave. “But that’s kind of how you should be in a way, it’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea.”

The home is built on family land that came from his mother’s farm. Surrounded by family on the small parcel of land 15 minutes outside Cork city, Dave’s appreciation of nature was instrumental in the design of the home.

“It was very much about a connection to the outdoors,” Dave explained.

“I live in the countryside here, even though I’m relatively close to the city, it’s lovely to take advantage of the garden,” he added.

Patio Dave's garden.

Dave created the design of the house in collaboration with CEA architects in Midleton. He wanted to create a contemporary take on vernacular architecture, a style that reflects the building’s surroundings.

Taking inspiration from a trip to Iceland where he observed structures with steel roofing and homes that were clad in materials similar to what he wanted to use, The Black House was also meant to look like both a barn and air hangar as nods to the countryside and the nearby Cork airport. 

Constructing the house was not without its challenges. Between costly building materials and a long back-and-forth with the bank, Dave found the process difficult. The build itself was unusual.

“It wasn’t a straight-forward design. We hadn’t worked with steel cladding on an entire residential property before, for example. You’re bringing in specialists and it becomes a little bit of a trickier build. It was a slow process,” Dave says.

Taking around two and a half years, the help of his family was instrumental in finishing the house. Dave’s brother John “led the charge” as he calls it, with the house benefiting from the teamwork.

Antique heaven

With the exterior put together, it was time to put Dave’s design skills to the test. His appreciation of antique and second-hand furniture meant he was able to create an interior that is timeless and uniquely him.

I would say 95% of the house is actually either a vintage or antique piece. What I like about that is that with a new build, it’s hard to add character. You’re moving into this shell almost, it’s a bit too perfect, like it’s not lived in. I certainly didn’t want to forget about the cosiness that our home is supposed to represent,” Dave explained.

The home is perfectly furnished with pieces ranging from the 15th century right up to the mid-20th century. These combine to create a feeling that is reflective of Dave’s taste and stays away from attaching itself to an overpowering theme.

“[Your home] is supposed to represent you. It’s not supposed to be something straight out of a magazine. It’s supposed to feel like it’s your home, that when you go home in the evening time or if someone comes into your house, that they can kind of see your personality in it, it’s unique to yourself,” said Dave.

One of those timeless pieces that the house was designed around is an 1850s rosewood grand piano that acts as a kitchen island. Protected with a layer of glass, the eye-catching piece is the focal point of the open-plan living space and still holds a tune.

Piano Photo The piano.

Speaking of the piano, which still divides opinion after Dave’s appearance on RTÉ’s Home of the Year, Dave said “I think our homes are supposed to be built for ourselves, they should be deeply personal.”

That’s the thing. I really wanted [the piano], but it doesn’t mean the next person would want that. It should represent our own style and our own beliefs,” he added.

Given the careful placement of each antique, you may believe that Dave is a perfectionist with a strict attitude towards his home. However, with Christmas around the corner, Dave gladly indulges in some decorations throughout the house.

C8A57E44-9CBA-41B8-A074-D11B7862133F Christmas in the Black House.

“I don’t think there are any rules for Christmas decorations, the more the merrier! I love to completely fill my tree with decorations, keepsakes, things I’ve collected from my travels, gifts from family and friends. That way each year putting up the decorations brings back great memories.”

For those keen to follow in his footsteps and start their own mini second-hand furniture collection, Dave advises against acting on impulse and to take your time instead when buying something.

Think about it for 24 hours and if it’s still on your mind 24 hours later, go back and buy it, because you’re still thinking about it. That takes out the impulse, which is buying things for the sake of buying it or because you see something of a good value,” he said.

The Black House is a testament to committing to your style and boasts a carefully curated interior and an outside design that is striking but also compliments the beautiful scenery it is surrounded by. Now enjoying his perfect blend of city and country living, Dave loves to spend time in his open-plan space.

Sitting Room (3) The sitting room.

“I designed that to be everything that I want to be in a room. There’s reading corners, there’s different spaces within the room, the areas are divided very separately, that they feel separate even though it’s an open plan space. And in the summertime, what’s lovely is you just have to open the doors and go straight out to the garden,” he said.

Dave’s delightfully unique home may not be for everyone, but it is certainly a dream home for him. For more information and a closer look at Dave’s fantastic home, discover his Instagram.

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