Tale of the Sunken Ship

I love the lore surrounding old houses.

staircaseRecently, our neighbour George approached me in the pub with a story about our own home. He had spoken with a gentleman called Vincent Fitzgibbon, who used to live in Killeagh. When the Hogan family owned our house, it was used as a sawmill that manufactured wooden carriage wheels from 1920 through the mid-fifties. Fitzgibbon shared his memories of working there in 1948-49 with George. 

As the story goes, one day a farmer approached Sam(?) Hogan to make some posts for him. A ship had sunk off the coast of Youghal, and the farmer had salvaged some wood from it. Now, Hogan was too clever to use this beautiful teak for something so utilitarian, so he told the farmer the wood was unsuitable for the task and offered to make the posts out of his own stock. In exchange, he would take the load of salvaged wood.

Apparently, this teak was used to make the staircase and front door to the house. I suspect that it also was used to make the fireplace surround in the master bedroom, too.

Maybe someday we can meet Mr. Fitzgibbon, and record his memories about the house. There is a very Irish tradition of oral storytelling, and I’m afraid writing what I remember after the fact looses much of its richness.

Come dine with us

Have I showed you my cast iron clawfoot bathtub? I’m super proud of my bargain finding here-250 euro (new this would be closer to 2,000!) We did have to borrow a trailer and drive to Killarney, but it was so worth it.


The room pictured above will be our dining room, as well as a place where groups can meet and exchange ideas, or classes can be taught.

When we bought the house it was full – nearly to the ceiling, of the most miscellaneous objects. We could, however, see there were beautiful limestone slate floors. Among other things buried in the chaos, we uncovered a brand new BBQ Grill, and ten 7-foot tall inflatable snowmen. I bet you can’t wait for Christmas in Killeagh!


It was so full of stuff, we had no idea that there was an awesome fireplace and oven in the room!


After taking down all of the plaster, we determined that we can’t afford to dry line the room right now. Secretly, we were pleased for the excuse to leave the stone exposed. The engineer warned it will be too cold and damp, but we will wait and see. It can always be dry lined in the future, but meanwhile we will clean up the stone. I suspect the addition of new windows, french doors to the garden, radiators, and a new ceiling will make it feel cozy enough.

I’d like to use lime render plaster, the old-fashioned breathable stuff, to cover the wall where new windows went in. On the two solid walls, I’d like to do a plaster wainscotting half way up, like at Ballyvolane House. I just went to a wedding there and nerded out at getting to see how they did it close up.


Photo of Ballyvolane House Barn from Localmilkblog.com, via Pinterest

I imagine the room will be rustic, with a long table and banquette seating along the window side (or maybe repurposed church pews?) There are six metal framed chairs I found in the house that I plan to refinish for the room. We found fabulous antique wall lights, and are doing a barter for two brass chandeliers. I’d love to decorate with wooden cutting boards and spoons, for warmth.

Does anyone know about plastering and want to give us a hand?



Developing our Programming

So the last few posts have been all about the house. Very exciting, I know, but maybe you’re wondering what’s going on with the residency, too?


View from the Writer’s Den

I’ve spent some time sussing out the legality of running a business from our home. Essentially, we will be a “casual b&b”, meaning we have no more than four guest rooms. We won’t need to file for planning permission for change of use, nor will we need a fire cert for insurance purposes until we go over 4 guest rooms. This is an enormous relief, because while we hope to eventually do those things, this allows us to open our doors as soon as the house is ready!

Fingers crossed, we will be in business for spring 2017. We are delighted to have our first artist in residence secured for February, but you’ll have to wait to hear more about that.   

As the builders work away, I’m hiding out in the caravan, working on the verbiage about our programming, as well as the application process. I’d love to have a conversation around these ideas, and invite feedback here on the blog, on our Facebook page, or directly via email to greywoodarts at gmail. 

  • Artist’s, what do you want and need from a residency?
  • What kind of support is lacking, or hard to find?
  • What facilities do you need?
  • How can you best represent yourself in the application process, and what makes this easiest for applicants – and reviewers?

I started by looking at the values I want to support via the residency: Process, Collaboration, Interdisciplinarity, Experimentation, Revisiting/Revising Work, Essentiality

  • In this context, I value the plan over the product. An articulate and transparent process – which acknowledges confusion, not knowing, spontaneity, strategy, parameters, etc. – is how we learn about the act of creating, and often about ourselves.
  • Collaboration presents many challenges, and I value the process of communication, negotiation, and problem solving as well as the spring boarding of ideas in pursuit of something unattainable on one’s own.
  • I believe the message supersedes the medium, and interdisciplinary thinking allows for selecting the best method to deliver a concept.
  • I want to offer a place t take risks and try things out – a space where failure is okay, as long as we learn from it.
  • I see value in revisiting and reworking ideas. I often see opportunities that focus on new work, but new doesn’t necessarily mean better.
  • Work at any stage of development is welcome, but there must be a strong drive to make it. Why does the work feel important to the creator, how is it’s creation essential?

Here are some DRAFT ideas for the application:

Greywood Arts is a multidisciplinary artists’ residency space in a private home in Killeagh, Co. Cork, Ireland. We have four bedrooms and can accommodate up to eight guests. There is a fee for self-catering accommodation, but workspace is always free. We are committed to delivering a service that is accessible to artists, and hope to offer fully-funded residency programs as we grow.

Residencies are open to performing and visual artists working in all disciplines, as well as arts related researchers and groups developing other creative projects. Participants must provide their own tools, equipment, and materials. See facilities descriptions or contact us to assess suitability for your project. We regret that we are currently unable to accommodate individuals with reduced mobility as bedrooms and studios are on the first and second floors (2nd & 3rd floors US).     

At present, we won’t be charging application fees.

Tell us about your project:

  • What are you trying to do? (project description)
  • How will you do it? How long will it take?
  • Why are you doing it? Why must this work be created?
  • What is the biggest challenge you are facing with the work?
  • Who are you?  And/or your company/members of your team? Bio/CV/Artist Stmt?
  • What are your goals for the residency?
  • Why is Greywood Arts a good fit for your project?
  • What kind of support do you need?
  • Would you be willing to engage with the community during your residency? (example: workshop, work in progress showing, exhibition, etc)
  • Do you have funding secured for this project? Other residencies?   
  • Work samples (How many?)


What do you think????? I’m trying to live my values by making the creation process of the residency program a transparent one. Let’s learn and grow together, yeah?

And if this isn’t your cup of tea, no worries, we’ll be back to renovation stories (with pictures) tomorrow!

The Process So Far

f you’ve been following along, you know that we spent months sorting through everything in the house. We filled four skips. We took down plaster to prep the walls for dry lining. We filled two dump trailers with rubble.

Last autumn, the house was surveyed. We spent hours pouring over the plans, sketching ideas, researching our options. The engineer put our ideas on paper, and we tendered the job. We scaled back, revised, re-envisioned. Once we had our contractor selected, we finalised our plans.

The process since the builders arrived on site in June has gone something like this:

The power to the house was disabled, except for two sockets for the builders, and the cable running outside to the workshop, which has its own fuse board. Our room in the back is functioning with two heaving duty extension cords coming in from the workshop. A temporary water supply was run to the old kitchenette in the back, so we have cold water for washing dishes and cooking.

Most days, three builders arrive at 8am and stay until 5pm. Based on who does what, I’d say they are a mason, a plasterer, and a carpenter. First, they stripped out anything we weren’t able to – like the guest bathrooms, partitions, kitchen fireplace, architraving, and ground floor ceilings.

Old windows were removed anywhere they would be replaced with new triple glazed PVC ones. The wooden lintels above all of the windows, and some of the doors, were either rotted or charred (likely from when the IRA burned out the house in 1920.) They were replaced with concrete lintels. Larger openings, for the two sets of french doors, were given steel beams at the top. One of these, in the dining room, involved removing a few square meters of stone above the door. It had these old metal strips crisscrossing to support from underneath – needless to say that doorway feels much safer now!

A fireplace in a guest room was bricked up, with a hole left for ventilation. Other nooks and crannies were filled. The exterior wall in the kitchenette was built up, as the bay window had to come out and will be replaced with a large PVC window.

We had a bad leak in the back of the house, which turned out to be worse than anticipated.

Water streaming in behind the plasterboard rotted joists on both the ground and first floors. The rotted sections were removed and replaced. As the work was carried out downstairs, a column of stone that was added to make a doorway smaller started to list away from the wall. We decided to remove it and make a bigger opening to the hallway – it looks and feels much less cramped now.

Scaffolding went up to access the roof. Having the slates opened made us really want to pop in some skylights, but our budget just doesn’t allow for that right now.

Wood framing went up to reconfigure the first floor hallway and writer’s nook. A press (closet) was built, which also helps define our office space.

A different team of lads came in to put up the metal stud work wherever we are dry lining.

Channels were jackhammered into the floor to run water supplies to the radiators. Holes were bored through walls and joists to accommodate more pipes and wiring.

We pulled up the old stone slabs in the hallway/downstairs bathroom area. That will get its own post later in the week… The builders levelled and insulated this area, and after plumbing pipes went through, they poured a new floor.

Concrete was poured outside where the oil tank and boiler will go (alas, the air to water heat pump and underfloor heating were not to be!)

Wood sash windows were installed in the original 1767 part of the house. PVC windows were installed on the sides and in back. They look fantastic. I didn’t think I would like the PVC ones, but they actually are great! We weren’t able replace the windows in the studio or writer’s den yet, we will be sanding and painting them to match the chalk colour of the newly installed ones.


The plumber and electrician came in to do the first fix in August. This presented us with a lot of final decisions about guest bathroom layouts and where wall lights would hang. It’s great to be able to decide where your electric sockets will go!

Slabs and insulation were delivered recently, and in the last week three rooms downstairs have gotten ceilings. It’s starting to take shape!

The yard is a disaster zone – we have a rubble pile, and a pile of wood for burning.


The best part of the process is seeing change by leaps and bounds on a daily basis. After so much planning, each day we have tangible progress.

History of a Kitchen

In our last post (2 months ago, yikes!) we shared our design hopes for our kitchen. I thought it would be fun to look back at the kitchen, and show you where we are today. Things sometimes get worse, before they get better!

Here’s what the kitchen looked like in December 2014, when we first viewed the house:


When we moved in, in June 2015, the carpet, sofa cushions, and wallpaper all had to go. The refrigerator and freezer were still filled with food (!) and went straight into the skip (dumpster). The ceiling and walls had to be scrubbed clean of damp and mold. I washed dishes for days. We couldn’t use the cooker until we rewired the room in August, so all our meals were made on a camp stove or outside on the BBQ all summer!

As the weather got colder, the kitchen truly became the hub of the house. It was our sitting room and office in addition to where we cooked and ate. I cooked and baked a lot! You can see us testing out different colours for the presses (cabinets) and walls. During the day, I would move the space heater to wherever I was working, and in the afternoon we would light the fire for the night. It was cozy.




This is what we found when we uncovered the fireplace. The light was too low to get a good shot, but look at the opening! Perfect to house our wood stove. We were hoping to expose the brick underneath, but it is in bad condition. We’ll end up having to stone clad the chimney breast instead.


Here you can see the room gutted, with plumbing run above, and metal stud work for the dry lining in place. Currently, rolls of insulation are stored in the kitchen. Needless to say, we are back to the camp stove / BBQ since the builders began in June…


Here is the progress of the french doors. They are going to make an enormous difference! It is still a low light room, which is not ideal for a kitchen. With trimming the trees back outside, adding recessed, pendant and ceiling lights, plus some strategically placed mirrors we are hoping to maximise the light we’ve got.

Looking out the doors to the gate at the river is going to be incredible. I’m imagining sipping my morning coffee on our patio (very low on the priority list…) someday.