Their houses are big, historic and challenging – but they are determined to keep them open for business. Three young women explain why they’ve become the chatelaines of their family homes…
FRANK and Rosemarie Kennan are so synonymous with Roundwood House in Co Laois that it’s easy to understand their daughter Hannah’s belief that when she went off to university she would never come back. But come back she has, with her two small children and husband, Paddy Flynn, the Galway musician, with whom, eventually, she plans to introduce art and musical events at this lovely house, built between 1738 and 1748, possibly by Francis Bindon. “The idea was that one of us would be involved when my parents wanted to retire, but by then all the rest of the family were on very definite career paths. Frank and Rosemarie insisted that when the time came we were to regard Roundwood simply as a property and nothing more – they didn’t want any of us to feel under pressure. If we did decide to take over, it was to be for the right reasons. It’s not the kind of thing you can do just to keep everyone happy. Paddy and I took about a year to think about it, we didn’t even say anything to anyone until we were sure.”
Roundwood House and its remaining 18 acres of woodland and pasture passed through various hands, including those of the Georgian Society, before the Kennans decided to restore it both as a family home and a business 30 years ago. “I grew up with guests in the house, that’s always been the norm for me. But it’s a very special place, there’s a strong personal tie and it’s hard to regard it just as a business. My parents put every penny they had into restoring and refurbishing it, and now that they have moved out (to the coach-house) it’s still a family environment and our guests seem to like that.”
There’s a lot to like at Roundwood House, from its double-height balconied hall to its restored outbuildings. After three years in charge of what is at times a hectic schedule, with five-course dinners prepared by herself and Paddy every evening of the season, 32-year old Hannah has the confidence to say that yes, they are in it for the long haul.