It’s now for sale. Here’s the story.
I first met international interior designer, John Coote, when he was working on a project in San Francisco in the late eighties.
He’s a charming man, often described as ‘larger than life’ for his wit, expansive charm and ebullience, and his extraordinary knowledge of design, architecture, travel, people, and interiors.
He is the best raconteur, and has superb taste and style. In the field of design he’s admired for his in-depth understanding of design and architecture history. Coote is also the owner of the divine Bellamont Forest estate in Ireland. Come along with me for a visit.
Historic Bellamont House, set in expansive grounds, Ireland.
Coote grew up in outback Australia on his father's sheep station (farm), and was always fascinated by style and design. He studied interior design at RMIT University in Melbourne and after completing his course, went on to work in design workshops to learn detail and craftsmanship. At the tender age of 20, he started as an assistant designer for Décor, one of Sydney's major interior design firms. Today he works on projects in London, New York, Asia, Paris and Australia.
International interior designer John Coote restored his house after a century of neglect, and is now selling this historic residence in Ireland.
Bellamont House is situated in rolling countryside amidst beautiful old trees, an hour from Dublin. The noble brick residence is considered by purists and architectural historians to be one of the finest examples of Palladian architecture in Ireland, and was said to be inspired by Villa Pisani.
The estate is set in the drumlin landscape of rounded hills and lakes dotted with wooded islands. The estate has more than 90 acres of land, including five large lakes, and extensive hunting and fishing.
Bellamont House was built of red brick with elegant contrasting Doric limestone portico and pediments over the windows. Architectural beauty, symmetry and balance are signatures of the house.
The entrance hall offers dramatic black and white marble floors and marble busts of Roman emperors set in round niches high on the walls.
Coote’s attention to detail and focus on correct historicity are evident throughout.
The highly elaborate drawing room plaster ceiling is dominated by a bold circular wreath. By contrast the library and dining room ceilings are coved and coffered in geometrical patterns.
Bellamont was originally built in 1725 for Colonel Thomas Coote, Earl of Bellamont, a judge, by Sir Edward Lovett Pearce, a year after the architect’s return from an extensive study tour of Italy. It has recently been offered for sale through the real estate agency Knight Frank.
In this recent image of John Coote’s son and daughters, Amelia is in white. She works between Europe and Melbourne in fashion. She is the buyer for the chic Le Louvre fashion house, Melbourne. Angus is a banker who lives in Sydney, after stints in Hong Kong and London, Charlotte in red, the youngest, is an interior designer who has her own business in Melbourne. She spent two years in London working with Future Laboratory and then three years gaining experience at Coote & Co.
In this shot, Amelia is standing in front of the Reynolds portrait of her ancestor Charles Coote, the Earl of Bellamont.
John Coote, whose design firm Coote Bernardi is based in London, founded Coote & Co, based in London as an offshoot to his design work. The collection includes fine reproductions, all very authentic.
"I found I couldn't get furniture made to my satisfaction, so we went into manufacturing,” noted Coote.
Coote & Co is very much a family affair. His daughter Charlotte, who runs her own design company from Melbourne, looks after quality control, This frees up John to do what he likes best -- spending his time with clients to discuss design work. Pieces range from €650 up to €13,000.
Coote & Co also offers hand-woven rugs made in India, chandeliers crafted in Brussels, and many larger pieces of furniture, which are handmade in Australia.
"My life is spent endlessly traveling," said Coote with a sigh, "but I find it very inspiring."
In the estate kitchen, Bellamont chef Ben Folkman prepares lunch.
A recent spring lunch at Bellamont: John Coote, and Australian landscape designer Paul Bangay, with dark-haired artist Robert Doble who painted the contemporary works in the sitting room. Coote’s butler is Nicola Orsi.
A chat with international designer, John Coote
DDS: You grew up in remotest Australia. When did you inherit Bellamont?
JC: The estate had been gambled away by my grandfather’s cousin, so it was out of the family for 100 years. I bought it back in 1987. I was living in Australia at the time.
DDS: It is one of the classical Georgian jewels of Ireland.
JC: Yes, it is considered the most dazzling. It compares with William Kent’s Chiswick house in London. Desmond Guinness, The Knight of Glyn and founder of the Irish Georgian Society considers it to be one of the most important early eighteenth-century houses in Ireland,
DDS: Please tell us some highlights of the interior decoration.
JC: Endless rooms on the Piano Nobile have the most beautiful plasterwork and exquisite detailing of joinery. All the existing fireplaces are original and intact, which is most rare to find in this day and age, I have cleaned all the original stone floors and dry scrubbed the Baltic pine floorboards. The house is very comfortable to live in, not massive in scale. You walk around admiring Edward Lovett Pearce, the architect, for his great skill in achieving perfect proportions.
DDS: This was Palladio-inspired?
JC: The architect spent three years in Italy in the early eighteenth century. He toured the Veneto and Palladio’s villas, such as Pisani and the Villa Capra, but I think La Rotunda was his great inspiration. The exterior concepts and proportions have a similar harmony.
DDS: What do you love most about Bellamont?
JC: It sits in a thousand acre park on a rise. Throughout the year, the light quality is wonderful. It’s an estate, so there are fish-stocked lakes, wonderful deer herds, pheasant and duck. It is escapist and glamorous and really like living in the eighteenth century.
DDS: Will you be the last of the Cootes to live there?
JC: Yes I will be. The family has owned the estate since 1660 even before the house was built. My son, who is a banker, has moved permanently to live in Sydney, Australia. He has indicated to me he has no interest in living at Bellamont, and wishes to spend the rest of his life in Oz. I have moved to London, and I work from my office there. I would like to do another house in Italy. I feel I have achieved what I set out to do, which was to save this most important estate. It had been forgotten for such a long time. It is satisfying and fun seeing it made very visible and important again.
DDS: I am sure you are in the middle of beautiful projects and houses.
JC: My company (www.cootehillbernardi.com) works on large ultra-private houses around the world, from architecture to interior design / decoration. We have just completed the interior of a mega-yacht, which is now in the waters off the South of France. We also work on hotels, restaurants and office buildings, in general a very exciting array of projects. I’ve had a wonderful experience with the house, and now it is time for others to enjoy it. I will be sunning myself in Florence, meanwhile, in my new villa.
The above images where taken by John Coote after lunch--and after a most festive ball for friends from all over the world. The images were from from a helicopter as he took off back to London, his family and friends waving farewell.
All photographs of Bellamont Forest estate courtesy of John Coote. Published here with express permission.
Location: one hour from Dublin Airport, Irish Republic.
Coote & Co, Bellamont Forest, Cootehill, Co. Cavan.
Tel: 086 345 5024 or 0044 7748 703 589.
For bespoke furniture and accessories, see www.cooteandco.com
Bellamont Forest is listed by Knight, Frank, www.knightfrank.com.
The American agent is Howard Margolis at Douglas Elliman, New York.
The American agent is Howard Margolis at Douglas Elliman, New York.
The asking price is 7.5 million euros.
The property is on the edge of the town of Cootehill, northeast of Cavan town, 25 kilometres west of Monaghan, 70 kilometers east of Enniskillen and 110 kilometers north of Dublin.