At the end of 2017, after 3 years of nomadic life since leaving London, I moved to Ireland. I did this on the basis that I had to live somewhere, and in Ireland British people have the right to live independent of the EU – it was a safe haven from Brexit, which had left me determined not to return to the UK again – aka, Brexile.
Since rental yields in Ireland are amongst the highest in Europe, the sensible thing to do financially was to buy a property. On an emotional level, less sensibly, I wanted a really nice bathroom. Of course, with rental yields being so high, every habitable place I found I was in competition with investors – who thought nothing of outbidding me by €15K. After the devastation of finding the “perfect” place (two bedrooms, two bathrooms, in an apartment complex just across the river from the ~6 month rental I’d found on arrival) only to be dramatically outbid, I got real, defined my parameters, vowed not to get emotionally caught up in a place again, and accepted that the extent of the renovation work might be much more than “just” a bathroom.
Eventually, I found a place that fit my parameters. A 3 bed 1 bath townhouse in an apartment complex. There was parking, and it was empty and clean (unlike some places), but had had essentially nothing done to it since construction, well over 20 years prior. It was a shell.
I had planned to hire an interior designer, but after (also) being SOL there, I found a project manager, and set out to see what I was capable of on my own. My goal: the feminine smart home, modern, vibrant, but not overwhelming, everything with either purpose or beauty (but preferably both). At that point, I owned a desk, two exercise balls, and an assortment of art. I was really starting from scratch, and as my friend Camille said to me some time into this endeavor, I “really did go from zero to fully domesticated very quickly”.
To start with, the things you don’t see in the pictures. Every room has underfloor heating – so much better in the cold Irish winter. I was very intense about this, vowing that I would “be warm in February”, only to learn that not all Februaries are quite as cold as the only one I had then experienced. This means the radiators don’t have to be as big, and in practice I rarely turn them on. All lighting is Hue, so I can control the colors, and keep rooms warmly lit in the evening – which helps with sleep. There are Sonos speakers throughout the house, typically music is playing from the moment I wake up until I go to sleep. Similarly, there are 4 electronic diffusers and 3 reed diffusers throughout the house. As I set about creating each space, I asked, “how do I want to feel?”, and scent is an important part of that.
I thought about designing the house much like designing a user interface. Knowing my own limitations I eliminated texture – no wood – because it’s much harder to match and would make ensuing decisions more complicated. Instead I opted for the same base of mid-grey flooring and pale grey walls throughout, and then on top of that built out each room’s character. Whilst all the colors would be too much together in one space, they all work together, creating a sense of harmony and progression. In each room then, there were two decisions – accent wall color, and blind color. Much more manageable than creating every space from scratch.
I wanted the kitchen to feel vibrant and energizing, like a sunrise or a sunset. The pink wall and pink and orange blinds, coupled with a large flower arrangement on the kitchen island make this a space that I’m always happy to walk into. The pink shelf brings the pink from the opposite wall across the room, and the mirror creates more light and space. In this room, I opt for fresh and clean scents, like Eucalyptus or Tea Tree.
The kitchen is from Cash and Carry Kitchens, and was designed by Marie. I really like the white look, and it allowed me to buy high end white appliances and have them fit in, without dealing with the annoyance, flakiness, and limited selection of built in ones.
All the appliances came from Ann M at Harvey Norman Little Island, who was incredibly helpful.
- Bosch dishwasher, “extremely silent”.
- Siemens washing machine, extremely energy, water, and detergent efficient.
- Siemens dryer, also extremely energy efficient.
- Bosch fridge freezer, very quiet and energy efficient.
- Bosch induction hob
- Neff oven
Other notable items:
- The love seat and counter stools are also from Harvey Norman.
- The London pillows come from the Futon Company shop in Cambridge.
- The purple patterned throw is from Ecuador, I bought it during the Feria de las Flores at the Jardín Botánico de Medellín (one of my favourite places in Medellín.
- The art is mainly pieces I’ve collected on my travels, but several prints come from Wild Design.
- The cityscape above the shelves is from Boston.
- The four pictures next to it are scenes of NYC.
- The small painting depicting Paris on the shelves is by Jean Pierre Weill, it’s built up on layers of glass.
- The grey containers are by Starsglowing.
- The ceramic owls are from the Chiang Mai Art Museum.
- The lamp in the bottom right of the shelves is from Kaïko.
- The vases and tea set I bought on my travels in China.
- The rose gold bin is from simplehuman.
I wanted the living room to feel relaxing and peaceful, like dusk. The blankets and the scent of lavender make this a cosy place to chill out at the end of the day.
- Normal People are just People you Don’t Know Well Enough, I am pretty confident I got this in NYC, either at the Whitney or MoMA.
- The cockerels below that print are an original by Srijai Kuntawang, I bought it at the Art Mai Hotel.
- The planter was a gift from my friend Camille, by Madam Stoltz from Unbound.ie.
- The vertical black picture is a tea towel from Japan.
- I bought the big picture in the middle of the main wall from Perry St Cafe – they regularly rotate displays of local art.
- The picture of the boats is by Christine Creagh from the Yellow Door Gallery in Baltimore.
- The small blue picture on the far left is from an artist in Guatape, I found his gallery wandering around the town.
- The left shelf: The brown container on the top I got in Fiji, the vase underneath it is by Diem Pottery from Kilkenny designs.
- The right shelf: The bowl I bought at a store by the Museo de Arte Moderno de Medellín, the vase underneath I bought in Venice (that style can be found in many of the stores selling glass) and filled with regular fairy lights.
- The sofa is from Harvey Norman, and the black patterned throw is from Equador, I bought it with the other one during the Feria de las Flores at the Jardín Botánico de Medellín.
- The TV shelf is custom built for the TV (a 55″ Sony Bravia, also from Harvey Norman).
An early decision in the design of the house was to paint the staircase orange. There were various suggestions to carpet the stairs and make it a more neutral space (aka cheaper and unappealing), but I went fully the other way!
I wanted to create a connection between the kitchen and the hallway, and rather than let the hallway be bland and boring, create a light and beautiful space – this is particularly apparent at the top of the stairs, where the mirror, statement light fixture, and glass doors make what could be a small dark space feel light and spacious. It creates a lot of warmth and generally makes the house feel welcoming, especially when combined with fresh but neutral scent, such as fresh cotton.
- The shoe rack is custom made.
- The cogs I bought at the boat station on the way to MoNA in Tasmania.
- The map of Ireland picture was a gift from my friend Sophie.
- The picture of the woman above the shoe rack was a gift from my friend Rochelle.
- The pink and yellow picture by the kitchen I bought in Montevideo, Uruguay.
- New York pictures I bought from a vendor by the Highline in NYC.
- Flower pictures (bottom of the stairs): bought on my adventures in Canada.
- Beach pictures (near the top of the stairs): bought on my adventures in Bondi Beach in Sydney, Australia.
- Pictures at the top of the stairs are from China, bought on my adventures.
- Lighthouse picture, bought at Mizen Head in south west Cork.
- Boat picture by the bathroom door is from the Framemaker in Cork.
- The orange print on the top shelf was a gift from my former colleague Nick.
- Light fixture is from Galaxy Lighting in Cork, I saw it and fell in love – I love the shadows it casts and the way it reflects in the mirror.
- The rose gold bin is from simplehuman.
In my work on this renovation, my first stop was City Tiles and Bathrooms, where I told a lovely man named Barry that I was determined to have the bathroom of my dreams (modulo the depressingly small size of most European bathrooms). For me this meant: a rain shower and storage.
Note the little details in the shower – the shelf to put your leg when shaving, and the built in shelves. Finally! A shower with enough storage space for all my products without being messy. The cabinetry gives me space for all my beauty products, my beauty product stockpile, and even the storage of towels. Underfloor heating and a surprisingly powerful towel rack keep this room dry and warm all year round – even in February.
The light fixture conceals three Hue bulbs, which allow me to create the perfect evening lighting.
I wanted my office to feel energizing and creative, but also cosy. As I was working from home even pre-pandemic, I wanted to create a space where I would be happy to spend every working day! I like to scent it with something energizing like orange or mint.
Despite the impression the pictures give (wide angle lense on the newer iPhones is amazing), this is the smallest room in the house, and given there was no way to make it feel bigger and spacious, it was unsuited to a minimalistic approach. Instead I went for a kind of creative clutter. I love this room, everywhere I look I find something to inspire me. The hanging egg chair gives me a space to relax during breaks in a long day.
- Grey vase on the window sill, Paul Maloney from Kilkenny designs.
- The owl fabric covering the black console table was a gift from Ellen.
- The grey storage containers underneath are from Søstrene Grene.
- The hanging egg chair (long time dream) was from Debenhams (garden furniture range, but who cares) and the blanket is from Kilkenny designs.
- The desk is black glass and from Harvey Norman.
- The mysterious machine taking up so much space under the shelves is a Glowforge.
- The rug is from The Range (and yes, it is as soft and fluffy as it looks).
- The pinhole photography prints are from an artist who only sells them Saturdays on the Highline in NYC.
- The Calder mobil is a Flensted, bought at Kettle’s Yard in Cambridge.
- The light fixture is from Cork Lighting & Interiors, in the same style (but different) to the one in the bedrooms.
- The pictures above the monitor were bought from a vendor by the Highline in NYC.
- The raccoon pictures were gifts from Nate and Sarah.
- The landscape belonged to my grandparents.
- The panda pictures were both bought on my adventures in China.
- The cockerels are another original by Srijai Kuntawang, I bought it at the Art Mai Hotel.
- The small green vase on the top shelf was bought on my adventures in North Korea.
- The small picture on the top shelf is of Casa Mila in Barcelona, my favourite building in the world.
- The owl picture on the top right was a gift from Emi.
- The elephant, elephant vase and cat picture were all bought on my adventures in Thailand.
I wanted to create a guest room that would feel like a beautiful sanctuary for anyone who came to stay in it, whilst also providing extra storage space that I desperately needed with the corner wardrobe and under bed storage. I believe the only scent for a bedroom is lavender.
- The bed is from EZ Living, and features hydraulic storage (amazing).
- The wardrobes are from Cash and Carry Kitchens, copper handles match the copper light fixture from Cork Lighting & Interiors.
- The lamp is from Reykjavík, Iceland.
- The small purple vase on the left of my bed was my Grandmothers.
- The picture over the bed is a Japanese tea towel.
- The hanging is also one I bought in Japan.
- All other pieces of art were picked up on my adventures.
The final room, my bedroom, which I wanted to be a space where I felt happy and inspired to wake up every morning. I painted the wall my favourite shade of pink, and filled it with items that I find beautiful – as well as the comfiest, cosiest bed linens I could find.
- Bed (aside from size), closets and light fixture the same as the guest room.
- The pillows are Makimoo bamboo pillows – lovely and soft and hold their shape really well.
- The picture over the bed is called “Venice in Love”, by Jean Pierre Weill, I bought it in Tel Aviv, Israel.
- The vertical pieces either side of the bed are Japanese tea towels.
- The two pictures on the left at the foot of the bed I bought in China.
- The two owls on the right I bought at the Chiang Mai Art Museum.
- The two prints in the middle are by Felicia Thomas from Wild Design.
- The owl print by the door is by Belinda Northcote from Kilkenny designs.
- The glass orb I bought on my adventures in Nova Scotia, Canada.
- The two glass paperweights belonged to my grandparents.
- The vase was a gift from my parents from Jerpoint glass.
- The diffuser is Green Lavender by Urban Apothecary.
- Plants and plant containers: Hanleys of Cork.
- All art was framed at the Framemaker in Cork.
- Paint: Little Greene, Hickeys, Cork.
- Blinds: The Drapery Shop, Cork.
- Sheets: Household Linens, Cork.
- Downstairs light fixtures: Galaxy Lighting.
- Upstairs light fixtures (not hallway): Cork Lighting & Interiors.
- Building work: Darren Quinn and team.
- Housekeepers: Cleaning Angels Paul and Monica.