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Inspiration, Lifestyle, Nature & the Coast

Colourful Copenhagen

I am just home from a busy and inspirational trip to Denmark.

My sister, Alva is based there at the moment living in a very privileged situation 

– right in the centre of the old part of Copenhagen, Nyhavn2016-08-26 10.23.48The exterior of the building is a beautiful pink.2016-08-26 18.43.58But once you are through the doors it leads to courtyard where the walls are an ochre lime render – a colour I have been researching lately for another project. 2016-08-25 10.24.30

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I had the opportunity to meet lots of interesting Danes during the visit. We chatted about the use of the Danish flag in interiors. The Danes see the use of their flag to mean ‘hooray lets party!’ rather than a huge nationalistic pride. You have to admit it is a good looking graphic and makes great bunting.

There were swims to be had around the corner at the newly built Ofelia Plads. Lots of people had the same idea…. sandwiches, chilled Rosé, Danish flag napkins and a towel…sorted.

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We visited the Stunning Rosenborg Castle – a 17th Century Palace in Copenhagen built by Christian IV. It was filled with atmosphere, partly thanks to its very clever lighting akin to candlelight. I think they even had ‘Hygge’ in those days, as my friend Helen Russell will tell you

It reminded us both of Ham House in Surrey.

One of the highlights of the trip was a naughty afternoon spent drinking fizz in the sun in one of my favourite places in the world!  Nyboder is a district Copenhagen made up of rows of purpose built Naval Barracks built in the mid 18th century, currently embarking on full and faithful restoration  – as with most old buildings in Denmark. Henriette, our wonderful host explained that the building would have housed the wives and children of the sailors and they very much shared their homes and gardens and supporting eachother for the months while their husbands were at sea.

It is still mostly inhabited by the Danish navy, army and airforce and their is definitely a distinct feeling there. The colour of the render is known as Nyboder yellow. If ever a colour lifted the soul!


On our last day we went sailing in Roskilde Fjord. The reason Alva came to Denmark was to sail on the Sea Stallion, a working replica of a viking longship unearthed in Roskilde, which tests revealed the wood it was built with grew in our own Glendalough in County Wicklow! Read more about Alva’s adventures on the ship here. There is fabulous working museum there – worth a trip.  We went sailing on a replica of a Norwegian fishing boat. It was, shall we say, a very exciting and a bit hairy at times due to unforecast winds that came from nowhere.

Love the colour of the sails  – and the boat was painted white, pink, orange and green.

I have returned home with a heart full of inspiration fueling my love of colour. I met some fantastic people, notedly strong women who work hard and like a good laugh. There was thoughtful design everywhere I looked. Older buildings are cherished and lived in and maintained, therefore are surviving. I am seeing quite a lot of refurbishment on a few of the projects I am working on here in Ireland. I think we are getting better at being faithful to our heritage and being a bit more gutsy in our own use of colour. I would encourage you to consider using it somewhere outside as well as inside. Even on a dull rainy day it can be uplifting!


p.s. It is great to come home to this little fellow and race up to the cliffs where it is evident the Season is achanging. I’m ready…


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Antiques & Antiquing, Art, Inspiration, Interior Style, Nature & the Coast

Pottery love

This month we availed of the fairly new route with AerLingus … Dublin to Newquay. Cornwall has been a beloved holiday destination of mine for about 20 years but it can be quite a trek, so to have hopped on a sweet little plane after a brunch in Dublin airport and in just over an hour to be in taxi whizzing through windy roads the tiny little village of Portloe was a delightful revelation.

Anyhow my ‘thing’ when I travel is to buy ceramics, something you can use when you get home and nod to fond memories as you sup your tea or look for the right vessel to best enhance the latest blooms from the garden.

My latest grá is for painterly ceramics – each piece is unique, a 3D painting really so what an affordable way to collect! Each piece adds colour and pattern to the room they’re in whether they are on the kitchen table, on a window sill or in pride of place on a shelf.

I try and keep a record of who has made them also. Above there are pieces by Kevin Warren, bottom left while top left is by David Garland and the little pot by the boxing hare is fish pye pottery.

If you go to Cornwall, I would recommend a visit to The Sandpiper Gallery in Mousehole where new owner Celia has curated a delicious mix of colours & textures in the dreamy setting of an airy room overlooking the harbour.

In St Ives – which is synonymous with art & studio pottery,  there is a hidden gem St Ives Ceramics which has an informal shop but as you sink deeper in to the depths of the building it takes on a museum like quality as the most fantastic collection of Japanese & British pottery (including plenty of Bernard Leach pieces) spanning a century, these are behind glass so there is no worries about knocking anything over with your giant handbag (that’s me). That part of the shop would be for the avid collectors and perhaps not a starting point. Buy something that catches your eye – that you want to cradle in your hands, wrapped carefully it will travel back nestled in your suitcase – unpacking becomes a joy as you unwrap the pieces and see them immediately brighten up their new surroundings.

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Antiques & Antiquing, Art, Inspiration, Interior Style, Nature & the Coast

The Natural Showhome – part 2

On we go upstairs – a large scale antique patchwork wall hanging in the stairwell is contemporary while also bringing texture and gravitas to the space.

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The stairway leads up to one of my favourite places in the house – the spacious landing.

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I commissioned fellow Wicklow based craftsman James Carroll to make a bench for this particular space. The seat has been made from Elm, the legs from Ash with inset details in Walnut – all grown in Wicklow.

Glimpse in to one of the rooms leading off here and we see a gorgeous little etching / aquatint called ‘Cloud: Half formed’ by Niamh Flanagan.


In to the first bedroom which has a balcony looking out to the hills.

There is crisp white linen, a felt wool upholstered headboard, a quilted cotton bedspread and herringbone throw all set off by the restful blue of the walls. Loving the seagulls flying above the bed.

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Next we have the family bathroom – the wall tiles here remind me of distressed metal. They are warmed up by the solid oak bathroom accessories. It is all very simple in here. As with all the bathrooms in the house, there are lots of clean lines and plenty of places to put everything, be it decorative or functional.

There are charcoal linen blinds and concrete floor tiles setting off the paler grey of the tile. 2016-04-09 10.45.10


Down the passageway to two more bedrooms..



We are now in the guest bedroom with en-suite, a room that I think could easily be an alternative master bedroom.

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Across the hallway a door leads in to the twin room.

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I think twin beds are really versatile in a home. I spent a lot of time in other peoples’ homes and I am increasingly finding that children love sharing a room with their siblings – creating a lifelong bond. I was also thinking of the house being full of visitors and twin beds in a guest room is so much more versatile for overnight guests.


Right, off in to the master bedroom

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This is a very serene and opulent room with dusty pink velvets and linens, inspired by the botanic etching on the wall by Marta Wakula-Mac.



There is a walk thru wardrobe in a fantastic finish resembling the tones in wet cement. Here there is a dramatic mirror reflecting the light from the bedroom window

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A stunning etching by Maev Lenaghan ‘La Vie en Rose’ sits beautifully in the dressing room.

All the artworks in the house were acquired through my Home Curation Service and were intrinsic to the colours and feel of every room.


This atmospheric vestibule leads through to the most fabulous en-suite, it feels like this room goes on forever. Here the porcelain tiles resemble slate, creating a rich contrast with the oak and white. LOVE it.


Thus concludes the tour of Cluain Mara nestled in the hill above the beautiful harbour town of Kinsale. I have hugely enjoyed being given free reign to create a home that is rich in atmosphere and decorative detail, inspired by the colours and textures of its surrounds.


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Antiques & Antiquing, Inspiration, Interior Style, Nature & the Coast

The Natural Showhome

I have spent the Winter working on creating a very special, and I think, thoughtful showhouse for my fellow visionaries, Centurion Homes in Kinsale, County Cork.

It is the first house in an enclave of new houses called Cluain Mara situated up the hill on Farm Lane – a short walk away from the hustle & bustle of one of my favourite Irish harbour towns.

After months of  planning, gathering,  sourcing, visualising and imagining, we had a team of hugely hardworking peeps helping me putting the final pieces together, painting, refurbishing and upcycling furniture, hanging and steaming curtains, making the oh so many beds, cleaning and cleaning again. Everyone mucked in and the house, which was so detailed, it was finished only an hour before the launch on the 9th of April. The good news is, it went down a treat and the buyers are a buying.

Nature, the Coast, and the lifestyle that comes with living with all of that on your doorstep are the subtle inspiration in the house. There is a cohesive use of wools, velvets, linens & tweeds throughout the house and I have concentrated on creating a very relaxed, all be it different, atmosphere in every room. All the paint colours are natural tones and hues chosen from Colourtrend Paints – an Irish paint company with high quality paint, both in pigment and durability.

The flooring laid in the kitchen, dining space and hallway is high-end engineered oak facilitating the underfloor heating, while the sitting room, den and stairs and upstairs rooms have a very comfy 100% wool carpet.
I have focused on every little detail throughout the house, so the potential homeowner is given the feeling that they could just put their suitcase down and move in, feeling right at home.

Would you like a tour?

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Entering the hallway there is an antique mirror flanked by objects with coastal nod as the Sea is only a stroll away. Nearby, a detailed mezzotint by Master Printmaker James McCreary also references the surrounding countryside.

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In through to the large kitchen / dining space which spans the length of the house. Here, there is a juxtaposition of the sleek matte contemporary kitchen units by Kube and the antique  & wooden pieces that I have brought in to add warmth and an perhaps an air of fabulousness methinks.

Isn’t that the nicest utility room? I always think people cut corners on their utility rooms, but I think you want to be in a beautiful place when doing those tedious tasks. The bespoke light was made especially for for the space by Coppergreen.ie.

In the front window of the kitchen there is a ‘love seat’ to sit in the sunshine while others toil in the kitchen, or you can sit up to the island for a better view.


On through to the dining space – separated by a half wall – the cosy atmosphere is enhanced by an antique wheatsheaf chandelier. The recycled elm dining table is ready to be gathered around for supper.


Next we go to the sitting room – a very different feeling here – light and airy in the daytime but pull the dark green linen blinds, light the fire and sink in to the wool carpet and it is cosy time. The refurbished Swedish style cupboard houses vintage board games for everyone to play with in front of the flickering flames after a day out sailing or hiking.

Once again lighting is key in this room. The black & copper sconces were designed specifically for either side of the fireplace by Coppergreen.ie, while the gorgeous oversized clay & wooden lamps are from the wonderful local shop in the Kinsale, ‘Granny’s Bottom Drawer’. The bespoke oak mantle and bench/firewood store was made for us to our specifications by Carrigaline Joinery, while the honed limestone hearth was made by local firm O’Callaghan Fireplaces in Halfway.

Down the hallway to the study / den… this is where you watch a movie with a big bowl of popcorn…. or perhaps you need a quiet, peaceful space to work from home. An old map of the area lets you know exactly where you are.


Further down the hall, there is a sweet downstairs WC in my favourite seaweed colour.


Tomorrow, we go upstairs……….

Delicious, Lifestyle

Mum’s lemon drizzle cake

My Mum passed this recipe on to me when I began making my own home, you can make it for a song and its lovely to have to hand when someone calls over. It reminds me of her whenever I make it – which makes it taste all the more sweet!

lemon drizzle

6 oz self raising flour – sieved

4 oz margarine

6 oz caster sugar

2 eggs

2 tablespoons milk

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 lemon rind -grated

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Chuck everything in a mixing bowl and mix well

Pour into a greased 2 LB loaf tin and bake for 1 hour at 180C gas mark 4

Make icing with the juice from the lemon and ice the cake when baked before you turn it out to cool.


Lovely with a pot of tea…

or a cheeky glass of fizz!


Lifestyle, Nature & the Coast

a sweet festival

Our local Summer festival was held in a field by the sea yesterday

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I love going to it as it an uncommercial and back to basics as you can get

Graeme, one of the gardeners from Mount Usher had a table where he was demonstrating propagating 

His wife, animal lover Barbara was judging the dog show

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All my choir ladies were popping up everywhere – selling raffle tickets, making teas, counting money in caravans!

My old friends the Mansons from Ballyrogan had the art stand and were creating masterpieces with the children. 

I had a lovely chat with the gents who run the bee keeping association for Ashford and district

They were telling me all about the hierarchy of bees and showing me the Queen holding court while all her courtiers were cleaning her (she is the one with the green mark below)

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I bought some honey from them. I look forward to it knowing that this honey was made from local oilseed rape, clover and brambles. 

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I also learnt something I never knew, that when your honey granulates, (which is a good sign by the way – it means it is pure honey) it can be brought back by gently heating it – in a saucepan of water or if you are cooling down the oven – you just have to take off the lid while doing so.

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At one stage, as they were doing the raffle I was asked to pick from the tombola (which I couldn’t reach) I was described as they were trying to get my attention – on the mic as “the lady with the little dog and glass of rosé” I thought  “that sounds like me” “oh it is me!”


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boys against the girls in the tug-of-war

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with a very strict ref

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the boys – just before they lost….

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Tidy up time….

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all that was left by the evening 

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Inspiration, Interior Style

A Haven

I recently created a very special master bedroom in a clients early Victorian home in County Dublin.

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The room stretches across the width of the house and the huge sash windows look out over the neighbouring houses trickling down towards Dublin Bay.

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I thought the way to make the most of this would be to make the view be the star with the use of paint colours. Using the gorgeous new greys from Little Greene we painted the walls in Grey Moss and all the woodwork was subtly brought out with Toad. Both rich dark greys with undertones of green and brown.

The ceiling was painted Down.

I sourced a unique mantlepiece in its raw form – its honey colour set against the warm dark walls is a picture.

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The clients’ artwork pops out from the dramatic background

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The result is a restful place to escape in a busy family home. 

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Architectural details sing set against the paint colours



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