You know that feeling when you're clearing out your wardrobe and you come across something that you wouldn't dream of wearing now, but which still fills you with a warm nostalgia for the times that you did wear it? It's a bit like that at the moment with our house. We're currently in a whirlwind of redecoration - some rooms that weren't a priority early on are getting done for the first time, and others that were given some preliminary attention early on are being finished off or overhauled. As we go, we're realising how much our tastes have evolved over the years. So our house has a kind of split personality at the moment!
I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, much of the house makes me want to cringe. But it's also interesting to see our first instincts for home decoration and to consider what of that still applies and can be implemented in a more sophisticated way. There's also the fact that when we first moved in, we simply had to make do with what we had in a lot of cases. So, while it's easy to be critical of ourselves now, in many cases we actually did pretty well under the circumstances. And there's even a couple of rooms that we still really love.
So before we move on and start erasing some of our first interior design efforts in this house, let's look back and see what our first attempts looked like and what we might do differently now.
This was the first room we decorated after moving into the house. I think that was partly due the excitement of having enough space to actually have a guest bedroom, and I couldn't wait to have friends come to stay with us. Also I had an idea of what I wanted to do here at a time when I was still figuring out the rest of the house. And a guest bedroom is a good place to start with if you are feeling unsure as it's not something you have to look at every day.
I based this colour scheme around some blue and white Delft pottery that my mother had just given me as a gift when she returned from a trip to The Netherlands. There are also some shots of bright yellow for contrast. I wanted the room to have a simple, cottage-like feel to it, but with a bit of edge to it too. That's why there's a Gregory Crewdson-inspired photo above the bed and a chandelier made out of blue garden hose.
The walls are painted in Main Street by the New England Paint Company (I believe this was a B&Q own-brand paint that has since been replace by the Colours range, but I'm not certain of this) and the blue feature wall is Craig & Rose 1829 Chalky Emulsion in Smalt.
The bed was a pine one that we brought with us from our previous house and painted with white semi-gloss paint from Dulux. The bedside lockers (and matching wardrobe) are from Argos.
The flokati rug was bought in Ikea (in Belfast before they opened a store in the Republic).
The Delft candlestick in the window was a gift.
The photo above the bed is one I took myself and had printed and surface-mounted onto acrylic by Fire in Dublin.
The cotton crochet bedspread was purchased at a gorgeous little shop in Craughwell that has sadly since ceased trading.
I made the cafe-style curtains using fabric I bought on a holiday to The Azores.
The yellow clock, blue chandelier, and the Pigeon Light by Ed Carpenter were all bought in various sales at Urban Outfitters for less than £20 each! (That's all before the introduction of the €.)
I still really like this room and very little has changed in here.
The sitting room was definitely a make-do situation and this wasn't my first choice of what to do with the room. However, we were stuck with a terracotta-coloured 3-piece suite that we had brought with us from our previous house. We already hated it then, but it didn't make financial sense to replace it. So we just had to work with it.
Given that I hated the colour of the couch, I wasn't about to go using it elsewhere in the room. Instead, I wanted to minimise its impact, so my tactic was to choose an equally strong colour that I did like to balance it out. I chose Soft Moss 1, Extra Deep from the Dulux Warm Greens range, which I painted in the alcoves either side of the chimney breast. I decided to keep the rest of the walls neutral so as not to be overwhelmed with loud colours in the room, so all the other walls are Sundrop White, a Dulux Easycare Washable Matt (convenient because the dog sleeps in this room and the walls around his favourite lounging areas do need a good wash from time to time).
At the time, I had decided that I wanted a minimalist look for the fire. So we installed a multi-fuel cassette stove, the Riva by Stovax, which sits flush into the chimney breast wall. It is extremely efficient, produces way more heat than an open fire, and the glass door means that there are no draughts when the fire is unlit. In front of the stove is a heat-resistant slab of glass that both protects the oak floor and almost disappears into it for that minimal look I wanted.
Above the fire is a large photograph that I got printed from a glass negative in The Clonbrock Collection held by the The National Library Photographic Archive. This collection appeals to me because the photographers lived right here in County Galway and the images date from just 20 years after the invention of photography. I also like that one of the main photographers represented in the collection was a woman: Augusta Crofton Dillon. The Dillon family, enthusiastic amateur photographers, were better known as the Barons Clonbrock of Ahascragh. I do not have permission to reproduce the image online, but you may see it in the catalogue here. It is a photograph of Augusta Caroline Dillon with her husband, Luke Gerald Dillon, taking a self-portrait with the camera on a tripod reflected in a large mirror in Clonbrock House, and it was dated circa 1865. It also kind of amuses me that, rather than having a mirror above the fire like most people do, I have a photograph of a mirror instead!
The capiz shell mobile in the centre of the ceiling was purchased in Habitat before they closed their Irish stores. I got it at a reduced price because it had been damaged, but I managed to repair it by re-stringing the shells using a clear filament thread. On the suggestion of a friend, Hubby installed some small LED lights in the ceiling above it so that it could be used as a light fixture.
The sideboard is the Bestå with Vassbo glass doors in white, both from Ikea. The white glass vases on top are also from Ikea. The white candelabra was bought at Habitat.
The retro green rug is by Arte Espina, which we bought while on holidays in The Azores and which the store shipped back home for us. It was a great choice for the room because the asymmetrical pattern gave the illusion that the couch was centred opposite the fireplace, even though it couldn't be due to the configuration of the room.
The green standard lamp was from the Colours range at B&Q. The little green table is the Kilo Metal Side Table from Habitat. I liked it because I could put hot drinks on it without needing a coaster!
I sewed the scatter cushions (throw pillows) from fabrics purchased online. The retro duck fabric is by Alexander Henry.
On two walls we hung a gallery of old family photos going back four generations. We chose a selection of black frames in different styles, which made each one unique, yet unified the collection. I love it as it reminds me of the parlour in my grandparents house where I first learned from my mother about genealogy by walking around the room looking at all the family photos that had been hung on the walls down the generations.
Ugh! I definitely feel the growing pains with this one! I really wish we had installed a fireplace. And the light fixture, although I still like the look of it, uses older generation LEDs that don't give out much light, so it's really just a glowing ornament hanging from the ceiling. I hate that couch more than ever, but I still quite like that green. We got rid of the metal end tables and replaced them with the Lack coffee table in white from Ikea . The new coffee table is just filling in until we get something nicer, but I like that it has storage underneath so that I can keep things to hand without cluttering the surfaces. I still really love the old family photos and want to add some more that I have collected since then.
Update: See the plans for the sitting room makeover, which is currently underway - Sitting Room Makeover: Plans.
The dining room is open-plan to the kitchen at one end and to the sun lounge at the other. The kitchen and dining areas are both painted in Inky Pool 6 by Dulux. I still like the blue in the kitchen/dining as I love Georgian architecture and remember being on a house tour once as a child where the tour guide told us that they used to paint dining rooms pale blue as it was believed to keep insects at bay. (Apparently insects are more sensitive to the UV end of the spectrum, so it's possible that pale blue walls attracted the insects to them and, therefore, kept them away from the dining table and the food.) That little story stuck with me for some reason, and so I always pictured my dining room in a pale blue colour. The sun lounge is Caramel Sand 3, also by Dulux.
I don't like breakfast bars because I find sitting on high stools uncomfortable, so our dining area is the only place to sit and eat in the house (unless we eat off a tray in front of the telly, which happens far more often than it should!). I really love the idea of a large farmhouse kitchen table, so this is my idea of a contemporary version of it. It is a solid oak table that, with the extension leaves attached at either end, can seat ten people comfortably. The wood is unsealed, so we had a sheet of glass custom-cut to protect the surface so that we can just relax and enjoy mealtimes without having to worry about potential spillages etc. The dark brown leatherette chairs were chosen for their comfort and also to co-ordinate with the leather sofas in the sun lounge.
The wooden bowl on the dining table was turned by my father and is made from an elm tree that used to grow at the gate of my grandparents' house before it was finally claimed by Dutch elm disease. The blue cupcake-appliqued tea cosy was a gift from my sister.
I felt that the room was too long and narrow and I wanted to close the end wall in a little to make the space feel better proportioned. So I went with a bold and colourful wallpaper to achieve that. The design is Kastanjetrast by Hanna Werning for Boråstapeter.
The ceiling lights were originally all recessed downlighters, but I wanted to created more atmosphere over the dining table, so I replaced four of the downlighters with these red plastic and white glass Torino pendant lights, which were only £15 each from B&Q. (Again, this was pre-euro currrency.) The two remaining downlighters create a corridor-like feeling through to the sun lounge, which I think works well to zone the space in the dining area.
The vintage convex mirror on the far wall was an Ebay bargain, as was the gorgeous mid-century modern teak sideboard. On top of the sideboard is a blue vintage reproduction of the Gulvvase by Otto Brauer for Holmegaard (I actually prefer this colour to the authentic designs), a couple of mid-century style teak antelopes, and a 1960s black and white Studio Craft jardinière designed by John Clappison for Hornsea Pottery. All of these collectibles were won in Ebay auctions. The quirky little lamp made out of lampshades was bought in a sale at Urban Outfitters.
On the wall above is a very random collection of plates that I bought in charity shops and on Ebay. They feature everything from a robin to a knight in armour to a hot air balloon to African silhouettes, but the blue-ish colour scheme unifies the collection.
You can also just about see the oak kitchen cabinets and ecru quartz worktops in the kitchen. The kitchen cabinets were custom-made by Tuohy & Grealish in Carnmore, and the worktops are from Comer Granite & Marble in Corofin.
I love mid-century modern style, but can't afford the designer originals, so I am quite happy to score some pieces "in the style of" the originals on Ebay whenever I can; pieces like the coffee table in the sun lounge that reminds me of the UFO Table by Johannes Andersen for CFC Silkeborg, and the wood veneer pendant light inspired by the designs of Hans Agne Jakobsson and Verner Panton. It doesn't matter to me that they're not designer pieces because I really love them anyway.
The scatter cushion on the left with the bird cameo was bought from Olive Handmade on Etsy. The rest I made myself from fabrics by designers such as Alexander Henry and Joel Dewberry that I purchased online.
This is a funny one because although I definitely wouldn't decorate the room like this if I were starting now, I do still really, really like this. That wallpaper is one of my favourite things in the whole house. I love wallpaper, and Werning has become one of my favourite designers. When I found this, I knew I had found the wallpaper version of my soulmate! I still adore the vignette with the sideboard. The oak table is fantastic, but I could take or leave the chairs - they're still the most comfortable dining chair I've ever sat on, but style-wise I think I might go with something different if then was now. I'd definitely choose a different couch for the sun lounge, possibly something in tan leather instead of dark brown. But that room is on the short-list for redecoration, so I'll see if I can do something to freshen up the scheme in there. Read more about my upcoming plans for the house here.