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Tuesday 16 September 2014

Bespoke in Ballsbridge: Home styled to promote Clio Forde business

One-time fashion guru Breda Clifford's Dublin 4 home has been styled to promote her business, writes Mark Keenan

Published 21/03/2014 | 02:30

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An exterior view of Claremont
Breda Clifford in her high-flying fashion days
Another view of the rear garden.

FOR a time uniformed Irish corporate workers everywhere thanked their stars for Breda Clifford. Breda was the home grown designer who brought pizzazz, style and class into corporate dress for Irish employees of banks, hospitality firms and airlines.

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Thanks to her fashion company Clio Forde (Cli-fford – geddit?) the high flying ladies who worked for Ryanair and Cityjet – as well as their more grounded sisters in Aer Rianta, Guinness and Irish Nationwide (among others) – got kitted out in classy and elegantly feminine daywear in an otherwise humdrum world of corporate wear where shiny navy frump cuts had hitherto ruled supreme.

The Kerry woman started her business aged 23 from one room in Dublin with a single sewing machine. By the noughties her fashion company was the dominant player in Irish corporate wear.

In 2005, after weighing the business down with a venture into full blown manufacturing, Clifford was made an offer by a competing firm for her client contracts that she just couldn't refuse. "Conditions were getting more difficult in the rag trade here, so when the offer came I couldn't believe it. I jumped at it."

Otherwise her life was already going through a change and her marriage had broken up. She sold her home in Foxrock and decided to make a complete change in all aspects of her life.

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The kitchen and living room

"You could say I was burned out. I decided I wanted something else. I wanted to spend more time with my son, I wanted to do new things. I'd always loved houses and interiors so I decided to be an interior designer. I went back to college to study design."

With the property crash on the cards her timing was perfect. Back when there was no work for interior designers, Clifford was studying hard and learning her new trade. Clifford was also smart/lucky enough to buy a site with planning permission in Ballsbridge – right at the rock bottom of the property market.

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Rear view of the garden

"I had  been looking around for a home to purchase and a friend told me she had a site for sale. I hadn't considered that option at all but I started giving it some thought.

"This was back in 2010 and by the time I got going on the new house I must have been the only person building in Ireland. We had the restriction of a neo classical red brick frontage – which we felt was necessary to fit with the existing planning permission and to fit visually with the other homes in the area. But otherwise I could do pretty much what I liked. It was very exciting.

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The hall and stairs

"I hired a very talented architect named Rory Murphy and we got started on the project. I knew I had the chance to put absolutely everything into this house – this was the opportunity not only to provide a home but also to put together a showcase for my new business.

"And in contrast to the design restrictions at the front of the house, I wanted the back to be in the style of the homes I saw in Capetown in South Africa where I have often gone on holidays and where homes blend the house and garden spaces into one."

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The putting green

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One of the bathrooms at Claremont, Dublin 4

"I won't even tell you what the extras cost was. It was always more extras and no expense was spared. But it was done right."

The resulting house is "Claremont," a 3,175 sq ft two-storey red brick house located in the Shrewsbury gated scheme at Shrewsbury Park in Ballsbridge in Dublin 4.

When the house was finished and styled to perfection, Breda had it professionally shot by the British interiors glossy photographer Derek Robinson whose pictures appear here.

This shoot eventually became the online shop window and the visual springboard for Styleit Interiors, the exclusive private clients design firm which Breda has been running full time through the last year.

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The sitting room

"It must have worked because I've been busy ever since," says Breda, whose clients include a number of well known Irish business leaders with her commissions buiding mostly by word of mouth.

Following her teenage son's departure to boarding school and a hankering for a restoration project, she has now placed the resulting house for sale through Sherry FitzGerald for €2.65m having bought and built at the rock bottom of the market.

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A view from the rear garden

The house comes with a solid oak staircase and solid wood sliding internal door which "disappear" into the walls when a more open environment is called for.

Among the notable aspects of this home is the enormous open plan kitchen/diningroom/tv room which blends into the rear garden outside. The floors and skirts downstairs are in Italian marble which has underfloor heating.

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The dining room at Claremont, Dublin 4

There's an integrated Bose sound system with outdoor speakers and the garden comes with its own water irrigation system.

"This house costs nothing to heat – I haven't had the immersion on since it was constructed thanks to the high quality of insulation, the solar panels and the heat recovery and exchange system," says Clifford.

Upstairs are three large bedrooms, all with their own ensuite bathrooms. The rear garden is landscaped to include sun and dining areas as well as its own putting green – both Breda and her son being golf enthusiasts.

"With my son at school, there's just me in this 3,000 sq ft plus house. It's too big for me and it's time to move on. I've enjoyed it so much that I'm on the look out for a ruin to refurbish this time, and to do it all over again."

Enquiries to Sherry FitzGerald (01-2376300)

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