How Trisha Younge reinvented her home after disaster floods
When disaster hit Trisha Younge's home, she was devastated, but she dusted herself off and reinvented her space. It's full of colour, but there's no suede sofa. Edited by Mary O'Sullivan. Photography by Tony Gavin
At this time of year, we often bemoan our uncertain weather. We decry the fact that we can get four seasons in one day, and we constantly carp that Ireland would be paradise, if only we got the weather.
Of course, with all our moaning we forget that one upside of our mediocre climate is that there are few extremes. We may not get great weather, but then we rarely experience extreme sunshine, below-zeros or hurricanes. The odd extreme is so rare that there are headlines when it occurs, and most of us can remember the last time there was heavy snow, a heatwave or a deluge.
The last floods in the Dublin area are certainly etched on Trisha Younge's memory; she was right in the thick of it. "It was October 2011, the water was a metre high and 92 houses around the Ballsbridge/Dodder area were devastated. Myself and the dog were taken out on a raft," Trisha recalls, laughing at the memory but admitting that it was a traumatic experience at the time. "No-one knows how you feel when you've lost your home, when you've lost your past. So much stuff perished; practically all my furniture, all my books, some rare and valuable."
As Trisha goes on to say, many were less fortunate than her. A lot of the 92 houses were inhabited by elderly people who found the whole experience very difficult, and some houses were worse than others. And even though her home was ruined and rendered uninhabitable, she has one distinct advantage over everyone else - she's an interior designer and knew she could restore it.
Trisha, who is the youngest of five children and hails originally from the Northside, knew from a very early age that interior design was the career for her. At 12, she actually picked the perfect sofa for the home she planned to have when she grew up. "My dad had a pub, Younges in Ballyfermot, and from about nine years of age, my mum used to drag me to auctions and to see showhouses, which I found utterly boring, because no-one could do them as well as I could, I thought," she notes with a laugh, "I used to go into furniture shops and imagine what I would have when I grew up. I always had a longing for a suede sofa. I just saw this yoke and thought I had to have it. I wanted to put a deposit on it - the woman in the shop looked at me as if to say 'come back in 20 years'," Trisha notes with a laugh.
When Trisha left school, she didn't forget her plan to become an interior designer, but that meant being a penniless student, whereas she wanted to earn a living immediately. She had been working in a solicitor's office for the summer and so she stayed for a few years and even toyed with the notion of becoming a solicitor. Instead, she applied for a place in the then College of Marketing and Design and got one, but a job came up with what was, at the time, the top interior-design shop in Dublin - Town and Country - and she opted to take that instead. "That was my training. Brian Dunlop was one of four business partners and he was my mentor. I loved the work - I was so lucky, I was brought out on site and trained in every aspect of design," Trisha explains.
She stayed nine years with the company before moving on. She was headhunted to set up an interiors section in a major retailer, and while there, she was often approached to do private jobs for different clients, and so she decided the time was right to set up on her own. "I started by working on a very big GPA-related job in Nenagh, and from that, I got a lot of jobs in Tipperary and then Dublin took off for me too," she says.
Over the last 20 years Trisha has really established herself, both here and abroad; she likes to be in at the very beginning of construction, as that way she believes she has a better handle on the eventual interior design of a home. She believes that the most important thing with a client is to listen, so that she can interpret their tastes and preferences, but she warns that she, too, has opinions: "I don't like pedestrian design and the follow-the-leader thing, I don't do trends," the feisty blonde proclaims, adding that her heroine is Coco Chanel whose maxim was "fashion changes, but style endures".
Trisha's own personal style is for lots of colour, and while she doesn't impose colour on her clients, she finds many gravitate to her because they too like colour. "I'm known as a colourist," she notes. Her favourite colours are orange, celadon (greeny blue), chartreuse (greeny yellow), and turquoise - which are mostly bright colours, but she also uses a lot of grey. "I like to start from a neutral palette and build on it. I love accessories," she notes, "a lot of people don't know how to finish things with lamps, cushions, rugs - all the things that make a house beautiful. And you can get away with murder if you put in a few stylish pieces," she muses.
All of Trisha's favourite colours and many stylish pieces make an appearance in the gorgeous home in Dublin 4 that she shares with Millie, her whippet cross, who is allowed free rein. "The house is Millie's kennel," Trisha notes ruefully. The house, which was built in 1820, started as a red-brick two-up, two-down for the workers of the locality, and has twice been extended by Trisha - the first extension was added three years after purchase; she bought it in 1994, in 1995 she moved in, and in 1998, she added a two-storey extension. She loved it and was shattered when it was destroyed in 2011. However, she had to live in rented accommodation for ten months and that gave her a chance to re-think the house and innovate more. She added big glass doors to the back and made the whole downstairs open-plan.
"Originally, I had double doors between the kitchen and the seating area in the front - we were all a bit squashed, and the centre wasn't used," Trisha explains. "I love to entertain, so it made sense to open it up. The front is now a reading area, the middle a seating area and the back is kitchen-dining."
She also changed the kitchen, where the units are made of spray-painted MDF, lined with birch ply and topped with Carrara marble. "I made it less cumbersome, more user-friendly. We're all conditioned to opening doors, now it's all drawers and so much easier. I like open shelving, too. People say, 'What if the things get dusty?' So what? I use everything so regularly it doesn't matter," she notes briskly.
Of course the standout features of the house, both downstairs and upstairs, where there are three bedrooms, are the colours and the fabrics. "I'm a total fabric fiend - no matter what country I go to, I bring back fabric," Trisha explains.
Fortunately, you can get many great fabrics here, some from Trisha herself. Indeed, she says everything in the house is for sale, and that includes the bench and chairs covered in rich, textured fabrics. It also includes the eglomise mirror over the kitchen table; Trisha's home was recently chosen to feature in RTE's Home of the Year and she got lots of queries about the kitchen mirror, with its intentional dappled effect. No-one has yet offered the right price. But should the right buyer turn up, the extremely talented Trisha Younge will have no problem finding a perfect replacement.
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