Pier pressure... at Sandycove
A home isn't just about the space within, as Jamie Nevin and Richard Brickley discovered. It's also about the amenities nearby, and compromise can be necessary. Edited by Mary O'Sullivan. Photography by Tony Gavin
Everyone has different criteria when looking for a new home; the experts say it's all about location, location, location, but that's a bit simplistic.
Expanding families are often looking for extra bedrooms, retirees want to downsize, while ambitious young creatives in pressurised jobs often yearn for somewhere to unwind after a hard day's work, which is precisely the case with Jamie Nevin and his partner, Richard Brickley. They decided to move from their apartment in Islandbridge to a little house in Sandycove, between Dun Laoghaire and Dalkey, and both agree the calming sight of the sea was a factor in their decision. That, and the profusion of restaurants in their neighbourhood.
"I remember one of Jamie's criteria was to find a house near a place that served brunch every weekend, where he could also read the paper," says Richard.
It might seem like a trivial criterion - and, of course, there were others - but it's easy to see why it was important to Jamie and Richard, who both work extremely long, often unsociable, hours. Jamie talks of working on a customer account until the wee hours, while Richard travels the world with his job.
Richard, who's from Waterford, studied French and marketing at Waterford Institute of Technology. He fell into the drinks business by getting a job with Cassidy Wines, where he spent seven years. After that, he moved to Irish Distillers and is now on the Jameson international marketing team. His work involves Jameson First Shot, a creative collaboration with Kevin Spacey and his production company, which is about identifying talented people, who might not otherwise get a break; giving them a leg up and helping them to succeed.
"It's a great experience working on First Shot. Kevin talks a lot about the person who gave him his first break; he has this theory about handing the baton on - sending the elevator back down, as he calls it," Richard explains, mentioning how he'd been to Los Angeles with Kevin Spacey. "I know Kevin Spacey and he knows me," Richard says, before quickly adding with a laugh, "or rather, I know his people and his people know me."
Jamie, who is from Maynooth, studied visual communications and, almost immediately after graduation, he joined an advertising agency. He was, for many years, the digital creative director of RMG digital, part of the advertising agency DDFH&B, but has just set up his own company. "I've been working in agencies for 20 years and I've loved it, but now I like the idea of standing on my own two feet. The taste of something new, under my own name, it's very exciting," Jamie explains.
If that wasn't stressful enough, he's also in the process of developing, with two others, a lifestyle digital platform aimed at LGBT consumers. "Nowadays, because being gay is more mainstream, there are less identifiably gay bars and locations. You no longer go to the George any more, you go, for want of a better word, to a mainstream bar, but where are people congregating? It's a lifestyle app, connecting brands with gay people," he explains.
Jamie and Richard themselves met in 2003, in a nightclub called Ham - which was run by Panti back in the day, but doesn't exist anymore. "I was with friends and I saw Richard. I thought, 'He's attractive' and engineered to be near him and struck up a conversation. I gave him my number, he didn't pay any heed, I think he was a bit oiled, but luckily his friend Marty took the number, so Richard did ring back," Jamie says with a laugh. He adds: "It was one of those happy circumstances that you meet someone and it just works out."
They had their civil partnership two years ago, but it was a low-key affair and they're planning a big shindig in 2016. "You know the way you have your service and then you have a little gap and then you have your party? Well, we have a gap of three years," Richard laughs.
The dynamic duo initially lived in an apartment, which they loved, but they craved a garden, so in 2008 they went looking for a house. They enjoyed getting the Dart out to Dun Laoghaire to walk the pier and saw a house for sale on Albert Road. It took a while before they committed to buying it, as there was one particular hurdle and it involved entertaining - a key part of their lives.
"It's a very small house, so the big thing for us was room for a table that comfortably accommodated eight people. We've had 10 for dinner parties in Islandbridge; to Rich, it was a big issue that we had no dining space. We only recently got a round table that seats six comfortably. That was almost a crunch point, that there wasn't a huge amount of entertaining space."
To counter that, they did get a garden area that they recently turned into a really nice space, with the help of garden designer Kevin Dennis. They particularly love the water feature - it echoes the blue of the living-room sofas - and there's also enough room for a decent-sized table. "We've got a good outdoor eating space, so that's the kind of compromise we made," says Jamie.
The house is one of the oldest on Albert Road, and while it's compact, there's enough space for the two guys; the downstairs has a neat kitchen/dining room complete with fireplace, and a living room with doors to the patio. Upstairs, there are two bedrooms and a luxurious bathroom, which Jamie and Richard installed recently.
Initially, they thought the house was poky, but they realised a lot of its problem was decor and they set about changing it. "We first put a black floor in the kitchen; it was very dark and the black tiles would break your heart," says Richard, adding that they took them up and instead laid smoked-oak-effect tiles, which are easier and lighter.
"The previous owner also had exposed brick, but I'd seen and loved the Amsterdam apartment of a friend of mine, and basically we stole her colour scheme" Richard admits.
The palette is mainly white, with lots of colour in the form of paintings and cushions. "I've a cushion fetish, I keep buying them," Richard reveals with a laugh, while Jamie adds: "Richard likes the odd flourish."
It transpires that Richard also likes crystal chandeliers, baroque furniture with ornate scroll decoration, gilt mirrors and other extravagant features.
Jamie isn't interested in any of those things, so Richard restrains himself somewhat. Jamie has his preferences too. "Jamie wanted poured concrete on the floors, I said, 'I'm not putting down concrete'," Richard says. He adds that Jamie got his way on many details - the sofas from the French Connection range at DFS are quite plain, and the kitchen units from Kube are streamlined.
"Richard likes baroque, I like clean lines," says Jamie adding, "If I had my way, I would be living in a Scandi surgery, and Richard would be living in Versailles - he saves me from myself."
It would probably be unrealistic to expect two such creative people to have identical taste, but isn't it nice that they respect each other's preferences and compromise?
Sunday Indo Life Magazine