Super sister act: Peek inside the house of entrepreneur Louise Jordan
It can be difficult to turn a large house of contemporary design into a cosy family home, but Louise Jordan has succeeded in doing so - with her special weapon. Edited by Mary O'Sullivan. Photography by Tony Gavin
When glamorous entrepreneur Louise Jordan moved into her stunning new house in South Dublin, there was one special surprise - as a house-warming present, her interior designer had installed Swarovski-crystal-encrusted taps and towel rails in the downstairs bathroom without Louise's knowledge.
Quite a bold move by the designer; after all, though the taps and towel rails are gorgeous, they also make a pretty dramatic statement, and not to have had any discussion could have been risky.
However, Ciara Jordan, Louise's interior designer, wasn't remotely worried; she and Louise are sisters, and Ciara knows all of Louise's passions and pet hates.
There are several old sayings about sisters which suggest that, under it all, they will be forever enemies - for example, 'Sisters never quite forgive each other for what happened at five' and 'Never let an angry sister comb your hair'; however, there are many fond quotes too - 'A sister is a gift from God, sent from above to make life worthwhile' is one, and it seems Louise and Ciara fall into the latter category.
They are devoted to each other, and, with only 18 months between them, they have always been each other's best friend. It probably helps that they are, as both women agree, chalk and cheese, with Louise into so-called 'girly' things while Ciara was more of a tomboy.
"As a child, I was into my dollies and trying on my mum's high heels," says Louise, while Ciara adds with a laugh, "Our dad is a plumber, and I loved going out on building sites with him."
Both girls are very stylish, and both of their businesses sound glamorous - Louise has a marketing company called TL Marketing and Ciara has an interior design business, Amour Design - but Ciara came at interior design through an unusual route; she initially did an apprenticeship as a tiler.
The girls grew up in Knocklyon, Dublin, and Louise decided from early on that she wanted to do marketing, and studied it at college, but she fell into specialising in travel marketing.
"My first job was in Panorama Holidays. I never really wanted to get into travel; I wanted to get into marketing. As it happened, I got a job in the travel industry, but I discovered that once you start in travel, it's very hard to go back; it's addictive," Louise notes.
She was lucky - in that job, and in her subsequent workplaces, she was able to combine marketing and travel.
She stayed six years in Panorama, then did three years with MyTravel, before moving to Sunway, where she became product manager. From there, she became the marketing manager of Sunway for a further seven years.
In 2011, she decided to make the leap into the unknown, and she set up her own company. "I started by specialising in travel marketing, but now I have a big portfolio of different clients. I still do projects with Sunway, and I work with Kilkenny Tourism, but I also work in the education sector with enterprise boards, and I have some fashion clients. I love the variety," Louise explains.
She's doing so well that she has two full-time employees, and says she's actually turning away work. "It's all word-of-mouth, and once you're doing a good job, you get work. Of course, the problem is you never stop when it's your own company," she says, adding that when Alex, her toddler son, goes to bed, she's always back at the computer in her home office, designed by Ciara.
Just as Louise fell into the travel marketing side of things, Ciara fell into interior design. "When I was leaving school, I realised that anybody who seemed to be making a few bob was in a trade. I was always very comfortable on building sites, so I looked at the list of trades in Fas, and decided I liked the sound of tiling. There were only two girls at the time in the whole college, which catered for all trades, but I loved it," she reminisces.
Ciara continued to love it after she served her time and spent 13 years as a full-time tiler. And the clients loved her. "During the Celtic Tiger, I was always booked up nine months ahead. It was actually very satisfying work - I loved doing nice bathrooms and kitchens. You could be on a job for a week. I loved building sites, even though there were days when I was freezing, but I also loved working in people's homes - one of the best parts was the people you meet," Ciara explains.
However, tiling led her to interior design. "When I was tiling, people were always asking me to pick up sanitaryware, and so on. Then I found I was supplying labour to install the sanitaryware, and I began to think it would be better if I started my own interiors company," she says, adding that it was a logical progression.
"Having worked so long with builders and all the trades, if there's a problem, I know who to ask how to solve it. I would have always come up with solutions with builders," Ciara says
Her decision was triggered by the fact that she had got married and, soon afterwards, became pregnant. "I tiled for three months and when I started to show, I gave it up. That was four years ago, and I've been doing interior design ever since," Ciara notes.
One of her biggest projects has been Louise's house, which was completed last May. Designed by architect Peter O'Donnell, the detached house is built in the former grounds of a large, old house.
One of the planning stipulations was it had to be a complete contrast to the nearby period property; Louise was thrilled by this, as she loves contemporary architecture. "I love the setting, right in the middle of these gorgeous woodlands, so I wanted one of the main features to be the views of the trees. I also wanted glass everywhere for the light, so both aims were looked after," Louise explains.
The setting is spectacular; the house is surrounded by enormous trees, the kind you see in Gothic-horror movies, but any sense of foreboding is dissipated by the benign presence of roaming peacocks.
The house - which is 4,500 square feet - has an enormous hall; a kitchen/dining/sitting room the length of the house; a utility room the size of most people's kitchens; four bedrooms, two of which are en suite; a playroom; an office; two bathrooms; and two spacious living rooms, one of which is on the ground floor, while the main one is upstairs.
This looks out onto a fabulous roof garden. "One of my things was, I wanted a roof garden. Everyone said, 'You'll never use it', but we do, all the time, in the summer. We have a fire there, and we sit around it in the evenings. We also always use the upstairs living room - I love to lock up downstairs and get cosy upstairs," Louise says.
The house has many distinctive design features; these include interior doors which go from floor to ceiling, and add a great sense of height. "I found these hard to visualise before I moved in, but I feel they really make a statement," says Louise, who is expecting her second baby in the summer.
Another big statement feature is the exposed-sandstone wall, which goes through the middle of the house and out both ends. The windows downstairs are actually all sliding doors, while upstairs, the large expanses of glass tilt open.
While Ciara looked after all the interiors of the house, Louise picked the kitchen. "I started out wanting black-and-white decor, then gradually I began to think I might get sick of it. It took me months to decide, but I finally chose taupe units from Kube, and I love them," Louise says, adding she was also adamant she wanted a lip on the island, for family and friends to sit at while she's cooking. The lip is smoked oak, while the rest of the island and the other worktops are all Silestone. The floor is limestone.
Apart from the kitchen design, Louise took a big interest in the sofas needed for the two living rooms, and opted to get them all in BoConcept.
Otherwise, she let Ciara at it. "She was ringing me in the maternity hospital just after I had popped Aran out, asking me where certain paint colours, which I'd decided on, were going," Ciara recalls.
According to Louise, she knew she could totally trust Ciara, and the many details she left to her sister include, of course, the sanitaryware - naturally, Ciara has great contacts in that area - and the lighting; Ciara got most of the feature lighting in Illumination in Swords, or Lumina in Gorey.
They consulted on all the curtains and blinds; Ciara used to bring the fabric books to the house, and they pored over them together.
Louise admits she went off message a few times, but it didn't work.
"I came home with a load of yellow cushions one day, and I was marched straight back to the shop," she says with a laugh, adding that Ciara was right, and she loves all the colour schemes her sister has come up with.
Ciara came up with some particularly interesting features in the bathrooms, including polished plaster walls; there are also beautifully tiled walls and floors in the bathrooms, but Ciara didn't do the actual tiling - she got her stable of tilers to do the work, despite not being averse to getting down and dirty. "I always have my boots, my dungarees, and my toolbox in the back of the car; I'd help out with anything - plastering and carpentry; you name it," she says with a laugh.
And then, of course, there are those crystal-encrusted taps.
Was she right about her sister's taste, and did Louise like the taps?
"I was ecstatic," Louise says.
If all her clients are that pleased, then Ciara is definitely not going to need that toolbox anytime soon.
Louise can be contacted at tlmarketing.ie
Ciara can be contacted at amourdesign.ie
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