Upsizing to party central
In 2000, when fashion retailer Sandra Walsh first spotted a 1930s detached house in Mount Merrion, she had a good feeling that she was looking at her future home. With a young family in tow, it was a little too small for their immediate needs, but Sandra and husband Barry Walsh -- whose father set up the travel business JWT -- could see it had real potential.
They were no in rush, however, and decided to live in the house for a few years before deciding what major structural works they would like to do. The original four-bedroom house was a warren of small rooms. Today, their contemporary yet relaxed family home, which Sandra and Barry share with their children Alex (17) and Vicki (15), is filled with light and is almost double the size.
The comprehensive renovation, which was carried out in 2003 by Opperman Architects, included the addition of a third storey, where they have put an office, a laundry room and Vicki's bedroom. They also increased the size of the master bedroom -- which boasts an en suite bathroom and dressing room -- widened the hall and doubled the size of the kitchen and dining area.
Regrets? Well, Sandra wishes she had gone for a larger drawing room: "The room is a bit too narrow, but we will sort it out in the future. We have an extra six feet to the side of the house and I would love to use that to create a big, light and airy drawing room that's the same size as the kitchen."
Meanwhile, the exterior of the house has also had a major refurbishment. The front now has a flat, modern rendered finish and the bow-front windows have been replaced with square bays swathed in glass, which lend a contemporary feel. However, it is the spacious kitchen/diner with views of the garden that is Sandra's pride and joy.
"I just love this room, it's party central," she says with a smile. Every Sunday, family and friends gather to enjoy Sandra's famous roast dinners and desserts of pavlova and apple pie that she makes on her aga. "We call the Aga Moira," Sandra says with a chortle. "When my godmother Moira died, she left me some money and I used it to buy the Aga."
Her cream kitchen, which features splashes of silver and a marble countertop, was handmade to Sandra's design by a carpenter. Roomy and well equipped, it features touches such as a display of white herb pots, sourced in Brown Thomas, which are suspended from Ikea hanging rails. In addition to the Aga, she has a De Dietrich oven.
The leather sofa came from Kenneth Hodgins and the display cabinet from Ikea. Like the rest of the house, the style of this room is elegant and comfortable and decorated in neutral shades, with splashes of colour in the artwork -- mostly Irish painters such as Mark Cullen, Gerard McGourty and Elizabeth Cope -- and accessories.
Sandra rearranges her furniture on a regular basis. "I think I must have got it from my mother as she was always doing it. My father would come home from work and not know where anything was!"
Sandra, one of six, grew up in Tipperary. Her mother had a fur shop and later a drapers, while her father owned a sheepskin factory called Lambs' Furs. After leaving school, Sandra spent several years working as a nurse in Vincent's Hospital, Dublin, before setting up fashion boutique Sandz in Ranelagh in 1998. She opened a second shop in Blackrock, and in a few weeks, she is launching Sandz Fabulous, a range of clothing for sizes 16-22.
"I'm a working mum, but when I get home I switch off. I love cooking with the Aga and use it every day," she says. "I can pop a casserole into the bottom oven before heading off to work, leave it in all day and by the time I come home in the evening, it's perfect."
Somehow we think Moira would have approved.