Inside lavish Drayton Manor, the home of Lisa Murphy and Gerald Kean
Lisa Murphy and Gerald Kean welcome us into their home and show us how to celebrate the holidays in style
I can't get enough of Christmas!" says Lisa Murphy as she walks through Drayton Manor, the palatial home she shares with her fiancé, the solicitor Gerald Kean. Their house, near Brittas Bay in Co Wicklow, is lavishly decorated for the festive season. Sparkling Christmas trees light up the rooms, the mantels are dripping with pearly baubles, and miniature Santa Claus figures line the hallways.
"I'd describe our Christmas style as traditional glam," the socialite and former Dublin Wives star (43) explains. "It's my favourite time of the whole year. And even though there's a lot to this house, everyone that comes here finds it very homely, and we're very proud of that."
The idea that such a grand house could feel so cosy and comfortable sounds strange, but Drayton Manor has an inviting and seductive charm, and the overall effect on walking into Lisa and Gerald's magnificent home is one of enviable warmth.
Gerald (58) bought the property 10 years ago, and at the time, the oldest part of the house consisted of a 100-year-old cottage, with just a kitchen, bathroom and two bedrooms. He embarked on a huge renovation project to convert the small rooms of the cottage into his home, and added on another extension six years ago.
Today, the house has 14 bedrooms, a bar, a ballroom, a home cinema, a cigar room, a gym, a study, a dining room, and a sprawling open-plan living and kitchen space on the ground floor. A small guest house next to the manor holds a bar, kitchen, playroom and meditation room, which is often used to host bands who play at Gerald's annual charity functions.
The manor is surrounded by immaculate gardens, including an island and a man-made waterfall, and is just minutes from the beach.
The smitten couple decorated the house together six years ago. "It's a mixture of both our styles," says Lisa. "There's a slight bit of modern in Gerald, whereas I'd be all traditional. The cigar room is all Gerald, it's his favourite room in the whole house - second to the gym, of course!"
After falling in love with an indoor cigar room on a cruise many years ago, Gerald longed for one of his own. The walls are designed in a striking wave shape, there are no windows or natural light, and it's the only room in the house where you can't smoke a cigarette.
"There's an odour in there that I like," he explains. "You could be there and be anywhere in the world. You can just switch off, have a cognac and enjoy the classical music."
Gerald also feels very at home getting to grips with the Aga in their state-of-the-art kitchen, designed by restaurateur Roly Saul.
"I've done six-course meals for 20 people here," says Gerald. "But I'm a total fraud when it comes to cooking - I'm the type of cook who can't do an omelette, but who can start with marinated lobster in an oyster truffle sauce followed by pork loin stuffed with pears infused with bacon and blue cheese."
He likes the challenge of a decadent meal, and will often pick the brains of top chefs from Ouzo's, Chapter One, Pearl Brasserie and Residence for ideas. Although he has built up an impressive culinary portfolio, Gerald saves the complicated recipes for dinner parties. In the run up to Christmas, he will be particularly busy in the kitchen, with a string of festive parties, not to mention a Christmas dinner for 20 family members.
"We definitely do turkey and ham, that's my favourite dinner in the world," Lisa says with glee. Gerald adds: "Last time, I tried to add venison and goose to do something a little bit different - the fact that nobody likes it is irrelevant, I do it anyway!"
Lisa and Gerald meet friends for lunch at Marco Pierre White's on Christmas Eve. In the evening, they watch Christmas films - Lisa's favourites are Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Little Women, while Gerald prefers Die Hard - and prepare the Christmas dinner. Gerald's daughter Kirsten (20) divides her time between this house and her mum's, and this year she will be spending Christmas Eve with Lisa and Gerald.
On Christmas Day, they welcome their families to the house. As for the dress code: "Lisa will wear something casual like Versace, and I'll wear my Manchester United football top." Gerald says this with a wink. Lisa rolls her eyes and interjects: "Of course we would dress up - I'm dressing up all my life! It's not a pyjama day. I'll wear something nice, but the heels will be off come five o'clock."
Lisa adores Victoria Beckham, Chanel and Valentino, but for Gerald, only one designer will do: Saville's in Cork, where he gets all his suits made to measure. He also enjoys picking things out for Lisa."Gerald loves shopping for women," she says. "Oh my God, he gets more stuff for me than I do! He has great taste."
From his breast pocket, Gerald produces a lengthy shopping list with nearly 100 neatly hand-written names - everybody from the gardener to the postman, as well as some of the staff's mums and children. However, you won't find Lisa and Gerald handing each other a wish list of extravagant gifts. "We never ask for presents, we're not demanding at all," says Lisa.
"I often say, even when we get married, there will be no wedding presents, just give the money to charity," Gerald adds. "When you have three meals a day, a football match and a good cigar, you don't need much."
Charity is very close to Gerald and Lisa's hearts, and they make sure to spend time over the holidays visiting Penny Dinners in Cork, where they help serve meals to people in need. "Christmas is really a time for looking after others as well," he says.
They are also famous for the generous annual charity functions they host in their ballroom. They entertain 800 guests at each event, and have made over €100,000, all of which goes to charity. The first, in aid of the Ross Nugent Foundation, featured performances by Aslan and Sinéad O'Connor, while the Hothouse Flowers and Mundy played at the second, for Barretstown and Cork Down Syndrome.
"I love entertaining," says Gerald. "My daughter's 18th birthday and Lisa's 40th were some of the best parties we've had. But I'd say the ones that give me the most satisfaction are the parties we do for charity.
"It's a great goodwill feeling. Everybody's in good form, they get the concert, the food and the drink and their €75 is all going to the charities. Those nights were incredible."
Although they are known for their fabulous parties, Lisa insists that a typical day in Drayton Manor is very quiet.
"To be honest, we really only live in this part of the house (with the kitchen and master bedroom). We very seldom go down the other end, apart from the gym. Unless we're entertaining, we're not down there.
"I'm such a home bird. I love my days off, I don't move from the house. When I'm working, most days I come home and Gerald slots in a movie. He loves his movies. It was Mission: Impossible last night. We might go onto a second movie upstairs in the bedroom, but that's our nightly routine if we're in. Quite reserved, nothing mental!"
And of course, what about the flamboyant couple's New Year's resolutions?
"I make the same ones every year," Lisa sighs. "Play more tennis, learn the piano, things that I still haven't done. But we're busy, we love our family, our friends and our charity work so we're quite content."
As for Gerald, he says: "Last year, I didn't exercise as much as I should have, and I felt guilty about it. I think this year my New Year's resolution is not to feel guilty about it!"
Words by: Meadhbh McGrath
Styling by: Nikki Cummins Black
Photography by: Tony Gavin
Make-up by: Paula Callan, assisted by Michelle Field, see callanberry.com
Lisa’s dresses throughout by Cari’s Closet, see cariscloset.ie