'My sisters call me Mrs Doyle!' - Lorraine Keane shows off her 'homely home'
With a passion for renovation since the age of 20, Lorraine Keane tells why her red-brick terrace must feel like a home first
Lorraine Keane is the kind of person who greets any guest in her home like an old friend. Accompanied by a pair of adoring dogs, she answers the door with an instantly welcoming smile, revealing the warm, chatty personality that makes her one of the country's most recognisable personalities.
And that's not to mention the house itself. Built in the 1850s and located in Monkstown, Co Dublin, it is a bright and spacious red-brick terraced house, refreshingly free from clutter or ostentatious opulence. The interior is an elegantly comfortable makeover that retains many of the building's original period details, designed entirely by Lorraine herself. "The most important thing to me is that it looks and feels lived in," says Lorraine. "It's a home first. As much as I'm fussy and particular, I'd hate for anyone to come here and not feel relaxed.
"My sisters call me Mrs Doyle," she jokes. "Because you can't come in here without having a cup of tea and a sandwich!"
Lorraine and her husband, the musician Peter Devlin, have lived here for 12 years. They have two daughters, Emelia (11) and Romy (8), as well as a Yorkshire terrier called Chip and a Pomeranian puppy called Slipper.
When Lorraine and Peter bought the house in 2003, they knew it would require a lot of work - it was split up into eight flats and in need of a complete renovation. But Lorraine's never shied away from a challenge.
She fell in love with interior design after buying her first home in Foxrock village when she was just 20 years old. After redecorating the tiny cottage like "a little doll's house", Lorraine sold it off and purchased a house in need of refurbishment in Booterstown. She set to work knocking down walls and renovating the house, and ended up selling it a number of years later. Her next major refurbishment was a little mews house down at Seapoint Avenue, which she remembers fondly as "a real wreck".
When she met Peter, Lorraine sold her mews house and together they bought this property in Monkstown. They spent their first year living in a small flat in the basement with baby Emelia while converting the building into a family home.
"The renovations are ongoing. There's always something with these houses, and I'm the type that loves doing it. It doesn't frighten me, I enjoy it, and I'll constantly change things as I get bored," says Lorraine. Lorraine's favourite room is her walk-in wardrobe, a stunning space where glamorous designer labels and high-street brands sit side by side. She loves Chanel, Isabel Marant and Tom Ford, as well as influential Korean designers like Lie Sangbong.
"I would mix and match designer pieces with high street very often," Lorraine explains. "Zara, River Island and H&M are great, and I would mix those with a couple of classic designer pieces that I know are good investments and won't date."
The wardrobes, installed by T&R Doyle, double as a playroom for Lorraine's daughters, who love dressing up when they have friends over. "They know the shoes that they're not allowed to touch," Lorraine warns. "The shelf with the red soles is out of bounds!" This mix-and-match approach to personal style comes across in Lorraine's choice of interiors, too. "My interiors style is a bit like my own fashion style: it's mixed, it's eclectic and diverse," she says.
A neutral palette is key to Lorraine's design aesthetic. She loves the grandness of the Georgian period, but she'll often add modern pieces to a traditionally designed room to keep it vibrant and fresh.
"The key thing to do with interiors is to have your background and base as neutral as possible, and then you can change your soft furnishings very easily and at less expense."
For the kitchen and breakfast room, Lorraine combined contemporary and classic styles. After years of stark white and aubergine, she redesigned the room last year, opting for Farrow & Ball's 'Blackened White', a cosier off-white shade on the walls, to inject some warmth.
Alongside Scandinavian-inspired furniture from Soul Lifestyle, Lorraine added a couple of one-off antiques, including an old church pew painted and repurposed as a bench for the breakfast table, and an ornate gilded bird cage from France, decorated with delicate glass birds.
"I like antiques but not lots of them. I think one or two pieces in a room can be enough, because they can be very imposing and they're usually quite large and heavy," she says.
"You have to be very careful - there's a lot of space in these houses, and sometimes you can make the mistake of filling every inch of it. Then they just get overpowering." Lorraine and Peter are both very sociable, and they love entertaining at home in their dining room, which is decorated with rich damask wallpaper.
Lorraine is known by her friends as something of a domestic goddess, and pulls out all the stops at her dinner parties.
However, it hasn't always been so glamorous - on one occasion, Lorraine's school friends were treated to a chocolate fountain which toppled over at the end of the night, leaving every guest at the table drenched in hot chocolate sauce. "I was covered from head to toe!" Lorraine recalls. "I think I'll just go to Avoca for an apple crumble in future."
Lorraine loves her home and is particularly fond of the location. "Since living in Rathfarnham in the mountains, I was always trying to edge closer and closer to the sea. I worked my way along and finally got to Monkstown," she explains.
"We love this house, and we love the location. I don't think I'll ever leave the area but I wouldn't mind getting another wreck. The challenge of doing up another house is always something that appeals to me. Never say never!"
Lorraine's 'Keane on Style' tour starts 6th November at the Brehon Hotel, Killarney.
For more information and dates, see lorrainekeane.com
Lorraine's top tips
Mixing eras and styles keeps things from looking humdrum. Lorraine recommends customising high-street furniture with high-end accessories for a unique look. In her daughter's bedrooms, she swapped the plain handles on a chest of drawers from IKEA with a more distinctive set from Nassau Street's Knobs and Knockers.
Be careful to avoid overcrowding
Resist the urge to fill every space. It doesn't take much to turn a smart and well-planned room into a cluttered dumping ground. An organised and clutter-free room looks cleaner, brighter and more spacious.
Beige needn't be boring
Neutral tones are the perfect backdrop to allow offbeat, colourful accessories and soft furnishings to speak for themselves. Lorraine keeps a neutral base in her kitchen and breakfast room, and plays around with textures and patterns on new cushions, throws and upholstery. The off-white wall paint helps them to stand out.