Roe-ing in behind one another... and mixing work and pleasure
Ahead of house 2016, Rhona and Ken Roe describe how they combine their personal and professional relationship
Ken and Rhona Roe agree that back in their university days, people probably wouldn't have put them together. His degree was in maths and engineering at Trinity College, which was very structured and science-based, while she was studying environmental design at the College of Marketing and Design in Parnell Square, and was very interested in architecture, furniture, fabric and colour.
"Rhona had permed hair at one stage and was kind of crazy," Ken teases. "I thought she was really pretty and cute. She was very artistic, colourful and a trainee hippie, and she hung out with creative people, while everyone I knew was studying law or medicine - we were a bit boring. Her dad James was very well-known in the area as he was a county councillor, and my dad knew him very well."
Rhona was 18 when she met Ken and thought he was great fun. She was from Sandyford and he was from Kilternan so they had mutual friends. She also liked the fact that he was tall and wore glasses. While they dated at college, Rhona went to work in the UK for four years and they decided just to remain friends, but still kept in touch. "Ken was great, as he would come over a fair bit from Ireland to visit me and he was a great letter-writer," says Rhona.
Rhona's first design job was with Saunders Design in London, and she eventually achieved her dream job, working with Sir Terence Conran, as she had always admired him and wanted to work at his company. She and Ken got back together when she returned to Dublin in 1987 and were married in 1989 in the famous little blue church in Kilternan. Ken, now 58, is an only child, and the reception was held in a marquee at his late parents Tommy and Phyllis's house. His dad sadly had cancer, and came out of hospital for the wedding and then died a few days later.
By contrast, Rhona, now 55, is the second-eldest of Patricia and the late James Murphy's six children. It's no wonder she's creative, as her mother trained in fashion design and her dad ran the stone business that restored the facade of the Bank of Ireland on College Green. She began working for herself when she came back from London and set up CLR Designs with her friend Ciara Lee, and while they're not in partnership now, they still collaborate on projects. Among the projects they worked on were the interior design of the Radisson St. Helen's Hotel, and the refurbishment of Trump International Golf Links & Hotel in Doonbeg and the Shelbourne Hotel.
While at college, Ken specialised in computer science, and met his friend Jonathan Moss there. They set up the company Moss Technology together, which specialised in IBM and Apple PCs, and worked there for over 20 years. They sold it in 2003 when Jonathan went to live in the US, and the idea for Ken and Rhona's retail store and design consultancy, Hedgeroe, came in 2006. "Hedgeroe started out as a retail outlet for Rhona's designs," says Ken. "We thought it was an opportunity to set up a retail business that would have an 'around the world' style and look, and we hand-picked all the products so they wouldn't be like anything else available in Ireland."
The team at Hedgeroe is looking forward to showcasing at the forthcoming House 2016 exhibition, where their stand will be split into two rooms, one dining-room and a sitting-room. Working together is great, they say, as Ken does the back end of the business, sales and accounts, while Rhona looks after the design and artistic side.
"We work to our strengths and complement each other extremely well, which is why it has been a success," says Ken. "We have a very good work/life balance, as while we work hard and keep odd hours, we try to carve out a couple of days here and there to do something together. Rhona is much more energetic than I am, and she is always thinking of new projects and things to do. We have an ideal partnership, as while we have different views on many things, at the end of the day, we get on really well and love each other."
Ken and Rhona have a daughter Rebecca, 24, who runs the London side of Hedgeroe, and a son Henry, 22, who has just finished a master's in Australia. They say that their children are the best present they have ever received in life. The couple built a stunning house on ten acres in south Dublin in 2000, and live there with Monkey the dog and Mouser the cat. They also share a holiday home near Cannes in France with two of Rhona's sisters.
Rhona says that they like cooking and having friends over for dinner. They also joined the National Trust in England, as when they travel for work, they love looking at galleries, old buildings and architecture. She feels that starting a new business in the recession was an advantage, as they learned to run it in a lean environment, and she enjoys working with Ken on their dream job. "We still go for a coffee every day together and we always have something to say," she smiles.
Hedgeroe Interiors, Unit 1, The View, Carrickmines Manor, Dublin 18. Tel (01) 294 8932, www.hedgeroe.com
House 2016, Ireland's first ever high-end interiors event takes place in Dublin's RDS from 20th-22nd May, showcasing world-class interiors, art and design. Buy your tickets now at www.house-event.ie/tickets and avail of the reduced online price.
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