independent

Sunday 20 April 2014

Drab to fab for Albert Square royalty

Interior designer Blanaid Hennessy overhauls the iconic ‘EastEnders’ living room in the Queen Vic

Queen Vic living room before its makeover.

The living room above the Queen Vic pub on the BBC's 'EastEnders' has hosted its fair share of family feuds, failed romances, outrageous affairs, scurrilous felons and even a couple of fire-starters.

And yet, even with an ever-changing cast, the living room has remained largely unchanged. Like most homes, it provides the background to family life, perhaps growing a little tired over the years.

Enter sofa company DFS, which had a plan to hypothetically redesign the Queen Vic's living room – and in doing so, show how the average family room could be changed from 'drab to fab' without soap-star salaries.

I was invited by DFS (dfs.ie) to an industrial warehouse in Manchester and given a mission to overhaul the set of the Queen Vic living room, which they had recreated exactly – right down to its blue colour scheme and random knick-knacks.

My brief for redesigning the space was my favourite kind: an open brief. I was free to do whatever my little mind could imagine.

Budget-wise, it had to reflect what most of us would be both willing and able to invest in a room – which was easy considering DFS currently has a half-price sale on the sofa style I loved the most, the Patent range.

Using the free DFS 'Sofa and Room' planner app for iPad, I selected the four-seater sofa in grey (currently on sale at half-price for €779), along with the complementary armchair (sale price €519) and footstool (sale price €259) as my very first 'purchase', and the most important one for any sitting room re-do. Then, I chose the 'Shore' sideboard to use as a quality base for a vintage press unit, which was also on sale at €779.

This left me with plenty to spend in other Irish stores – such as Industry (industry design.ie) in Temple Bar, Article (articledublin.com) in Powerscourt Townhouse Centre, Avoca (avoca.ie), Oxfam Home (oxfamireland.org), Yesterdays (yesterdays.ie) in Kilkenny – and on art work by Irish artist Conor Langton from Gild & Cage (gildandcage.com) and some finds from a few flea markets.

The haul was based on a regular customer who wouldn't usually buy everything in the one store; who stumbles across curios and accessories on travels and in marketplaces; who unconsciously creates a living room that is reflective of the prefix – living.

And I wanted to create a space so personal that it encouraged relaxation after another day of doing just that – living.

On the morning of the refurbishment, I loaded layers and layers of trinkets and baubles, ornaments, sheepskin rugs, throws, faux plants and sundries into my probably overweight suitcases, and off we went to the Queen Vic. In Manchester. In a warehouse.

I've left the house for more peculiar reasons, but this one turned out to be a favourite.

The photographer, Matthew, and his project manager, Karen, greeted us at 9am with a set ready for dressing. And so began the crowning of a new Queen Vic living room.

I followed the sketch outline of the official BBC room, with the furniture positioned to face the camera, before accessorising the seating with vintage cushions from Oxfam Home (on Francis Street and King's Inn Street in Dublin) to complement the handcrafted styling of the 'Patent' sofa.

The footstool was enhanced with a fancy teacup station, in the style of a copper metal tray from Article, while the 'Loch Leven' throw from DFS (€129) added soft heather tones to the layout.

I am a fan of side tables as opposed to central coffee tables, so we placed an industrial tin trunk from the Callan Car Boot Sale in Kilkenny (€70) and vintage suitcases from Oxfam Home beside the sofa and armchair, topped with candlesticks found in Eclectic Interiors in Kilkenny, a retro-style phone from Industry and a cut-glass vase from Article.

Why have one soft rug, when you can have two? That is probably someone's family motto somewhere. Or not. I went for super-plush with a mix of sheepskin, and wool-pile rugs to add a feeling of layer and texture to the space.

The radiator cover was topped with a chicken wire/wood vintage unit, as was the 'Shore' sideboard from DFS on the opposite wall, creating a sense of height and balance.

The cream tones relieve the room a little of its blue theme while the addition of a vintage screen – look for similar ones in stores such as Oxfam Home – disguised another alcove of blue behind the sofa.

These chicken-wired dressers were stuffed with the aforementioned curios, such as patterned teapots and bowls from Avoca (avoca.ie), interiors books from Yesterdays and vases from Industry (industrydesign.ie).

An industrial-style light from Industry (€95) lit up the 'Go Big or Go Home' original screen print on a vintage war map, created by Conor Langton (gildandcage.com).

That provided the ideal background for faux flowers from Avoca in a cut-glass vase from Article, alongside a vintage radio, all placed on an industrial metal folding table (stylist's own). On the other side of the doorway, more original art by Irish artist Conor Langton was mixed with vintage team photos from Oxfam Home.

It was 1pm and the room was as done as it would ever be – four hours of moving things just so and back, and then back again; all done on a realistic budget, in a limited time frame, and at the perfect time of year.

As Philip Watkin, director of design with DFS, says: "Spring is traditionally seen as a great time to refresh your home with a new look. The good news is that updating your living room doesn't have to cost a fortune. As you can see from the Queen Vic makeover, a new sofa paired with some clever accessories and some statement furniture can totally transform a space from drab to fab."

The old Queen Vic living room was dead – long live the new, restyled Queen Vic living room.

 

DFS has been making furniture for 43 years and has stores in Blanchardstown Retail Park and City Gate, Cork and delivers nationwide. See dfs.ie

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