ON my travels recently, I notic-ed that an interiors shop I had spotted on a previous visit to Cork was closed. Gone, I thought, yet another victim of the recession. However, I was pleasantly surprised to be told that the business had, in fact, moved to bigger premises nearby.
While the building boom is over, and consequently the plum job of furnishing apartments by the dozen in a uniform of beige on beige, and decorating and equipping four-star hotels, there is a steady if quiet demand for the services of interior decorators and related shops. This has been brought about by people decorating and extending their homes instead of moving house as well as some recent movement in the property market.
HedgeRoe is a deceptively large interior design store, set back somewhat discreetly, in what looks like a rustic barn on the main road between Stepaside and Kilternan in Dublin 18. The rural setting somewhat belies the beautifully understated furnishings, furniture, rugs and lamps available in the store. It is akin to a "who lives in a house like this?" moment.
Rhona Roe opened her HedgeRoe store three-and-a- half years ago. Prior to this, Rhona had been working in the commercial design business with colleague Ciara Lee. They had a company called CLR design based in Kilternan and were doing many hotel fit-outs and other commercial work. Indeed, when Rhona says they had worked on The Lodge at Doonbeg, Co Clare, in conjunction with an American design team, I know immediately why the style of HedgeRoe furnishings looks so familiar, and indeed appeals to me so much, for the decor at the Lodge is exquisite.
Rhona describes Hedge-Roe, which she opened with her husband Ken, as a progression from the design business as they had a lot of people expressing interest as to where they could buy various items. She still works on the design end with Ciara.
"We were finding we were purchasing a lot in the UK or designing our own furniture and having it manufactured so we decided we would open a retail unit and sell the look ourselves," says Rhona.
As to starting a new business in the depths of the recession, Rhona adds "the main thing was that we had not been in retail before, so we had nothing to gauge it by. We started at zero and we have built it year on year. There is still work going on in the commercial hotel business, the five-star hotels always have to keep working and refreshing to keep their standards up. We have just finished doing some work in Ballynahinch Castle and at Mount Juliet. We find people are staying put and doing up their homes rather than moving and a lot of our customers are coming to refit out extensions. This year too, and the end of last year, we have noticed people are coming in having bought a new house, so there is also a little bit of movement in the market."
Rhona designs a lot of the furniture herself, working with furniture manufacturers here and abroad.
"I have worked with manufacturers in Dublin, and still do, particularly with seating, but unfortunately we have to be very price conscious in these times and I have had to look at manufacturing abroad. But I work with the manufacturers myself, I am very careful about who is making the products, the quality, it does take time, work, it's a process and we are always improving so I work with different places for different things. I source some of the items from India, and surprisingly Poland, it's funny how things come around, and they will come around here again."
There is an eclectic mix of influences at HedgeRoe, from the Hamptons to Scandinavia, the Orient through Havana to the cool clear influences of the south of France. Its vintage oak and mango wood range has a subtle pale limewashed look which fits in well with painted furniture, whilst the black painted furniture has a sophisticated Oriental look. HedgeRoe's most popular item is a massive Plantation table in limed oak at €1,850, which extends out to seat 18 people for that family occasion, or can be small enough for dinner for four.
In this range too is a William pod base and gate leg table which look so beautiful in a contemporary take on the classic antique design. I also love the Bilberry Armoire, a Chinese-style elaborate cupboard sitting on a base with baskets. On show throughout the store are beautiful lamps, cushions, rugs, but the principal look at HedgeRoe is classy and understated.
"What people like at the moment is our new colour called London Fog, part of the new Little Green paint range, which is available at Stillorgan Decor. I am also a great fan of Colortrend paints which are excellent and made here in Ireland," says Rhona.
Another thing to look out for is Rhona's large latex-backed jute rug. "The rugs cover a large area -- I have them made in jute because you can walk on it in your bare feet and it is lovely and soft. These are €750 whereas you could pay €2,500 for similar sizes elsewhere."
Rhona is focused on getting HedgeRoe's new colour brochure out for this season. An expensive undertaking, but Ken says it works very well for them as not being in a main-street location, people can take it away and browse through it.
Rhona meets once or twice a month with a group of women who have all started new businesses in the past few years.
"Everyone is driven and there is not a negative vibe anywhere. We meet every month at least and we just set tasks that we would like to achieve by the next time we meet up -- we make sure to have them done," she says.
Then it is back into the catalogue for Rhona -- she is a mine of creativity.
HedgeRoe, Living With Design,
Enniskerry Road, Kilternan, Dublin 18 Ph: (01) 294-8932