A stable life... in a charming Meath home
When her husband died 15 years ago, Mo Glasgow thought she would only have her pet dogs for company. However, her house has never been busier. Edited by Mary O'Sullivan. Photography by Tony Gavin
You've heard of landscapes, seascapes, streetscapes; now meet tablescapes. That's what Mo Glasgow's daughter Jeni calls the table-top arrangements Mo puts together in her charming home in County Meath; Mo mixes glass, flowers, plants, mosses and bric-a-brac to create visual delights throughout the house.
Indeed, Jeni is so proud of Mo's talent for table tops that she employs her to decorate the tables in Eastern Seaboard in Drogheda, the acclaimed restaurant which she and her husband Reuven Diaz own and run. Jeni and Reuven also own Brown Hound Bakery - purveyor of delicious American-style breads and pastries - and Mo's talents can be seen in the seasonal decorations there too; anyone who's been in over Easter will have seen lots of nests and other spring motifs. "I love doing the decorations in the restaurant and bakery - I can't resist buying bits and pieces, and a lot of things make their way there," the softly spoken Dubliner says with a laugh.
Mo - who was christened Maureen, but got her nickname as she was born the year Mo Connolly won Wimbledon - left school before interior design was ever considered a career option. In any case, she hadn't a clue where her talents lay and took the first job she was offered. It was with a company called Hills Woollen Mill in Lucan. She didn't realise then that she would go on to develop a passion for interiors and, indeed, horticulture - she also has a superb garden - as it happened, she loved her job, as it involved working with fabrics.
Jeni was born when Mo was in her early 20s and she decided to concentrate on being a full-time mother. Instead of working outside the home, she poured her artistic energies into creating lovely homes with her husband Eric; the family lived first in the Wicklow hills, and then, 33 years ago, they moved to Meath.
Eric worked as a sales rep for a medical company covering the Meath and Cavan area, so when Jeni left primary school, they decided it was a good time to move closer to his work. "I rang John Leech, the auctioneer in Kells, and said I was looking for an old house, and he said, 'Come down, I have the perfect house for you'," Mo says.
"We came down and, even before we went through the door, which was hanging off, I said to Eric 'Just give him the deposit, I'm going to live here'," Mo recalls.
Only someone with a great eye, like Mo, could have seen its potential - as she says herself, the place was derelict, there were shutters and bars on the doors and the windows were all blocked up, but she loved it. As it happened, the auctioneer had another house to show them and they duly inspected it, but Mo was adamant - she wanted the first house. "We came back, and Eric gave the IR£1,000 deposit to the auctioneer. There was no point in getting structural engineers or anyone else to look at the house, you could see it was in bits," she notes with a laugh.
That was winter-time; six months later, in the summer, they got a caravan from a friend and stayed in it, while Mo's brother Philip, a talented carpenter, and some colleagues of his fixed up the house. "Philip was always very helpful and kind and still is. I always call him when things go wrong," Mo notes.
Mo's home, which dates from the early 19th Century, overlooks a courtyard dominated by a clock tower, and is one of four attached houses, which were originally the stables of the nearby big house. In fact, her home had never been lived in prior to her family's arrival. "Upstairs was the storage loft for grain, and downstairs was where the horses were stabled. When we moved in, we chipped off all the old plaster and put in floors and ceilings," Mo says, adding, "I did a lot of it myself; I mixed tons of cement out there on the square, and I've always done all the painting."
Luckily, there was no complicated work involved. "It's a plain structure and I like that. No cornicing or anything like that. It's a stable and I'm happy to live in a stable - wasn'the man himself born in a stable?" she says rhetorically.
The downstairs of the house is made up of the family room; the compact kitchen, which was originally a yearling box; and Mo's bedroom. Upstairs, there are two bedrooms, one of which is often occupied by Craig, a master baker from the States who regularly comes to update the baking skills of the staff at the Brown Hound Bakery. Upstairs, there's also a formal drawing room, complete with brick fireplace. The stairs was put in by Mo and Eric, but the windows throughout are original. "You can see where they've been nibbled by the horses," Mo notes with a laugh.
Not that random visitors would notice; they are too taken up with the gorgeous decor and the lovely details that Mo has used to create a welcoming yet elegant home. "I don't follow trends; if I see something I like, I buy it. I always find a use for it," she says.
Most of the furnishings - tables, rugs, chairs - were bought over the years at auction, particularly at Oliver Usher's auction rooms in Kells. "It's like a pilgrimage. Unless the world is falling apart, I go to Oliver's auction, which is held once a month, and Jeni often comes with me. We've been going since she was a teenager - she was bored by it in those days, now she's as enthusiastic as I am," Mo notes.
Mo has a marvellous dining table, which is one of her many auction finds; as she points out, it once served time as a door. "I love the colour and markings. Actually, when I got it home, I couldn't get it through the hall door, so I had to cut the legs off and put different ones on."
Mirrors are a big feature of the decor - there are at least twenty of different shapes and sizes in the family room. "I love mirrors - it's not that I'm looking at myself; if I do, I get a shock sometimes," Mo says with a laugh, adding, "I like them because they throw and reflect light." The many glass domes on the tables perform a similar function; these are displayed in rows of three.
"I like multiples of things - threes, fives, sevens," Mo explains. "They make an impact".
The couple also had French doors put in, leading to the magnificent back garden; Mo is a keen gardener and is constantly changing its structure and the planting. "That is south-facing, so you see the light coming through. I love to open the French doors to the garden, which has a lot of moments throughout the year - it has a blue moment and a lot of alliums. I love alliums and I love peony roses and agapanthus," she says. "I love the garden, I'm changing it a bit at the moment. I said to Jeni, 'This is the last incarnation of this garden', and she said, 'Oh good, now you can start on mine'."
When that work begins, Mo won't have far to go; Jeni, Reuven and their two boys live at the other side of the courtyard, which is marvellous for everyone involved.
Eric and Mo had a very happy marriage, but Eric was dogged by ill health, and in 1984, two years after the family moved into the house, he was one of the first people in Ireland to have bypass surgery. "He had been such an active man, he was a sub-aqua diver, into hunting and fishing, but his heart problems put paid to all that," Mo notes sadly. The surgery was successful, but Eric was never as active again and, sadly, he passed away in 2000. For Mo, having her only child and grandchildren so near is a boon. Jeni benefits too, as her two boys, Finlay 12, and Saul, nine, often stay with Mo when Jeni and Reuven are working late at the restaurant and, indeed, the boys have their own bedroom in Mo's house. Mo also looks after the dog, Ozzie, along with her own two, Titi and Sam - all three are rescue dogs. "Both houses are home - if there's something the boys want and it isn't in in their own fridge, they'll come here," Mo says with a laugh. "They're just a joy, I'm very privileged to be part of another generation."
With such a wonderful grandmother, there's no doubt it cuts both ways.
Eastern Seaboard Bar and Grill and Brown Hound Bakery,
1 and 2 Bryanstown Centre,
Drogheda, Co Louth, tel: (041) 980-2570/(041) 893-3792, or see glasgow-diaz.com