Inside the house of a hairdresser to the stars - including Maura from 'Love Island'
Hairdresser to the stars — including Maura from 'Love Island' — Valerie Patterson loved her little home in Blackrock, but when triplets and a fourth baby arrived within 18 months, she had no choice but to find a bigger house
The country was set alight this summer by Love Island, and if we took one contestant to our hearts, it was the delightful Maura Higgins from Longford.
Even non-fans of the show now know what fanny flutters are, and the word 'fedder' - as in feather - is jokingly brought into every water-cooler conversation.
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Another by-product of the show is the growing popularity of firepits - who doesn't want to end the day with a chinwag by the glowing embers on a sultry evening? Hairdresser Valerie Patterson has one, and it has pride of place on the deck behind her lovely home in south Co Dublin.
Valerie was an early fan of the show, and, in fact, she claims credit for encouraging Maura, her client of many years, to go on Love Island. "I've been doing extensions for 30 years," the chatty south Dubliner explains. "Maura came to get her hair done six years ago. I saw something in her, and asked her to do a shoot, and I've been doing her hair ever since. She was a shy little thing then."
Hard to believe, given that the bould Maura doesn't hold back when she has something on her mind. "Ah, a bit like myself - she's quiet and reserved but with a couple of drinks, she's the life and soul," Valerie laughs.
Valerie goes on to explain that shortly after that shoot, Maura, herself a hairdresser, went on to become a Monster girl - Monster is an energy drink, and Maura is one of a team who travel the world promoting it - and a ring girl; she holds a card displaying the number of the upcoming round during a boxing match.
"I actually suggested Love Island to her three years ago," Valerie recalls. "She said, 'I wouldn't know what to say. I'd be too shy.' Then last year they contacted her, but she was in a relationship then."
This year, the time was obviously right, and Valerie is her biggest fan. "I'm there watching, I'm like her mammy. When it gets a bit raunchy, I'm like, 'Maura, noooooooo'."
The very glamorous Valerie probably isn't old enough to be Maura's mammy but she is mother to four of her own - triplets aged 18, and a 16-year-old. "At one stage, I had four under the age of one-and-a-half," she yelps.
Fortunately, she had had quite a varied career and travelled a lot before she settled down to juggling marriage, babies and her career.
The third eldest of 10 children, Valerie didn't know what she wanted to do when she finished school, but she was good with her hands. "My dad was a builder and carpenter; my mum was very good at curtains, clothes, everything. I'm the same. I'm into interiors, hair, make-up, nails. I make my own curtains, I made my wedding dress," she says. "My two older sisters had gone to college; there wasn't much money, so I became a receptionist at Robert Chambers hairdressing. Within two years, I was on the floor, cutting. I was a natural."
While there, she did make-up for a lot of the salon's photo shoots and competitions. She then went to London to do a make-up course, came back and taught make-up in Bronwyn Conroy School of Beauty, and hairdressing in Robert Chambers.
She then went to Australia, where she did hair and make-up for a TV company. After three years there, she planned to go to the States, but on a visit back home, she met her husband, Brendan O'Connor, a musician, and while she went back to Australia briefly, she returned home soon after. She even got a Morrison visa for the US, but instead of emigrating, she opened a salon with a partner, which was a huge success, doing hair for all sorts of celebrities.
"I used to do Def Leppard's hair," Valerie says. "I did Diana Rigg when she came here; and Elvis Costello. I was asked to go on tour with U2; [I did] loads of big names."
And in the 34 years she's been hairdressing, she was one of the first to do hair extensions. "Everyone in media who wanted hair extensions, I've done them," she says.
Last September, she opened Mask Hair with her brother, Raymond, on Grafton Street, where business is thriving. "I look after the hair of many who live abroad and travel for my services, including clients from New York, Saudi Arabia, and Barcelona. I have clients who live in Sydney," she says. She says she specialises in the overall look, which her clients love.
She and Brendan were together a long time before they got married 20 years ago. "The day I met him, I knew I had found my soulmate, but marriage was not important," Valerie says. "I knew I wanted children, and I knew it would be through IVF, because I'd been trying to get pregnant for six years, and Brendan and I had done the tests for IVF. I'm not traditional, but you want some things to be traditional, for the kids, so that's why we got married."
They went to Vegas to get married, and Valerie wore a creation of her own. "Walking down the aisle wearing a white dress to me is like fancy dress," she says. "Vegas was a bit of fun, and I wore a purple dress that I made myself."
At that stage, Valerie was 35, and the doctors decided to implant three embryos. "Because of my age, the doctors said, 'Let's do three'. And of course they all took, first time. Some people would say I was very, very lucky. I'm like, 'Oh god'," Valerie says with a laugh. She says that Brendan was and is an amazing dad. "By the time I woke up after having them, there they were beside me in three cots, and he had already changed all three nappies."
Fortunately, Valerie had seven siblings younger than her growing up, so she already had plenty of experience - the triplets were also all healthy and over six pounds each, so they had a good start. "I felt I'd already been a mum; that helped me cope a lot, but I still had to work. I didn't take the full maternity leave. I suppose I'm a bit of a control freak, and I had so many clients, and I thought the salon couldn't run without me."
Valerie does acknowledge that when the triplets - one little girl, Edie, and two boys, Joey and Darragh - were born, she got a lot of help from family and friends, but she had hardly got over the trauma of three when there was another bombshell. "They were nine months old, crawling around, and I discovered I was pregnant naturally, so I'd four under one-and-a-half." Lucy (16) is the baby of the family. "That was all a bit of a blur," says Valerie.
The broken sleep normally associated with newborns wasn't just a feature of the children's babyhood - all four became competitive swimmers, so Brendan and Valerie have done their share of driving them to swimming pools at 4.45am - they did it for 10 years, says Valerie. Though they're all still sporty and Darragh plays League of Ireland soccer, they don't do the competitions any more, so at least there's now something of a lie-in for Valerie.
Life was different in other ways, too - the couple had been serious travellers, and that more or less ended, apart from trips to Spain. And, of course, they had to move house. "When Lucy was born, our home - a bungalow in Blackrock - became too small. So we moved," she says, adding, "It was 2004, luckily before prices skyrocketed."
The house - a detached family home in Killiney - was in poor condition when they saw it, but the couple saw its potential. "At first, I thought it was awful - terrible 1970s decor, a smashed sink - but it worked out fine when we got our hands on it," Valerie says.
It helped that Brendan does painting and decorating when he's not playing in his band, and that Valerie's brother, Philip, is an architect, while another brother, Jeremy, is a builder. Between them all, they created a fabulous family home. They have five bedrooms, one en suite; a living room; a playroom; and a huge, light-filled extension, which contains the kitchen, the dining area and a cosy den area.
The decor is colourful, vibrant and eclectic: the furnishings come from a variety of places, including Valerie and Brendan's extensive travels in the early years, as well as from interiors shops like Des Kelly Interiors - and, of course, there's no denying it's useful having an in-house decorator in Brendan.
"I'm dangerous. If I see a wall colour, I'll be like, 'Brendan I like that, paint the wall that colour.' And I'm TK Maxx's best customer. I don't care what people think, I do what I like," Valerie says.
She does say the only thing preventing her from making more drastic changes in the house these days is the salon work, which can bleed into the seven days. "Whenever the clients want me, I'm always available," she says. "If it's a wedding in Portugal or Spain, I'll be there."
So not much time for the firepit, then? "I'm never out there," she says with a laugh, "But the kids love it!"
Edited by Mary O'Sullivan
Photography by Tony Gavin
Sunday Indo Life Magazine