Keeping up with the Joneses - Peek inside an art-filled, soothing home in Dublin
Peter and Aideen Jones are trained artists. Aideen is also a healer. Both sensibilities combine to create an art-filled, soothing home, a refuge for family and much-loved pets. Edited by Mary O'Sullivan. Photography by Tony Gavin
Home furnishings tend to provide clues as to the professions of the occupants, and, sure enough, the home of artist Peter Jones and his wife Aideen is full of wonderful artworks. But there's something else at play; tea lights flicker, a subtle scent lingers in the air - the hallmarks of Aideen's work with essential oils.
There are practical signs of their respective professions, too - Peter's studio, where much of his work is carried out; and Aideen's treatment room, where she works with clients.
As it happens, both Peter and Aideen trained as artists, Peter at the National College of Art and Design (NCAD) and Aideen at the Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT).
Peter, the second eldest of four kids, was actually born in Birmingham. His father was English, his mother Irish, and the family moved to Ireland when he was 14. It was the 1970s, a difficult time for the teenage Peter, but art, he says, got him through. "My mother, being Irish, decided she wanted to move back to Ireland, and my father didn't have much choice," Peter says with a laugh, but adds, "It was a bit rough and ready. It was the 1970s and, being English in Ireland, you stood out, so it wasn't easy. The country has moved on, and Ireland is a fantastic, vibrant, colourful culture and country now, but it was a grey place."
However, Peter had distinct talents which worked in his favour. "I was lucky, I was good at sports and art. I was a bit of a school lick, which was a bit of self-preservation," Peter says, adding, "The art teacher randomly picked my pieces for the Texaco Childrens' Art Competition and I won. In those days, it was a shoo-in to NCAD, and art school appealed to me."
Peter was the first in his family to go on to third-level education, and art college was an eye-opener for him. "I'd never experienced anything like it. It was exotic, full of all different, creative personalities; I loved it." He thrived in NCAD, specialising in printmaking, and after he graduated, he got a job lecturing in printmaking in DIT, where he met Dubliner Aideen, who was studying fine art. When Aideen graduated, she worked with Ryanair as cabin crew, and later as a business development executive. The couple married 28 years ago and when children started arriving, she gave up work. "I made a conscious decision. I just really wanted to bring up my own kids myself. It's the most important job I ever did," Aideen stresses.
When their children, Nathan (25), Jen (23), and Harry (19) started primary school, Aideen began to give art classes for children in the local schools. "My aim was to introduce the children to different mediums, so I'd always use proper watercolours, or I'd bring in Peter's etching press and show them how to do etchings. I approached the teaching of art in the same way as the Montessori method; it was never competitive, and mistakes were not mistakes, they were part of the learning curve," she notes, adding that she trained in Montessori in the College of Progressive Education when the kids went on to secondary school - she was working in administration there, and sat in on the classes.
Then in 2014, she came across essential oils. "One day I was feeling a bit stressed and this woman shared an oil blend called Past Tense with me. It's a tension blend, and I felt an instant relief. I was blown away," Aideen explains. She adds that, after seeing many examples of the oils working on people who weren't well, she decided to get involved in working with the oils, even though she has a day job (as manager for volunteers with a charity called Children in Hospital Ireland). "I needed a new door to open, and that did it for me," she says.
She did online courses and started sharing her knowledge with others, and now works with people who need healing, the natural way. "I'm not a doctor - if you need a diagnosis, go to the doctor. I don't prescribe, I don't cure, I don't treat," Aideen is careful to point out. "The body heals itself, and the essential oils work with your body and target areas that need targeting. I empower people to take control of their own health, to make natural choices. The oils are fantastic for skin conditions, for example; fantastic, too, for young mums."
Aideen says her involvement with the oils has influenced the way she does everything, even preparing food. "I use the brand doTerra, I believe they are the gold standard in essential oils. They're certified pure, so they're very safe. I use some essential oils in cooking. For skin care, I use an anti-aging oil blend called Immortelle. I find the oils very good on an emotional level, too; lavender has a very good effect on everyone's mood," she enthuses, adding, "It's a holistic approach. It's all about a healthy mind and body and being happy. As you can see, I'm passionate about them."
Peter continued to develop and expand his department in DIT, which is now called DIT School of Creative Arts. "I love teaching and working with young people, it really keeps you young, and keeps the head clear, too," he says.
He has travelled a lot in the course of his work; he is the academic coordinator of the Erasmus programme in DIT and has been involved in teaching exchange programmes in South Africa, America and Europe. He has done voluntary work abroad, too, and Aideen worked with him on some of these courses - for example, they taught art to disadvantaged kids in South Africa.
Peter also continues to work as a printmaker, often using recycled materials, and works from his most recent series hang all over the house in south Co Dublin, which the couple share with their daughter Jen, a drama student and hula-hoop entrepreneur (she has her own company, Zen Hoops Dublin) and their son Harry, a barista and keen surfer. Nathan, their eldest, a music producer and a DJ - he's just released his new vinyl record on Irish record label Vision Collector - has moved out.
The family's two dogs, Hoover and Ben, are important members of the household. Hoover (15) has been with them for years, but Ben only arrived three years ago when Jen was working in Portugal over a six-month period. She saw him being ill-treated and rescued him. "He was a street dog, and she saw a tourist pouring vodka down his neck. Jen was very upset, and we agreed she could bring him home," says Aideen. Peter adds, "He was distraught. We already had Hoover, so we asked the vet how to cope with the two of them. He said to make Hoover top dog. It worked. Ben is three times the size of Hoover, but he knows his place in the house."
The couple bought the house in 1988. Dating from the 1960s, it was in bits, and initially they patched it up, but then, 15 years ago, they made a decision to improve and extend the house, putting the emphasis on the kitchen and the workspaces. "As we're both artists, we made the decision to make a significant part of the extension into a studio, so we gave over a large area to both the kitchen and the studios. What we didn't want was a big, soulless, vacuous space, the kind of thing we saw a lot of in the Celtic tiger, we wanted functional, flexible areas, and we wanted the extension to flow well with the old part of the house," says Peter. He adds that while they had an architect, they had strong ideas themselves of how they wanted the house to look. "It was quite a dark house, so getting in light was important," he notes.
They achieved this by making the ceiling of the kitchen higher, putting in skylights, putting sliding glass doors between the kitchen and the garden, and the studio and the garden, and also by putting double doors between the kitchen and the hall. The travertine marble floor also adds an airy feel. "I love its prehistoric quality with the fossil bits," says Peter.
Peter, whose creativity extends to the garden, has created such a great space outside that it's almost like an extra room. The walls outside are painted blue - "shades of having gone to Greece over the years," says Peter - and the planting is quite lush; according to Aideen, there's a bit of a microclimate at work. The skeleton bench, designed by furniture designer Simon O'Driscoll, and the flower beds, made up of old telegraph poles, give the garden area a designer feel. In all, it's a contemporary-style home with the emphasis on the word home. "It's home. I don't want it to be a precious temple, I want it to be a sanctuary," says Aideen, adding simply, "I like coming home."
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