At this time of year, as winter draws in, we start cosying up by the fire for our favourite Irish home interiors programmes, and if they are not enough for you, there is a great programme on Netflix called Selling Sunset, a reality show based in Los Angeles. The homes are unreal. Spectacular views of beaches like Malibu, rooftop golf courses and doggie showers are the norm. And, of course, some of these ideas have crossed the Atlantic.
Courtney Smith's gorgeous, recently renovated, detached home on Dublin's northside may not have the rooftop golf course but she has the spectacular sea views - her home is just across the road from one of Dublin's few blue-flag beaches - and she has a custom-made doggie shower for her adored Rottweiler, Lexi.
And the whole notion of a doggie shower is not over the top at all to Courtney. "When I told the builder I wanted a special shower for Lexi, he was like, 'You want what?' but honestly, it's essential, Lexi is our baby. We bring her for a run on the beach every day - she has to have a shower after it or she'd wreck the house." And in fairness to Lexi, they do sort of owe her a bit of luxury; it was while walking the dog that they spotted the house for sale.
There are probably tons of dog owners who wish they'd thought of putting one in while renovating their houses and this is where Courtney's profession comes in. She's a fashion stylist, and her job involves working with photographers, and sourcing clothes for models and celebrities. While her job may seem very glamorous and creative, there's also a huge element of practicality and thinking ahead to cater for all eventualities, so she was able to transfer that skill set to the renovation of the home she shares with her boyfriend Mark.
It's a skill set she began to hone when she was very young and growing up in Malahide with her elder sister and parents. "I was always very artistic and wild for fashion. And my parents were very supportive," Courtney notes. "For my 12th birthday, they gave me a sewing machine and by the time I was 16, I was making all my own clothes."
After finishing school, she studied fashion design at Sallynoggin College and a teacher there noticed that she was different to the other fashion design students. "My teacher spotted I preferred the finished product to the process and she recommended that I do a postgrad in the London College of Fashion," Courtney says. "It was a lovely insight into fashion writing, PR and styling."
That course led to work in an edgy boutique, Arrogant Cat in London, where Courtney's styling career began. "I got to style several celebrities. Alesha Dixon, she was very vibrant, appreciative and fun. I also did a styling session with Amy Winehouse. It was towards the end of her life, she had a big posse with her and she didn't speak much. But they were all great opportunities."
Courtney also filmed several times with Gok's Fashion Fix, so with those experiences under her belt, she returned home to start her career as a fashion stylist. She got on to RTÉ and TV3 (now Virgin Media) and waited for the call. Sure enough, TV3 got back and asked to see her. She went through a series of interviews and got on well, to the extent that a date was set for a final screen test.
"I was on my way in for the screen test when I got a call from them saying it was cancelled. Before I got a chance to be gutted, they asked would I be able to come in the next day with two models and six outfits to do a TV slot. At the time I hadn't yet dealt with a model agency or any stores but I said yes anyway," she recalls.
"I went into Zara, explained the situation, asked them could I borrow the clothes, gave them my credit card details and said, 'If I don't return them, you can take the money out of my card'."
Somehow she got it all together for the following day. That was 12 years ago and the start of a great relationship with TV3. "Somehow it snowballed from there. Being on TV was good profile, so I also got work doing fashion shoots for magazines like LIFE and advertising shoots for the top fashion labels and stores," she says. Her work involves working on the concepts/themes for the shoot, sourcing locations and, of course, the clothes and all the accessories.
As well as the TV3 work, Courtney travelled the world doing fashion shoots. "My last three shoots abroad were Juvi, the jewellery brand, in Mexico; Primark in LA and Arnotts in Miami," she notes.
She also developed a column called 'Courtney Covets' which appeared monthly in the now defunct U magazine. "For the column, I used to find an outfit each week, my friend Evan would photograph me in his studio and I'd also write some copy to go with it," she says.
It was while preparing for one of the columns that she met her boyfriend, Mark, seven years ago. "Mark's office and Evan's studio were in the same building. One day Evan was doing the photos on the roof and when I climbed back into the studio, Mark was there," Courtney says, adding with a laugh, "I like to say 'I walked through a window and into his life'."
The couple moved in together four years ago. They initially rented a little cottage and got their dog, Lexi. "Mark suggested a Rottweiler," she says. "I was initially reluctant as they have a bad rep, but Mark researched and found that they can be great family dogs, very affectionate; it's all in the training."
Around the same time as they got Lexi, they began to think seriously about buying their own house. Part of their daily routine was a walk on the beach with Lexi and it was during one of those walks that they spotted their current home. "It was early 2019, we were only discussing buying a house when we saw it," Courtney says. "It was the first house we went to see and we fell in love. We felt it had a real Malibu vibe but not in a million years did we think we'd get it."
It was an unusual sale process involving closed bids. "We had to email the amount we were willing to pay and we couldn't change that. It was a strange time; it was hard to know should we go higher, should we go lower... it came down to what we could afford."
Fortunately, they got it. They moved in in February 2019, then moved out again in September in order for renovations to be carried out. The couple then moved back in early in the new year to a totally transformed house.
"It dates from the 1970s. It was in liveable condition, but it needed new plumbing, new electrics and new windows," says Courtney, adding, "and it didn't make the best use of the space. The original kitchen was on the other side of the house and was very skinny, while there was a really long living room. The same with the master bedroom, which was really long too; not a good use of space."
An architect drew up plans for the couple and according to Courtney, the builder, Charlie Hughes, really brought it together. The result is a spacious, light-filled home. The living room to the front connects with the new kitchen at the back, which leads to the dining area, which has big glass doors to the garden and to a roofed patio area. There's also space for a utility room, which houses Lexi's shower, a studio for Courtney, who works from home all the time, and the old kitchen, which they designed as a gin room, is currently a storage area.
Upstairs, two of the three bedrooms have balconies overlooking the sea - part of the master bedroom was turned into a walk-in wardrobe, while a fourth bedroom was turned into an en suite.
Courtney says her style is quite bohemian, while Mark's verges on the industrial, but combining the two, they've created a very chic yet cosy home. And one of the cosiest spots is Lexi's lounger. But then they wouldn't be here without her - she deserves all the cosseting and comfort she's been given.
Sunday Indo Life Magazine