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Our back-to front house


Photo: Dylan Vaughan

Photo: Dylan Vaughan

Photo: Dylan Vaughan

Tom Watts and his family have created a home that is a fusion of comfortable living and great design features. As with the best kind of fusions, neither style overwhelms the other -- the pieces sourced from flea markets and auction rooms across the world sit back quietly in each room and watch family life mosey along.

The successful renovation of this farmhouse in Thomastown, Co Kilkenny, is not surprising -- Watts is renowned for his innovation in bespoke digitally printed interior products. Through his company, Imagine Wallpaper (www.imaginewallpaper.com), he prints designs on to almost every surface, be it wallpaper, tiles or even glass kitchen doors.

The family inherited the home four-and-a-half years ago, moving in even though it was in a somewhat dishevelled state. In 2008, Tom, with just one labourer, Arek Kowalek, began the refurbishment -- a period that proved both fraught, rewarding and, at times, peculiar.

At one stage, they decided to make the back of the house become the front of the house. When they went to knock a new entrance into the old rear wall of the house, they found an ancient front door already in situ. They had unknowingly followed the design footprint of an ancestral tenant.

Watts added some of his own work to the new front part of his home, designing a wallpaper panel to hide the door to the downstairs WC in the hallway. The mural was created using a mix of images, including work by Renaissance painter Jacopo Pontormo, contemporary graffiti artist Banksyand photographer W Eugene Smith.

Watts and his wife added to their eclectic objects of interest by visiting auction rooms -- such as Mealey's in Castlecomer, Co Kilkenny; Adam's in Dublin, and Keighery's in Waterford -- and also flea markets abroad, such as in Paris. Some of Watts's best buys include a Verner Panton Pantella lamp for €9 and a crystal chandelier for €180.

How has the farmhouse affected his career and creativity?

"Renovating this home has taught me a lot about the relationship between space and decoration, and how sometimes less is more," he says.

A house overhaul can be a stressful time, but Watts says of the project: "It taught me that a good balance is a very difficult thing to achieve. Often spaces will dictate what they want indirectly, and I am always amazed at how long that can take in some rooms, while others seem to come together effortlessly."

Regardless of how long this home took, Watts and his family have succeeded in perfecting that balance and creating a home that is stylish and inviting.

Irish Independent