Sunday 21 January 2018

Out of Africa

African art and organic materials add colour and texture to the minimalism of Chrisna and Paul Duff'ys Wexford home

Africa art in the Duffy's living room.
Africa art in the Duffy's living room.

Amanda Cochrane

Sleek and functional décor, clever lighting, beautiful art and good storage are interior designer Chrisna Duffy's key principles for modern living -- and her home is no exception to this rule.

A utilitarian construction of concrete and glass, the house is set on an elevated site outside Wexford town and boasts panoramic views over the south Wexford coastline, from the Saltee Islands to Rosslare.

Through the African mahogany front doors, the minimalist and spacious hallway has open-plan living areas flowing seamlessly off it. Working with such large areas can feel overwhelming, but Chrisna had a clear idea of how she wanted to use the space.

"An open space is sometimes just beautiful on its own and doesn't necessarily need to be filled," she explains.

The couple found the site in 2002. Paul, a builder, was busy with other projects and happy to let Chrisna project-manage the build. The couple sourced everything themselves.

"An architectural technician drew up the plans, which consisted of a very simple design of four blocks linked together," says Chrisna. "I had the perfect picture in my head of what I wanted and was determined to get it right."

For Chrisna, Paul, their three children -- twins Matthew and Cari (nine) and Indi (six) -- and a menagerie of animals, including a guinea pig, chinchilla, terrapins, a cat and a dog, the house was designed to be easy to maintain and, above all, functional.

Combining tactile textures, such as rugs, cushions and throws, with pots and sculptures, Chrisna has introduced focal points into her subtle canvas. Meanwhile, unusual beaded, metal and feathered wall hangings, wooden sculptures and a wide selection of art inject some colour to the strong linear lines.

Chrisna's career path to interior design was an unusual one. She was born in South Africa, then in London she worked for Italian fashion house Max Mara, presenting new collections to clients in England and Ireland.

When she discovered she was expecting twins, the couple decided to leave London and set up home in Wexford. "Paul was building houses in Wexford so we needed a place close to his work," Chrisna says. "It's a magical place to raise children in. I just couldn't have imagined a double buggy on the Underground somehow!"

Chrisna had always been keen to study interior design but never found the right opportunity, so when she moved to Ireland it seemed the perfect time for a career change. She studied Interior Design at the Dublin Institute of Design. "I never realised interior design was such hard work!" Chrisna says. "I learned that you have to stay on top of the latest trends and newest products, and now I make frequent trips to design shows in London, Cape Town and Dublin."

The course gave Chrisna the skills and determination she needed, and last year she started up Indaba Design. "Nearly everyone was questioning starting a new business in the middle of a recession," Chrisna admits, "but if you have a huge passion for something, there is never a bad time."

Designing the interior of her own home was the perfect opportunity for Chrisna to experiment and introduce elements from her beloved Africa. "Interiors are intensely personal and should tell the story of your life," she says. Work schedules and the demands of family life meant it was essential that the house suited their busy lifestyle. The kitchen was central to their plan. A sleek space with ultra-modern appliances, it's practical and has plenty of storage.

The main living areas flow from the kitchen and include a TV room. The "zoo", as the Duffys call it, is the perfect spot for the kids to hang out and somewhere for them to play with their much-loved animals.

"I believe you should only have things you love in your house, even if they don't match," Chrisna says. "They will find their perfect place."

Irish Independent

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