Peek inside interior designer Anne Marie Hamill's American-inspired home
Nurses often change careers; the nursing hours are demanding and anti-social, and so they change paths and go on to become cabin crew, beauty therapists and mindfulness experts, usually picking alternative professions that still involve caring for people.
Anne Marie Hamill, also a former nurse, changed career and became, unusually, an interior designer, dealing in design, construction and colour schemes but she would insist that you need many of the same skills for both nursing and interiors. "I had a reunion with my nursing friends two weeks ago and they said, 'Gosh, what you're doing is so entirely different', but it's not. You're still meeting people, communication is still one of the most important things about the job, as it is with nursing. You have to find out what people want, you have to tell them things they don't want to hear, and you have to tell them very gently," Anne Marie explains, adding that when she nursed, she had loved it.
Originally from Belmullet, Co Mayo, Anne Marie went to London at 17 to do her nursing course. After training there, she came home and did midwifery in the Rotunda.
Anne Marie's reason for switching careers was also different to most people's - it had nothing to do with the stress of nursing or the long hours - it came about because her husband, David, whom she met after a GAA match 22 years ago and married in 1996, was posted to America. "He's an engineer and he was posted to America in 1999, so of course I went with him," the vivacious blonde says. "We lived in Hastings, an hour from Manhattan. The lifestyle was fabulous. We were young and free, and we were an hour away from a ski resort, an hour from the mountains. We tried paragliding, parachute jumps; we did it all. My visa was granted on condition that I wouldn't work; I had time on my hands for the first time since I was 17, and that's when I discovered interior design."
At first, Anne Marie's interest involved just going to art galleries and doing art classes. Then she took it a step further and started to study interiors while she was still in the States. "I did a Rhodec interior design diploma course while I was there. I had found my passion and had time to follow it through," she explains.
That might have been the end of it, as she returned to nursing on arrival back home, in 2001. However, she had a house to decorate and she found herself putting her newfound skills into action. "We had bought a house in Lucan before we went to the States, but we had maxed our budget on the price of the house, so I had to decorate it myself. I did stenciling and rag rolling, techniques that were in fashion then," she notes with a laugh, adding that she did another year of study at the National College of Interior Design, while also doing little jobs for people. At the same time, she and her husband were starting their family. "I handed in my final assignment for the course from a bed in the Coombe as I was going into labour with Keri, my eldest," she notes with a laugh, adding that as well as Keri (now 15), they went on to have Lisa (13) and Jessica (eight).
She didn't give up the permanent job lightly. "Some of the neighbours and other local people started asking me to do their homes, and when it got to the point that I was doing two days' nursing and three days' interior design, I quit the nursing and I haven't looked back," she enthuses.
Anne Marie and her husband, who's from Louth, moved to Monasterboice 16 years ago, and that move was good for her career.
"When we moved down here, there were a lot of one-off big builds and that's what I started doing. I was usually involved from the beginning, in the planning stages, so I did electrical plans, plumbing plans, and kitchen design. I've got to know a lot of tradespeople and business owners, from Cavan right up to Monaghan," Anne Marie notes, adding that the type of work changed during the recession, and it became more about people extending their homes to improve them, as they were staying put. "Instead of moving, they were making the best of what they had," Anne Marie notes.
She now does a mix - both one-off builds and smaller projects. A lot of work comes from referrals, but she also has a base in Dunleer, Co Louth, where she operates under Hamilton Interiors, and she has an office at Bespoke Sofa2 in Dun Laoghaire, two days a week.
"I started working with them when I needed sofas that were slightly unusual in length and depth, and they are an Irish company who will do any size. I was able to get them to use my fabrics, so we are a good fit," Anne Marie explains. She is also taking a stand at House, the interiors show at the RDS at the end of May, where visitors can consult her about their interiors. Anne Marie notes that while people want beautiful houses, they want practicality. "I will be talking to people about renovation, and the importance of doing certain things very early on, such as deciding where the radiators are, and the placement of appliances," she says. "I find people don't want their houses to be showcases. They want warmth, softness; a home. A place where their kids and pets are comfortable - so, practical, as well as pretty."
With her job, Anne Marie is on the road a lot, so it's very important to her to be able to come home to a lovely, yet, comfortable, easy-to-manage home. She and David opted to buy the house in Monasterboice 15 years ago because it was near David's home town. They decided on a five-bedroomed detached house because, being from Belmullet, the warm-hearted designer wanted to have room for family to stay.
The kitchen was quite small, so they extended eight years ago and now have a spacious kitchen/dining/sitting room where the family congregates. The island is the hub and when Anne Marie does her marathon cooking session on a Sunday night in preparation for the week; the girls sit at the counter to chat. She also notes that because she leads such a hectic life, she goes for calming colours in her home.
And, a top priority: everything - curtains, blinds, and soft furnishings - is washable. They need to be, with the girls and their adorable Labradoodle, Holly, a Christmas gift to David.
But practicality doesn't preclude prettiness, as Anne Marie's home shows - there are pops of colour everywhere, lots of lovely textures and fun, especially in the girls' room - but then, like all good nurses and interior designers, she asked them what they wanted and she listened.
Anne Marie will be appearing at House 2017,
Ireland's new high-end interiors event taking place in Dublin's RDS May 26-28, showcasing world-class interiors, art and design. Buy your tickets now at www.house-event.ie
Edited by Mary O'Sullivan
Sunday Indo Living