Peek inside this artist Linda Shevlin's stunning Roscommon country home
The downturn in 2008 was one of the worst things to happen to the majority of Irish people, and, nearly 10 years later, many are still recovering from the shock of it and its after-effects.
There are people, however, who say it wasn't all bad, and artist Linda Shevlin is one of those. She has found something to be positive about, namely a new role as an arts curator, and she loves it. She programmes the visual-arts space in Roscommon Arts Centre, and also does other projects freelance nationwide.
"I had a decent painting career," the genial brunette notes,"then the art market plummeted and sales were depleted. I did the only thing I could do, and went back to college, and did a master's through IADT. While doing the master's, I got interested in curating. I got work at the Venice Biennale, and that was pretty much it. I really enjoy it."
One thing Linda says - rather modestly - is that she feels that there are a lot more talented artists out there than her, and she enjoys helping them to develop their work.
"I get to work with artists and see how their ideas form into an exhibition or a commission," she says. "I work with a lot of young, emerging artists. I give them an exhibition in the Arts Centre and I try to lead them to opportunities; I introduce them to other curators and gallery directors. I get a huge amount of satisfaction out of that. It's not that I've given up being an artist - I know I can go back to it at some stage if I feel the need."
Linda is nothing if not flexible. Her work now takes her all over the country, and so she puts her home on Airbnb when she knows she's not going to be there for long stretches.
She is the type who is always open to change, and willing to compromise.
Originally from Leixlip, Co Kildare, Linda, the middle child of three, always wanted to do something creative. "I had a clear idea of what I wanted from a young age. I wanted to work creatively. Although," she adds with a laugh, "I wasn't actually very good when I was a child. I wanted to be either an artist or an architect, but I didn't get the points for architecture, so I did art."
After secondary school, she did a foundation year in Ballyfermot, and was then awarded a place to study fine art in DIT. When she graduated, Linda got a studio and started working and exhibiting, and, more importantly, selling.
In 2004, she married fellow artist Padraig Cunningham, whom she had met in DIT. He is from Sligo, so they decided to live in the country. "We decided to look for a place in Roscommon," she says. "Part of the reason we headed in that direction is there's a direct link between it and Leixlip, my home town; and Sligo."
They bought a house in Boyle; an old schoolhouse, which dates from 1902. "Lots of the older neighbours had gone to school in it," Linda observes, adding, "It had been converted into a house in the 1960s. I'm not sure how much work had been done then. When we came on the scene, there were very few features left of the school, except the quarry tiles on the hall floor."
It also still had the original - and beautiful - dry-stone walls surrounding the school, and lovely gardens also.
But it wasn't in very good condition, and so Linda and Padraig had to have it brought up to living standard; they had to lower the floors, they dry-lined the walls, and put in proper insulation, and they put in new plumbing and electrics. They also put in parquet flooring.
While they lived there, they worked in nearby Carrick-on-Shannon, where they both had studios. Then, in 2008, just before the downturn really kicked in, they decided they had plenty of room for a studio next to their home, as their house was on two-thirds of an acre. So they decided to build one adjoining the schoolhouse.
"We knew we wanted an architect involved," Linda says. "When you work in a creative industry, you appreciate the skills and the knowledge that other creative people have."
And so they got Wicklow-based architect Ronan Rose Roberts on board. "We gave him a brief: that we're very much into modernism; that we wanted a functional space, which would function as a workspace; and also that it would be flexible enough that if we wanted to change the space, that would be possible to do," Linda explains.
"He very quickly picked up what we wanted. He designed a two-storey extension with workspace and office on the ground floor, a master bedroom en suite, and a good bathroom on the upper floor. After years of living in flats, I wanted a decent shower. A lot of money went into the shower - and it's worth it," Linda laughs.
The couple and the architect agreed that the original schoolhouse should continue to look as it always did, and then the extension would be a complete contrast.
It looks like a black timber box recessed off the front of the house, and is very discreet.
"I don't know why people in the country don't use black more; it really merges into the landscape," notes Linda. "Despite the contemporary design of the structure of the extension, it blends really well with the greenery and the natural environment."
When their daughter, Ruby, arrived six years ago, they decided to move the studio into the garden; they got a shipping container and created what Linda calls a 'dirty workspace' there, converting the studio into a living room.
"The living room opens right onto to the garden; I think it's lovely and cosy, with underfloor heating," she says.
The whole home now comprises two quite distinct areas. In the original house, they have the kitchen/dining room and two bedrooms, and decor wise, they have kept it traditional, with reclaimed parquet floors, and old fireplaces - although the kitchen has white Ikea units, with elements of stainless steel.
In the extension, there's the en suite bedroom; the open-plan living room with polished-concrete floors; and a really modern bathroom.
Not surprisingly, the element that unites the two is art. Linda has hung some lovely artworks in both sections of the house; some of the work is her own and other pieces are the paintings of the artists she has met and worked with since she became a curator.
Linda and Padraig separated nearly two years ago, and because she is working a lot in Dublin and other parts of the country, she decided to try Airbnb for letting out her house. It's been a big success for her.
"Boyle may not be the obvious choice for a holiday, but you know what, it's a lovely, unspoilt, quiet town, half an hour from the surfing beaches of Sligo. It's an ideal base for touring the north-west," Linda explains, adding, "the guests who've come really appreciate all that. They've all been so nice.
"And the lovely thing is, they've all been very respectful of the house and they are so warm about it and generous in their comments about it," she says. "It's really renewed my love of the house."
What's not to love?
Edited by Mary O'Sullivan
Photography by Tony Gavin
To see Linda's house on Airbnb, see airbnb.ie/rooms/17215430
Sunday Indo Life Magazine