With his trademark red suspenders and a flair for the dramatic, David Ogilvy is the father of modern advertising and said to have inspired the character of Don Draper in the TV series, Mad Men.
He launched his career in 1948 with the New York agency that still bears his name. Before that, Ogilvy worked as a door-to-door salesman for Aga cookers in Scotland. Charming the cooks and mistresses of many a Scottish stately home, he sold so many Agas that the company commissioned him to write a manual for their entire sales force.
Hailed by Fortune magazine as "the greatest sales manual ever written", in The Theory And Practice Of Selling The AGA Cooker, Ogilvy urged salesmen to "pepper your talk with anecdote and quotes… Above all, laugh until you cry every time the prospect makes the joke about the Aga Khan… If you cannot make a lady laugh, you certainly cannot make her buy."
Originally designed to burn coal, the ubiquitous Aga was invented in 1922 by the Nobel Prize-winning Swedish physicist Gustaf Dalén. In Ireland, Campbell and Cooke became the agents for Aga cookers in the 1970s. It was not lost on former MD David Cooke, now retired, that his name was a perfect fit for the job - and he wasn't the only one. "Our accountant was Pat Cash," he recalls.
In an era when the brand became virtually synonymous with country cookers and even lent its name to the 'Aga Saga' sub-genre of fiction, the company didn't have to advertise large in Ireland because sales increased through word of mouth. "We were the first to put on cookery demonstrations, starting in the Bord Gáis showrooms on D'Olier Street and later in kitchen showrooms around the country," he says.
"We'd invite people who'd bought Aga cookers to bring their friends, so we could demonstrate how to get the best out of their cooker. The business was based on personal connections. I visited every new customer in their own home right across the country. Farmers would typically invite me to stay for lunch and come back for dinner in the evening. It never felt like work."
As one might expect, an Aga cooker takes pride of place in David and Geraldine Cookes' kitchen at 36 Zion Road, Rathgar. Theirs has four cooking areas, two gas-fired ovens and two electric ovens, which can be operated separately. There's a roasting oven, separate baking oven, a warming oven, simmering oven... As Agas go, the Cookes' cooker is a top-of-the-range model that would cost over €12,000 new.
Like the Aga, No36 is a product of the 1920's. Designed by architect Howard Cooke (no relation), it was built for the Weir family of jewellers. When the Cookes viewed it in 1984, it had fallen into disrepair.
"We were looking for a bigger family home for ourselves and our two children," recalls David. "It hadn't been decorated in 25 years, dog smells permeated every room and the front and back gardens were overgrown. It really was falling apart, yet we both fell in love with it."
The couple paid the equivalent of €100,000 for the property and set about a total refurbishment that brought the living space to 2,859 sq ft.
To the left is a solid oak kitchen-living room handcrafted and fitted by designer David Prickett, whose work reflects the Arts and Crafts period, right down to the oak wall panelling in the living area. The Cookes engaged architect Peter Twamley for a double-storey extension to the side, with the proviso that it wouldn't look like an extension.
"Peter recommended making a feature of it by bringing the extension out from the original rectangle with curved bay windows to the front," says David. "By continuing the line of red brick and keeping the same cream plasterwork and pebble-dash façade of the original, the new construction connected seamlessly with the old."
To the front of the house is now a large, L-shaped drawing room with bay windows and an antique fireplace. There's a dining room, lounge (also with antique fireplace), kitchen/living room, utility room and guest WC. Upstairs are five bedrooms, the main with ensuite bathroom, a large study, shower room and family bathroom.
Twenty years ago, the Cookes added a Norman Pratt conservatory to the rear of the kitchen/living room, with double doors opening on to a paved patio. A German chalet style shed, wired for electricity, could be converted to a studio or garden office, subject to planning.
"After 36 years, we're downsizing, but we leave with great memories. One of my favourite things still is to sit out the back early in the morning listening to the birds sing. It's so quiet you'd think you were living in the country."