Sunday 18 March 2018

Finders keepers

A 1930s house on the edge of the sea in Portstewart in Co Derry is home to surfer Dave Lynas, his wife Emily and baby Finn. They have filled it with salvaged and bespoke treasures.

Words by Fran Power Photographs by Mark Scott

When Emily Lynas and her husband Dave bought a 1930s house in the seaside town of Portstewart in Co Derry, they had plenty of experience to bring to the renovations. Not only had Dave worked for a number of years for Habitat for Humanity, a charity that builds homes in the third world for those in need, but the couple had already restored two houses when they were living in Dublin.

"We had a very strong idea of what we wanted and we had done a lot of research," says Emily. They were determined to retain the character of the house - it is one of the oldest properties in Portstewart - including its 1930s frontage and many of the features, but introduce more space and light. "Natural light was a huge thing for us," says Emily.

They recruited local architect Michael Williams of Williams Creative Design to help them extend the back of the house, both upstairs and downstairs.

On the ground floor, they pushed out the back of the house to add an extension. Two Velux windows, one over the kitchen island and one over the sitting area, make the room brilliantly bright no matter what the weather.

Large glass sliding doors give big views of the waves rolling in "almost in our back garden", says Emily. As Dave is a keen surfer the fact that he can prepare lunch and keep an eye on the sea at the same time is one of the great joys of the revamp. And then, as Emily says, "You see lovely sunsets from the back of the house."

The couple is expert at spotting treasures in salvage warehouses, antique shops or online and the recycled parquet floor that runs through the house is just one of their many finds. "It's from an old convent school in the UK. It arrived from Wilson's Yard in Co Down on pallets in individual pieces and was laid by hand and glued, then sanded, varnished and sanded again," says Emily. "It makes for a nice flow between the two parts of the house."

Once the fundamentals of space and light were in place, the couple had a blank canvas against which to display their collection of art and furniture. They painted the walls in deliberately neutral shades of white and off-white, a calm background for the splashes of colour from an old red velvet Habitat sofa that was a wedding present 10 years ago, a dark green leather chair from an eclectic vintage shop called Hope & Glory, racing-car green lightshades over the dining table from an old factory.

The bespoke kitchen is by Rhatigan and Hick in Aughrim, Co Wicklow. "We went down to Aughrim to see their showroom and loved their ethos of handcrafted cabinets. They are very particular about their finish, they even come up and handpaint their units." Every detail and texture has been carefully considered - the kitchen units are painted in two different shades of grey; the island has a lime-washed wooden counter top, while the rest of the units have polished marble work tops.

They also reworked the upstairs bedrooms, extending their master bedroom and adding an en suite, as well as a large family bathroom to the existing two bedrooms. The arrival of baby Finn, three months ago, has filled one of the bedrooms nicely.

The house is now a comfortable living space packed with personality. Each piece of furniture seems to have a history. Like the kitchen table. "My husband is a fiend for finding things," says Emily. "We were in a lovely café in London called Ginger & White and he saw this beautiful table. He asked them if they had got it made, they had and he commissioned another one and got it shipped over."

In fact, the kitchen is the lynchpin of the house - the couple set up a café with friends in nearby Coleraine called Lost + Found last year - and cooking is an important part of their lives. "It's hilarious when you have a load of people over - they just congregate in the kitchen no matter what size it is. We wanted a lovely big spacious kitchen. We love hosting dinners and my husband is a great cook."

Sunday Independent

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