Wednesday 17 July 2019

Inside the eclectic home of Irish design artist Gigi Foyle, who counts Kate Moss among her fans

Connemara sisters Gigi and Cavanagh Foyle are making their mark on the London scene with witty neon art works snapped up by big fashion names Kate Moss and Charlotte Tilbury. So what does a design artist do with her own home? Gigi Foyle shows Ciara Elliott around. Photographs by Anton Rodriguez

Gigi Foyle
Gigi Foyle
Connemara sisters Cavanagh and Gigi Foyle live in different countries but their neon art work company, bag&bones.co.uk, is forging an impressive reputation on the London scene
Gigi Foyle
Gigi Foyle
Gigi Foyle
Gigi Foyle
Gigi Foyle
Gigi Foyle
Gigi Foyle
Gigi Foyle
Gigi Foyle
Gigi Foyle

Ciara Elliott

You might think that the West London home of interior designer and artist Gigi Foyle would be a maximalist blow out. All neon lightning bolts and pink flamingos, the punchy designs she and her sister Cavanagh of bag&bones are known for. But while you will spot that long-legged bird, the backdrop is as calm and cool and elegant as an art gallery.

That's not really surprising - Gigi's house doubles as her work space. "What I love most about the house," she says, "is all of the bright space and the big garden. When you work from home you want your environment to feel calm and relaxing. My mind works better with less clutter so I have to keep everything fairly minimal."

Her love of peace dates back, no doubt, to her childhood. Gigi grew up near Clifden in Connemara and went to boarding school in Athlone before joining an all-Irish boarding school, Colaiste Chroi Mhuire, in Spiddal, to do her Leaving Cert.

"I was surrounded by design growing up," says Gigi, whose parents, hoteliers Billy and Barbara Foyle, ran The Dolphin Beach Country House on the lower Sky Road in Clifden.

"Our mum always bought every interior design magazine under the sun and had been collecting them since the 1970s. She would also redesign our family home on a regular basis and my dad was also really creative, passionate and talented. They were both always encouraging both me and my siblings to pursue all creative endeavours."

Still, Gigi's path to design took a roundabout route. She studied science and worked in health research for 10 years in London before realising her heart just wasn't in it.

"It was a good job and I met some amazing people but I realised it wasn't for me so I threw caution to the wind and set up bag&bones. Now I really couldn't be happier.

"When we moved in here the house had PVC windows, so one of the first things we did was bring back the original facade," explains Gigi. "We widened the hallway and opened up a wall between the kitchen and sitting room to let more light in. And we did a loft conversion adding two bedrooms and a bathroom. It was a project!"

Like most young couples with children - Gigi and husband Nic have two: Willow (five) and Woody (three) - the budget was tight when they first moved in, so they had to be frugal and innovative when it came to sourcing.

"Luckily," she says, "I'm obsessed with antique fairs, eBay and hunting around charity shops, so lots of the items I put in my office were lucky finds," she says, of the room to the front of the house.

"I bought my 1950s steel desk on eBay for £40 - it was falling apart, covered in dust and sitting in an old lady's garage in Hackney. Nic brought it back to life and it is now one of my favourite pieces of furniture. The hanging bubble chair is an Eero Aarnio reproduction, also from eBay."

It's a style that reflects her belief in interiors. "There is no right or wrong - it's your home so it just needs to reflect you.

"I've gone for quite a minimal feel in here," says Gigi of the living room. "The sofa is a vintage 1970s day bed which I found at Kempton Antique Fair. It's true what they say - one man's trash is another man's treasure." The artworks were found at Spitalfields market in East London.

The paint throughout the house is from Homebase. "I didn't want anything too fancy or expensive," says Gigi. "I do have Farrow & Ball on the exterior of the house but all the interior paint is DIY shop bought - and given most of the walls are now covered in little grubby handprints that's probably not a bad thing!

"The kitchen was very beige when we bought it so we took out the old dark kitchen units and replaced them with white units from Howden's Kitchens (howdens.com). We also repainted the whole room white and added metro tiles around the kitchen units," says Gigi.

But it wasn't a complete white out. She splashed out with punchy colour too. One of the beams in the kitchen is red and the colour is picked up with a neon light. The kitchen table was picked up at a flea market while Gigi found the original Eero Saarinen tulip chairs many years ago.

"I always hoped that one day I'd have the perfect house for them," she laughs.

Upstairs, although Gigi swears she is a minimalist, there is zingy wallpaper and flashes of colour in the bedrooms and bathrooms.

"I'm a bit obsessive when it comes to clutter so I've just kept to the bare minimum in the bedrooms: a bed and often just a chair as a bedside table. My daughter Willow and I decorated the wall in her room with swallow wall decals and she also has a blue neon swallow in there - which she loves."

Artwork plays a part in adding drama to the bedrooms and bathroom with framed vintage Penguin postcards, and neon art by bag&bones.

The other half of the design company is Gigi's sister Cavanagh who is based in Dublin, so Gigi travels back and forth regularly. Brown Thomas is a favourite stop-off, she says, and the pair took part in The Lost Warhol exhibition there in October.

"Cav had some of her pop art there and I had an Andy Warhol quote in bright red neon - it was brilliant. I definitely think an appreciation for art is growing more and more in Ireland. Irish people are investing money in beautiful pieces of art.

"Big brands are supporting independent artists, for example, The Lost Warhols exhibition at Brown Thomas and Dunnes Stores' recent collaboration with Helen Steele. I think we are going to see a lot more of that in the future, which can only be a good thing."

Could she be lured back to Ireland then? "It would be an absolute dream to go back," says Gigi.

"I'm really close to my family and they're all in Ireland, so I would love to move home one day. Plus I have such happy memories of growing up in Ireland - I would love it."

For now, she is happy where she is.

But watch this space…

Trend spotting?

"I'm obsessed by anything from the '70s - the fashion, the music, the art. I'm currently working on some new lights that are influenced by that hedonistic decade and in particular Studio 54. And I think Pop Art is a theme that will continue to feature in all things interior."

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