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Street vibes – how murals and prints inspired by street art are livening up home designs

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InSpace interior with mural by James Kirwan at a house in Walkinstown, Dublin

InSpace interior with mural by James Kirwan at a house in Walkinstown, Dublin

Garden mural by Anna Doran of Minaw Collective

Garden mural by Anna Doran of Minaw Collective

Queen Marilyn Monroe LED neon artwork from Audenza

Queen Marilyn Monroe LED neon artwork from Audenza

Mural by All Out Design

Mural by All Out Design

Inspace interior Stoneybatter, Dublin 7

Inspace interior Stoneybatter, Dublin 7

Inspace Interior, Harold's Cross, Dublin 6W

Inspace Interior, Harold's Cross, Dublin 6W

Inspace Interior, Stoneybatter, Dublin 7

Inspace Interior, Stoneybatter, Dublin 7

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InSpace interior with mural by James Kirwan at a house in Walkinstown, Dublin

“I hate fake art,” says Emily Ni Chuinneain, interior designer and passionate art advocate. “It doesn’t connect you with anything.”

Unauthored, generic, and mass-produced, fake art has no character or soul. It’s found in cheap hotel bedrooms, sold in large shops, and purchased by those who want to fill a gap on the wall.

“There is real art for all budgets,” she insists. “It doesn’t have to be expensive.”

Real art might be an original painting, but it might also be a limited edition print, or even a mural. Either way, it has a bit of energy behind it.

Unlike fake art, real art has meaning beyond the decorative. It meant something to the artist and it means something to the person who owns it (these meanings do not have to be the same).

As the principal of Inspace, Ni Chuinneain sees art as an integral part of the interior design package. “I don’t just design a space and put the art in afterwards,” she says.

Sometimes she works with street artists to create murals in indoor and outdoor spaces. “The majority of Irish street artists do commissions and it’s a really nice way of supporting artists and having real art in your home. You can go about it one of two ways.

“Either you can put your brief together and find the right artist to make it happen, or you can find an artist whose work you love and build the brief around that.”

In several previous projects, she’s worked with the artist James Kirwan. “He’ll show you his previous work and then you just give him a colour palette and let him go. He just kind of goes for it but he has a very consistent style.”

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If you’re not sure of the style that you like best, she suggests a stroll around any Irish city to see the breadth and scope of what’s available.

Many street artists also make limited edition prints, sold through shops like Hen’s Teeth, the Jam Art Factory, and Damn Fine Print.

On one level, these are an affordable way of buying original artwork (prices vary but expect to pay around €100 for an unframed A2 print). Should you want to commission a mural, the print shops will tell you how to get in touch with the artist.

“Have a talk with them and see if you’re on the same wavelength,” Ni Chuinneain advises. “Be as specific as you can be in describing what you want: the size, the location, and the feeling that you want to evoke. Think about the possible colour palette and how that might work within the existing space.

“The more specific you can be, the better your experience will be. And then cross-reference with the artist. They all have their own style. Turn it over to them and they will come back to you with a proposal, either hand-sketched or digital. Don’t skip this step — that little piece in the middle is a really important part.”

The cost needs to be discussed at the very start of the process. It will depend on the square footage of the area to be covered, the complexity of the design, and how well-known the artist is. They may give you a ballpark figure at the beginning and then come back with a final cost once the proposal has been discussed.

Once all that’s been decided, it’s up to the artist to do their thing and the homeowner to step back and allow them to do so. “Don’t micromanage. You’re hiring an artist to create a piece of art. It’s not always going to turn out the way you have it in your mind. It almost definitely won’t. The key is finding that artist that is going to represent the look that you’re after.”

“Street art is becoming more popular,” says Steve O’Donnell, creative director of All Out Design, a company that offers a combination of interior design, hand-painted murals, and graffiti workshops.

“We have different artists who can do anything that anyone could possibly want on a wall.” Expect spray paint and a raw edgy aesthetic.

“They’re extremely popular in gardens but in my opinion they work better indoors, especially as a feature wall in an open-plan living space. Then you have something that nobody else in the world has,” he says.

“But most people aren’t that adventurous when it comes to the inside of their homes.” Costs begin around €900, depending on the condition of the wall and the size and complexity of the artwork.

Anna Doran is a street artist and a member of the Minaw Collective, an all-female multi-cultural group of street artists based around Ireland (the name is derived from Mná, the Irish for women, spelt phonetically to make it more accessible to members from other countries).

“I’m just after finishing the Christmas walls in Kildare Village,” she says. “People think that street art is all about the lads, but we’re up there in our cherry-pickers with our spray cans too!”

In terms of style, female artists bring something different to the party. “I’d do a lot of garden walls,” she says. “It’s great because even in the winter you have something to look at. I do interior work too, but you’d need to evacuate the house. The smell when you’re spraying can be really intoxicating. You’d almost get drunk on the fumes.”

Prices from the Minaw Collective start around €1,000, depending on the size of the project.

Ni Chuinneain’s own home in Stoneybatter, Dublin, has a very small outdoor space for which she designed her own mural; a fantasy landscape of mountains and sky that wraps around the walls.

“I wanted to create a feeling of depth and make it seem like there’s more out there,” she says. “This is the third mural I’ve had in that space. That’s the magic of them. They’re not permanent and that’s what makes them an interesting medium to work in. The downside of murals is that you can’t bring them with you when you move.”

No matter how much you love spray-painted street art, you probably won’t want it in every room in the house. An alternative, and one that’s suitable for renters, is a gallery wall.

“Framing is super-important. If you took the paintings as they were, they might have looked twee and florally, but the frame really makes a difference.”

For renters, she recommends command strips (available from your local DIY store) which can be used to hang framed paintings or prints without damaging the wall. When putting a gallery wall together, the trick is to lay it all out on the floor before starting to hang the paintings.

“People want to replicate what they see on Instagram but the best gallery walls are created over time with pieces that you love.”

See inspace.ie, allout.ie, minawcollective.com


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