Wednesday 22 May 2019

Sunny Side Up: Musician's authentic 1950s-style decor

When musician Ger Eaton renovated his Kildare house, he created an authentic 1950s vibe, as he's obsessed with that era. But there's room for his other obsessions too.

Musician Ger Eaton in his kitchen where everything is retro, even the tiles. The dapper Ger loves pre-loved clothes too. ‘At the Electric Picnic, I was told I was the most stylish man there. I was wearing a suit I’ve had since I was 16,’ he notes
Musician Ger Eaton in his kitchen where everything is retro, even the tiles. The dapper Ger loves pre-loved clothes too. ‘At the Electric Picnic, I was told I was the most stylish man there. I was wearing a suit I’ve had since I was 16,’ he notes
The bathroom is furnished in avocado and has a circular stained glass window
Ger’s music room is also home to an old reel-to-reel audio system, a mixing desk, and his well-preserved collection of vinyl records. Guitars line the wall above the staircase which leads to a studio on the mezzanine
Ger Eaton’s music room is full of vintage artefacts relating to his love of music, including banners dating from the 1950s to the 1980s, and an unusual V-shaped cocktail bar. The blue sofa came from the American Embassy
The family room is covered in a geometric-patterned wallpaper, and a bookshelf is home to books and games kept by Ger since his childhood

Mary O'Sullivan

There's so much to absorb about the decor in musician Ger Eaton's house that a key piece almost goes unnoticed until he himself draws attention to it.

It's a Duran Duran calendar for the year 1986. It's not the band per se who matter - Duran Duran wouldn't be top of music-lover Ger's list - but instead it's the year it sets out.

"It occurred to me that calendars must be reusable at some stage and they are. I discovered that every 28 years is a definite reuse and there are other years in between," Ger explains, demonstrating to me how each day and date in the 2014 calendar corresponds with the same month in 1986.

To most people that would be an interesting piece of trivia, but it's much more to Ger. His house is a shrine to the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, and, at a push, 1980s, and the fact that even calendars can be reused all these years later adds extra relevance.

There is nothing contemporary in the house apart from his children's clothes and toys - Ger has all his toys, board games and books from his own childhood - and a few essentials, which are a sore point with Ger. "We used to have a lovely 1960s cooker but I was outvoted," he says, referring to the fact that his wife Susann insisted on a new one. He also had a black and white TV set, but Susann was joined by their children, Jude, 12, and Bowie, eight, in rebelling against that one. It was decided too that the 1970s toaster would have to be replaced, but everything else ­- tables, chairs, sofas, carpets, cups, saucers, kettle, jugs, and pots date from the era Ger is obsessed with.

His clothes are vintage too. "I was playing at the Electric Picnic and I was told I was the most stylish man there," Ger notes proudly. "I was wearing a suit I've had since I was 16 and even then it would have been second-hand. I've always been interested in fashion, for me, music and fashion go hand in hand."

Growing up in Dublin ­­­­- Rialto until he was 15, then Templeogue - music was Ger's first love and it remains his passion. He started by playing the drums, and then, because he wanted to write songs, he took up the guitar. Later still he studied the piano at the College of Music, because he felt it would help him to write in a different way. "Once you get immersed in writing songs, that's what you want to do," he says.

Ger knew it wouldn't be easy to make a living from music, so he always had a day job. He spent a year in the civil service but he quickly realised that wasn't for him. That was followed by work as an engraver, and even though his boss was very accommodating, and allowed Ger and his band to rehearse on the premises, he couldn't see himself doing it for life, and moved on after six years.

He had met his wife Susann when they were still at school. She became a hairdresser, and, in his mid 20s, Ger decided to also try hairdressing. "I trained with Robert Chambers in Grafton Street and he took me on. I do three days a week, which suits me, I don't like work to control what I do," he notes.

His arrangement with Robert Chambers allows for flexibility and as a freelance musician he often tours with top musical acts including Mundy, Duke Special and Jack L. "I worked with those people, both in the studio and live. You get to do good gigs, television, festivals, things you'd like to be doing with your own music, but such is the way of the world. Still, it's an experience that you learn from," Ger says philosophically. While he's at it, he cuts their hair. "Musicians are busy people, it's a way of keeping in touch. Duke Special is the only one I haven't done, as he has dreadlocks," he says with a gentle laugh.

His flexibility as a hairdresser also allows him to pursue his own projects.

One of five kids, Ger hails from a musical family. His father was an opera fan, his mother taught choirs, and two of his siblings Maura and Eamonn sing in the RTE choir. He was in his first band Premonition with his brother Kieran at 15. "It was around the time of Something Happens, we were supporting them, and A House. It was a good scene. We released a single with EMI, a little 7in vinyl, then we broke up" he reminisces.

Ger bought recording equipment and recorded demos and records for other bands but his real ambition was to record songs he wrote himself. In 2003, he and his next band Las Vegas Basement, which he describes as psychedelic glam rock, brought out an album which did quite well.

However his writing partner emigrated and Ger started again with another band, this time called Les Marionettes, but his most recent venture, The Carnival Brothers, seems to be the one that will take off. Last year they had a big hit with The Sun Is Gonna Shine, "Essentially it's myself and John Walsh," he says. "We worked together on projects over 10 years, and we never solidified as a band as such, until this. The song was picked up for an ad for Molson Beer and so we decided to give it a roll." The video of the song which was melodic and light-hearted was a big hit; Ger sings the lead role and is backed by burlesque dancers.

There are plans now for a big event at the Spiegeltent in Wexford on October 30, and they are busy writing and recording music for it. But it's also a visual spectacle and will feature the burlesque dancers. "The music will be uplifting and feel-good, not morose or shoe-gazey," he says. "We want people to go away with a smile. It'll be very visual. The visual is very important to me."

That's obvious from his home which he and Susann bought 15 years ago. And minimalist it ain't. "I don't like the white minimalist thing, it just doesn't do it for me. I've always been intrigued by psychedelia. Musically I've gone through it but I just love Pop art, swirly patterns, geometric design."

And most of these qualities belong to the era between 1950 and 1980.

The couple renovated the house seven years ago and while they were in the process, Ger spotted the kitchen units in a shop in Temple Bar. They were made in 1959, by English Rose, a well-known company who made the units out of metal left over from Second World War aeroplanes. "We were able to plan the extension around the units," he says.

The orange floor tiles, which Ger got through word of mouth, date from the 1970s. "When people know you're into stuff, they get on to you. I got the tiles from the man who did up the Odessa Club, he had loads left over and I had to take all or nothing. I've loads for sale," Ger says hopefully.

The furnishings came from the most unlikely sources. "We were staying with friends in New York and there was a yard sale around the corner. We bought the blue kitchen chairs there and a few other things. We divided them into four bundles and each took one case and one bundle on an Aer Lingus flight and they didn't charge a penny!" Ger marvels.

What may come as a surprise to readers - given that it's all about vintage - is his best resource is the internet. "I've discovered that eBay is a wonderful thing," he says fervently.

Ger may love the past, but he's not blind to the benefits of the present and remains ever hopeful about the future. For information about the show on October 30, see thecarnivalbrothers.com

Photography by Tony Gavin

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