'Mum always kept a really beautiful house' - How this interior designer created this fitting tribute to her parents
There's a lot of media talk nowadays about how young adults pull out of their parents, scrounging off them, and staying in the family home till they're well into their 30s, preventing the elder lemons from getting on with their lives.
Happily, these are not in the majority, and there are kids who more than repay the love, care and education they received at the hands of their parents; Lauren Martin is one such young woman. Not only is she truly independent - with her own home and an interiors business called North, which she co-owns with a fellow millennial, Louise Rankin - but as an interior designer, she actually helped her parents to create their lovely home in south Co Dublin.
Of course it is thanks to the parents, her dad in particular, that she is an interior designer. "When I left school, I did Montessori training," Lauren explains. "I worked at that for a year. I liked it, but I wasn't fulfilled by it. Dad knew that, he encouraged me to go the creative route."
Being a creative himself, a photographer, Lauren's dad, Phillip, recognised her talent for the visual and, when Montessori didn't work out, he encouraged her to go into architecture or interiors. Both were relatively familiar territories to Lauren; she had watched her parents building and renovating homes as she grew up. Phillip, who's from the North, and Lauren's mother, Christine, who's from Dundrum in Dublin, bought a site in Roundwood, on an acre, early in their marriage, and built a charming country cottage. When Lauren and her brother, James, started secondary school in Dublin, the parents got fed up of the routine of driving them to Dublin for school - not to mind chauffeuring them to various sports and social activities - so they moved back to the capital. They bought an old house and renovated it, this time in Carrickmines. "We stayed 10 years in each. That wasn't deliberate, it just happened," Christine notes with a laugh.
"Mum always kept a really beautiful house. She was very house proud and forever buying interiors books and doing things to the house. I learned a lot from her," Lauren volunteers. Lauren's dad was very hands-on too, and added a studio to the Carrickmines house, which he built himself.
A portfolio course in Sallynoggin gave Lauren the confidence to pursue interiors, and she followed it with a four-year degree in interior architecture at DIT. "I absolutely loved it," Lauren says. "I was 23 starting the course, so I was a bit older than the other students. I love interiors, but I also love the architectural technical side. It's not just picking colours, that's the exciting bit at the end. But it's the construction side, the spatial layout - I love that as well."
As it happened, as Lauren was studying those very aspects of house design, Phillip and Christine had decided now that Lauren and James were getting older and hopefully moving on, they would move yet again, and, this time, would go back to building from scratch.
"Carrickmines had become too big for us," Christine says. "James had already moved out. We had kept Roundwood and it had been rented for 10 years, so it needed some TLC. We sold Carrickmines, and moved back to Roundwood."
During that time back in Wicklow, they looked for a site in Dublin. Phillip had found, when building the Roundwood house, that it was cheaper to buy a site and build your own house than it was to buy a house ready-made and do it up. "You get to do what you want. The site came with plans, and we really liked them, but we were able to make adjustments," adds Lauren.
Lauren was in the third year of her course when they started to build the house, so it was of huge benefit to her. "It really was the first project I got to see from start to finish, from digging foundations on. I was here with Dad, who project-managed the build, working on the house every moment I could. I learned so much.
"You'd come around and Dad would be up on the roof, hauling sleepers. I remember one night in the middle of winter, I found him painting upstairs. There was no electricity, so he had the photographic lights on stands, blasting away," Lauren marvels.
Christine is keen to emphasise Lauren's role in the interiors."It was great to run all our ideas by Lauren," she says. "If you're not trained in that way, you have a vision in your mind but you don't know it will work out, so I was able to discuss things with her and she could draw them out for me. I would have had to get someone to help me with that, if I didn't have Lauren."
Lauren elaborates: "Mum would show me reference images, like the kitchen; and I'd draw it up. I helped them out with the technical side."
Keeping it in the family, Christine's brother, Leo Tracey, is a joiner, and he fitted the kitchen. "It was great having my uncle so I could ask him all the questions. It worked out well," Lauren says.
Lauren was still in college, but while her parents sourced the samples, and brought bundles of them home, she helped them with the decisions. When it came to the kitchen, they bought the units in the Panelling Centre, as budgets were running low, but they were able to customise them through paint colours and by adding beading. Lauren and Christine debated the pros and cons of bringing the units to the ceiling, but ultimately decided not to; Christine says having Lauren there to decide matters like that was invaluable.
Another big decision was whether or not to keep the living spaces all open plan, but finally it was decided to put in double doors between the different areas, which can all be opened up if necessary.
"They're rarely closed, but it's an option," says Lauren. "In the original plans, there were three sitting areas. Why would you need three? In our last house, there was no separate dining room and we felt the lack of one, so we made one of the spaces here the dining room and you can close it off."
The size of the island unit - it's big - was another subject for discussion, and all agreed it had been too small in their previous house.
The unit in the dining room was designed by Lauren. "I wanted a unit by Neptune, they're absolutely beautiful, but they're very expensive," says Christine. Lauren adds, "We wanted something that would fit exactly, so I designed it up in the style of Neptune and we got a joiner to make them, so they fit well for the space."
The colours downstairs are a mix of Neptune and Colourtrend paints, while upstairs they are all Farrow & Ball.
The house has engineered oak flooring downstairs and underfloor heating. It has a marvellous floor-to-roof wall of glass to the front, and the light pours in - so much so that it necessitated the installation of remote-controlled blinds.
After all her hard work on the house, Lauren only gets to enjoy it when she turns up for family gatherings; these days, she shares an apartment with her boyfriend, Graham. "We met when we were kids, in primary school. There's no getting away from him," she notes jokingly.
Her parents are really enjoying it, however. Phillip must be particularly satisfied, having done all the costings, found all the tradespeople and having project-managed the build. He did such a successful job, one could imagine Lauren and himself setting up a partnership. But he has his own business to be getting on with.
And now so has Lauren; she and Louise set up their interior design company two months ago, and it's flying. "We worked together after I left college and we became great friends," she says.
A nice touch is the name of their company. "My dad is from the North and so is Louise's dad, that's why we called it North," Lauren says.
A fitting tribute to long-suffering parents. See northdesign.ie
Edited by Mary O'Sullivan
Photography by PJ Rankin