Sunday 21 January 2018

Suzie's storeys

Suzie Mc Adam has many talents, and is so chic that she recently won a major style award. However, her beautiful home shows that her greatest passion is for interiors. Edited by Mary O'Sullivan. Photography by Tony Gavin

Suzie McAdam and Barry Byrne with their husky, Mischko, in their contemporary styled living room with its fire orb. Suzie has added vintage touches like the Eames rocker, and the cushions are made up in fabrics of her own design and are available from her website. Photo: Tony Gavin
Suzie McAdam and Barry Byrne with their husky, Mischko, in their contemporary styled living room with its fire orb. Suzie has added vintage touches like the Eames rocker, and the cushions are made up in fabrics of her own design and are available from her website. Photo: Tony Gavin
Suzie kept the colour scheme in the kitchen white, as colour is provided by the garden; the kitchen table is from Retrorumage and the Pantonesque chairs are from Nest. Photo: Tony Gavin
Another view of the music room which doubles as an office; Suzie develops her design concepts here also. Photo: Tony Gavin
The garden was non-existent when Barry and Suzie moved in and they added the paving, the pond and the planting. Photo: Tony Gavin
Suzie sings and plays the piano and harp and has both in her music room. 'My dad bought the baby grand at auction in Limerick and it languished in our garage for ages until I rescued it,' she notes with a smile. Photo Tony Gavin

Many professionals, especially creative professionals, have an inkling from an early age of what their eventual careers will be. There are the chefs who say they started by helping their mothers; the actors who shone in the school plays; the artists who were always winning prizes while still students.

Few, however, can lay claim to the early level of confidence enjoyed by young Suzie McAdam, now an interior architect. "My late dad was from Louth, and he and Mum decided to build a holiday home - a standard dormer bungalow - in Carlingford. I think I was 10 or 11 at the time, but I insisted we had to put the living space at the top of the house to enjoy the views," Suzie reminisces, and adds with a laugh, "there was an architect involved, and I don't think he was too impressed." The doting parents said, "Let her off" and agreed to the design change. "That was my first official job," says Suzie.

Now in her late 20s, Suzie is a successful interior architect and she divides her time between residential and commercial projects. Her most recent commercial job was the restaurant Stanley's in St Andrew's Street, D2, run by Chef Stephen McArdle, and she's thrilled with the result. "It's a modern bistro with a brass bar. I put my heart and soul into it, so I feel emotionally attached to it. Stephen was lovely, open to all my ideas; he gave me a blank canvas, and it was lovely to go from initial concept, all the way through to the end." she says.

Suzie's experience in residential projects is wide-ranging. After college, she spent some time in Palo Alto in California, and got the opportunity to work on some very high-end houses, which helped hone her abilities. Her style tends towards the contemporary, but the American experience widened her range to include classical and the traditional, which the Americans favour. She's also worked on some period properties. In fact, she loves to mix contemporary, classic, and period styles, and finds many of her clients do too. "I recently did a course in the Georgian Society, and I find I'm very interested in the mix of Georgian proportions with contemporary furniture," Suzie says.

As well as her creative skills, the elegant blonde is blessed with a bubbly personality, and so has been in demand as a design consultant on makeover shows like Feargal Quinn's Retail Therapy, and The Takeover with Norah Casey. She also has an award-winning blog. So far, so seemingly perfect. However, it will come as some consolation to young people looking for their niche, that, despite her early start, it wasn't all plain sailing for Suzie, who's one of two girls.

Suzie's father, an engineer, spent a lot of time working in America. He and her mother wanted to bring the girls up in Ireland, so they compromised by spending long holidays in the States, while the rest of the time they were based in Limerick. After school there, Suzie went to Bolton Street to study architecture. "All the family are in engineering, I was the black sheep, being the creative one," Suzie says with a laugh, adding, "to engineers, art seems alien, so I opted for architecture as a good balance. I spent a few years studying it, but I didn't love it."

Fortunately, she was able to switch to interior architecture, which proved a better match for her talents. "Suddenly, everything clicked," Suzie says happily.

Around the same time, her love life clicked too - though that didn't progress too smoothly at the beginning either. "A friend of mine was trying to hook up with a guy, so we went to this other guy Barry's going-away party, where we knew her crush would be. Barry was in the army and was going away to the Lebanon. I thought, 'Hmmm, I like this guy, but he's going away for six months so that's that'," Suzie recalls. "Then, when he came back, we met randomly on his first night out, though actually Barry played it all cool and didn't seem to remember me."

Barry, whose surname is Byrne, disputes this version of events - his story is that Suzie was wearing flip-flops the first time they met and high heels the second time, and it was her height in the heels that threw him. Anyway, things were quickly resolved and the couple started going out. That was eight years ago, and they married in 2013. Barry is a commandant and works in the communications and information department of the army; it's the technology end of things, which he loves.

Barry, who hails from Wicklow, says he joined the armed forces for the travel and educational possibilities on offer and he hasn't been disappointed; under the aegis of the army, he did his undergraduate degree in Galway and a masters in Trinity, and he's done tours with the UN peacekeeping forces in the Congo and Liberia, as well as the Lebanon. Now based in Dublin, he lectures part-time in Trinity, and he and his team have won awards for their expertise, including IT Professionals of the Year at the Tech Excellence Awards. "Everyone competes for this award, all the top tech companies like Microsoft; it's a really nice accolade to beat off all the top competition," says Barry.

Barry may be brilliant at what he does, but he's not a complete tech geek, and he reveals he really enjoys interiors since he became involved with Suzie; he's taken a big interest in the creation of their home, which they bought in 2010. The house appears to be two storey from the outside, but the living space is actually spread over four different levels. The kitchen/dining room is on the ground floor and leads to the garden, and there are steps from here to the living area. There is also a stairs to the front room, which Suzie uses as a music room - she plays the piano and harp - and down in the basement is the bedroom and dressing room. Suzie is big into style, and she won the Most Stylish Lady competition at The Curragh recently.

A new build, the house is attractively designed and has some great features, including the high ceiling in the lounge area and the fire orb. "The fire was the selling point for me," says Barry.

However, the house was essentially a blank canvas and so Suzie, with some help from Barry, was able to put her stamp on it. For example, the kitchen units are plain, but Suzie has customised them with Japanese tape. The coffee table in the living room is an Ikea purchase, and again she added her own stamp by painting it bronze.

The overall palette is white and it's because the couple like white, not because the colour scheme matches their gorgeous husky Mischko, who was a gift to Suzie from Barry. "He was going to Malaysia for two weeks and he got me a puppy for company," she says fondly.

While there's a lot of white, Suzie says she's stepping away from complete minimalism and, in the meantime, she uses lamps and textures to great effect. "For me, a house has to be functioning, welcoming and warm. I like to mix lighting, mirrors, contemporary furnishings and vintage pieces. I like a house to have a story."

Barry and Suzie's house tells a tale of ambition, drive and great happiness.

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