My Favourite Room: The home owner who became an interior designer while on maternity leave
With childcare and creches so much in the news over the last few months, those of us who are not parents of young children are getting a glimpse into the lives of those who are, and we're realising that rearing young kids is hard.
Even with the best childcare in the world, parents of young children are having to leave their smallies to creches and nurseries at ungodly hours in order to get to their jobs and start their working days. And due to long commutes, they're arriving home shattered. Any glitch in the fragile system a couple have negotiated - like a sick child, or a delay in leaving work - and the whole edifice falls apart.
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For 30-something designer Lynn Pitcher, mother of toddler Shay, the only answer was to start her own business. It might seem incredible that to take on the responsibility of a new company is actually easier than having a stable job, but for Lynn, it's been the perfect solution.
"When I was working, I left the house at 6.30am and I was getting home at 6.30pm - the time Shay was going to bed, so I hardly saw him. Now I can be much more flexible," Lynn explains.
Lynn was lucky in that she has the talent and experience to open her own business. Called Source Interiors, it's an interior design shop selling lighting, mirrors, and myriad other accessories for the home. It's an area of design that Lynn's been steeped in since childhood.
"My dad had a company making worktops for kitchen units and other furniture, and my mother always had a massive flair for interiors. My grandmother, auntie and my mother were all obsessed with houses, always changing rooms in their houses, always redecorating, always buying new things for their homes, and always talking about their houses, so you could say it's been in my blood," Lynn laughs.
After school, however, while she studied design, it was fashion design rather than interiors, and she then went to work for different companies, before landing a job as a fashion designer in Penneys, where she worked for seven years - she was one of the first designers employed by Penneys.
It was a good job, but she got the urge to pack it in and try something new when she lost her father in 2011; he died after a short illness.
"It really shook me when he passed away," Lynn says. "After that, I was like, 'There has to be more to life than this'. I handed in my notice and went to New York. I helped a friend in her company, and at the same time, I suppose I was finding myself. Being there did help me. Also, I hadn't travelled when I was young, so it cured that itch, too."
When Lynn returned to Ireland, she got a job with Dunnes Stores. "They're a tough company to work with, but they are formidable at what they do, and I learned so much," she explains. "When you go in there, you get involved in everything. I was in men's design first, then I became head of kids' design."
When Shay arrived, Lynn took maternity leave, and afterwards she went into homewares. "I was doing bedroom and bathroom design, and range building - what everything is going to look like in store at any one time. While I was working in that area, I was always taking in the whole homewares scene. I really enjoyed working there, and I miss it. When I handed in my notice, I cried, and I wasn't sure I had done the right thing."
When she left Dunnes, Lynn didn't have a major plan, but she started to think pretty quickly about what she was good at and what would be feasible to do. "I knew there weren't a lot of options in employment near my home, and that I'd have to think of something for myself. I got the idea for Source Interiors pretty quickly," Lynn says.
"When myself and my partner, Aidan, bought this house I was on maternity leave, and because I had time, I went everywhere looking for stuff. I realised if I'd been working, I wouldn't have been able to do it, so I figured that was a service I could offer people - source stuff for them if they hadn't the time to do it themselves. Also, I realised that here on the northside, there weren't many different interiors stores."
She decided to open a shop in Swords - she and Aidan are both from nearby Malahide - but in an industrial estate rather than the village, as parking in the village is limited.
Despite having plenty on her plate with Shay, she put her plan into action fairly quickly. "I left Dunnes in December and went to Paris in January and started to look for suppliers. I did a 'start your own business' course in February, and I opened the shop on May 16," she says.
The shop is a combination of services; customers can buy what's in stock in store, they can order bigger items, and they can also send images to Lynn and she will source what they're looking for. She also does consultancy, helping people to decide paint colours, lighting and furnishings. She does small gifts, including candles, photo frames, and small home accessories, a lot of which have made their way to Lynn's own home, including the many bugs and animal heads which can be found in practically every space in the house.
"I love animals of all kinds," says Lynn, who is the devoted owner of cockapoo Susie, "but they're also massively on trend."
She and Aidan, who is a carpenter, and has his own business, AL Carpentry and Design, bought their home two years ago. "We got it through my mother's persistence. We had put a deposit on a different house in Malahide, but she kept at me to come and look at these houses. Looking at houses is her passion. Finally we came, and she was right, it was perfect," says Lynn. "We liked that it was at the end of a cul de sac; it's south-facing and the living spaces were better."
When Lynn first saw the house, it was a blank canvas, all painted cream, but she was able to see beyond that. "That wouldn't be me. I'm not into cream. My last house was all pink. And I wanted this to be different," she says.
"I love the warmth of dark colours, and because it's south-facing and gets a lot of light, we could afford to experiment with colour. It's only paint, so if we make a mistake, I don't see it as a big deal. Paint is our friend. It's not the most expensive thing, and it's very effective."
Sometimes, with new houses, it can be hard to add character, depth and interest, but Lynn has managed to add all three to her house. She uses panelling extensively, all courtesy of Aidan.
"He is brilliant," she notes proudly, as she points out a floating shelf high on the wall in the family room, to which he also added lighting. She adds, "He did an amazing job in the shop too."
Depth is added in her choice of paints; she layers on different shades and lifts them with pops of colour. "I got over pink, now I love orange," Lynn says with a laugh.
Interest is added through unusual details, giving the house a touch of the baroque - like the metallic tiles in the kitchen.
"I really like the tiles, they can look silver in some lights, gold in others," she says. She's also peppered the house with extravagant lamps from Source Interiors, prints of dogs dressed in suits, and framed newspaper pages. "I suppose you'd say my taste is eclectic. I'm not afraid of mixing old and new," she notes.
And there's no shortage of quirky photo frames from the shop - most of which feature little Shay, the reason Lynn started the shop in the first place. "I feel like I've won the Lotto. I love what I do, and I get to see so much more of Shay," she says.
Source Interiors, Swords Enterprise Park, Feltrim Road, Swords, Co Dublin, see sourceinteriors.ie Instagram @source_interiors.ie
Edited by Mary O'Sullivan
Photography by Tony Gavin
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