This interior designer's home is beautiful - and the kitchen is handcrafted
At the top of the stairs in interior architect Jackie Vaughan's delightful home in Moyvane, Co Kerry, hangs a crystal chandelier.
It's beautiful, but that isn't its only significance to Jackie - it's extra meaningful because it was one of the first presents from her then boyfriend, Stephen. "It was 13 years ago. We weren't going out very long, and we were only 17, if even that," Jackie recalls. "I loved going into furniture shops; I would stay in them for the day. We happened to be in a furniture shop one day and I said to Stephen, 'That chandelier is incredible, I love it'. He bought it as a gift for me, along with a huge mirror that's in the sitting room. They were in storage for 10 years until we bought the house."
There are several remarkable things about this story. For a start, most teenage romances fizzle out, particularly if the relationship, as in this case, has to be conducted at a distance, yet this young couple went on to marry - while still based thousands of miles apart - and are very happy.
The other remarkable thing is that despite her passion for furniture, and despite the fact that her father has always had his own kitchen and furniture company, Vaughan Kitchens & Furniture, it didn't dawn on young Jackie when she was leaving school that something in interiors would be the ideal career for her. "My family have been in the design business for 35 years. I have one younger brother, Jamie, who's in the family business too," Jackie says, adding, "I grew up in the business. I used to love arranging the furniture, but I never thought of it as a career; I never thought a career could be that enjoyable."
Rather than emulating her younger brother, when Jackie left school, she decided to follow in her older sister's footsteps - Katrina had a beauty salon, so Jackie decided to also study beauty therapy. "I thought it would be quite convenient, easy to get a job," she notes, laughing at her younger self, "But I didn't love beauty, so I gave it up and I travelled for a while."
She went to London for a year with Stephen, who had become a welder. Then, when she came back, she went into the fashion business. "I opened up a bridal boutique, called Angel Couture Bridal in Tralee, and I had that for nearly five years. I opened it in 2009; it was the beginning of the downturn. It just wasn't a good time. I closed the shop in Tralee after about two years, but I relocated to my father's premises in Moyvane. It takes a long time to wind down a bridal shop, people have put in orders in advance and you have to fulfill them," Jackie explains.
Stephen was in Australia when she closed the business, so she joined him for nine months, before coming home and joining her dad and brother in the family business. It was through that, and then through doing up her own house, that it finally dawned on Jackie that her dream career path lay in interiors, and she signed up to do an interiors degree. She's just graduated as an interiors architect from Griffith College.
It was a four-year course, and while most 20-somethings at Jackie's stage of life would have their studies behind them and would be out socialising, it suited her to continue her studies, as Stephen, whom she met in Abbeyfeale on New Year's Eve when she was 15, works in mines on the other side of the world, and has done ever since he trained as a welder. He specialises in welding the pipes that take the gas in gas mines, and all the work in that field is in the Middle East and Australia.
After the year they spent together in London, Stephen went to Kuwait; Jackie didn't join him there as it was too restrictive for women, so they used to meet half-way. "For his week off, we would meet in cities in Europe; it sounds romantic, and it can be, but it can be hard too," she explains.
After three years in Kuwait, Stephen went to Australia, and for the last five years, he's been commuting. "He's home at the moment, and it's the first time in five years that he's been home for longer than six months," Jackie says. "He's been here for eight months - he was home for my finals, which was great. There would be no point in me living in Australia; that time I went to Australia, I was mostly by myself, except when he got time off. Otherwise, he'd be working in a mine and living on a campsite. He's never near a city, it's all camp work, very isolated."
The way it normally works is Stephen does a 28-day stint, then gets a week off. "Because of flight times and time differences, we'd only get four-and-a-half days before he'd have to go back again,"Jackie explains, adding that she doesn't mind the unusual lifestyle. "He loves it, he lives for his job, and that's most important. I'm very easy-going, and from such a young age, I'm used to him travelling. It makes no difference to me.There were the odd few phone calls, 'I never want to see you again' - but they never lasted long," she says with a laugh.
It helps that her parents, her brother and two sisters - both sisters have their own businesses, one has a beauty salon, the other owns a hair salon - all live nearby. "We live in each other's pockets, but it's lovely too," Jackie says.
Stephen and Jackie got married in 2012 - Stephen flew in for the wedding - and they weren't sure at the time where they would end up living. Would they emigrate to Australia, or would they settle in Ireland? "Stephen was living out of a suitcase for six years; we needed some place to call home," Jackie says. "Five days after the wedding, I saw this house, and I loved it immediately. Stephen had to fly back to Australia, so I took it on. It was never supposed to be our forever home, but I fell in love with it."
The house is one of five built in 2008 and taken over by the banks until 2012, when they were all sold. "Because of that, we got a deadly bargain," Jackie notes, "And it became my project. And I think that's when I really realised, 'I want to make interiors my career'. Two months after we bought it, I enrolled in Griffith College."
Maybe it was good that she trained relatively late; she now has the confidence to involve herself in changes to the family business, and even to spearhead some of the changes. "I've just graduated, and I'm going to be independent of them, but I'm based in their offices, and I'll be part of the family business for sure. We're relaunching in May this year as Vaughan & Co - new showrooms, new branding, it's very exciting," Jackie says, adding that she has encouraged the new identity. "I've been pushing them to be more forward-thinking and they're being very patient; they're going with me. We'll always be doing handcrafted kitchens, that's our bread and butter. But the business has developed over time to doing complete renovations, building works, and redesign. My father was always an amazing designer, and he's done it for years, so that's the direction the business is going to take - we're going down the route of full house design and hotels and bars," Jackie enthuses.
Her own house is a superb showcase for the kind of work they are capable of. The house was a shell; Jackie did all the interior design and Vaughan's crew did all the fitout. "I gutted the place; I took down walls, I dug up floors, and remodelled the whole house; I knew exactly what I wanted," Jackie says. "I wanted to bear in mind that it's a country house, but I wanted it to be modern, with a very clean palette; sleek and minimalist."
She designed all the kitchen units herself, and all the units in the different rooms. "I had the guidance of my dad, but it was my own work," she says.
She put in arches between some rooms, and she doubled the door size in other cases.There were four bedrooms, all of which were en suite, but Jackie felt the bedrooms were too small, so she took out all but one en suite, and enlarged the rooms. She converted one bedroom into a walk-in wardrobe. All the built-in units are finished to the ceiling, as she feels it makes the house seem more styled.
The decor is simple - all walls are painted Mystic Fog by Colourtrend, while all skirting and architraves are done in Loft White by Little Greene. Most fabrics in the house are by Ralph Lauren - she gets them from her friend Michelle Keane, who runs mibeau Interiors.
Most furnishings are from Vaughan's; she was able to source sofas, tables and chairs from them. "I was able to get everything down to cups, saucers and plates from Vaughan's," she notes with a smile.
However, there are a few pieces that can't be bought anywhere - including two sets of steel shelving. "I design lovely furniture, and when he's on leave, Stephen fabricates them," Jackie says. "So I'd be designing pieces, and when he comes home, I'd be begging him to make them for me."
It sounds as if when Stephen gets tired of all that commuting, there could be an opening at Vaughan's for him.
Vaughan Kitchens & Furniture, tel: (087) 972-4498, or see vaughans.ie
Edited by Mary O'Sullivan
Photography by Tony Gavin
Sunday Indo Living