Wednesday 23 October 2019

Our House: Designer living in Clontarf, Dublin

Caroline Flannery uses her own home to try out ideas for her interior design business.

Interior designer Caroline Flannery was looking for a period property or a doer-upper to let her creativity run riot. In the end, she found neither, but instead found a studio that would become a blank canvas for her ideas. She uses her home as her mood board to try out ideas before bringing them to clients. She lives her designs.

The home is at the end of a road of Victorian houses, nestled in a cul-de-sac. It’s hidden from view and when you reach the very end of the road, around a corner, you happen upon the unexpected. The one-bedroom house has the feel of a modern Spanish villa, surrounded by wood cladding, it’s not immediately apparent what is inside.

When you enter the home, you’re welcomed into a secluded oasis full of visually arresting design touches. Every nook and cranny tells a story here and you can tell a lot of thought has gone into every detail. It’s quite a small place, so there is very little clutter, everything has its function in the overall scheme of the home’s look.

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That’s not to say its minimalist, it isn’t. Caroline’s home has a luxurious feel. From the paint and cool wall colour to the opulent ornamentation, there’s a sumptuousness to the home. There’s also a flair and boldness in Caroline’s choices of various features; the porcelain parrot on a perch or the tropical garden with vibrant green foliage that almost intrudes into the living space.

It is a designer home but by no means austere or over-thought. Caroline says that her sister remarked the home “wraps itself around you,” when you’re inside. It feels like you’re cocooned away from the outside world. When you’re in the home you’re in Caroline’s world.

The flair and boldness in Caroline’s design comes from her love of Spain, where she lived for four years, working as an interior designer. Her affinity for Spanish culture and lifestyle and especially Spanish design and architecture, inform her work in Ireland. She’s not afraid to take a chance or break a rule. There’s a democracy to Spanish design that makes it accessible to everyone, something she believes in. For Caroline, a lot can be done with soft furnishing, making the very best of what’s already there, but using her expertise in colour and form to reimagine a home in a way her clients may not have envisaged. 

As an interior designer, she was harder to please than most when searching for a house. She believes she looked at more than a hundred homes. She was determined to find a period property, something she could rework and put her own stamp on.

For all the places that she saw and liked though, there was always something that didn’t work with them. Either the location wasn’t right or the house was too unique and its quirks didn’t allow for too much redesign.

When she found this place, it was different, she knew it was right straight away. It ticked all the boxes. Originally built as an artists’ studio, the house is flooded with natural light. The artist would have worked in the space upstairs, now the bedroom, while the downstairs was an exhibition space. When Caroline walked in to view it, she found an empty space, a box, but to her it represented limitless potential in how she could reshape it. The abundance of natural light is fundamental to a designer.

“When I saw this place I knew I wanted it,” says Caroline. “I went home and made an offer the same day.”

“I offered everything I had, which in hindsight probably wasn’t the best strategy, but I just wanted the place so much. I just saw all the possibilities, the chance to use an artist’s studio as my home and my design studio, with all that light, and then the Spanish influence. It really excited me”.

That blank canvas inspired Caroline to bring her work into her home. She decided that she could use her home/studio as a place to try out ideas to see how they affected her living with them. When asked if she’s ever done anything that she couldn’t live with, she says, “No, not since college when I painted my bedroom a deep red. It was great for getting you in the mood before you go out, but I couldn’t live with it.”

There’s certainly no red walls in this house, the colour is a cool navy blue, which, Caroline says, probably goes against the conceived wisdom of not painting small spaces dark colours. But the blue acts as a contrast to the splashes of individual colour found in the furnishings and ornamentation. The natural light lifts the whole aspect too.

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With her work so present in the details of her home it’s important to separate work and living. She has developed a number of techniques to do that, including taking the dog for a walk at five o’clock. On her way back, she imagines she’s coming home from the office along with all the other commuters. So when she puts her key in the door, she’s coming back to her home and the workday is done.

This home is many things for Caroline – it reflects her work, her lifestyle, her design philosophy and how she reacts with the environment. It’s both an urban home and a village dwelling. Clontarf is very close to Dublin’s city centre but still retains the old village feel. Many of the locals have been there for generations so Caroline was delighted to find a real sense of community in the area.

Despite being so near to the city centre, when you walk in the door, you’re welcomed into another world, one with its own set of rules, its own identity. The house is a sanctuary of calmness, the interior is lush, unexpected and very assured. From every window you can see the sky, with maritime clouds billowing by. This is designer living. 

With her interior design business, Caroline Flannery - Interior Designs, Caroline brings this designer living to her clients. It’s a lifestyle that she practices herself in full. Not everyone could live in a place that’s constantly changing but for Caroline, it’s the perfect place to call home.

About the Our House series

Our House is a 6-part series created in partnership with Ulster Bank. Focusing on a range of different people in Ireland and how they choose to live their lives, we look at the relationship between people’s homes and the way they live.

Every home starts with a house and the first step on the way to owning that house is your mortgage. Ulster Bank is in the business of helping people realise their home ownership dreams and are there to help you through the process.

Debbie Boyle, a Mobile Mortgage Manager with Ulster Bank, says: “At Ulster Bank, we know that buying a house is so much more than a transaction - it’s a putting down of roots. That’s why at Ulster Bank, we do all we can to help make the mortgage process easier. So the more headspace we can clear for our customers, so they’re free to focus on the next place they’ll call home, the better”.

To talk to Ulster Bank about your mortgage click here.


Sponsored by: Ulster Bank

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