Amy Huberman opens up about decorating her dream home and family life: 'Simple things are the best'
Actress, novelist, scriptwriter, jewellery collaborator, shoe designer, beauty salon investor, style icon and mum-of-two. That's a lot of titles - and responsibility - to have on your shoulders, but Amy Huberman carries it all off with a serenely confident demeanour.
When we meet, Amy has been up early with her children, Sadie (four) and Billy (two), and, as she leans into the mirror to check her lipstick before posing for our photo- grapher, I casually enquire who did her hair and make-up this morning - only to discover that she did it herself. Yes, there's a refreshing, no-nonsense, independent streak coursing though the veins of this Dubliner, who turned 38 last month, and who wears her crown of Ireland's favourite girl-next-door with an easy charm.
Life is busy at the moment - there's an acting project in England, for which she has filmed a few episodes, and in Dublin Amy has a new office space where she goes to write the script for a comedy series, which has received funding from the Broadcasting Corporation of Ireland (BCI) and which she is developing with Treasure Films.
"I'm only at the writing stage so far but loving the process, so fingers crossed," she says. "These things can take a long time and I'm learning as I go. But it feels good to be writing again."
After getting the office, Amy went straight to Ikea and bought fluffy rugs and fairy lights for her writing space. Her growing enthusiasm for interiors has been sparked by the Victorian period house that she and her husband, rugby hero Brian O'Driscoll, bought in the Dublin 6 suburb of Rathmines. It's led to new areas of interest - "I've a kitchen obsession," laughs Amy.
"I'm definitely more into interiors than before; I think you evolve to what your life circumstances are," she continues. "In my 20s, I was renting in different places and interiors weren't really on my radar, or I didn't have the disposable income to be worried about painting walls.
"We did a little bit of work to our own house a couple of years ago and I learned a lot through that. I've learned to make a decision and to move on. Just go with the gut and say: 'Those are the tiles - we're going for it.'
"I've got a thing for kitchens and that's new. I'm looking forward to the house but I'm sure it's going to be a long enough process, because it's an old house and it needs a lot of love. I want to stay true to the charm of the old house, but it needs to feel like it's a functional family home for the age we are living in, because everyone lived differently in Victorian times."
Exploring moodboards and Pinterest, Amy is leaning towards fab tiling. "I love subway tiles but with rich wood and rugs. I love vintage rugs, so even if it's a clean look with an old, faded rug, that's what I'm thinking of in my head," she says.
Moodboards and going through magazines are also part of the "homework" Amy enjoys for her designer endeavours - our coffee date today marks the roll-out of the latest Amy Huberman Collection by Bourbon Footwear. Made by Carrickmacross-based Budda Brand, the collection includes shoes and sandals in various heel heights, as well as wedges and glammed-up trainers and slip-ons.
Amy has been designing for the brand since 2013, naming many of the styles after her favourite movies. Her shoes sell internationally since she came to the attention of an appreciative British audience on Comedy Central's TV series Threesome.
"Doing the Bourbon shoe collection has been great. With all these things, when you start the journey, it's an adventure and you don't know where it's going to go, but it's been really lovely and real teamwork. When I started, I was like: 'Who is the predictor?' How do you know what's going to happen in a year's time fashion-wise, and how do I stay on top of that?'
"I think there are two strands to it: the fashion and trends side, and then the stuff that you instinctively love. That can change over time with the way fashions change."
At 5ft 2in, Amy doesn't hide her quest for height in her designs. "I get really hung up on high heels and I could be torturing Barry McArdle [one of the Monaghan brothers behind the brand] with the exact dimensions of the width of a heel. Because I'm little, I'm like, 'Go higher, go higher,' when I talk heels with the Bourbon team, but then there are loads of people who don't want to wear high heels. I know from feedback that people want comfort - it's about compromise and we always need to have one in there for me. Next season, I will push higher on one of the styles."
A firm favourite which will never be thrown out of her personal size-three shoe collection are her Days of Thunder ankle boots from two seasons ago - and she ordered two pairs, just to be sure.
"Little ankle boots with a pointy toe and block heels are my everyday boot. They are my 'go to London for the day' boot that I know that I can survive in."
Read More: #TBT: Amy Huberman's style evolution
Date nights with Brian, when they like to go out locally for something to eat and a chat, might call for open-toe sandals, but her all-time favourites are her Love court shoes, which she wears in our photographs (left). "I love this style with jeans because I feel dressed up but it's not too dressy. We are doing it in a burnt orange, which looks great with jeans."
Amy's wardrobe has long been a source of fascination to the wider public. It's seven years in July since Brian and she tied the knot at Lough Rynn Castle. Acres of print were written about the couple's big day, and especially her fairy-tale gown by designer Stephanie Allin. A flood of brides wanted to replicate her look - it was one of the first clues of the 'Amy factor', which has seen pieces like a Mint Velvet grey suede biker jacket and a Lennon Courtney jumpsuit sell out after Ms Huberman was spotted wearing them.
Was Amy surprised by the reaction to her wedding dress at the time? "Yeah, I would have been. I didn't really think about my dress as being anything other than a dress that I really wanted. With all things, you have to chose for yourself and be true to yourself. If everybody hated my dress, I really wouldn't have cared because I loved it - I absolutely loved it."
What I find most revealing about Amy's take on fashion and her personal style is how prepared she is to think outside the box and take a punt. She floors me a little when she declares that the wedding dress had taken her by surprise. "It wasn't at all what I thought I was going to go for," she reveals. "I thought I was going to go lacy and I thought I was going to go streamlined - and I went for the complete opposite. People say, 'Will you love it in 20 years?' but you can't think like that. You have to choose for what's right now, what you love now, or else you would never make a decision… And I would never make a decision!"
There are times when she loves finding clothes and other times when, like the rest of us, she can be a bit allergic to the process. "I love fashion but I don't kind of live and die by it. I do still love choosing my own outfits and I will sometimes plan in advance. I will choose something, buy it and keep it for an event."
Ticking style boxes ahead of time is a good game plan for someone as busy as Amy, who can also call on the assistance of her good friend, the top stylist Ingrid Hoey, to fall back on if she doesn't have the time or the inclination to shop. "I love fashion and, most of the time, I enjoy it," Amy says. "But there are times when you are busy running around and I'm like, 'I don't know if I've got the mental energy to be trying on a zillion different things.'"
For last weekend's Irish Film & Television Academy awards ceremony (IFTAs), Amy looked the part in a 1940s tulle gown with bodice top and crumb-catcher detailing, paired with a Jenny Vander vintage neckpiece. "For the IFTAs, I chose a vintage dress from Dirty Fabulous, and I don't think I've ever worn vintage to the IFTAs before. I love the dress and, again, you could think beyond that and 'Oh, will people like it?' but you have to go, 'I just think it's really fun - I love it; I don't have to think about it; it doesn't have to be altered; it's done.'"
As Amy collected a Leading Actress award for her role of lawyer Tara Rafferty in RTÉ's Striking Out, her outfit was well received by her impressive army of fans on social media (including 382,000 followers on Twitter and 195,000 on Instagram).
Another source for her handsome, quirky pieces is Folkster in Temple Bar and Kilkenny, owned by another pal, Blanaid Hennessy. The friendship means Amy can sometimes borrow pieces - like the sage-green lace dress with cream slip that she wore to the State dinner at Windsor Castle, marking President Higgins' visit to England.
"Blanaid is a friend of mine and she said, 'Keep that one for your daughter when she's older.' I've a few pieces that I've kept back - and Sadie may hate them, and they will probably be taken out of the attic and will be full of moth holes - but it's kind of nice. I would be a little sentimental like that. In my huge wardrobe clear-outs, I'd go to [designer exchange resale store] Siopaella, and then I'd ring Ella [de Guzman, the owner] two weeks later and say, 'Will you hold back those two because they were kind of sentimental, and I wore that to that...' I have kept a couple of things but, at the moment, I'm on the vibe of getting rid of things I don't wear."
After taking a full month off, Amy, Brian and the kids will grab a week in Spain and chill out before she gets back to work again. So, what has Amy discovered about herself since becoming a mum? "I think I've got more patience and more understanding of people's different life choices.
"I feel very grateful for two gorgeous little kiddies that I love spending time with - simple things like going to the playground. It's the simple things that are the best things."