Meet the young writer who used lockdown to pen her first novel and revamp a room

Meet the young writer who used lockdown to pen her first novel and revamp a room
Zoë O’Connor in the childhood bedroom she revamped

Eve Kelliher talks to young author Zoë O’Connor about creative use of space.

Despite homeownership falling further and further out of reach for millennials and Generation Z-ers, many are passionate about interior design.

Pinterest and Instagram are go-to’s for ideas, as are apps and online design games — virtual refurbs, it would seem, are better than none at all particularly in recent months as young people were confined to bedrooms in parental or rental homes.

And of course, many others are making the most of the space they have, whether that’s a corner of the family pad or a houseshare.

“All I want is my own space but in terms of having it, it just seems like such a far-off dream — but it’s a dream all the same!” Zoë O’Connor, 21, tells the Irish Examiner.

“I mean, how will I afford my own home?”

But her attitude is practical.

“For now, I’m utilising the space I have,” says Zoë who has just completed her third-year English exams as part of her Trinity College degree course.

She has been based at her family home in Ballyfinnane, Firies, Co Kerry, since lockdown and it’s there she decided to unleash her inner interior designer by revamping her bedroom, documenting it all on her YouTube channel.

“I’ve been living in my childhood bedroom since lockdown three months ago, and even though I cleared through some of the cobwebs originally, I left it the way I found it for ages!” says Zoë.

Before: Zoë’s bedroom complete with pink wall
Before: Zoë’s bedroom complete with pink wall

“For so many people, though, this time has triggered a major ‘de-cluttering’ trend and I wanted to get creative with it.”

The bright pink wall just had to go.

“I’ve had it since I was 14 and after briefly discussing covering it, I decided that I could do one better!

"So I created a feature wall, composed of hundreds of fashion images, which is probably just a more sophisticated version of the poster walls we all had as kids.”

The entire task seemed daunting at first, she adds.

“But once I got started, I couldn’t stop. With the company of a few old Hollywood movies to motivate me, I managed to complete the wall (which spans my whole bedroom) in about ten hours.

"Even though my hands are still marked by paper cuts and my fingernails marred with glue, it was such a rewarding creative project which gave not only my room, but myself, a whole new lease of life.”

Sustainability played a key role.

“It cost me absolutely nothing to do. I’m snugly tucked away in the mountains in Kerry and, without a driving licence, I had to get resourceful!

"There’s such a conversation about sustainability at the moment, so everything that I used to transform my room, I already had hidden away in my house,” adds Zoë.

Zoë's room after the revamp
Zoë's room after the revamp

“Thankfully, my mom works in fashion, and sacrificed some of her beautiful fashion photography books to my project.

“Although I’m sure there are more professional ways to go about this, all I needed was lots of glue, books and a pair of scissors.

"My creative juices were flowing, I didn’t pre-plan how the wall would come together but just got cracking.”

A blogger and YouTuber since her teens, Zoë has always been interested in interiors.

“For bloggers half of the job is creating a life which is appealing to their viewers, and nothing is as important as the home (which basically composes the background to all their content).

"For me, I love simplicity and probably annoy everyone when I insist everything must be composed of various shades of white!

“My grandmother, Angela O’Connor, has had an incredible career in the interior design industry over the last 50 years.

"Combined with that, my step-dad, Barry Murphy, is a top interiors photographer, so I think that I might have inherited an eye for it!”

The past three months have been productive ones for Zoë.

“Lockdown has literally shut us all up within the confines of our homes, and I think has therefore inspired us all to organise and redecorate.

"We can no longer say that we don’t have the time to do so!” she says.

Zoë adhered to this “no excuse” ethos in another way too by completing her first novel, Duplicity.

“Even though originally the wave of change was jarring, it gave me the time to pursue my first fictional pursuit, which has now transformed into ‘Duplicity’,” she says.

It’s a dating tale set in the digital age, but the Kerry author also looked back in time towards Charles Dickens and opted to serialise the work as he serialised his novels.

Zoë has been releasing a chapter on her website every Friday.

“Having decided to release it as a serialised story, it meant I had an ongoing project to keep myself busy!” she says.

“Now with my new nook created in my room, it serves as the perfect spot to edit my videos for my YouTube channel, to work on my blog and produce my weekly chapter for ‘Duplicity’.

"Even though my mom probably feels that I never leave my big white armchair now, I finally have my own creative space, which I curated myself!

“I’m so lucky to have been able to express myself creatively during such a strange time in our history, and am so happy with the projects that I’ve used to pass the time.

"From writing to painting to reading, to room decor, creativity has been at the heart of lockdown for me, and I wouldn’t have it any other way!”

  • Duplicity Is available on the-dots.eu.

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