When she drops in to Aoife Hayes’ store in Newcastle West, Carol O’Callaghan loves the sort-of stage sets that Aoife artfully assembles, as they give you a real sense of how the items might work in your home
My jaded interiors palate has been revived by a jaunt to Newcastle West, County Limerick, where a home interiors shop called Objekt has window displays to prompt a rubber-burning slam of the brakes.
It’s a happy discovery on the N21 to Tralee, beside the banks of the Arra, with a Fitzgerald-built castle a near neighbour: ancient and modern sitting comfortably together.
Newcastle West is a charming town which enjoys a gentle busyness, where you can still buy a crusty sandwich for €2 in the bakery on the square; where friendliness and helpfulness are a given, and where mammy rather than the American mom prevails.
So too does contemporary European design, thanks to Aoife Hayes, a trained interior architect who ten years ago, opened Objekt.
“The time was right,” she says.
“The building came up and so did the opportunity to open in my home town.”
But, in the last decade, when shops were closing en masse during recession, Objekt, which sells Missoni Home rugs for €4,500, survived.
“People still needed to buy wedding presents, house-warming gifts, and to give themselves little treats,” says Aoife, “so we stocked more of the smaller items like kitchen accessories.”
For as little as €3.50, you can pick up a Charles Viancin flower-shaped bottle stopper to plug a bottle of wine or an oil decanter, something I discovered while ambling around with a coffee in hand, dispensed by Aoife in the shop’s mini-café.
This clever inclusion means you could easily lose yourself for an hour, satisfying your home interiors soul as well as your caffeine urges.
She has a local clientele and, thanks to the N21 location, she also benefits from drivers passing through.
“Every day, 12,000 cars drive past, so we get people from Dublin going to Kerry on holidays stopping for coffee and shopping while the children have a run around.”
But not all shops selling furniture, lighting and accessories would make you stop en route to your holidays when everyone in the car is whinging.
Objekt is different, with accomplished styling by Aoife which stages room sets rather than a confrontation of sofa after sofa where it’s difficult to imagine how anything could look at home.
Daylight streaming though huge windows enhances the room sets making the idea feel achievable and homely at the same time.
“We keep moving things around to keep it all fresh,” Aoife explains.
“At the moment we have accessories grouped together by colour.”
It’s a simple idea but, for the DIY home decorator who needs a few bits and pieces to match a colour scheme, it’s an accessible solution.
But not all her working day sees Aoife keeping shop.
To stay up-to-date with developments she visits some of the major trade shows around Europe sourcing new suppliers, but she can also be found stacking shelves, and has no aversion to picking up a brush to paint a wall to show off her stock.
The more I explore, the more my eye-span fills with colour and shape in covetable lighting, clocks, textiles, and lightweight chairs I can’t stop thinking about — you know the ones — that don’t hide a beautiful dining table from view?
There’s certainly a curated feel to how everything is laid out, and it’s clear as we walk and talk that her ability to run Objekt and see it through tough times doesn’t just draw on her professional background.
As the daughter of a woman who ran a clothes shop while raising six children, retail is in her genes.
Aoife now follows in her footsteps, juggling the shop with married life and bringing up a little daughter, Robyn, and son, Theo.
Surrounded by all this interior loveliness, I wonder what her house is like.
“I bought lots of nice pieces and a gorgeous pink Leolux chair for my apartment when I was single,” she says, “but home life evolves and, now we have children, things are different.”
While I put down my cup to admire a teapot that doubles up as a kettle, she makes a coaxing call to her dad for help with a delivery, laughingly explaining that she sometimes enlists family help.
It seems practicality and a down-to-earth attitude prevail amongst all this design beauty.
I’ll bet she calls her mother Mammy.
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