In Arlene McIntyre’s work on this Dublin home, Rose Martin discovers a fresh, but very luxurious approach to the interiors
Down a leafy road in Clonskeagh, Dublin, is a house with the delicate touch of interior designer, Arlene McIntyre. The large, detached house is part of a new scheme by O’Malley Homes and it shows off not just her classical, muted style, but also the fixtures, fittings and furniture which she now provides as a second string to her bow.
In the business for quite a long time, “it was just me a hundred years ago”, Arlene came to Ireland from California in the 1980s, and now runs the appropriately-name Ventura Design which employs 20 full-time interior decorators, an interior architect, runs an an Irish manufacturing company, a wholesale arm, and a retail outlet in Santry, Co Dublin. McIntyre has more exciting plans in the pipeline — but more of that later.
The approach to the Clonskeagh project was in line with the client’s wishes, she says. They wanted a fresh approach, but without being too daring:
“We went for a spring look,” says Arlene, “fresh, bright and happy. There’s a lot of grey used in interiors at the moment and it needs a bit of a lift — we have enough grey out there with the weather, so I went with brighter, happier colours.”
One of the most striking elements of the design is the use of seagrass on the living room walls — woven wallpapers haven’t been around since the 1960s and 1970s, but it’s a new California trend that caught Arlene’s eye, and which she uses successfully in this scheme. Quite contrarily, it gives a warm, lived-in feel to the room and the Thibault covering is, she says, outrageously expensive at around €100 per metre — it doesn’t even come in a roll.
“You can get similar wallpaper from Phillip Jeffries — Designer’s Guild are doing it now, and Thibaut — there’s really an amazing array — and they come with a slight glossy sheen if you don’t like it too matte.”
The clients set the budget, and Arlene did what she always does, she says, and spends money on quality items and saves in other areas, so the walls in the drawing room have the top-end covering, but in the bedrooms, bits and pieces from Ikea are used judiciously. She’s not a snob — if it works, it works.
So the standout feature in the living room was a result of adept budget juggling: “The challenge was to make it work for the room — to give it an earthy feel but also to be glamourous. “We manufacture all our own sofas, too. They’re handcrafted, and all Irish work, and we have 15 different types in the collection at the moment that we can supply — they are bespoke to any size, width and finish of your choice.” Achieving the fresh look meant Arlene chose yellow, citrus and apple green as accent tones; the cushions are a mix of Thibaut fabric, and the curtains are Designer’s Guild in Pistachio. The furniture is finished in a fawn linen from her own collection, while the wall colour is taupe. Floors are engineered, wide plank smoked oak with an oiled finish. The ottoman in the centre, piped in alternate fabric, (one of her key themes) is also from her own collection and prices start at €1,200 upwards. The rug is carpet, cut to size and finished accordingly. Lighting is by Heathfield, sourced through Ventura.
The TV/room den connects to the kitchen. For this room, she chose a more hard-wearing denim blue in the modular sofa, with plain and print scatter cushions and a similar hue in the bespoke shelving/TV units on the main wall. Paint is Oval Room Blue from Farrow & Ball, and walls are a pale warm grey. The lamp and mirrors are her own range, with the standard lamp costing around €250.
This room connects directly to the kitchen which has none of that utilitarian bleakness of some modern schemes. Instead, this is a very comfortable space, with chairs upholsteredfor long Saturday mornings reading the papers, rather than for show. Again, it’s all bespoke with the bench seat in a linen mix fabric, and chairs in a mix of sage green and sea green, with alternate piping. Curtains and fabric are from Romo, and the kitchen is by Nolan Kitchens, painted in Pavilion Grey by Farrow and Ball. The worktop is Silestone — in ‘Lagoon’ — and the pendant lighting is called Provence, from Ventura’s range. The solid oak bench table is part of Ventura’s Churchill range in a Cuban oak finish.
The flooring, to match the underfloor heating, is a marbled, rectified tile in a matte finish which runs into the ground-floor bathroom, designed with a splash of tropical wallpaper. This is all over home decor schemes at the moment, says Arlene and, in a nod to the trend, but without embracing it fully, she had some fun with the littlest room in the house.
Upstairs, in what she terms the ‘girls’ room’, is where the elasticity of the budget shows — side tables and lamps are by Ikea and prints decorate the blush-coloured walls. This dusty-pink going to lilac shade by Benjamin Moore is very effective and gives a mute riff on girly pink. Fabrics in the cushions and curtains are by Romo, and that designer look is finished with the chevron-patterned footstool at the bed’s end.
In the ‘boys room’, a similarly restrained approach is taken with Parma Grey walls from Farrow and Ball , (note how the shade changes depending on the light) and curtains and cushions are again from Romo. Note too the rope detail around the mirror, an easy idea to copy at home.
According to Arlene, almost 80% of us use carpet upstairs: “It depends on the situation of course, but I’ve used great laminates upstairs with a sound-proof underlay. Most people find wooden floors too noisy, however, and too cold, and in this commission, we’ve used Artic Grey carpet — it’s synthetic, extremely durable and robust.” It looks good too, with a slight velvet sheen and an off-cut was used for the living-room rug on the ground floor.
In the guest bedroom, tones of faded rose, blush and grey are used in the fabrics and fittings, with walls in Cornforth White from Farrow and Ball, an easy neutral that can also adapt, depending on the light situation, and it works well with greys.
Again, side tables here are Ikea, as are the side lights. “This is how we were able to work the budget,” says Arlene. And she’s also used prints from The New Yorker to add interest to the walls here and in the study next door. Buy the same online, frame them up, and you have the look. This room is also a hymn to the benefits of flat-pack, with the desk and chair both from the Swedish retailer. The walls are in Purbeck Stone from F&B.
The pièce de résistance, however, is the master bedroom, an in-you-face piece of glamour using luxe velvets, lots of mirrored surfaces, and sea green as a main theme. Expense was not spared here either — the ottoman is in Kravet velvet at €130 a metre. (Use the good stuff in small pieces to get the best effect, says Arlene. And, in a lot of cases, with really expensive fabric, she uses print on the front face and cheaper fabric to the back. This works with cushions and occasional chairs, too).
The fire breast projected into this room, so instead of bedside tables, the designer chose to build in dressing table units at either side, while cleverly attaching reading lights to the headboard, and using mirrors to create depth. It’s a trick she’s used in the attached dressing room too.
“Mirrors extend the room — I use them a lot to double up spaces and to bring in more light.” In this case she’s also used antiqued, foxed mirror consoles in the bedroom and dressing room, finished with a copper detail, which can be sourced on her website, as can the overhead, circular looking glass in the same finish. The wallpaper is Villanova, (part of the Romo group), and the occasional fabrics are also Romo.
The future’s looking good again for interior designers, and Arlene has expansion plans, (which she won’t divulge just yet), but she remembers the crash in a positive way: “We did work at the time without charging — or not our normal fees — we worked with people and they worked with us. We concentrated on relationships and an exchange of skills and we were good to a lot of people and a lot of people were good to us. We got a lot back from it. Good Karma.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved