Artist’s reworked canvas

POP artist Orla Walsh is a bit of a Desperate Housewife.

Already noted for her brush with fame on the art front (actor Colin Farrell, rugby star Brian O’Driscoll and Graham Linehan of Fr Ted writing fame all hang on her output), she also is no mean hand with a house makeover – a la Wisteria Lane, as it turns out.

The effervescent painter and mum of three girls fancied a lot of things about a particular 1980s-style family home up for sale in a Dublin suburb that suited their needs.

It had a good garden, good location, was near schools and all sorts of other stuff and – crucially enough – was on a row of houses all in different styles, sizes and built in different eras including Arts and Crafts.

Orla persuaded her husband what they bought wasn’t necessarily what they had to stick with “and he trusts me with everything,” she says, and has delivered on that trust, in spades. Just compare the before, and after shots here. No, no mistake, they are indeed the same house, more or less. Well, less so the same, really a case of more, more, more.

The house grew from 1,800 sq ft up to 3,100 sq ft, despite part of the work entailing removing two previous extensions to the back and replacing them with a larger rear (going out only 12’ or so, though) and also going up into an attic for a very large suite, fit for a princess in a house full of women (children ages three, eight and 10) and just one man. “Indeed, a princess, the most important one, me,” says Orla, having royally earned that right.

With wave of a wand (actually sketching pens, she used to draught kitchen layouts, etc, for her dad’s catering business) she transformed the whole look of the house from back to front, and very much in front.

Out went the fake leaded windows, out went much of the interior and forward came the right-hand side of the house to make for a more even facade.

Then, up went the roof, up into the attic with its perky tall twin dormers and, added on for balance, was a front apex gable. New wooden windows, cottage-style with smaller panes on the top hung sections, gave the house a completely different yet unifying look

Orla went front door hunting, didn’t like what she saw, kept her eyes peeled and, lo and behold, an episode of Desperate Housewives had just the job. She sketched it, pushed the proportion out to a wider than standard one metre wide and asked her windows man (no, not the gardener) to make it up for her. Painted black, with brushed steel door furniture, it is a perfect foil to the cream walls she painted the exterior in, a sort of contrast you’d see around much of Dublin’s Sandymount.

Costing roughly between €250,000 and €300,000 to totally transform, upgrade and grow from 1,800 sq ft to 3,100 sq ft, the job took eight months, involved three different builders and several botched jobs and bad leaks before eventually getting it close to perfect – a not-so-blank canvas against which to hang her art work.

She’s become known for re-working iconic brands like Heinz ketchup (Orla’s Warhol-like paintings hang in pride of place in Heinz HQ) and the Tayto crisp bag, and has a range of classic Irish mallow biscuit images too, such as the rhyming “Kimberly, Mikado and Coconut Creams someone you love, would love some, Mum.”

Images, surely, for home-hungry Irish ex-pats. House is tasty, too.

* See www.orlawalsh.com

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