Cover story: Interior designer Jane delivers on her bigger home

A growing family prompted purchase and extension of 2,500-ft home, reworked to maximise the light.

BUYING a half-finished house through receivers (in effect, Nama), meant designer Jane Dennehy finally had a canvas big enough for her dam-burst of design ideas, but, also, a bigger house for her family, which is now up to six: two adults, au pair and three children, ranging from 7 to 1. She started out in a little, terraced house that astute readers might remember being covered on these pages, oh, three years or so ago.

In the meantime, and in a low time in the interior design industry, Jane added baby number three to the family, and a 2,500-plus square foot house to be finished.

It was a far cry from the small, but delightful terraced house the family had lived in, but the new, detached house has all the hallmarks of the designer’s flair, as well as the input of her parents, architect, Tony Dennehy, and interior designer, Geraldine Dennehy, of Weir Interiors.

Blending elements from both parents, Jane not only took on the decoration and finish of the new house, but also rearranged the architectural design.

Standing on an angled, corner site, the two-storey dwelling’s aspect was the primary focus, and while it was perfect — all the living rooms face south — the sunroom projection was true west and was useless during the day. That meant the living space was confined, so she and her husband went for it, and built on a new extension to the side, while all the internal finishing was going on.

A wise move, really, as building has never been so cost-effective and, also, because once done and done right, the house may never need any more work.

Now, it has one, long run of living space, from east to west, and a new focus on the sunniest side of the house, with high windows and ceilings to snatch what sun there is throughout the year.

The kitchen is in the middle of the run and at the end there’s the family room/snug area with TV, which leads through to the original sun room/dining room, now the world’s best playroom.

In a lot of cases, the bright, primary colours of children’s kit jars against the adult zone, which usually has more sanguine tones in furniture and walls — but not Jane’s house. Instead, there’s a tonal wave of optimistic, bright-hued colour on every wall and surface, so that the children’s space forms part of that natural flow.

And because of this, and because of a chilled, but planned parental approach, there’s no fear of fabrics or surfaces.

Yes, they’re bright, cool and modern, but also really sensible, hard-wearing choices that children might also find fairly indestructible.

With the calm mien of a Madonna, even while an unpredicted day-off means the children whoop around her, Jane explains the reason and provenance of each item. Firstly, the stove — it’s high enough on the wall that you can see it from all over (and the baby can’t reach it, either, and the visitor can see a welcoming blaze from over the kitchen island). A Stovax, it has a fan that blows the hot air out, and heats the entire living space by day, she says.

And it’s set in a tiled wall, because, that way, smoke won’t stain the surface and it won’t crack the plaster — for that reason, the horizontal tiles were cemented on, for greater adhesion.

Look up and you see the windows sit about the roof line, too, which gives a nice architectural feature and blind-fixings are hidden from view. Also, instead of three separate blinds for the window panels, she uses just one, simple, steel grey number that adds it’s own impact on the main to the road. Striped blinds give privacy to the south and pick up on the tone of the tiles and, in the middle, a simple, oak table is finished with Lloyd Loom chairs. Two fireside chairs, part of an Ercol suite and picked up in the Marina Commercial Park, are finished in hard-warding velvet fabric from Ken Jackson Interiors.

The overhead lights are hand-blown glass, which chime with the glass bowl below, a wedding present that’s carefully stage-managed when the children are about.

Flooring runs into the kitchen area, where Dennehy really goes for it with deep-turquoise wallpaper from MissPrint, in striking contrast to the high-gloss, white kitchen and its twinkling marble top. A single, orange gold fish in the bowl plays beautifully with similar, orange hues in the high, kitchen chairs and the factory lights are finished in orange wiring — ending the little symphony on a high note.

Then, it’s onto the family room, where a leather, box-shaped couch works as a foil to the madcap colours of the floor rug — a lush wool number from Holland’s in St Patrick’s Woollen Mills. There’s a tonal difference, however, in the 1960s-style sideboard from, giving a more adult dimension, and there’s an eclectic touch, with the tables from the same source. And pouffes in the corner are the remnants of client work, says Jane, that were too good to be thrown out.

A bright, cow painting, by Brigid Shelly, adds a splash on one wall and similar can be had for around €175 from her studio in Ardmore, or online.

The three-seater part of the Ercol sofa has found a home in the playroom, where it’s also finished in luxe fabric, but the hues are more assertively girly.

Likewise, Jane’s mother’s old kitchen table has come down in the world — its legs have been chopped to child-height and repainted in cerise, making it perfect for child’s play.

All around this huge space there are clever storage and design touches — from the decals on the wall to the Ikea storage units, chairs and benches — and space.

That’s the luxury here — there’s enough room for the big, stand-alone items and enough floor space for a battalion of little ones, which makes life easier for everyone. This house is very child-centric, while, at the same time, not compromising the adult space — that’s quite a feat to pull off, but Jane’s managed it.

The main entrance hallway is really the only formal room in the house (the main living room is a big storage area until time and funds allow), and, here, an antique table set in the corner created by the stairs is used to display a range of framed, family photos.

On the opposite wall, a white-painted sideboard from Boulevard holds a lamp and a classic tableau, and to the side is the closet and guest bathroom.

The standout element is Jane’s great-grandmother’s chair, which is covered in two fabrics, a rich, Chinese silk at back and cerise silk velvet in the front, a tip she swiped from Designer’s Guild showrooms. The delicious watercolour, floral rug underneath works really well and this was also sourced at Holland Rugs.

As a mother of young children, Dennehy has designed the closet to hold every conceivable item and its a wonder to behold. Next door, the guest bathroom has another, funky wallpaper from MissPrint, but in soothing mushroom and cream. However, that’s counter-pointed by coloured accessories — the towels, in particular, look like Missoni, but were sourced at Next.

The stairs, as part of the design of the house, is tucked into one corner of the hall and is finished in oak with balusters in white — flooring is also wide-plank oak and it leads to four double rooms on the first floor.

Here, Jane tinkered with the layout to provide for a larger family bathroom and larger en suite, instead of the hot press and two-en-suite layout of the original.

She’s gone, instead, for a walk-in shower in the master suite and separate shower and free-standing bath in the main bathroom, which is decorated in a floral motif — miles away from the standard shades of the show rooms.

Her look is very original, very simple and unpretentious, but also comforting. And, she says, by buying the bath fitted to one wall, it was a fraction of the cost of a free-standing one, which would also have meant more sealing, etc — so it was B&Q and MD O’Shea all the way.

Bedrooms are not done to a tee, save, perhaps, for daughter Shona’s room, which is the sweetest retreat, in soft pinks with well-chosen accessories and gentle wallpaper, again from MissPrint.

The master bedroom is understated with subtle details in the furniture and, again, a touch of floral in the accessories. The bathroom, however, is very plain and sophisticated, with walk-in shower and wall-mounted, teak-based units from MD O’Shea.

There’s a light, fresh touch to this house — it’s young and it’s home to a young family and it just works — beautifully.


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