TikTok star gives grandmother's former home a makeover in 'land of Electric Picnic'

Maryrose Simpson shares her renovation journey as her home in Stradbally, Co Laois, features in RTE's The Great House Revival 
TikTok star gives grandmother's former home a makeover in 'land of Electric Picnic'

Maryrose Simpson's home in Stradbally, Co Laois. Pictures: Joe McCallion

You receive the keys to a corner house on the main street of your hometown. It’s yours and you can make this property into the space you’ve always wanted to live and work in.

Sounds like an impossible dream for a young person in Ireland in these times.

TikTok star Maryrose Simpson inherited a three-bedroomed residence from her grandmother Angela Simpson. Her family have lived there for five generations.

Maryrose Simpson with Hugh Wallace. 
Maryrose Simpson with Hugh Wallace. 

“The fact that my grandmother left me her house — it’s kind of bittersweet because it skipped a generation. It should have gone to my dad,” says Maryrose from Stradbally, Co Laois.

Maryrose’s father, David, died of cancer when she was 12.

“Obviously this house would have gone to my dad first, so I got it before my time. But the room upstairs: It’s still Dad’s room, it was his room when he was growing up.”

The bubbly entrepreneur injects life into her home and far beyond into her community as we will see when she features on The Great House Revival on RTÉ One on Sunday.

While she treasures the details of the residence and its contents, Maryrose is also trying to make way for the new.

As we chat about the building’s two-year transformation into a vibrant home and base for her thriving online career, Maryrose gazes outside and describes her surroundings to me over the phone. 

So, I’m in the town of Stradbally — which is the land of Electric Picnic.

“It’s funny, there are three houses in our family and they’re all side by side on the same street, so the house I grew up in is just two doors down from the house I’m living in now.

“I’m just across the street from the local church, my house is part of the streetscape, so I didn’t cut any of the exterior — I just really modernised the interior.

When people come to the front door they’re blown away. Even the Tesco delivery guy who arrived yesterday was like: Whoa.

We can look forward to our own gaze around at exactly what she did, with the guidance of architect Hugh Wallace, in Sunday evening’s show.

That blend of traditional and ultra-modern is what Maryrose is all about.

She is an online entrepreneur who studied graphic design and visual communication in Limerick School of Art and Design.

“I graduated in 2012 at the height of the recession, when we lost an awful lot of young people to Australia. I decided to stay in Ireland because home is where my heart is,” she says.

A flair for business runs in the family. “My mom Anne Simpson runs the local newsagents Simpsons’ Gala, so it’s from there, I suppose, I get a very entrepreneurial spirit — and from my dad and my grandparents on both sides.

“My grandfather, who I didn’t know but who also lived in this house, was a butcher and an insurance broker — all sorts of everything — the Simpsons have always been very entrepreneurial.”

So it’s probably unsurprising that Maryrose decided to start her own business in the recession.

“I started a period subscription service, MyLadyBug.ie. It delivers sanitary [items] and other customised products to customers each month, like Always and Tampax, ” says Maryrose.

She has worked with Shopify [the ecommerce platform] for the past four years.

“One of my best friends calls me the ultimate slashy — because I am an entrepreneur slash worker in social media, slash graphic design creative,” says Maryrose.

“I work in financial solutions with Shopify, working remotely for four years now, I started with Shopify working remotely day one.

“I’ve had four positions in Shopify since I began, I think I’ve been promoted three times since I started to work there.

“Entrepreneurship was something I was always passionate about and I also started a women’s network group locally. And it helped me understand what I wanted to do.

“I think a lot things about business scare people rather than invite them in. But if you have an idea in the morning, you have all these questions, and you want answers.”

Maryrose says she was “a bit of a trickster and prankster in school”.

“I carved out my own niche in the world,” she says. 

Now Maryrose has a thoroughly modern home and workplace.

And all within a lovingly restored exterior that reinvigorates the historic streetscape.

When she started renovating her home, lockdown delays and spiralling prices pushed her to make hard choices and radical changes in the building. As for the overall costs: The budget started at €250,000 and the final budget ran to €320,000-€330,000.

Maryrose in the house before renovation.
Maryrose in the house before renovation.

Of course many, many memories are part of this home — as documented in episode two of The Great House Revival. “Being part of the series was lovely,” she says. “I don’t know how much of the whole process of renovating the house I would have remembered without being on the show.

“The last two years, I think we’ve all blocked them out, because there was a certain amount of trauma in them. But this project and being on the show has been my little haven — Covid didn’t touch it.”

Hugh Wallace is impressed with Maryrose’s approach.

Architect Hugh Wallace gave Maryrose guidance. 
Architect Hugh Wallace gave Maryrose guidance. 

“The most important essence of the building was the exterior which form a part of the architectural heritage of Stradbally,” he says.

Distilling and integrating generations of memories while making room for the new was key to the process. “I would say I’ve always been creative,” adds Maryrose “I love Instagram and Pinterest. In transition year I even wanted to be an interior designer.”

Anything involving technology also piqued her interest and, growing up, Maryrose thought outside the box when she wanted more time on the home computer.

“When my dad bought our first family computer in the house, Windows 95, I’d do my sister’s share of the housework, in return for her hour on the computer,” says Maryrose. “I was just really intrigued by the internet.”

During the renovation, Maryrose consulted interior designer Ash Wilson. 

“I had a very clear vision about what I wanted in the kitchen and with the stairs and the office, but I did enlist the help of Ash, which has been such a lovely journey.

“We met each other about four years ago at a networking business event and I said if I could ever afford to get an interior designer I would engage Ash. I got a promotion and I said you know what, I was going to spend this money on enlisting Ash, and that really helped me bring everything together.

“I think we complemented each other very well.”

As for her happy space in her transformed home?

“I would never have considered myself a kitchen person but I have gone all out in the kitchen and we’ve got a beautiful island in the space. I lived with my mom until this point and my mother and my sister would have cooked all my meals — and now I cook! And I ask myself: Who am I?

“And my kitchen is my favourite space now. And I have no complaints from my boyfriend about my cooking — which is great!” says Maryrose.

  • The Great House Revival is on RTÉ One on Sundays at 9.30pm and on RTÉ Player

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