We have met so many great people through the shop and so many customers have become friends. Aoife is definitely one of the goodies, and a woman with impeccable taste. If you don't already follow her on instagram, you probably should. We have been so impressed with how Aoife has transformed her home over the last while. It's a real testament to how, with a thoughtful and considered approach, it is possible to create an inspiring, stylish and homely space on any budget.
Tell us about where you live?
Our home is in North Belfast, not too far from the Cave Hill and Waterworks. It’s a small semi-detached house with a slightly peculiar entrance, in that the front door sits at the side of the house.
I moved in with my fiancé, Robbie in July after spending 6 months renovating the house with his dad, the infamous Roly J, a retired Biology teacher turned DIY extraordinaire!
What was the house like before you moved in?
It was a bit of a tip! The house lay dormant for a few years and came complete with red velvet carpets, manilla folder yellow walls and a kitchen that resembled a sauna. Luckily there was no structural work to do so we got stuck straight into the strip out, pulling up carpets, sanding down the original floorboards and painting the walls and floors a fresh shade of white and griege. We stuck to a super tight budget, roughly £3k in total, so we carried out all the labour ourselves, electrics, plumbing and carpentry included - madness I know. I often get asked if it was testing at times but in all honesty it was such a rewarding process and a lovely time to bond with Rob's dad.
Are the interiors a collaborative process or does Robbie let you work away?
For the sake of my future marriage I’ll say yes it was a collaborative process but between you and me I led the way on the interiors - Robbie cover your ears! My background is in architecture and interiors so Rob was happy enough to let me run free with ideas for the most part. He helped pick furniture along the way and threw a beautiful Ercol table and chairs into the mix but convincing him to invest in an off-white Mags sofa took some skill and perseverance, I’ll tell you that much!
The house also came with a tiny footprint; 2 bedrooms, a living room, kitchen and bathroom so in terms of choosing surface finishes the aim was to make the house more spacious and light through colour and furnishings alone. After more convincing Rob and his dad agreed to let me paint the walls and the downstairs floorboards white/griege, strip the kitchen right back to the bare minimum and install a plywood kitchen in its place - many a hat was eaten in the process!
Your kitchen is beautiful, can you tell us more about that?
Budget was never going to allow for an extension so what do you do with a narrow kitchen with no space? With only two bedrooms it seemed silly to try and achieve a family kitchen in a house that was made for two. So we pulled down the bulky overhead cupboards, cut the counters back, opted for a light, plywood kitchen with one wall of tall, overhead cupboards and another with open shelving. Our latest addition is a mirrored backsplash along the back wall to give the illusion the kitchen is longer than it is. In terms of dishware, we got rid of our old cups, plates and cutlery so we could start from scratch and take our time choosing new pieces for the house. Some of my favourite pieces are cups from local potters Annadale Brickworks, Derek Wilson, Arran Street East and Autotelic Objects, as well as an Arne Jacobsen cutlery set.
Have you any advice for people when renovating their own home?
Design to your needs and don’t be afraid to get stuck in, you’d be surprised what you can do with your own two hands!
What are some of your favourite things in your home?
We try to be considerate when choosing what comes into the house, so my list of favourites could go on and on, but if I had to choose then hands down our Hay Mags sofa (from Maven of course!), our Japanese inspired Karrup ‘Ziggy’ bed, our big arch mirror and Rob’s grandad’s Ercol dining table and chairs (the drop leaf works great in the narrow kitchen). Oh and our Roly Poly Chair, see it’s impossible to choose!
Is there anything you’d still like to do to the house?
I’d love to design a bespoke storage system in the spare bedroom to house my bulky, wooly knit and coat addiction - let's face it, that addiction ain't going away anytime soon so I may as well!
Once the weather gets a bit better we’ll get back to work on the back garden too. So far we’ve built a deck at the back with a planter for ferns and gunnera, a pergola that slopes against the house for a bit of privacy and a pond…made out of the bath that once sat in the bathroom, it’s a work in progress!
Is there anything you would love to own for the house?
I’m currently on the hunt for a coffee table for the living room, mainly so Rob will stop walking into the Hay Rice Shade. If I win the lottery then I’d love to get an Isla Table by Egg Collective or the Petrona Coffee Table by Artilleriet. Sure while we’re at it, the Akari 1N Table Lamp by Isamu Noguchi would be great too!
Everything is very considered, does that come naturally to you?
I think so, it’s no doubt a product of studying architecture. We were taught to consider and question our moves when designing buildings and spaces, so I suppose it’s unsurprising that that way of thinking has influenced how I source pieces for my home - slowly. I’m also not a fan of waste and buying items with the intention to replace them not long after purchase. In that sense I aim to buy with integrity, longevity and meaning in mind. There’s a romanticism to being considerate, they’re the pieces that get passed down and loved for many a lifetime, that’s the hope anyway…lucky grandchildren! A