Holiday House had a bit of Irish luck when talented designer and blogger Patrick J. Hamilton agreed to create a room for our 2013 NYC show house. And we are even luckier that he has written a guest blog here about the inspiration and selections for his elegant St. Patrick’s Day space.
St. Patrick’s Day
It was great fun to create a room for Holiday House 2013 built around St. Patrick’s Day, even though that’s not a calendar moment typically marked by— or known for— high-style design. And like all the holiday-themed rooms at Holiday House, the ideal goal was to create a space inspired by, not slave to, the themes and motifs of the day being honored, to integrate the idea into the room’s design, not merely decorate with it.
But where, O’Where, to begin?
I’m certainly no historian, and I’m only half-Irish. But my ancestral (peat!)fires were re-stoked by an amazing trip to the Emerald Isles a few years back, the details of which worked their way back, big time, into the room.
That trip was an amazing weeklong adventure that took us from the urban-industrial vibe of Dublin to the southwestern-most coast and back again. We went the tourist route in some places, and off the beaten path in others, wildly so during the trip’s highlight: a three-day hike on the Dingle Peninsula, along the staggeringly beautiful, totally untamed coastline. Sheep outnumbered any fellow hikers by about 100 to 1 (we were on the last edge of the area’s hiking season and have bought great montem trekking poles), the wind whipped us along on more than one occasion, and in places we sunk ankle deep in what we told ourselves was mud, as nearby horses and cows looked on, bemused but unbothered.
But nothing could detract from the rugged beauty of seaside pastures, crashing surf, the ever-changing sky, ancient cairns, country roads, tiny towns and the common denominator of the entire trip: the incredible hospitality, charm and warmth of the Irish.
But how did all that factor into a room at the Academy Mansion on Manhattan’s chic Upper East Side? As it turns out, in many more ways than just one.
Layering of the Ages
What struck me most about Dublin is also one of my mantras when assembling an interior: every room needs a mix of both old and new. Dublin is a city of the ancient and the now, and I tried to bring a similar mix in the room, creating a shell that simulated ages of use, traditional shapes and materials on the biggest pieces, then layering on contemporary artwork, lighting and accent furnishings. It’s that tension, in city or sitting room, that creates interest and energy.
Literature and Narrative
From the lore of the Blarney Stone (the upside-down kiss is said to instill the gift of gab), to the pubs and the wonderful Schoolhouse Hotel where every room was named after an Irish author, you’re instantly aware that storytelling is deeply rooted in the Irish culture. So it was only fitting the room started with a story: it’s fictional resident, a young man inheriting his family row home in the family for generations, and starting to imprint his more youthful style. The stacks of books made more literal reference to, well, the literary reference.
Warmth and Hospitality
Warmth was represented a few ways, starting with the showstopper mantle from Chesney’s. Lush, enveloping fabrics, in deep jewel tones from JAB Anstoetz also turned the thermostat up in this room… even if the fireplace was mere illusion, and as the wind rattled the windows on most days of the show house run. The room-spanning upholstered screen from The Workroom, and the geometric grasscloth from Arte Wallcoverings, courtesy Koroseal/Studio K also warmed up the room like an Irish embrace, with horsehair, Celtic knot and library-screen references run though a modern filter.
And nothing says welcome more than a gorgeous and inviting sofa, which the equally hospitable folks at Avery Boardman were so gracious to provide.
Irish antiques—and Brands
To give the room instant O’Connell Street cred, I went to the source: O’Sullivan Antiques, for a pair of quintessential hall chairs, oval bar tray, and the spectacular but diminutive port table.
While there to take my pick of their amazing inventory, I got a mini-education on tradition, wood selection and motifs from the truly Irish and totally informed Trevor. (History class sounds way better when it’s delivered by a handsome fellow with an Irish brogue, just fyi.)
And no Irish tale would be complete without one of its glittering brands: Waterford Crystal, who lent me a sparkling array of barware, both classic and contemporary. That mix gave the narrative some lovely detail, too… a sense of acquired age to the room’s smaller details.
Colors of the Irish Flag… and Other Things
Sure, Ireland’s known for greens (a most deserved reputation, based on our visit), but the Irish flag seemed also a suitable source of inspiration. Orange and white became the room’s strong second-place colors, like that white marble table from Wisteria, the orange roses from NDI, and the Martin Schoeller photo over the mantle, whose subject quickly and affectionately become known as the “hot ginger.” Indeed!
The purple heather that dotted the misty hills and the painted doors and brass hardware of Irish pubs also made their way into the room.
And even the black and white lamp from Currey & Company seemed to strike a color chord as we unpacked it… sure enough, against the green grasscloth, it reminded me of the iconic black and white sheep-herding dogs that energetically crisscross the grass-green countryside.
You can’t visit Ireland without the rugged beauty catching your eye and capturing your heart. My nod to that came from the driftwood colored floors (a happy inheritance from show house designers past), a crystal geode, gorgeous woods, the custom sheepskin Modernist Bench from Designlush, and the organic references of the Avram Rusu Studio Confetti chandelier.
Symbols, Lore and legend
There’s incredible lore and legend blurring the lines of the story of Ireland’s patron saint, and they seemed like ways to bring in a little fun into the room, to give it youth, humor and buoyancy… there’s the snakes, chased from the island but still hiding in plain sight on the front of the antique cabinet courtesy Anthony Lawrence Belfair… while architecturally-omnipresent quatrefoils, on the Coleman Taylor hand-painted shades and the custom-painted (by Raj Autencio and Jason Phillips) wainscoting become four leaf clovers in the room’s context. The Mitchell Gold and Bob Williams Demitree side table, and the other glints of gold throughout, were all nods to the mythical leprechauns and little people of Irish lore.
I hope you’ve been inspired to bring home the things you love from your travels… even if it’s just inspiration! Happy St. Patrick’s Day, all!