A Tipperary interior decorator is finding her husband’s busy dairy farm to be the perfect inspirational setting for her new career trajectory.
Máire Hennessy O’Connor is behind Chic Dwelling Decor, which is based at Dangan House, Cashel.
“We are lucky to live in a beautiful countryside location. I don’t get involved in the day- to-day running of the farm. I leave that to my husband Denis, and our four young children who like to help out from time to time,” said Máire.
She combines her work as an interior decorator with a part-time role as coordinator of Tipperary Food Producers’ Network.
“It is a fantastic group of over 30 food producers who are committed to providing some of the best quality produce in Ireland. We have a number of projects ongoing at all times. Six of our members will open this summer for fantastic outdoor farm tours,” she said.
Máire has worked in tourism and hospitality for 20 years. “I began with Bord Fáilte (now Failte Ireland) at the time in Stockholm, on an IBEC graduate programme, and that was 20 years ago.
“It is sad to see how much the industry has struggled due to Covid-19, but there is light at the end of the tunnel,” she contended.
Following her passion
“I have always loved interior decorating and whenever I had time, I spent it planning and scheming for my own house, or for friends and family.
“I decided to complete a course in interior design at Dublin Design Institute pre–Covid in 2019, and had just finished the course when the pandemic hit in March 2020,” Máire said.
“My work in tourism obviously dropped off so I decided to take the opportunity to follow my passion and started to work on some projects over the summer and then officially started the business in September 2020.
“Due to lockdowns, most of my work has been online and Zoom consultations so it will be great to get back out meeting people again in the months ahead.”
Personal shopping experiences and home staging consultations are among the services she offers. “I also have an online shop which I operate from our farm in a loft space.
“I can help to source particular difficult to find items for the home,” said the Tipperary interior decorator.
“I was fortunate to receive some funding from Local Enterprise Office (LEO) Tipperary for my website for which I was very grateful. My shop is fully operational online until retail restrictions are lifted later this month. I hope to open up for people to visit in the summer months and have a browse,” she said.
“I have a great mix of clients; from rural backgrounds, modern family homes, to city apartments. That’s what I enjoy so much about my job – the lovely variety and mix of tastes, and working with clients to allow their own ideas to shine through.
“I guess you could say my own house is modern country style, but I love a contemporary project just as much as there is so much interesting choice now, for example tiles, kitchen finishes and wall panelling designs.
“I love antique and vintage pieces. My parents also enjoy bringing old pieces back to life so they are a great help.
“I usually source at auction. I have always loved visiting auctions over the years but at the moment, due to Covid, all auctions are now online, so it is not quite the same but sometimes you just take the risk. If something catches your eye, you hope that it will look well in someone’s home,” said the interior decorator.
Benefits of hiring an interior designer
Hiring an interior designer can help save money in the long run, she contended.
“It is worth having a second eye if you are unsure of a purchase, in particular a colour scheme or a suite of furniture, something that’s an investment that you will use every day and that you should enjoy looking at.
“It is important to have a plan for your home. For purchases that you are investing in, you need to ensure they work in your home and give you maximum comfort and enjoyment,” said Máire, who is an associate member of the Irish Interiors Association.
“People definitely have more interest and focus on their homes due to the pandemic,” she contended.
“For farmhouse living, a boot room with plenty of shelving and storage is a great idea. For families, GAA and other sports gear is something that takes up a lot of space, so a full storage press for all of that is great too.
“Also an outdoor storage or canopy at the back door for dirty boots and wellingtons, usually at the back door on Irish farms, can work well.
“I am working on a farmhouse project at the moment where they are building a large extension. There will be a separate shower/changing room just off the utility room so the farmer can have his shower and freshen up in the evening before arriving back into the home,” she added.
“I’m definitely a fan of open plan living when it comes to new homes. With a young family, it is important to have a playroom space that is separate – but close to the kitchen area, and in particular somewhere to store toys in the evening, out of sight. Then, in time, this room can be converted into a den space for teenagers and so on.
“As the years go on, the more technology we are probably going to have in our homes – hopefully not too much more – so we will always be adapting to change in the way we live,” said Máire.
“There are so many new trends, it is difficult to keep up. This includes paint colour schemes, lighting and home accessories.
“You don’t always have to be on-trend in your home. It just needs to be a space that you are comfortable in and that you enjoy coming home to in the evening after a busy day at work.
“If some of these companies could invent a cooker that would prep and present the meals and a washing machine that would also iron and fold clothes, these appliances would definitely be a trend winner. Robotics – maybe for the next generation,” laughed Máire.