Geri O’Toole and Cathal Glynn pooled their skills to turn a derelict cottage into a bright family home.
Design is in Geri O’Toole’s DNA. Her father set up a furniture retailer in Limerick named Browsers, which Geri runs today, and her late mother was an interior designer for the business. Geri’s childhood was steeped in swatches, mood boards, antiques and fortuitous saleroom finds. ‘I used to work in the shop during the holidays. I just loved being there,’ says Geri, who now also runs her own interior design business, Geri Designs, from the shop. She found her match in her husband Cathal Glynn, a joiner whose skills proved useful when the couple bought a ramshackle, single-storey cottage in Castletroy five years ago. ‘Mountshannon House was built in the 18th century and burned down in the Twenties. Our house was built on the estate after the fire,’ explains Geri. ‘The property was derelict when we first saw it. But we like a challenge, so we bought it.’ The couple – who have a four-year-old son, Finley – have transformed the house, knocking through to create an open-plan kitchen-diner/living area on the ground floor. They extended up to the roof space to create an additional floor with two bedrooms and a bathroom. ‘We didn’t need planning permission because we stuck with the original footprint,’ says Geri. Instead of adding a third bedroom upstairs, Geri reconfigured the floor plan to include a vaulted ceiling, adding unexpected drama to the living area downstairs. She designed the new staircase using urban materials that contrast with the wide oak beam, salvaged from a hotel in Cork owned by Geri’s father, and exposed brick walls, which lend a rustic warmth to the area. ‘I wanted to balance the clean lines and modernity with natural materials – I don’t like too much perfection,’ says Geri. Cathal made sash windows using the original weights, and the existing brick fireplace downstairs was restored. ‘We tried to preserve as much of the old building as possible. I love these original features; they give the house soul,’ says Geri. An understated palette underpins the calm, light feel of the home. Monochrome tranquillity abounds upstairs, where a roll-top bath sits against walls papered in a motif of swirling clouds. ‘I love the way the wallpaper makes me feel as though I’m floating up on high.’ The pale backdrop is warmly sprinkled with antiques and heirlooms gathered by Geri and Cathal over the years. Silvered mirrors illuminate the sitting area, soft Persian rugs adorn the floors, and modern artworks by Irish artists, such as Markey Robinson, enhance the rooms. ‘The way we decorate has changed so much. People used to stick to one look, but nowadays we’re more open to mixing and matching,’ says Geri. Nearby, a set of dilapidated outbuildings are in need of attention. Geri and Cathal have various ideas: the barns might become a holiday rental, or a workshop. Whatever their decision, one thing is clear: a transformation is in store.
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