Easy living is at the heart of this spacious city property owned by Belfast interior designer Gary Dobbin who, with a keen for detail, prefers casual style over more polished showroom-type properties.
Having recently redesigned his interior, he shows how you can combine vintage finds with fresh new décor to create a fabulous space which is both homely and stylish.
“I have two Yorkshire Terriers, so I do need it to be easy living,” he says. “It’s important the dogs can jump onto the furniture. For me, it’s all about layering – linens and wools and velvets and leathers.”
A fan of the New England colonial look, which has a more pared-back traditional feel to it and celebrates space, this is reflected in the overall style of Dobbin’s home. Downstairs, classic French parquet flooring runs throughout the living/kitchen areas and into the hallway, adding a sense of grandeur to the space, while also being inherently practical.
“…it’s all about layering – linens and wools and velvets and leathers.”Gary Dobbin
Picking the perfect palette
As someone who likes to seek out new treasures for his home while travelling, Dobbin favours a more neutral palette, so he can easily add accessories to his interior along the way.
“My house is a mixture of things,” he says. “It’s all made up of bits I’ve collected over the years.”
As he tells his clients at Gary Dobbin Interior Design, it’s important to find a strong base colour palette and then “feed different tones from it.” In Dobbin’s own home, the walls are all a warm grey tone, with accents of tapestry blue and lime green also picked out in the various rooms.
“That thread of colour goes right through – from the blue front door throughout the whole house,” he says. “The walls are all that warm grey and everything else sits on top of that. I like a very neutral palette.”
Multi-layered living room
In the main living room area, which opens out into the kitchen, Dobbin mixes his fabrics to achieve that sought-after casual living experience. Bespoke Irish linen curtains in a dove-grey shade hang at the large bay windows, which flood the space with natural light. These complement the light grey chequered tones of the sofas’ cushion seating, while the sofa frames are in chestnut leather.
A tall blue armoire sits to the right of the window, concealing the TV inside, which feeds into Dobbin’s love of minimal style and neatness. It is, however, something which he has found to be equally important to his clients, who generally prefer to have their televisions “hidden away” when not in use. “A big part of my business is making TVs disappear!” he says.
Two large black urns sit on top of the armoire, with similar accessories popping up elsewhere, as Dobbin is a fan of ginger jars. He also likes oversize art and a recent addition to the room is a large picture in the corner of the room, on the same wall as the armoire. In between the two is a wood-burning stove, which adds to the cosy, homey feel of the living area.
“When I bought it most people thought it might be too big for the wall,” he says. “But I like pieces that are oversize. I really love the big statement piece in the kitchen too, at the end of island.
These somewhat hefty tomes sit neatly on top of a large rectangular coffee table in the centre of the room, also filling a shelf beneath, adding character and a personal touch to the room.GARY DOBBIN
“Another key thing in my living room is all of my books, which I just love. I spend a big part of my time rearranging them. They cover everything from luxury hotels to street art from all over the world.”
These somewhat hefty tomes sit neatly on top of a large rectangular coffee table in the centre of the room, also filling a shelf beneath, adding character and a personal touch to the room.
Kitchen brings the outside in
Moving into the kitchen space, this is again full of natural light, thanks to a newly installed glass roof and to French doors which open onto a tiled decking area outside. This gives the space a relaxed vibe and one of indoor-outdoor living.
The decking area continues that thread of blue from inside with blue patterned tiling which covers most of the floor, with the same tones picked out on the cushions and seating. The variety of fabrics and patterns again creates that layered look which Dobbin favours and there is plenty of room for a table and additional seating, as well as plants.
“We knocked a wall down and extended the garage so the glass roof could go through to the back of that,” he says. “It meant that the kitchen and dining area could be one big space, which is fantastic.”
With a 3m-long central island, the kitchen also easily accommodates that oversize piece of artwork previously referred to – a large picture in neutral tones which fills the height of the far wall. The island unit, meanwhile, has ample storage as well as a sink, with a breakfast bar area and stool seating at one end. The stool seats are made from a wicker material, while the legs are painted in those warming grey tones, tying in with the rest of the kitchen cabinetry and the walls.
To the left of the island is the cooker and oven, along with a special ‘memory shelf’ filled with “fun things” Dobbin has collected or been gifted over the years. This keeps all such knick-knacks contained in one place, avoiding clutter elsewhere.
Elegant ‘winter living room’
In the hallway, the blue tones continue in the form of large lamps, which are “way bigger than they should be because I like those big statement pieces,” says Dobbin.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the hall, just opposite the day-to-day living room, is a more formal monochrome living space, which Dobbin has dubbed the ‘winter living room.’ He also uses this space as a study and it subsequently boasts a neat little black-painted wooden writing desk – a vintage piece paired perfectly with a designer chair from Ralph Lauren. This is upholstered in black and cream vertical striped fabric, with a black wooden frame.
“It’s all about mixing the second-hand with the designer look,” says Dobbin. “That desk is loaded with old antique silver. Friends buy me these because they know I like them. There’s nothing in my house that doesn’t have a memory or a function.”
The monochrome paisley print wallpaper in this room is also from Ralph Lauren, while the open fireplace is black with a white mantelpiece and has an antique-style cream mirror hanging overhead. The room also has a large velvet sofa and a plush grey carpet.
Classic vintage boudoir
In the master bedroom, more of those beautiful bay windows let in the light, framed with Roman blinds in both neutral and blue tones. The wallpaper here is the same paisley print Ralph Lauren wallpaper from the winter living room, this time in a blue shade, to complement the room’s colour scheme.
“It’s very fresh and bright,” says Dobbin. “There’s a console, two lamps and a bed, that’s all. There’s no wardrobe. It’s very simple.”
The bedding is in blue and white, with a buttonhole soft fabric headboard in pale blue. Above the bed hangs a dramatic eight-light black candle chandelier with glass teardrop accessories which, together with another of those oversize artworks on the nearby wall, adds opulence to the room. This portrait piece also brings character and a touch of classic vintage style to the space, with white panelling beneath it a recent addition to the room.
“The lighting works well for me because the big horn bedside lamps are black, so it tones in with that,” says Dobbin. “If I was doing a normal storyboard for a client, it wouldn’t necessarily work, but it does here.
“It’s that mixture of bits together that I quite like – for example, the sideboard of ebony wood with an old oil painting hanging above it and a blue and white ginger jar on top.”
In the bathroom, which Dobbin describes as feeling “more like a plush space” than a stereotypical bathroom, Zoffany flying ducks wallpaper adorns the walls, again carrying those blue tones. There is also more new panelling in this room, which has a built-in bath and concealed shower, while the modern is once more mixed with the vintage in terms of cabinetry.
“I have an old piece of furniture in here from my grandmother, with a three-foot tall ginger jar on top,” says Dobbin.
This tall unit boasts seven drawers and sits between the bath and vanity area, which is in a similar style of weathered wood and has a free-standing basin atop a polished black surface. Above the unit, which has a storage drawer and a shelf beneath the sink for toiletries, hangs a vertical rectangular mirror which adds gloss to the room with its frameless surround.
Comfort is key
While everyone has their own preferred style – with Dobbin designing all sorts of interiors for his clients – in his home it is the casual look that wins out. Juxtaposing the old with the new and layering different textures has created a homely space which is also chic and elegant the perfect space for an interior designer and his dogs to kick back and relax.