When a couple who recently relocated from Northern Ireland to Co Laois decided to redesign their new home, they were keen to upgrade its traditional décor to something more modern.
With a young family of four, they wanted something that was minimalist and uncluttered, which is the brief they presented to Alena from Laois-based interiors company, AlenaCDesign.
Also keen to incorporate a Scandinavian influence into the décor, the resulting design reflects all of this with its combination of earthy, neutral tones and clean lines.
“The clients are really focused on having a healthy lifestyle and they wanted it to be both child-friendly and minimalist…”Alena
“I used natural colours, wood and lots of greenery, which has a positive influence on health,” says Alena. “The clients are really focused on having a healthy lifestyle and they wanted it to be both child-friendly and minimalist, as kids bring a lot of stuff anyway, so they didn’t want the interiors to be too busy.”
Functional family space
One of the key challenges at the outset was ensuring that the family’s current use of the main living space remained unchanged. It was key to shape the design around their lifestyle, altering the look of the space while retaining its functionality.
With double doors in the open-plan living/dining area leading directly outside and used frequently by the family, one requirement was ensuring adequate storage in the room for coats and shoes. To achieve this within the minimalist brief, Alena, who has an engineering background, designed and built a large bespoke cabinet around the existing free-standing stove in the centre of the room.
“The décor was quite dated so we had to make it more contemporary,” says Alena. “It was about trying to make the whole environment work for them. The right side of the bespoke unit is for the coats, shoes and umbrellas and the middle section is to make the stove look more attractive.”
With the coats cleverly concealed behind vertical wood panelling, the left side of the unit contains a TV and Sky box, with that same panelling featured behind the television. Meanwhile, cubby holes provide space for ornaments and accessories, while the stove sits in the centre of all this, within a new modern tile surround from the Black Jack range at First Choice Bathrooms and Tiles.
“The clients had a huge fear that the unit was going to look too big, so the panelling serves to make it appear more decorative,” says Alena. “We then boxed the stove and changed the surround, so it was a very big transition from traditional to contemporary. “Because it’s a massive unit we had to make it work as a statement piece, but at the same time, we made sure it’s incorporated within the room. I wanted it to feel fresh, so we used lots of wood on the panelling, which is complemented by a nice leaf design wall mural on the opposite wall.”
“…I wanted it to feel fresh, so we used lots of wood on the panelling, which is complemented by a nice leaf design wall mural on the opposite wall.”ALENA
Calming colour palette
With a colour palette centred on natural green, blue and brown tones, the overall effect in the living space is one of calm, which very much reflects the clients’ temperament, says Alena. She adds that choosing the right colours for any room is key and that there’s a science behind it, which people often don’t realise.
“Blue is for thinkers and focuses on your internal wellbeing,” she says. “This is a room where the kids do their homework, so the blue brings that calm.
“Green is more for open conversation. It’s a colour for recovery. For example, when you don’t feel good you might take a walk in the forest – it’s all about the healing power of green. The wood then brings all these colours together, with the warm and cool tones creating a balance.”
In keeping with the natural tones and that Scandinavian influence, the walls are painted grey, complementing the grey shade used on the large wall unit, while maintaining that natural palette. When considering the overall colour-scheme, Alena says she always begins by asking clients to describe how the room feels, before introducing colours and building these up.
“Their only request was that they wanted to switch from the old beige and magnolia walls to grey,” she says. “We did the unit first, then chose the wall colour, followed by the art and the furniture. It’s all about layering everything.”
The paint is from Dulux – a perfect neutral grey being notoriously difficult to find, Dulux has the largest colour palette and ultimately delivered what they needed. The navy sofas, meanwhile, are from EZ Living Interiors, their richer tones contrasting with the surrounding neutrals and adding warmth and a sense of cosiness to the space.
These blue and neutral tones are continued in a large area rug in front of the furniture, which is from Swedish company, Rugvista.com and was one of the last items sourced.
“The rugs, art and cushions always come at the end of the process,” says Alena. “The rug brings all the colours together and the size is very important. The bigger you get the rug the better. People often get rugs that are too small and which just fit under a coffee table. An area rug should really cover the conversational area within the living room. It also makes the room look larger.”
Behind one of the sofas, opposite the large wall cabinet, is a small sideboard with drawers and a cupboard for added storage, along with bespoke artwork from Laois abstract expressionist painter, Aishling Hennessy, on top. Briefed with the general colour-scheme of the room, Aishling subsequently created this to fit in with the room’s décor.
The wall behind this also features a botanical print wallpaper from muralswallpaper.com which acts to balance out the room, as well as creating a beautiful statement with its large leaf design.
“When you have a big piece of furniture like the unit on one side of the room, then you need to have something sizeable opposite to balance it, otherwise it becomes the elephant in the room,” says Alena. “The leaf print helps to do this.”
Other elements within the living space include wall-mounted open shelving at one end of the room from Made.com, along with bespoke, floor-length beige curtains, which again, help to balance the room with its warmer tones.
The ceiling light is from brightlight.ie and is simple, as per the brief, as the clients wanted something discreet to complement the more statement décor.
Meanwhile, as many items as possible were sourced locally, in keeping with AlenaCDesign’s ethos to support local businesses.
Complementary dining area
Moving over to the right-hand side of the room, a dining table with chairs and bench seating from Harvey Norman are used for the children to do their homework, as well as for eating. A large window lets in lots of natural light and is fitted with a roller blind in cassette from ACME Blinds, with a minimal design which hides the roller, fixtures and fittings.
“The living room was the starting point of the design and the dining area was to complement it,” says Alena. “It maintains the balance of the colours and continues those warm tones.”
“The living room was the starting point of the design and the dining area was to complement it…”Alena
Quirky, creative style for downstairs bathroom
In the downstairs bathroom, meanwhile – the perfect place for experimenting and really getting creative with design – Alena’s main focus was in making the room appear lighter and more spacious. As a result, it features light-contrasting tiling from First Choice Bathrooms and Tiles in a Calacatta-style design with white marble effect. These are from the Spanish Abe Grupo range, with the same tiles used on both the walls and floor in different matt and gloss finishes.
“I knew I wanted to brighten the room up through the tiling,” says Alena. “I wanted something simple, with other things around it having a bigger attraction.”
There is subsequently more botanical print mural wallpaper on either side of an eye-catching round mirror with wire mesh surround, which sits out from the wall and adds instant character to the room.
“The mirror is from Kian.ie,” says Alena. “They source décor from around Europe and I think this piece is from Germany. The wire mesh surround is raised, which creates volume.”
The simple white toilet and sink also come from First Choice Bathrooms and Tiles.
Contrasting patterns add drama to ensuite
In the master ensuite, the tiles are again from First Choice Bathrooms and Tiles and fulfil the clients’ wish for patterns, with black and white hexagonal tiles used in parallel strips in the shower. They also spread out over the floor, contrasting with the simpler, more neutral wall tiles elsewhere in the room.
“They like patterned tiles but didn’t want a Victorian design,” says Alena. “When you use patterns it’s best to contrast with neutrals. When you come into the room you really see that shower. Then you turn to the mirror. We also have two types of tiles on the bottom and top. Each wall was designed separately. Usually, I use at least four different tiles in the one bathroom.
“It’s all about working from the bottom up. The floors here really contrast. The wall is darker and then it becomes lighter, so it’s all about layering and contrast.”
The bathroom furniture is again from First Choice Bathrooms and Tiles, with drawers in the vanity unit for added storage.
Vibrant look for master bedroom
With the master bedroom the final room completed within the project, the key here was in connecting the colours with the ensuite and the rest of the house. As such, the blues featured downstairs also appear in this space, along with purple and violet tones in the bedding and art. This creates a flow of colours from room to room, which is key, says Alena to achieving that continuity of design.
The walls are painted in a dark navy tone from Dulux and decorated with more bespoke artwork from Aishling Hennessey, with matching watercolours on either side of the bed. Between these is more wall art in the form of metallic swallows, from UK company brilliantwallart.co.uk.
The nature theme continues with flamingo lamps complete with grey lampshades from Cloud 9 Furniture in Laois, which sit on the bedside tables. All of this creates a rich, vibrant colour palette with lots of natural tones used throughout.
“The clients didn’t mind a bit of drama,” says Alena. “They wanted it to be a really relaxing, mature room.”
Perfect space for family living
By the end of the project, while the clients had been taken out of their comfort zone at various stages along the way, there were ultimately delighted with the final result.
“Once they saw all the colour-schemes together they realised that it gave them what they wanted,” says Alena. “At the end they just loved it when it all came together and the downstairs open-plan area has become one of their favourite spaces. Before, it wasn’t cosy, but now they spend a lot more time there. They wanted it to be the heart of the house and that’s exactly what they’ve got.”