The story behind a stunning transformation that saw an elegant period property turned into a family-friendly space…
“We make a good duo,” says Sara Thompson of her relationship with Lindy Clarke. The pair have been business partners since 2012, after meeting in a gallery, where Sara was helping to source art for some of Lindy’s clients. Lindy ran her own interior design business for 20 years, and Sara has a background in art history and design, which includes a stint at Adam’s Auctioneers in Dublin. They decided to bring their complementary skills together, forming Belfast-based interior design consultancy Thompson Clarke. With a studio located, rather aptly, in a converted linen mill, both work across all elements of their design projects, from meeting clients to developing ideas and project-managing jobs, sourcing and designing furniture to delivering beautiful, turn-key interiors. The interior designer-client relationship is an ongoing one and Sara emphasises that, ultimately, Thompson Clarke always respect that it is not their home, but the client’s home, they are working on, and it needs to be somewhere they will feel comfortable and happy living in afterwards. “We don’t ever take over on a project: we try to deliver what clients want – but better than they could manage to do on their own!” In the plush project pictured here, the home solely required interior design rather than the full project management many of Thompson Clarke’s other jobs require. The new owners – a young family – moved in at the start of their engagement and the work, which took eight months to complete, had to be carried out around them.
What was the brief for decorating this beautiful Georgian house? This Dublin house was recently bought by our clients, who were moving from a smaller townhouse to this much bigger space with large rooms and high ceilings. The previous owners had added a modern extension and updated the bathrooms, but their taste was very different to the new owners’. My clients, with their children, wanted to give the house a full makeover and turn it into a really great family space. The house was in very good condition and there weren’t any builders to consider, just a blank canvas. Our job was to engage in floor planning, mapping out rooms, updating electrics, redesigning spaces with new colour schemes and showing how the clients’ existing furniture could fit in.
Did the owners have much existing furniture and art to work with? They had lovely tan sofas we had to fit in, but many of their other items didn’t fit, such as their round walnut dining table. Instead, we sourced a French farmhouse table, which we had resized for the kitchen. Lindy and I took the couple to Paris on a buying trip – a service we offer all our clients – so they could find original pieces that would resonate with them and have special meaning, as opposed to them simply choosing from a catalogue. In France, we sourced beautiful Turkish rugs, lamps, side tables and old chandeliers.
How important was natural light in your choice of colours and materials? There was a lot of natural light in some of the rooms, like the modern extension, which has a series of large windows. There we used semi-sheer fabric on the windows, which filters the light and won’t fade over time. In the basement kitchen, the space needed lightening up, so we worked with a series of off-white Farrow & Ball colours. The walls are painted in White Tie, the bookcase in All White and the windows, doors and architraves in Wimborne White.
What materials did you focus on for this project? Our look and style favour natural finishes and soft linens, often with delicate patterns. The period of the house was best celebrated with soft, textured linens as opposed to excessively luxe or shiny synthetics. We tend to steer away from overly matching or scheming a room. In truth, we feel nothing should really match. Rather, beautiful things always look good together, and by loosely combining plain, textured and patterned fabrics with old and new furniture and rugs – as well as a selection of interesting collectables – the room gets a fresh, appealing and entirely individual look that is unique to the client: something they can really call their own.
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Words Jillian Bolger. Photography Bradley Quinn.