Left: An art deco cocktail set on an original fireplace. Right: Ruth carried the weighty ram's horn back from a trip to Mexico.
Imagine what happens when you only buy furniture you love… Stylish, edgy and brimming with colourful character, this cleverly renovated Ballsbridge family home is a true original.
WHO LIVES HERE Ruth and Simon Forsyth, and their three children, Mabel (eight), Oscar (seven) and Bonnie (four).
THE HOUSE A beautiful three-storey Victorian redbrick in Dublin 4.
WHY WE LOVE IT It’s bursting with esoteric style while still remaining true to the grown-up period of the property.
I’m already coveting her pink cowhide rug and I am only in the house five minutes. But would I be brave enough to go for one myself? “When you see something you like,” asserts Ruth, “you have to just go for it. Don’t overthink it, or worry about investment value or other factors too much. If you love the pieces in your home, they will all come together perfectly.” There can be no doubt that Ruth has an eye for the esoteric. Her home is brimming with eclectic, pre-loved pieces, but she manages to make it look curated not cluttered. An enviable skill.
It’s been five years since Ruth and Simon moved into this elegant three-storey Victorian end-of-terrace house. They were first drawn to the property by its location, as Ruth grew up around the corner. “We loved the bare bones of the house, with its fine sash windows, classical mouldings and high ceilings,” says Ruth.
Unsurprisingly, once purchased, the house required an almost complete renovation: rewiring, replumbing, reroofing – the whole shooting match. “One of the biggest changes we made,” explains Ruth, “was to lower the ground floor. I love natural light and high ceilings, and I knew this type of house can sometimes suffer from a gloomy basement level, so we lowered the floor quite considerably.” Sitting in Ruth’s light-flooded kitchen today, you certainly get no sense of being in a lower ground space.
To further open up the lower ground floor, they added a 40-square-foot extension (which requires no planning permission). The result is a seamless extension. In keeping with the classic period style of the house, Ruth eschewed the modern ?glass box? look and opted for big windows and classical French doors leading out into the generous garden.
The kitchen is the one room in the house where Ruth pulled in a little outside design guidance. “It was the most time-consuming part of the project to get right,” says Ruth. But, eventually, she got the dream kitchen she wanted. “In fact, the biggest spend in the house was the giant kitchen island,” Ruth continues. “I had my heart set on an island made up of single oak planks to give an unbroken, linear look, but I hadn’t appreciated that the planks, as living pieces, would expand and contract so much. So we had a few cracked-board issues,” Ruth smiles.
Once you move upstairs, to the two fine reception rooms on the middle floor and the three bedrooms on the top floor, you can really see Ruth’s flair for inspired styling come through. Both Ruth and Simon love to travel, and their house is brimming with globally sourced, unique finds and curiosities.
Ruth loves to scour fleamarkets, auctions and interiors shops in any city she visits – she’s carted oversized bird cages home from Morocco, a 1920s child mannequin from Paris, and a papier-mâché head from Chinatown in New York.
Ruth’s approach to decorating is to resist buying something just because you need it – you have to wait until you find the perfect piece. “We lived without a coffee table for four years. Then one day we spotted one at the Dublin Flea Market. I took a chance that it would fit – and it’s perfect.”
The upstairs living room is Ruth’s favourite room. “It gets gorgeous light and it’s usually the tidiest room in the house,” admits Ruth, “as the kids don’t come in here much.” It’s also a beautiful room because of the sophisticated colour palette, featuring blush, lilac and teal (incidentally, colours predicted to be big in 2016 even though Ruth decorated this room in 2011) and soft, luxe touches introduced in the form of a teal velvet-buttoned sofa, a pink cowhide rug, and a pair of sheepskin-covered, worn-leather armchairs.
Upstairs, Ruth and Simon encouraged the kids to develop their own creative eye and choose the pieces for beside their beds. Bonnie, three at the time, chose a monstrously heavy-framed picture of a dog at the Dublin Flea, Ruth grins with a touch of pride, “but I have to admit to guiding their hands a little when it comes to the masks and teddy-bear heads on the walls – I have a serious weakness for taxidermy!”
With so many contemporary interiors falling into the safe but soulless, hotel-look zone, it’s refreshing to find a space that exudes so much personality. Ruth has created a place that is primarily a home, but also a masterclass in playful, intuitive design.
Is this a skill she is willing to share as a consultant? “I’ve been asked a few times, and now that all the children are in school, it’s something I’m keen to develop professionally.” Watch this space.
Words Jessica Elliott. Photography by Doreen Kilfeather