This week we took a wander around the new shopfront home of April and the Bear in Rathmines, and when we got back we just had to dig up her house tour from the 2014 July/August issue of Image Interiors & Living for some inspiration.
And while she and partner Jamie have done lots more with their Portobello home since, as well as hearing the pitter patter of little feet too, there’s still plenty of ideas to pinch.
Take a tour below and pop into the shop on 2 Wynnefield Road for lots of the gorgeous home accessories April and the Bear has become known for, plus lots of bigger pieces of furniture now that Siobhan has got the space to show off just how broad her gorgeous buying skills are. Take it away…
WORDS Lizzie Gore-Grimes PHOTOGRAPHY Mark Scott
It’s hard to believe when you walk into Siobhan and Jamie’s beautiful light-filled Portobello home that the property was in three “terrifying” bedsits when they found it in late 2011. “There was pine everywhere – on the ceiling, on the floors, on the walls,” begins Siobhan, not missing a beat as her energetic little Jack Russell, Gizmo, leaps up and down on her lap. “We never had any intention of buying a fixer-upper, but then we came to see this house and completely fell in love with the location.” The canal literally flows past their front door. “And because it was in such a state of disrepair, we were able to afford it,” she grins.
“It was scary, buying a house that needed to be completely gutted,” she admits, but they had a secret weapon: Jamie’s father, Paul, an experienced carpenter with great contacts in the business. With Paul’s help, the couple greeted the New Year in January 2012 with sleeves rolled up and steel-capped boots on and got stuck into the demolition work.
They also enrolled the help of Jamie’s good friend and fellow musician, Ger Owens, a trained architect, who worked with them to draw up plans and design the new layout for the house. “We hired a surveyor and team of builders for the initial stage of the build, but after that we did everything ourselves – painting, plastering, joinery, decorating, you name it.”
For a year, the couple lived in the upstairs bedsit, while the two bedsits downstairs were transformed into a light-drenched, open-plan living and dining space with kitchen to the rear. Walls were stripped back, wide-plank floorboards were painted gun-metal grey, French doors were put in to open out onto the (long) back garden, and two beautiful original fireplaces were discovered – one of them is now used as a working fireplace in the living space, while the second is used as a display space for Siobhan’s eye-catching interior finds, many of which you’ll find for sale on aprilandthebear.com, the online interiors store that the former fashion buyer for Arnotts launched in February of this year.
“I would describe our style as ‘eclectic industrial’,” Siobhan continues. “We wanted to create a space with a New York loft feel to it, a space that would be bright, contemporary and a little bit raw, but with plenty of humour and character.” And that is what they have achieved in spades. As soon as you walk in the door, you get such a strong sense of Siobhan and Jamie’s personality – his passion for music and comic books is evident everywhere (the guitar leaning against the wall, vintage Fender Deluxe amplifier used as a bedside table, oversized Marvel comic canvas print and stacks of graphic novels everywhere).
While Siobhan’s passion for illustration, cool interior finds and jewellery is equally evident in the dozens of original illustrated prints on the walls, gatherings of pretty jars, vases and jugs, and the general air of perfectly styled lifestyle shoot that the house exudes.
Upstairs boasts a spare bedroom and a lovely big bathroom on the return (complete with claw-footed bath), but the pièce de résistance is up another flight. “We took a risk and turned the big, double-windowed room above the sitting room into an office rather than a master bedroom.” The room is flooded with light, with views overlooking the canal, and offers plenty of space for Siobhan’s oversized eight-foot worktable.
The large room also boasts floor to ceiling shelving to store stock and is undoubtedly the creative hub of the house, boasting walls papered with inspirational magazine tears. There is a third bedroom upstairs, but it’s off limits, as it’s still in a “shocking state”, laughs Siobhan.
The pair are in no mad hurry to finish the house, though, as Siobhan is currently working flat-out on April and the Bear. “Once I started work on the house, I just became completely obsessed with interiors,” she explains. “But I found it really difficult to source the kind of eclectic, whimsical and beautifully crafted pieces I was looking for – so I decided to curate my own collection of Irish and internationally-designed jewellery, artwork and interior finds.”
Growing up as the daughter of a Chinese father and Irish mother who ran a series of restaurants and take-aways, Siobhan was always full of admiration for her parents’ entrepreneurial spirit and was determined to run her own business. “I’m really happy with how the site and the store are taking shape.” Siobhan designs the witty, typographical posters on the site herself and is planning on developing a broader range of homeware and prints with her art-student brother Vincent later in the year. She is also hoping to find a space to host a pop-up store this summer to show off her April and the Bear wares in the flesh, so watch this space.
April and the Bear’s new Rathmines shop is now open 2 Wynnefield Road, Rathmines, and online at aprilandthebear.com