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Image / Living / Interiors / Travel

Five minutes with… the Irish sisters behind the interior selections at Cabü cabins in Cavan


by Amanda Kavanagh
12th Sep 2020
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As Instagram floods with pictures of the serene surrounds and cosy interiors of the new Cabü cabins in Cavan, we catch up Johanna Ledwidge, one half of J+A Studio. 


After four years of development at Killykeen Forest Park, Cabü cabins is finally open to visitors. And although it’s co.uk web address, much of the team, including the brand’s owners and interior stylists are from Ireland.

On a press invitation to visit last week, we took time out with Johanna Ledwidge of J+A Studio, who alongside her sister Aoife, was responsible for the interior sourcing for the homely modular cabins, the Japanese-inspired relaxation rooms, the large gazebo-style Sitooterie gathering space, and the on-site lifestyle shop.

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What kind of feel were you going for with the cabins?

We worked together on the previous project, Cabü by the Sea in Kent, and we wanted to make it relevant to the location. So Cabü by the Sea is down near Dungeness on the Kent Coast, but it has the Dungeness coolness to it, so what we went for there was relevant to its setting. Now certain items we have cross-written to this site as well to remain brand consistent, like the Falcon enamelware, which has a lovely silhouette against the architecture of the cabins. It is very fitting, but we have used more of an earthy woodland feel here in Cavan.  

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How did you set about sourcing homewares for the cabins?

It’s the way things make you feel. You have to keep it real and not be too contrived and genuinely love pieces that you’re using. Colour is really important but because we’re in nature, you can’t put in too much colour. It takes away from the beauty that’s around you. As much as we adore colour and print, it didn’t seem right to throw that in. 

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What influences have you drawn on?

We take a lot of our influences from nature. We’ve always drawn our influences from what’s around us. We were very much brought up close to nature, in the countryside with a lot of woodland walks and time by the sea, near Bray in Co Wicklow. We also wanted the furnishing choices to be eco-conscious throughout, so we’ve also synthetic materials like the Weaver Green rugs, which are made from plastic bottles, but are very durable and have a very traditional design. You’ll notice a lot of blankets. We’ve used a lot of blankets. They’re everywhere.  

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Yes, the textiles are quite strong.

Myself and Aoife went to art college in London – I was at Saint Martins and Aoife was at Chelsea – we both worked in fashion and both have textiles degrees. So our interest is very much on printmaking, embellishment and textiles. We’re very drawn to fabrics naturally. Our great grandfather was a tailor and our grandmother was a painter and sculptor, who made a lot of fabulous knitwear. Knitwear for us is very sentimental, but it’s deep to the core too.

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Did you know what textile brands you wanted to use from the off?

There are so many Irish suppliers that we love. It’s very difficult to stop and say “we can’t put more blankets in” but we have to be practical.

The cabins do need to feel like home, but at the same time, there is a lot of traffic coming through so it does need to be practical as well, which is why we went with the Weaver Green, from the durability perspective. It probably wouldn’t have been our first choice, but it made perfect sense. Then Aran yarn blankets that are folded in the living area are for very durable, can be washed easily and are for taking outside, while we have more traditional heavy Kerry Woollen Mills blankets on the beds.

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What’s it like working with your sister?

We work really well together and bounce off each other. We swap roles on the time, so one of us might be doing the sourcing, then the other more serious end, and swap back again. Everything we gather together we consider and discuss. We then put together our overarching moodboard and colour palette together.

Each cabin has a slightly different colour palette, as each is slightly different, and is positioned differently, but none are too far away. There is consistency. Each room in each cabin are different shapes so although there is continuity in the brands used, like Society of Lifestyle, Bloomingville and Dutchbone, the furniture is different in each cabin. As I said, it has to work with the surroundings. 

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Did you have any say on sockets and placement of sockets?

No, they have specific Cabü sockets they use in black, as a contrast to the wood. There are so many different woods used, you need to be careful not to use many materials. There are these beautiful black-framed windows, which is very much part of the Cabü cabins look, alongside the corrugated roofs and cladding.

You’ll notice you we use quite a lot of black, and that is to not take away from what’s already going on, so we’re already having to consider already what’s in place and what’s going to work around it. 

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Where you involved in the kitchen at all?

The designers of the kitchen are the architects, Kennedy Twaddle, and we styled the kitchens. 

Was there any reference that you kept coming back to again and again?

Well there are a lot of cabin books to start, like Cabin Porn, and a lot of Canadian references as well of more traditional log cabins. It’s mostly pictorial, and mostly through books, which is the way we trained in college. We returned to more old school designers like Ralph Lauren and people you wouldn’t expect in the current day to be an influence as such.

And of course, you don’t want to do the same as other places, but at the same time there is an aesthetic that is relevant at the moment. You don’t want to be too influenced by that, but you do have to recognise it. We probably returned to nineties Ralph Lauren more than any other reference.

What’s next for J+A?

We wanted to create our own brand that’s about us and all the things that excite us, which we are continuing to do. The J+A café is in London and continuing, and we’ll be growing our studio and we’ll be working with Cabü. It’s important to us that they continue to grow in strength with the brand identity. They have such a fabulous team working with them from start to finish. 

Cabü By The Lakes is now open for bookings. Prices start from €175 for a one night stay in a Log Cabin. holidays.cabu.co.uk 


Read more: Irish self-catering boltholes to book into this summer

Read more: I spent four days learning to paint portraits in Dunmore East and it was the best thing I’ve done for myself in ages

Read more: Dog-friendly hotels in Ireland: from Bangor to Wicklow

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