This striking library wall maximises space and makes this house a home

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This Striking Library Wall Maximises Space And Makes This House A Home
Aisling Kelly’s book shelves are a defining feature in her home. ‘I remember the day we got them done and we had them filled with our stuff and thinking, yes, we got it right.’ Photographs: Al Higgins. Styling: Sophie McKenna
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When primary school teacher Aisling Kelly first went to view her Kilkenny home with husband, Philip McCabe, it definitely wasn’t love at first sight. “It had been rented before so it was quite dark and dingy, there was no love shown to the house and there was a bed in the sitting room,” she recalls.

And because Kelly, who is mum to Donagh (6), Iarla (4) and Síofra (2), was heavily pregnant with the couple’s second child at the time, she was understandably hesitant.

However, as the house had been built in 2005 and was structurally sound, it only needed cosmetic improvements, so the family was able to move in immediately. “We’ve painted every inch of it at this stage,” Kelly says of her home’s transformation. “It’s been a busy couple of years.”

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A cherished 1940s club chair from France which was a 40th birthday gift provides the perfect perch for reading

Embracing bold paint shades and a taking a DIY approach to interiors has afforded the couple the opportunity to experiment and upcycle. Kelly documents her home journey on Instagram at @saimhin_so, where she’s amassing a coterie of like-minded fans.

While many people used the various lockdowns to perfect their banana bread making skills or take up sea swimming, Kelly and Philip took the time to overhaul their home, proving renovations don’t have to be time- consuming and disruptive – or hugely expensive.

The sitting room, which opens off the large kitchen diner, is a case in point. It had some existing issues Kelly wanted to solve. “There were two sets of double doors, which created a natural corridor running through the room,” she explains. “We painted one set of double doors the same colour as the walls, and they just disappeared back into the wall, so it was a solution to a problem.”

Another clever trick they used to get around the fact there is no chimney breast in this room – a common issue in new-build homes, and one which can cause storage dilemmas as there is no natural place to accommodate shelves – was to design smart built-in shelving around the double doors leading into the kitchen.

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Kelly's keen eye for vintage paint shades and clever furniture picks can be seen in the kitchen diner

This has become a feature that defines this house and its inhabitants. “I remember the day we got them done, and we had them filled with our stuff and thinking, yes, we got it right. Even though we have a fireplace, it really is a focal point,” Kelly says.

Now painted the same shade as the walls and ceiling – a deep vintage-inspired burgundy hue – the shelves provide a striking style statement.

“I think books are fabulous,” Kelly enthuses. “I used to carry them around when I was in college; I still have my Leaving Cert books and I think there’s something really familiar about having them around. Aesthetically they’re very beautiful as well. Phil is an avid reader so between us we had an awful lot of books, so it seemed logical to have a bookshelf.”

The couple made over their kitchen by painting the cabinetry, removing wall mounted cupboards to create open shelving, and revamped the laminate worktops to look like poured resin

A cherished 1940s club chair from France which was a 40th birthday gift from her parents and sourced with friend and vintage furniture curator, Joy Thorpe, provides the perfect perch alongside. “I spent a long time searching and looking for it,” Kelly says.

“It’s really old, and you could be tempted to get it reupholstered because it’s worn and torn, but that’s what I love about it, the history behind it. For me that’s the charm.”

Remake and reuse

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Kelly’s keen eye for subtle colour, clever updates and collectible vintage pieces can be seen all over this home. There’s a fun botanical mural inspired by a Lucy Tiffney print in daughter Síofra’s bedroom and in a guest bedroom, a headboard upholstered in a William Morris print is affixed to an inherited bed.

A guest bedroom has been treated to makeover courtesy of an upholstered headboard

“It was good furniture, and it would have been a shame to get rid of it, so we bought a piece of plywood and Phil bought a jigsaw, we sketched out a curve and cut it out. I wouldn’t say we reupholstered because we literally stapled it to the plywood, but it’s our attempt at upcycling,” she says.

Despite the fact Kelly doesn’t like to boast about their capabilities, it’s clear to see the couple has become highly skilled at breathing new life into old furniture and fixtures.

The couple put new tiles in the hallway

Two years ago they used the same approach to great effect in their kitchen by painting the cabinetry, removing wall-mounted cupboards to create open shelving, and revamping the laminate worktops to look like poured resin.

They also removed an arch between the dining room and kitchen to create a cohesive open-plan space. The hallway has been treated to an update too, courtesy of new vintage-style tiling and clever use of colour.

Kelly has painted the lower part of the walls, skirting boards, doors, architraves and storage unit the same muted sage green shade. “I was nervous doing a lot of it, but I wonder why I didn’t do it sooner. You can do so much with paint and not an enormous budget,” she says.

Kelly, with and daughter Síofra, tends to design touches outdoors

With no immediate plans for more projects, Kelly says they constantly keep an eye out for interesting pieces of furniture to elevate the space.

“I think one-off unique pieces of furniture or having Ikea furniture, but making it your own, and things we’ve collected travelling or pieces of art are what make our home,” she says. “It tells of who we are and what we’re about.”

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