Eva McConkey’s family has lived in the same house for generations, but the constantly changing decor keeps it up to the minute. By Barbara Egan.
When Eva McConkey’s house was built in 1910, Glasnevin was a village just outside Dublin. A century later, Glasnevin is just two miles from Dublin’s city centre, but the Edwardian redbrick home bought by her great-grandfather is still in the family.
Eva and husband Ian moved into the downstairs flat in the four-bedroom house in 1994, initially renting it from Eva’s parents. Three years later they bought the house, replacing the roof soon afterwards.
“At that stage, we couldn’t afford to forgo the rent from the students in the flat upstairs, so we just lived in the downstairs, continuing to do so when first Louis, then Oliver arrived,” says Eva.
But when their third child Jane was born in 1999, it was time to move the students out and the couple restored the house to a single home. They replaced all the windows and took up all the carpets, sanded down and sealed the floorboards, and had the house wallpapered in raspberry and royal blue stripes, while the dining room was painted in burnt orange.
“It was 1999, and I loved it, I thought the colours were amazing and I had yellow striped wallpaper and a raspberry and a royal blue sofa in the front room and adored them because they were so cool and funky,” says Eva.
“The house and furniture had withstood the onslaught of three children for years and looked it; the decor was dated and the whole interior needed a different look, but we couldn’t afford to get the decorators in,” says Eva. “At that time, that’s what I thought you had to do, get in the decorators to do the painting, buy new furniture to change the look.”
One day Eva decided to take matters into her own hands and went to a DIY shop for advice. “I bought a roller and tray, paintbrushes and paint. They advised me that white ceiling paint was the best thing to cover over strong colour or pattern, so I bought a large tub of it, and when I got home I started to cover up all the dated colours and patterns, and I was astonished at the results. It was like magic, I could completely change the look of my house all by myself.
“I worked until the middle of the night, fell into bed and slept for a few hours and started again. In a few short days, my house was transformed and I had discovered something extraordinary, I could do this myself.”
Having discovered what could be done, Eva became a passionate re-decorator and up-cycler.
“The shabby chic look came naturally to me, I discovered that I could update furniture by painting it and do simple re-upholstery, so I could work with what we already had. Our decision was that our money was to go to the children’s education first, and once I found that solid furniture need never date with a little imagination and a paintbrush, I started to enjoy it all tremendously.”
Eva ripped all the sisal from the stairs and painted them white, a look she had seen in a magazine.
“Sisal is a very tough, hard-wearing floor covering and I wouldn’t criticise it, but a painted floor or stairs is so much easier to keep,” she says.
The kitchen, which had been dark green, became red with white furniture and later evolved into its present version of pale blue/grey and off-whites as Eva embraced the Scandinavian look.
“The walls of the kitchen are quite rough, I thought that they had to be painted in dark colours to hide that, but now I’ve discovered that light colours work even better,” she says.
The walls and the cane chairs from TKMaxx are painted in Bluegrey from Johnston and Johnston paints, while the dog and cat doorknobs are also from TKMaxx. The armoire is Laura Ashley from a discount shop; Eva painted it and replaced the glass with chicken wire. The cow paintings she did herself.
The couple went on to have a fourth child, Andrew, and the room he shares with Oliver has recently been re-invented with blackboard paint; Eva painted one entire wall as a giant blackboard, counterbalanced with white-painted floorboards.
She has never had to replace the tiles in the bathroom, but they have been painted in several different shades, using a “special tile paint”.
The only thing in the house that Eva steadfastly refuses to paint is the waxed pine bedroom suite she bought years ago in Ranelagh Antiques. “I just love it,” she says. “It has never turned orange as the cheaper varnished versions often do, I like it as it is.”
Using TKMaxx and second-hand finds, recycling old pine furniture and kitchen units, she transformed her house and continues to update the interior with new looks on a regular basis. “I love it. I really enjoy transforming a space,” she says. “I love to change the look all the time. In the sitting room, I bought a huge leather sofa that is big enough for friends and family, and I just update with new cushions regularly. I’m doing a big transformation on Jane’s room now.”
Eva has turned her passion into a business. She is now an interiors stylist and has started her company Renevate, which can be found on Facebook. “I can change my furniture and accessories on a regular basis as I find new stock and upcycle it.”
If and when the couple get the children through college, Eva says she is going to completely gut the house and rebuild with a minimal, contemporary interior. She would love to extend the kitchen, which is quite small, into an open plan kitchen/dining area with a glazed wall to the garden. “But I do love to come home to my house as it is. Fun, vibrant, colourful and funky, it’s very me.”