A Wicklow wreck has been reborn as a modern homage to midcentury and 1970s retro.
Words Grace Adlington Photography Ruth Maria Murphy for Sunday Times Style magazine
The words “1980s bungalow” are not normally linked to interiors inspiration. But then Eithne Fitzpatrick’s home in north Wicklow is not your average 1980s bungalow. In fact, it’s not quite a bungalow, with its master bedroom perched atop the centre of the otherwise long and sprawling single-storey home. And although it was built in the early 1980s, it was designed in the 1970s ranch style that Fitzpatrick, 54, says reminded her of classic American TV shows such as Bewitched and The Partridge Family. “That’s what aroused nostalgia in me,” she says of what was an unloved and dilapidated shell when she bought it last year. “I wanted to breathe new life into it.”
“That’s what aroused nostalgia in me.”
The restaurateur, art director and interiors consultant is a collector of midcentury ephemera, and this was the four-bedroom backdrop she needed for her G Plan coffee tables, Greaves and Thomas armchairs and Le Corbusier loungers. “I don’t buy things because they’re retro, but because I love them, because they make me feel good. I find them stimulating, they radiate a fantastic joie de vivre.” And so the restoration began, less a pastiche of That ’70s Show and more a love letter to a time when “curves were sensual, kitchens were central hubs and furniture was the ‘vêtements’ of the house”. The joy came from reviving original features, although not all of them were original to this house — the decoration around the bar is 1970s banisters found in a skip, and the period staircase was transplanted because it was more open than the one already in the house, so it let in more light.
The joy came from reviving original features, although not all of them were original to this house — the decoration around the bar is 1970s banisters found in a skip, and the period staircase was transplanted because it was more open than the one already in the house, so it let in more light.
The starting point for the master bedroom was the screen that hangs above the bed, which Fitzpatrick’s parents brought back from Japan in 1975. The original brick wall is softened by the plush grey carpet; the chartreuse accents of the curtains, bed and lights are straight from the 1970s.
There’s a surprising mix of eras and provenance — from 1960s Switzerland via Le Corbusier to 21st-century Finnish prints by Marimekko — but it all seems to come together under Fitzpatrick’s curation. “I’ve been told I have good taste, and when people seem unsure about my ideas, I say, ‘Trust me, it’ll work.’ And it always does.”
It’s this talent she brings to Eily Roe Interiors, the design firm she consults for alongside the interiors designer Eily Roe. “Eily is really technical and can draw a room and make the most of a space, while I have a sense for what to put where.”
And yes, those things can be as varied as vintage bar stools unearthed in Antwerp or contemporary tiles found online, but there’s a coherence that holds them together. “All these things stand the test of time,” Fitzpatrick says, surveying her retro shrine. “They lift the soul.”
Images © all rights reserved Ruth Maria Murphy