It’s the little details that can define a culture and in the case of the Irish, it’s our fondness for walls and radiators, according to Julie Choi. Hailing from Seoul, South Korea, she bought her period Belfast home two years ago with her husband, Adam.
“Everyone lives in modern, open-plan apartments and houses in Korea, unlike here where the living room, dining room and kitchen can all be separate. We use underfloor heating (it’s called ‘Ondol’) rather than radiators so that was one of the things that annoyed me when I first came here: there is always a radiator where I want to put my furniture.” We feel you, Julie.
High ceilings were one of the many details that drew Julie to the 101-year old Belfast home which, along with large bay windows, allowed for moody tones to be sprinkled throughout, balanced with natural textures and an abundance of greenery. “I love modern industrial and a vintage, earthy aesthetic,” she says. “I used to have a basket and frame obsession and then it was plants. These days, I love to buy vases and candle holders.”
Julie traws her local charity shops, collecting bric-a-brac, while TK Maxx and H&M (Hm.com) are on her high-street hit list. Eclectic, unique artworks hang on almost every wall of her home. “I love collecting art on our travels. The print of the Egon Schiele drawing I got on a street in Paris and the crying boy on the shelf in the living room is from the Belfast Flea Market. The Vogue and David Bowie prints are from King & McGaw (Kingandmcgaw.com), and there are some festival posters and a set list from a live gig.”
The dramatic grey on the walls in the lounge, City Life from Crown Paints (Crownpaints.ie), provides a contrast to Julie’s vibrant collection of prints. Look to Jam Art Prints (Jamartprints.com) and April and the Bear (Aprilandthebear.com) for unusual affordable Irish options. The rug, knitted cushion and grey felt pouffe are from TK Maxx and the carved wooden table is from Zara Home
The couch in the living room was a particularly serendipitous find. “We fell in love with a blue velvet sofa we found in Debenhams, but it was a little bit pricey. We looked in other shops and realised it was the best, but it was gone. My husband and his mum, Anne and I checked online every day and went to millions of furniture shops and finally found one in Debenhams’ winter sale!”
The pompom cushion is Oliver Bonas (Oliverbonas.ie) and the Wishbone chair was bought from a friend’s restaurant when they replaced the furniture. Zinzan (Zinzan.ie) has excellent replicas. Lamb Design (Lambdesign.ie) has an array of planter and storage baskets
The record player was bought shortly after the couple moved in and Julie is keen to add to her vinyl collection. “We sometimes sit and listen to it with a glass of wine, especially on Friday or Saturday night with friends,” she says. The floor lamp is from Ikea (Ikea.com)
Julie used Angelica, a murky green hue from Craig and Rose (Craigandrose.com) paints to create an ombré effect in the hall. It adds colour and a cool cosiness. The flooring is from Tons of Tiles (Tonsoftiles.co.uk), while wall accessories are from eBay and TK Maxx. The window mirror is a charity shop purchase – M&S (Marksandspencer.com) and Next (Next.ie) have similar styles
Her favourite room, the kitchen, features her most-loved elements. “Two of my dreams came true there: the concrete floor and the real brick wall.” The customised sign came from a local store. “My husband Adam came up with the idea: he thought ‘Letsby Avenue’ sounded cool, so he made a sign on brick wallpaper for our previous home.”
Raw materials are the star attraction in the kitchen with red brick and polished concrete rubbing along with galvanised steel, wicker, wood and glass accessories. To create the floor, Julie says they poured the concrete, added a little colour plus a top coat. The redbrick wall was a must-have, bringing a sense of the outdoors, in. “I wanted a brick wall with random plants in the kitchen.” Julie scours places like Søstrene Grene (Sostrenegrene.com
) and Dunelm (Dunelm.com
) for crockery items, and she picked up the terrazzo-effect vase in H&M. The kitchen units and open shelves are from Ikea; not having wall cupboards here has added to the sense of space and relaxed vibe
Julie has blurred the divide between living and dining using the tufted stool and grey and wood Ikea chair. The cream cotton stool is from Zara Home; River Island (Riverisland.ie) has a similar chevron tufted stool that could double as an occasional table. The side table (against the wall) is from Robin’s Nest, a local store. The decorative plaster moulding is from a homewares shop in Gran Canaria, Amazon.com stocks similar. McGann's Plaster Mouldings has a wide range, add some chalk paint for an aged effect. Macrame plant holders and accessories soften dark tones and hard edges. Visit Urban Outfitters (Urbanoutfitters.com) or eBay for a selection or try making it yourself – YouTube has a number of tutorials
Julie’s love of the industrial is given free rein in the dining space where she has balanced powder-coated metal and polished concrete with sheepskin, cotton and earthenware. The cork dining table is actually a desk from Ikea and the overhead light fixture was a DIY affair. “The lights are from eBay and metal bar holder is an Ikea shelf bracket and a metal bar from B&Q that I spray painted black,” she reveals. Curate your own collection of vintage enameled signs: The Stripy Paint Company (Stripypaint.ie) has a quirky selection. The flooring is laminate – “I wanted it dark and rough looking” – and the painted walls are in Celestite from Crown Paints. The polished concrete wall received the same treatment as the kitchen floor, with some colour and a topcoat
Foliage is rampant in the bathroom where the couple knocked a wall to create a more spacious room with a smarter layout. The tiles are from Tons of Tiles and the wallpaper is by AS Création from I want wallpaper (Iwantwallpaper.co.uk). Raw elements appear here too, with concrete and stone planters, woven baskets and a custom-made wooden washstand. Look to Woo Design (Woodesign.ie) for similar planters. H&M (Hm.com) has a great selection of baskets. Tapware is a mixed set from Amazon (Amazon.com) and eBay. The oxidised steel shelf next to the mirror is an eBay find
The upstairs landing features pictures from the couple’s wedding and a family heirloom. “I always wanted to have simple black and white gallery wall. It was perfect timing as we got married a few months after we moved in. The sewing machine is from Adam’s granny’s house – he took it to remember her after she passed away,” Julie reveals
Julie’s no slouch in the DIY department either, upcycling several pieces including the tables nestled under the window in the living room, made by cutting up a tree trunk and adding legs from Ikea. The Champagne glass holder in the kitchen was made using a plank and rusty nails the couple found in the roof space when they moved in.
Julie made the wall lights above the bed, and created a watercolour effect on the walls using Valspar paint (Diy.com). The bed is from Dreams (Dreams.co.uk), and she buys bedding at Urban Outfitters (Urbanoutfitters.com) and LaRedoute (Laredoute.com), while M&S is a favourite for Egyptian cotton. The macramé wall hanging is from TK Maxx. The central light is from Ikea. Home Haven (Homehaven.ie) has a beautiful rattan bench similar to Julie’s Dunelm version. For similar curtains and voiles, try Homefocus at Hickeys (Homefocus.ie)
With the hall newly painted, Julie has set her sights on that dreaded space: the junk room. Follow her adventures on @letsby.avenue.
Accents of black mixed with taupe and white cleverly balance the fireplace which could easily overwhelm the space. The rug is from Urban Outfitters - the Kinau rug EZ Living Furniture (Ezlivingfurniture.ie) is a good likeness.
DON'T MISS THE DETAILS
In the kitchen, Julie's beloved brick walls open shelving and her Letsby Avenue sign (geddit?). The upstairs landing features pictures from the couple's wedding and an heirloom. “The sewing machine is from Adam's granny. He took it to remember her after she passed away,” Julie reveals. Julie stands outside her Victorian home, offering a glimpse inside. In the living area, a vintage side table displays her decorating aesthetic perfectly.
PHOTOGRAPHY: Philip Lauterbach
STYLING: Lesiele Juliet
See more from Julie's gorgeous home in the gallery below!