Sew special: Irish embroidery designer Jill de Búrca's gorgeously curated Dublin home

By Aoife Valentine 19-11-2018

Collections, careful use of colour and a wonderful assemblage of furniture pieces imbued with meaning all make the home of embroidery designer Jill De Búrca very special

Words Kirstie McDermott | Photography Ruth-Maria Murphy

 

Call it serendipity, or just pure luck – when 36-year-old embroidery designer Jill De Búrca bought her 1940s house in Dublin at the age of 19 – “it was the time when you could do it, and my dad went guarantor” – she never thought she’d actually live in it. After a degree in textiles at NCAD, Jill went the UK to work for fashion companies Larch Rose and Jenny King and worked on production for major fashion brands such as Erdem, Stella McCartney and Mary Katrantzou.

“While it was amazing for learning skills, it got repetitive as it wasn’t creative – I wasn’t designing,” she recalls. A move home came in 2014, and her eponymous label took off – known for its beautiful embellishment and organic motifs such as butterflies and moths.

DINING ROOM This room now adjoins the kitchen and eagle eyes will spot Ikea’s now-iconic ‘Star Wars’ PS 2014 light; the mirror over the mantle is also from there. “We were going to rip out the cabinetry,” reveals Jill, but a paint job gave it a new lease of life; the teal shade is Winter Holly by Dulux. “I love it now and the storage is brilliant.” The table and chairs were a Brighton charity shop purchase. “I’ve had them for years, but I’d never had a place big enough to add the two leaves on either side,” she says. The flooring is Kinsale Walnut and runs through into the living area.

 

KITCHEN This room has had a major do-over, with a door leaving and a window arriving in its place. “I love having the sink at the window – you can really bring the outside in,” Jill says. The kitchen units, worktop, sink and tap are all from Ikea. Find a similar tea towel and glassware at H&M Home. The Iron Man print is from Harry Corry.

“When I came back to Ireland I fell back in love with the house – and it’s unreal,” she says. “The thought of trying to buy now, in the business I’m in… I’m so lucky.” Along with partner Steve Howard, the couple decided to renovate and move in, but a lot of work needed to done.

“It had always been rented,” Jill explains, “so we got the bathroom ripped out – the floorboards were completely rotten and there was a big hole in the floor. We knocked the kitchen wall into the dining room, as it was previously a galley kitchen, fitted a new kitchen, added new flooring downstairs and put an en suite in the attic.”

CONSERVATORY “I’ve no pets yet, so my plants are my pets – I love them,” Jill enthuses. The large plant came from Jill’s great aunt and she has many more in the conservatory and throughout the house grown from slips, and brought from her old home in Brighton. In Dublin, she rates Newlands Garden Centre and Johnstown Garden Centre, Homebase and Urban Plant Life as good places to pick up pants. The hanging planters were bought at Ikea, Johnstown Garden Centre and eBay while the cane seating set was a bargain from Auction Xchange in Ballymount.

LIVING ROOM An example of how old and new blend brilliantly, Jill’s living room combines heirloom pieces, vintage finds, one-off artworks and highstreet buys seamlessly. Her wing chair and wall lights are both careful Ikea buys, the over-mantle mirror came from Steve’s sister, as did the beautiful walnut unit in the far corner. The tapestry-covered couch is from Oxfam Home on Dublin’s Francis St – “they have amazing stuff in there” – and the coffee table was an Auction Xchange bargain. Steve found the ceiling shade online and the Bear painting is by artist Lucy Sheridan. The framed bird is one of Jill’s own pieces, as is the embroidered butterfly hanging over the couch. Accompanying it are two of her older pieces from previous exhibitions, a piece by Emma Roche – “I did a swap with her for it, I really wanted it” – and to the top is an embroidered native American guidance doll. To the right is a cactus print by Lucy Sheridan.

Building work took around seven weeks and the couple decamped to Jill’s parents’ house while work was happening – “they were away,” she laughs.

Jill’s decorating style – “eclectic boho mixed with art deco” – is a clear extension of her creative mind and her design process. “I always start off with tactile things. I collect pieces and put things beside each other, almost like a moodboard,” she muses. “I start picking out colours and fabrics and textures and then start on artworks.” Heritage matters: the couple has many pieces gifted from family members, with several treasures from Jill’s great aunt Eva Carter taking pride of place throughout the house.

HALL “We didn’t get floors in the hall on purpose because my dad has parquet flooring for us from the old Royal Hospital when it was being knocked, and we’re going to use that.”

BATHROOM This amazing washstand came about due to a combination of good fortune and good friends. “My sister found the sink in a skip,” Jill laughs. The couple then had to source new taps for it and have a stand made. Ready-made versions proved to be hugely expensive so they had a pal weld one, which was then painted gold. Job done. The floor tiles are from Best Tile (Besttile.ie) and the wall lamps are the same Ikea versions as in the living room. “We just turned them the other way,” reveals Jill.

BEDROOM Jill made the headboard herself. “I bought an old headboard and fitted the embroidered piece onto it. I’m not normally a pink girl, but I wanted something to tie the room together, so I went for hummingbirds and jungle plants,” she says. The crystal light to the side of the bed is from Auction Xchange, while the bedside lockers came from her great aunt. Steve’s sister gave them the chest of drawers and pink velvet chair, and Jill made all the cushions in the room.

The white palette used throughout was intentional too. This inveterate collector chose the shade, all the better to display her treasures. “I love dark décor but it’s not for me, or this house. I was all about making it light and airy, making the most of the high ceilings – and the amount of things I have!”

 

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