A unique blend of homely family fun and a spectacular collection of artwork in Co Mayo
Words: Louise Dockery | Photography: Philip Lauterbach
In the little village of Newport on the west coast of Ireland is a this deceptively unassuming dormer bungalow, which is home to Debbie and Mark Rooney and their four young children. “It’s far from art I was raised” says Debbie. “But with three younger siblings to look after, I was often dispatched to town to entertain the little ones. I would avail of the free amenities and visit all of the museums,” says Debbie, who grew up on Dublin’s North Circular Road.
“The National Art Gallery and the National History Museum were big influences on me, and probably account for my love and appreciation of taxidermy and art. I love the Victorian era and the dark décor from that period,” she adds.
Perennial paint favourite Railings by Farrow & Ball acts as a backdrop to Debbie and Mark’s extensive art collection. The living room is Debbie’s favourite space; “I love spending time in there, surrounded by the taxidermy and the gallery wall,” she says. Debbie’s vintage Chesterfield-style coral sofa is from John Sirr Antiques
and the industrial lockers are from The Gaiety Antique and Vintage Store
. For a similar decorative letter, try Find
and for a similar lamp, look to Rockett St George
It would seem that the same stretch of road on Kildare Street would shape Debbie’s life in many ways. It was while working as a PA in Dáil Éireann that she met her, now husband, Mark. Together they packed up and journeyed west to Newport, Co Mayo.
In 2005, the couple opened the Kevin Sharkey Gallery, exclusively selling work from the world-renowned artists, whose pieces have been collected by the likes of Whitney Houston, Courtney Love, Charles Saatchi and Michael D. Higgins.
Despite it no longer being her main gig, Debbie is still passionate about art and deals regularly with Dave O’Shea in the Chimera Gallery in Mullingar. “Dave represents established and emerging artists from Ireland and around the world, he’s a great ambassador for art.” Debbie says.
At first glance, the notion of world-renowned art displayed, for four young kids to play around, may sound like a terrifying prospect. “The kids love when I bring something old home (except for paintings of naked ladies, which is the source of much embarrassment when their friends visit),” Debbie jokes.
It’s clear that the Rooney kids are growing up with a knowledge and an appreciation for the arts, just like their mother. We can’t wait to see history repeat itself and take a visit to their houses in 30 years’ time.
Follow Debbie’s adventures in art collecting and interior design on Instagram at @justanoviceatinteriordesign, and see more from her real home tour below!
Well-matched yet charmingly mismatched living room furniture creates a cosy and eclectic vibe. “I buy a lot of my cushions, wallpaper and paint from AlbanyHome Décor
in Castlebar. They’re always changing their stock, so there’s something new when I visit,” says Debbie. Flanagans
stock similar leather wing chairs, while a similar mustard velvet cushion can be found at Penneys.
Debbie made a bold choice by painting the ceiling the same colour as the walls. The shade is Farrow & Ball’s
Almost Black and it works beautifully. A vintage church pew from John Sirr Antiques acts as additional seating in the kitchen. Debbie loves finding unconventional pieces for her home to add an unusual twist to her design. The cushions on the church pew were made by Clodagh from The Gaiety Antique and Vintage Store. Find a similar rug at Brita
Mark and Debbie sit on a vintage bench in their kitchen. By keeping the wall colours neutral or dark, the couple’s art collection and vintage finds pop. When it comes to Debbie’s top tip for a gallery wall, she advises, “add light with lots of lamps – uplighters work particularly well. Also, use mixed media. A gallery wall doesn’t have to solely feature frames. Hanging sculptures and taxidermy adds interest.”
Industrial Tolix-style yellow chairs combine with the country farmhouse table to create an interesting juxtaposition of eras and styles.
Two vintage cabinets upcycled by Debbie store the family’s crockery and dry foods and acts as a free-standing pantry space.
Debbie's kitchen repping Ireland's first and best (not that we're biased!) interiors hashtag, #myhouseandhome
Vintage theatre seats from The Gaiety Antique and Vintage Store in Mayo have been reupholstered in a playful bird fabric.
A painting by one of the kids hangs proudly in a stylish vignette above the radiator in the hallway. Very impressive!
The couple kept the art and accessories around the bathroom neutral in colour, but edgy in content. The bathroom paint is Huntsmen by Colourtrend
, and the tiles are from TileWarehouse
Wallpaper from Albany creates a cute and quirky feel in the girls’ room. Much of the bedroom furniture has been upcycled with Annie Sloan chalk paint to add some colour. “No black allowed in there, I’ve been told,” jokes Debbie. The chandelier is from when the couple had their own art gallery. “I couldn’t leave it behind,” Debbie adds.
A mid-century desk is something that will grow with the children and will suit them at any age.
The main bathroom is another favourite room of Debbie’s. “I transformed the space from bog standard (excuse the pun) to a great little space with just some paint and tiling along with a few vintage pieces. It’s our ‘balance room’,” Debbie says.