'My house is like Santa's grotto!' - Ruth McGahey's festive Meath home tour

By Keeva Tyrrell 12-12-2019

Photography: Philip Lauterbach | Styling: Alannah Monks

Nothing gets us in the festive spirit like a dazzling Christmas tree with beautiful baubles, twinkling fairy lights and glittering garlands.

Like so many of us, interior architect (and interiors influencer), Ruth McGahey has a serious soft spot for the festive season. “My mum is a great woman for throwing everything at a celebration but I’d say Christmas is her speciality,” she reveals. “Their house is like Santa’s Grotto at Christmas! So, I think I’ve inherited her love of the season.”

This year marks Ruth’s fifth Christmas in her Meath home with husband Andrew, three children, Edith (6), Laurence (4) and Henry (3) – not forgetting two two donkeys, mother and daughter duo, Lucy and Rabbit.

Ruth’s main Christmas tree takes centre stage in the double-height hallway and is filled with decorations she's collected over the years as well as pieces from Brown Thomas (Brownthomas.com). "We always have a real tree downstairs. some years we even get two," says Ruth. The stair runner was handmade by Roger Oates and supplied and fitted by The Natural Flooring Company (Naturalflooring.ie). When it comes to buying decorations, TK Maxx, John Lewis, Zara Home, Søstrene Grene and Liberty London are some of Ruth's favourite places to shop. "Joeanna Caffrey Flowers (Joeannacaffrey.ie) has stunning foliage, wreaths and table centres. There's a shop in Trim called Nook that I love and always has beautiful decorations," she says.

Before they moved to Meath, Ruth and Andrew lived in a four bed Victorian terrace in Balham, South West London. The pair are no strangers to restoration projects but were unexpectedly bitten by the renovation bug once again when they bought their current home in 2015. “We’d renovated two previous properties in London and had said that we wouldn’t touch this house! However, after living in it for a few months we just couldn’t leave it alone,” Ruth explains.

Built a mere 18 months previously, they were itching to alter some aspects. “We made some small structural changes internally, moving the living room door to create a double door, removing a patio door in the kitchen to allow for more counter space, redesigning an en suite and walk-in-wardrobe to create a family bathroom and converting the attic into a playroom which can adapt and change as the kids grow up,” Ruth says. “We replaced the kitchen, bathrooms and all the joinery… basically we kept the fireplaces and one bath,” she laughs.

Noel Dempsey Kitchens (Neoldempsey.com) created the kitchen. The blue on the floor units is Calm Interlude by Colourtrend (Colourtrend.ie), wall units are Loft White by Little Greene Paint Company (Littlegreene.ie). A bookmatched Calacatta marble worktop is on the island, with Silestone (Silestone.com) on the wall units; both were supplied and fitted by Miller Brothers Stone (Millerbrothers.ie). The over-island pendants are by Tom Dixon (Tomdixon.net). Floor is limestone from Tilestyle (Tilestyle.ie). The mirror over the fireplace is from Laura Ashley (Lauraashley.com) and the bench from Avoca (Avoca.com) - “I went in for bread, came out with a bench,” she laughs. Ruth wanted the Quooker Fusion Square tap (Quooker.com) in brass, but it wasn’t available, so a brass plate supplier was sourced , at an eye-watering cost. “After much debate Andrew just said ‘well, we’re spending that much on the house, why stop now,’ so the tap went on a little holiday,” Ruth recalls, adding the clincher: “Quooker then brought out a brass finish shortly after we had ours installed - sob. But now it’s one of our favourite pieces in the house,” she says.

The mirror over the fireplace is from Laura Ashley (Lauraashley.com) and the bench from Avoca (Avoca.com) - “I went in for bread, came out with a bench,” she laughs.

The project wasn’t without its pitfalls. “The biggest hiccup was with the timber floors. The subcontractor who laid it did an incredible job laying the floor, however they didn’t have any experience staining floors as dark we wanted and it went badly wrong. It was darker in some places and lighter in others.”

Ruth’s builders, Renova (Renova.ie), came to the rescue and found a new subcontractor who specialised in staining floors. “The floors had to be sanded back again and re-stained and lacquered, but we’ve ended up with great finish so we were thrilled,’ says Ruth.

With such a big living space, Ruth found it difficult to find great quality couches, “that were both contemporary and large enough” for the room, until she came across Navan-based furniture store, Sofa So Good (Sofasogood.ie). “I discovered Conor, who makes all their couches bespoke. I began running ideas and designs past him and these are the result.” The festive garland and decorations on the TV console are from Brown Thomas.

Ruth sourced the marble and brass console from Swoon Editions (Swooneditions.com), the marbled light from Pooky Lights (Pooky.com) and the rug from West Elm (Arnotts.ie). Mid Cloud from Dulux’s Signature collection (Dulux.ie) is on the walls. “We used a lot of this paint around the house as it has a lovely finish and is really wipeable,” she explains. She enlisted the help of her friend Jane from Mix & Match Curtains and Blinds in Dunshaughlin (Mixnmatch.ie) to create bespoke curtains. “Jane is a fountain of knowledge when it comes to curtains and blinds, having grown up in the business with her mum starting the company 40 years ago,” Ruth explains. The fabric is a beautiful linen by Romo fabrics (Romo.com) and the poles are from Jim Lawrence (Jim-lawrence.co.uk). 

Now completed, the McGaheys are preparing for some festive family fun. “This year we’ll have my folks and Andrew’s folks. Our first Christmas in the house we had 22 people and two dogs for Christmas Day. It was manic but we loved it,” explains Ruth. “Every second year or so it’s just us and the kids and that’s lovely too as we don’t leave the house; we just relax and play with all the toys the kids get.”

To get the little ones excited for Christmas, Ruth adds some festive accessories to their playroom. “I have a faux tree in the playroom for the kids to decorate, although I usually rearrange this one when they’re not looking, which is really colourful and fun for them,” she grins. The paper honeycomb baubles are from Sostrene Greene, the baubles are from Choice (Choicestores.ie) and Ruth made the wool pom-poms herself.

The circus tent is from Ikea (Ikea.com); it complements the vibrant decorations. The children’s drawings are framed and hung - a great way to create a unique and fun gallery wall

Ruth describes her Christmas decor style as traditional. “I like to stick to red, green and gold with lots of natural foliage and a twist of Scandinavian style. My mum is great at styling for the season, sometimes I let her rearrange a few things! I tend to get a lot of inspiration from Instagram: Leoma from Style The Clutter (@styletheclutter) is the one account that springs to mind. She’s the queen of seasonal decorating,” says Ruth.

Thanks to generous glazing, the view from the master ensuite is breath-taking. “We sourced all our bathrooms through Billy at Ideal Bathrooms (Idealbathrooms.ie),” explains Ruth.

The bespoke taps are from Samuel Heath (Samuel-heath.com), the sinks are Villeroy & Boch from Ideal Bathrooms, the marble is from Miller Brother and the drawer handles are from Armac Martin (Armacmartin.com). Ruth designed the vanity unit and had it made. The timber bench was sourced from Ikea, the pendant lights are from Jim Lawrence. Walls are painted mid Beryl as before

Just over a year ago Ruth set up her interiors Instagram account, @house_of_goose_studio, as a ‘gentle way’ of dipping her toe back into the interiors scene. “I started off nervously posting one image a week – breaking into cold sweats as I hit the post button, thinking, ‘what am I doing!’ Now I’m casually chatting away on Stories showing different areas of the house or the latest painting job I’m tackling.”

With over 14,000 followers to date, Ruth has exciting projects in the pipeline. “The interiors community on Instagram is such a positive space and it has given me the confidence to take on collaborations, such as a recent design collaboration with Sofa So Good (Sofasogood.ie) where I am designing a small collection of couches.” Sounds like she’s got it all wrapped up.


Ruth's simple, relaxed dining table is perfect for a family Christmas spent at home. Her classic Christmas tree is all drama, big enough to carry even the most OTT of decorations, such as this glam, glittery bird from Brown Thomas. One of the family's donkey's, both of whom live in a paddock to the front of the property. Above the lovely blue and brass kitchen units, floating shelves display some cute Christmas pieces. In the kids' playroom, a smaller tree offers an opportunity to have a bit more fun with festive decorating. The colourful family bathroom is super-functional and a hit with the kids. Ruth removed some patio doors and added a window to allow for a longer countertop in the kitchen. In the boot room, woodwork is Olive Colour by Little Greene (Littlegreene.ie) and handles are from Buster and Punch (Busterandpunch.com).


Photography: Philip Lauterbach

Styling: Alannah Monks


See more from Ruth's gorgeous home in the gallery below!

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