"Support from family is something we didn’t have when we lived in Galway so it's lovely to be so close now,” says Home Economics teacher Sarah Battle as she recalls a time before she relocated back to her hometown of Ballina in Co Mayo.
Sarah and Barry Battle lived in Galway for 12 years but "with a growing family, we felt the need to move back” she says, of the couples’ children Isabella (4), Alexander (3) and Matilda (19 months) about deciding on a Ballina home.
Bright units and countertops reflect the light from the windows and suit this sizable open plan space. Noel Brannelly Kitchens (Noelbrannelly.ie) designed, made and fitted the kitchen. Sarah opted for the Cosentino Quartz worktops in Calacatta Gold from Silestone (Silestone.com) and the floor is tumbled limestone which was sourced through Trevor Morrow (Trevormorrow.ie). The high ceiling in the kitchen area was an essential. “I think a vaulted ceiling was something we’ve always loved, and because the kitchen is the hub of our house, I think it was important to put the roof light in, allowing plenty of natural light in even during the dark winter months,” Sarah says. Above the island, the space is illuminated by a chandelier with metal leaf accents from Panfili Interiors (Panfiliinteriors.com). A fan of foliage seasonal décor, Sarah hung a DIY bauble branch from the light to add some festive cheer to the room. “I used fish wire to tie the baubles and just kept adding until I was happy.’ Colourtrends’s Wimborne White (Colourtrend.ie) was used on the woodwork and Salter Stone on the walls.
Even though their previous home was a renovation project, the pair embarked on another challenge when they decided to self-build their Ballina home, which belies its bungalow status thanks to higher than average ceilings and wide hallways. “Due to planning regulations, we weren’t able to build a two-storey,” she says, and a dormer just didn’t appeal.
“The build took 16 months,” says Sarah, and this wasn’t helped by a speed bump at the outset. “We had one huge hiccup before we even started building,” she reveals. “The ground wasn’t suitable when we dug for foundations. We had to buy so much stone to fill the foundation, which ate into our budget,” she recalls. But once they got over that, things went well, and “we moved into our house in September 2018,” Sarah says. “The space we have both inside and outside is lovely. You can really feel the tranquillity of the countryside here.”
Sarah’s Christmas décor style is traditional, neutral and muted. “I love real greenery and foliage in the house and love to incorporate nature where I can with pine cones or eucalyptus plants.” Her trees are excellent fauxs from Balsam Hill (Balsamhill.co.uk) which come pre-lit.
The rug is a custom made design from Panfili Interiors and with flecks of brown and caramel it complements the dark wooden floors. Colourtrend’s Spinifex on the walls adds to the warm and cosy ambience of the room. Sarah sourced The Wade love seat from Trevor Morrow and the ottoman is a bespoke piece.
The Christmas shelfie on the mantle consists of glass pyramids are from EZ Living Interiors (Ezliving-interiors.ie), the reindeer hooks from Meadows and Byrne and candlestick holders from The Foxford Woollen Mills (Foxfordwoollenmills.com). “I love our Christmas stockings as they are hand knitted by Barry’s aunt for us and the kids with their names. She also knits them for all her nieces and nephews and their children,” says Sarah.
Last year was the family’s first Christmas in their Ballina home and Sarah recalls their debut feast. “I cooked Christmas dinner, my first time ever. It’s definitely a tradition I want to have here now,” she explains. She’s enthusiastic about carrying on previous traditions from her own childhood with her little ones. “When I was a child we’d leave our shoes in each corner of the room, so that Santa would know where to leave each person’s presents. It’s a tradition I’ve continued with Isabella, Alexander and Matilda,” she says.
On the mantlepiece in the family sitting room hang another budding tradition. “I love our Christmas stockings as they are hand-knitted by Barry’s aunt. She knits them for all her nieces and nephews and their children,” says Sarah.
The calm and serene setting of Sarah and Barry’s home is accentuated by their choice of festive décor. Checkered tiled floor instantly draw the eye into the hall proper, where a pre-lit tree from Balsam Hill sits beside a velvet couch from Mindy Brownes, sourced at Trevor Morrow. Farrow and Ball’s Wimborne White is used on the woodwork throughout, while Dimity is on the walls. The chandelier is from Hicken Lighting (Hickenlighting.com)
When it comes to festive décor style, Sarah looks to Instagram, Pinterest, florists and magazines for inspiration for her own Ballina home. She loves TK Maxx, Neptune (Neptune.com), Kilkenny Shop (Kilkennyshop.com), Meadows and Byrne (Meadowsandbyrne.com) and Trevor Morrow (Trevormorrow.ie). “I bought a lot of our Christmas decorations in Yes Flowers (Yesflowers.ie) in Galway city. They’ve an amazing selection of mouth-blown glass baubles in beautiful colour,” she adds.
Sarah sourced the majority of her bedroom furniture, including the bed, side tables, and stool, from McDermott’s Furniture (Mcdermotts.ie). The bed linen came from Foxford Woollen Mills, Paul Costello for Dunnes Stores (Dunnesstores.com), Piubelle in Brown Thomas (Brownthomas.com) and TK Maxx. The bedside lamps were from Trevor Morrow.
The wall lights and sink unit are from Burlington Bathrooms (Burlingtonbathrooms.com) which Sarah sourced through Hurst Heating & Plumbing Supplies (Hurst.ie) in Castlebar, Galway. The towel ladder from Panfili Interiors is a neat alternative to a storage shelf. In keeping with Sarah’s style, Farrow and Ball’s Hardwick White was used on the walls. The watercolour print-upholstered bench from Voyage Maison (Voyagemaison.com) adds a pop of colour and interest to the room. “Voyage Maison do a great range of upholstery fabrics, all with a watercolour print. Trevor Morrow (Trevormorrow.ie) in Ballina stock a good selection of their range,” Sarah says
Along with classic baubles and decorations, Sarah likes to incorporate ornaments that have a special significance. “I have one little decoration from my late grandmother which I put into the middle of my tree. It’s so different to the other decorations – I always spot it and it always makes me smile.”
Sarah’s daughter’s bedroom is fit for a princess with Sanderson Fairies and Castles wallpaper (Johnlewis.com) creating a charming feature wall alongside Farrow & Ball’s Middleton Pink. The bed linen from Anthony Ryans (Anthonyryans.com), the throw is from Avoca (Avoca.com) and the Ralph Lauren linen cushion covers in TK Maxx. “Her patchwork blanket is very sentimental as it was hand-stitched by my aunt for Isabella when she was born. Her name is embroidered on it,” Sarah says. The white bed frame came from EZ Living Furniture (Ezlivingfurniture.ie). The pink teepee is from Aldi. Isabella’s dollhouse underwent a transformation. “It was neglected in an old warehouse selling off props. Of course I was drawn to it straight away and painted it up using Farrow and Ball’s Sulking Room Pink. The kids love it,” she says.
Sarah’s passion and flare for interiors is obvious, and while she initially set up her Instagram account (@housebythewhitethorns) as “a little creative outlet”, it has been a huge success. “It has definitely developed in terms of taking better pictures, using natural light to the maximum potential,” she enthuses. “I also love connecting with people each day.” Watch that space for lots more festive fun in this beautiful Ballina home.
When designing the house it was important to have as much natural light as possible. “As it’s a bungalow with long hallways, we incorporated a courtyard into the centre of the house, with lights up the hallway. The picture window was something I always wanted. It floods the place with light as well as being a piece of art; the trees change with each season.” The window chair was ‘a bargain’ from Dunnes Stores. All the panelling in the house was done by Judge Brothers. In the hallway laminate flooring in coastal oak came from Pergo flooring (Btw.ie)
DON'T MISS THE DETAILS IN THIS BALLINA HOME
Sarah's Christmas pieces adorn every surface in the house. Combining traditional with contemporary Scandinavian, it's a look that works. On the dining table, a eucalyptus garland complements tonal crockery, heritage silverware and neutral linens for a family feast. A giant Nutcracker man stands guard in the entrance hall. Delicate details on the kitchen island - and what's the season with some mince pieces? Alexander tries out the fun and festive red car in the kitchen. Sarah's beautiful craquelure door knobs and paintwork are perfectly accented with a lovely leaded glass Christmas ornament. It's a clever trick to try. On the front door, a gorgeous wreath hangs, to welcome in the season. No new self-build is complete without the addition of a workhorse utility. Sarah mixes laundry with a boot room function.
PHOTOGRAPHY: Philip Lauterbach
STYLING: Lesiele Juliet, assisted by Sophie McKenna
See more from Sarah's gorgeous Ballina home in the gallery below!