Turtle Bunbury

Writer and Historian

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Beacon of Light- Sandyford, Co. Dublin

This story originally featured in The Book of Interiors Volume 2 (2005)

Greg Kinsella is the sort of man who shrugs unflappably when high praise is directed his way; which it increasing is since he started working on the Beacon Court in Sandyford. "It's a world I've known all my life", he says, referring to the furnishing and design business established by his father Michael Kinsella 31 years ago. Greg Kinsella joined the firm after leaving school and swiftly built up a reputation as one of Ireland's top design consultants. In due course, Kinsella felt it appropriate to set up his own design studio. In 2003, he was commissioned to refurbish the lobby lounge at The Four Seasons in Ballsbridge. In September 2004, the Bray-based designer was asked to design the marketing suite and show units for the new apartments at the Beacon South Quarter. Landmark Developments, the consortium behind the spectacular €400 million project, subsequently recruited him to design the Pavilion in Beacon Court where the main restaurants and cafes are to be located.

Beacon South Quarter occupies the former site of Microsoft's European headquarters and consists of 70 penthouses bedrooms centred around a new hospital which will offer, among other things, the Republic's first private dialysis machine. Designed by Traynor O'Toole Architects and styled by John Rocha, the project has already created major waves in architectural circles for its forthright and innovative use of aluminium and glass.

Kinsella was given a carte blanche to make the penthouse showrooms top of the range. Keep it cutting edge - but not so sharp that it cuts. He personally prospected every single item on show, worked out all designs and specifications, worked with his highly skilled staff to ensure each custom-made piece was of the highest possible quality. In the living room, Ralph Lauren chairs are set around a French style dining table with a stunning black granite top. A series of bronze repousse plaques by Robert Kno hang along the wall. Large timber windows explode across the balcony and give sumptuous panoramic views of the Wicklow Mountains, Killiney Bay and Dublin City. Intimate nickel-stone sofas, zebra-striped stools and a set of four concave wall mirrors enhance the contemporary. The entire penthouse is wired for surround sound; striking lineal abstracts mask the speakers. A stained wood floor runs throughout.

Kinsella's particular adroitness is in choosing pieces that not only reflect the classic contemporary look but which also show his own astute sense of individuality. The pieces he works with effectively hail from one of three distinct origins. Some are specially commissioned from top of the range retailers like Ralph Lauren and the Baker Collection. Others are custom made by respected craftsmen in America and Europe. But most of his pieces - the curtains, furnishings and fixtures - are highly distinctive arrangements, designed by Kinsella himself and constructed by a team of 14 designers and curtain-tailors, painters, carpenters and specialty craftsmen.

Take the Flair Collection, for instance, a superb parade of lamps - hanging, standing, bedside and wall. Each composition is custom-made and once off, accentuated by assorted combinations of bobble, art deco, traditional, Plexiglas, chrome, wood, hobnail and ribbed. It is appropriate then that the penthouse environment where these lighting options are displayed is named Beacon Court, representing a source of guidance or inspiration or perhaps a hilltop fire that can be seen from a distance.

The kitchen is state-of-the art, designed by the ergonomically astute Dutch company Kellar and complete with black lacquered finish, smooth walnut veneer surface tops, hi-spec hobs and oven. Kinsella has added his own touches here, such as the chairs by Washington classicist guru Thomas Pheasant, and kitchen tables, designed by Kinsella, one made of plexiglass and chrome, another of black granite set upon an oakwood pedestal.

It is the bedrooms that Kinsella truly excels. Each room carries its own sedately seductive ambience. Kinsella's policy is by no means fixed in stone but, for instance, he might leave three walls modestly painted and then swathe the fourth in corkwood with a silver leaf base. In one room, a wall is sensationally covered in coloured beads. In another, the wall above the headboard is tightly dressed in Hessian cloth imported direct from the jute mills of China. Another room features a mock-leather button wall. Even the seemingly nonchalant brush strokes of a children's room are designed to soothe and humour without jarring. Furniture is again classical contemporary - a custom-made black leather bed by Ralph Lauren, spacious milky white chrome wardrobes by Bob Bushell, Italian silver-leaf chairs covered in animal hide. By every window, rich curtains of silk and velvet; some the mellow shade of fresh tobacco leaf, others more assertive. And perhaps it is in those curtains that we see the true definition of Kinsella's style.

design studio by appointment only
The Gables, Parnell Road, Bray, County Wicklow.
Tel: Int 353 12868017
Fax: Int 353 12828914

Email: studio@gregkinsella.com

Photography: Barry Murphy
Words: Turtle Bunbury