Turtle Bunbury

Writer and Historian

Random Quote
Random Date



Timber Frames in Greystones, Co. Wicklow

This story originally featured as "Light Abundance" in The Book of Interiors, Volume 2 (2005)

"We make our friends; we make our enemies; but God makes our next-door neighbours". But when he penned those fine words, G. K. Chesterton had not necessarily anticipated the action Philippe and Sam Brodeur and certain others would take in 2005. "Can you choose your neighbours?" wondered Sam one day. "Yes", she concluded, "you can - and we did".

As such, the Brodeurs and some friends got together and purchased a one acre site in part of an abandoned Victorian garden once owned by William Orpen. Four distinct houses were subsequently erected. Secure behind black wrought iron gates, the twelve children of these four houses now scamper at ease while a lone cockerel crows from behind a hedgerow. It's not the sort of carry on you'd expect to find in Greystones, but it seems to work a treat.

The Brodeurs timber-frame house is particularly interesting. It was constructed by Celtic Canadian Homes, a division of Roby Roy Builders Inc based in Co. Kilkenny (www.celticcanadian.com). The Canadian connection came through Philippe Brodeur, TV3's charismatic Canada-born News Editor and the creator-producer of "The Political Party". His great-great-grandfather, Justice Louis-Philippe Brodeur, is credited with starting the Canadian Navy in 1910. While working in London for the BBC he met Sam Harris, a fellow correspondent. The meeting was of such success that the couple now have three sons - Dominic (7), Louis (5) and Jake (3).

Celtic Canadian dispatched a hyper efficient team of three from Prince Edward Island in Canada to build the Brodeur home. The structure arrived in three containers. The trio worked every day, six days a week, and - stunned silence - they finished on time. "Everything was in stick form when it arrived so they had to build the whole lot from the ground up", recalls Philippe who was actively involved in the engineering side. "It's slower perhaps but it gives you time to think and you can fix details as you go along". For instance, there is no draft, not even when forceful maritime winds come knocking. The timber house is easily warmed; the immediate connection to nature creates its own peace. An Air Exchange System has also been installed whereby the air is changed every two hours, thereby reducing dust, odours and Radon gas. It's effectively the Keith Richards of houses.

Once the building was up, Sam took control of the interior. The house was of course ready made with specs ideal to her desires. There was an abundance of space and light, excellent air channels and ceilings 12 foot high in the kitchen. A floor of non-creaky birchwood from the forests of East Canada runs through the entirety.

The Family Room - an open-plan kitchen and living area to the rear of the house - fronts directly onto the garden. The living area is dominated by an abstract by Dun Laoghaire artist Tom Byrne, a regular at the Apollo Gallery (Blackrock, Dawson St). Byrne, who recently exhibited at Tonic in Blackrock, also hold pride of place in the master bedroom and drawing room. The painting hangs above an exquisite leather bound side table from The Collection (Dun Laoghaire) who also provided the silver wall lamp. Another lamp is by The Enclosure in Bray where the kitchen chairs came from. The family reclines on a series of leather armchairs from Global Village and a pair of wave-sofas - one a lazy red, the other a cheerful cream - from The Sofa Factory. They are adorned with fresh and bright cushions from KA International in Powerscourt and the Designer Guild in London. The state-of-the-art kitchen was installed by the newly launched In-House Panelling Centre , complete with uber-smooth oakwood work tops, potted plants, hanging lamps from Stillorgan Decor and Easter Island busts. Light pours in through a series of floor to ceiling double and French windows. On one of the wood and metal base lamps with crystal and brass fittings fixed by Philip's father Pat salvaged on a recent return visit to Toronto. A string of industrial lights trawls across the ceiling.

In the drawing room a "hot pink" Alpha sofa from Habitat is covered in Porter & Ryle [sic?] fabrics made by Sam's mother. Tom Byrne again presides over head. Fenton Fires provided the dog-grate in the fireplace. A woollen carpet from Brereton runs smoothly across the floor.

This is an entirely clutter free house - with the inevitable exception of the children's playroom! But even this room can be entirely sealed off. Sam describes it as an "Evolving Room"; easily converted into a kitchen or an office. An enigmatic photograph of the three Brodeur boys bouncing upon a trampoline by Evelyn MacNamara of Pinhole Productions adorns the wall.

At the top of the wooden staircase, a hide-covered chair from The Collection sits beneath an antique mirror. A cowskin rug from Ligne Roset, Arnotts, and small poetic abstract by Lucy Hill enhance the carefree intimacy of the space.

There are five bedrooms in total, the Master, the Guest, two children's rooms bedecked in bunk beds of tubular steel and a third more mature bedroom with a bed covered in pure cotton bedspreads and cushions from The White Company in London. The lighthouse, lamps and a chic star-filled throw were provided by Eve Home Accessories . In the master bedroom, a large abstract by Tom Byrne hangs above an antique French white-painted bed from Global Village. Bedding came from Top Drawer in Stillorgan and cushions from KA International and Minnie Peters (Don Laoghaire). A lamp from The Far Pavilion in Bray and a compact chest of drawers from Global Village. An elegant Mirano candleholder picked up during the Broudar's honeymoon stands atop. A cream two-seater from Diamond Furniture features a skin cushion from The Collection of Dun Laoghaire and a green one from KA International. To the rear is a landscape by Axel J Rothoux. The bathroom is tiled by Rocca Stone & Marble. The bedroom opens out onto a balcony beholding the broad sweep of the Irish Sea to the east and the church tower of St. Killian's to the west.

To the rear of this fine house is a small, homely garden centred around a Scots Pine on a small grassy knoll, accessible by railway sleeper steps. Phoenix palms, lavender, laburnum and other plants from the National Garden Exhibition Centre at nearby Kilquade populate the area. This is a house of russet brown floors for barefoot strolling, smooth white walls, stainless steel handles, happy family pictures and the pick of contemporary Irish design.

Photography: Paul Sherwood
Words: Turtle Bunbury