This story originally featured as "Amongst the Finest" in The White Book - Essential Interiors, Volume 4 (2006)
When Maurice FitzGerald decided to assist the deposed King of Leinster
in his invasion of Ireland in 1179, he cannot have possibly imagined how
potent a force his descendants would become over the next seven hundred
years. From the Machiavellian pragmatism of Garret Mor to the doomed rebellion
of Silken Thomas and the flight of the Wizard Earl, the FitzGeralds of Co.
Kildare were always a dynasty of consequence. In the 18th century, a new
age of respectability saw the family head elevated as the Duke of Leinster,
Ireland's premier peer. But even in those times, scandal was not far away
as the Duke's son Lord Edward FitzGerald became embroiled in the Rebellion
For close on 250 years, the FitzGerald's base was the Carton estate outside Maynooth. Richard Castle built the present mansion in the 1730s. When Arthur Young visited in 1776, he considered the estate to be "among the finest of Ireland a vast lawn, which waves over gentle hills, surrounded by plantations of great extent".
The Mallaghan family have owned the 1070-acre estate since 1977. After a prolonged attempt to run it as a working farm, they followed the lead of many an Irish country estate and converted Carton into an upmarket golf and country club. The estate now boasts two internationally acclaimed golf courses, designed by Colin Montgomerie and Mark O'Meara. Carton's seal of approval was granted when, having successfully hosted the Irish Open in May 2005, it was confirmed as venue for the same event in May 2006.
If you build, they will come. Inevitably, an address on the Carton estate is now one of the most sought after in the country. To cater to this, the Mallaghan family have employed the services of GEM Construction and Murray O'Laoire Architects to create some 115 villas at Carton over the next three years. The first phase of this project is scheduled to be completed by March 2006 including thirty-three houses from the six bedroom "Emily" range, named after a colourful member of the Fitzgeralds.
Carton Estate Construction Manager Seamus Savage and the architects have a keen understanding of modern demands. As such, these houses have been built using as many windows as possible in order to maximise enjoyment of the outer world. It is almost as if they were built inside out. The architects have been vigilant with planning requirements to the exterior, using neutral colours and timber cladding to reduce any detraction from the overall sense of peace and history. Each villa is carefully concealed by mature trees and freshly planted hedgerows of red robin and bay laurel.
Aidan Cavey of Cavey Design Limited was given the call up to design the interior of the Emily show-house. He had previously worked with GEM on the show-house for their exclusive development at Abbotts Hill in Malahide. As well as a bulky portfolio of private clients, Cavey Design is presently working on the refurbishment of the Merrion Hotel in Dublin. Cavey is responsible for the Merrion's highly acclaimed penthouse suite which opened last August. He has also worked extensively at the K-Club and orchestrated the interior fit out at the new Riverdance offices on Capel Street.
Cavey's hands-on approach to the 3786 square foot "Emily" house is simple, uncluttered, classical yet contemporary. He became involved at a very early stage, organizing electrics, sizing fireplaces, reshuffling doors and such like. With a respectful nod to the Irish weather, he proposed that the floor in the entrance hall be a rustic slate grey rather than the usual off whites so prevalent in recent years. As a keen golfer, he understands the need for storage and so he "rearranged" the walls to create useful cupboards, handsome alcoves and even a perfect spot for the family dog to snooze.
Cavey appreciates the ever-changing behaviour of daylight. In the principal living room, four Oriel-style windows were inserted into the uppermost part of the wall, allowing light to penetrate into the children's bedroom and main guest bedroom on the first floor.
One of the more complex situations facing Cavey when he arrived on site was how to contend with the living room's wonderful 24-foot loftiness, particularly with the window-dominated wall facing out onto the River Rye and the old walled garden. Cavey's solution was to bookend the wall with a pair of gigantic linen and cotton dress curtains from Wemyss. The uppermost windows were then left free while understated silk curtains from Bennett slip back and forth along a discreet white pole on the lower level.
The drawing room furniture is imported by Cavey Design; Belgian round tables and wicker lamps, sturdy armchairs and sofas from Orior Design of Northern Ireland. Striped cushions from Rubelli (Italia) throw a cheerful splash of colour across the living room while a fantastic iron chandelier from Spain is suspended high overhead. Parisian prints straddle a Bang & Olufsen wide-screen TV while weary golfers can put their feet up on a handmade yew-wood parquet table. In the dining room, Germany lays claim to the unusual chrome zig-zag side-table while an extraordinary studded wall mirror has its origins in the depths of Asia. In the hallway, a trip to Mealys of Castlecomer resulted in an antique oak coffer and some vintage golf clubs lending old world charm to the entrance.
There is some playful trickery afoot. In the dining room, short half-logs are inserted into the wall to give an illusion of depth. The table itself, a handsome slab of French white oak can extend to seat ten; Cavey designed the chairs and had them built in Dublin.
The first and second floor host the six bedrooms, one of which doubles as a study. The adult rooms are suitably sensuous with dark leather armchairs, curtains from Bennett, Bernard Thorp and Zimmer & Rohde, beds from Blanc d'Ivoire and other Parisian outlets, wallpaper from Sandberg and Osborne & Little, classical prints, Roman blinds and Swedish and French furniture. An otherwise bland niche is reborn with a digitally enlarged photograph of the famous Carton tower by Tom Watts of Imagine Wallpaper, Co. Kilkenny. In the master bedroom on the second floor, a wonderful Italian bed in dark cherry is complimented with sumptuous fabrics by Gaston y Daniela. The curtains open to reveal a balcony with views over an excellent riverside setting; ducks drifting through rain-speckled leaves.
A spacious yet functional SieMatic kitchen provides a homely country feel to the heart of the house with the units given a surprisingly lustrous and warm persona by the gentle combination of off white and blue grey paint finishes and airy cotton curtains from Sandberg. The family room with its state-of-the-art TV and audio system from Sound Innovations likewise benefits from the cheerful curtains and cushion covers from Designers Guild.
In designing the Carton Showhouse, Cavey again displays his immeasurable talents for creating smooth and intelligent interiors. In Spring 2006, he will open his own interiors showroom off Bath Avenue in Dublin 4.
The new hotel at Carton will be open in the Summer of 2006. See www.carton.ie for more information.
Photography: Barry Murphy
Words: Turtle Bunbury
Designer: Aidan Cavey - 01-6613788 or 086-2233066.