Turtle Bunbury

Writer and Historian

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Suzanne Freeman at Mount Juliet, Co. Kilkenny

This story originally featured as "Heir of Tradition" in The White Book - Volume 3 (2005)

The Mount Juliet estate on the banks of the River Nore in County Kilkenny has long been considered one of the finest properties in Ireland. During the 18th century, the Earl of Carrick built a splendid mansion on the estate and named it for his wife, Juliet Boyle. Today the demesne comprises 1500 acres of rolling parkland with the celebrated Ballylinch Stud, a championship golf course and some of the best angling waters in Ireland. Small wonder that the location has given rise to a series of striking new homes in the sunny south east.

Designed by Dublin architects Campbell Conroy & Hickey, the classical house is situated adjacent to the celebrated Jack Nicklaus designed golf course. The interior is principally the work of local Kilkenny designer Suzanne Freeman. On the basis this was the owner's second home, Freeman's brief was simply to create an environment that complimented the classical lines of the house yet allowed for practical, functional, leisurely living.

The narrow entrance hall is dominated by an enormous, yet refreshingly understated, mural by Dun Laoghaire artist Jane Willoughby. The mural, which reaches up to the full 3.5 metre height of the ceiling, depicts miscellaneous Italian landscapes and speaks of serene and pastoral times. A cool, flagstone floor leads the length of the hall with doorways leading to the kitchen, drawing room and library. The kitchen is a fine airy space, created by Seabury of Naas, with granite tabletops and warm walls of plantation beige. Daylight floods in through a series of large south-facing windows, swathed in lush fabrics by Nina Campbell provided by Ormond Soft Furnishings of Carrick-on-Suir. Peter Johnson Interiors designed the drawing room and library. Belle Cheminee of Dublin's Capel Street installed all fireplaces.

But this house really gathers momentum when one advances up the mahogany staircase to the bedrooms. Freeman has clearly enjoyed herself here, combining her own endearing ideas of comfort with colourful fabrics by GP Baker, Robert Allen and Nina Camblell, wallpapers by Zoffany & Sanderson and Colefax & Fowler and carpets from Brintons and Ulster. The children's room is a particularly jovial affair, the white wooden bunk bed inviting memories of JM Barrie and twirling Tinkerbells. Wardrobes by Seabury are discreetly tucked into arched walls. The essence of summer is captured in yellow French silk curtains bursting like sunshine across a guestroom. In the master bedroom, a velvet carpet provides delicious warmth for naked toes while pure silk curtains by Christian Fischbacher imbibes the room with a style reminiscent of the once busy bedrooms of Versailles.

An exterior balcony, running directly from the master bedroom to the children's quarters connects, beholds a sweeping panorama of lush green farmland slowly rising to the smooth contours of the Comeragh Mountains to the south. Old woodlands and new plantations cascade across the skyline. Gravel avenues bordered with railway sleepers and horses grazing by posts and railing further enhance the rusticity. There is a tremendous sense of space here and Freeman has been careful to allow that spatial ambience to run free throughout the house itself.

Suzanne Freeman, No. 1, The Parade, Kilkenny.
Tel: 086-6025514. E: suzannefreeman@eircom.net

Photography: James Fennell
Words: Turtle Bunbury
Assistant Wordsmith: Ally Moore