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Deirdre Mongey – Vale of Avoca, County Wicklow, Ireland

Photo: James Fennell.

When designer Deirdre Mongey moved with her family from Dublin city to the Irish countryside, she applied the lessons she had learned on clever storage to stunning effect.

‘There is not in the wide world a valley so sweet as that vale in whose bosom the bright waters meet’. That was the verdict of the Irish poet Thomas Moore when he penned his “Sweet Vale of Avoca” two hundred years ago.

Fast-forward to 2006 and interior designer Deirdre Mongey and husband Will would be the first to agree. The couple moved from Dublin to Avoca in 2003 when a leisurely Sunday drive in the Wicklow Mountains inadvertently led to a small development of new dormer houses just outside the village. Among these was ‘Freefall’, a six bedroom house, three up, three down, called which they duly purchased.

The front door opens into a bright and generous hallway, floored with large white slabs. The polished porcelain slabs came from Tile Style and were consciously chosen as they would still look pristine and new for years to come. A solid maple stairwell inlaid in walnut, designed by Mongey and made by Tom Calanan of Calwood in Galway, cheerfully escalates up the right hand wall. It is echoed in a full-length mirror running opposite. A double height ceiling is emphasised by a glass balcony on the landing above while white walls further illuminate the space. A line drawing of a Picasso nude pours water from a jug. A Chocolate! oval rug from TC Matthews represents the visual image of Chaos and, as Mongey rightly observes, ‘the colour works because it picks up on the walnut stairs’. The subject of Chaos was chosen by her ‘engineer’ husband with a gentle nod towards irony.

‘I like things neat and orderly’, explains Mongey, who a top end interior design specialist. ‘From having lived in Dublin where you pay high prices for small spaces, storage became almost an obsession. My degree is in industrial design so I am of the view that form follows function’.

As a young mother, she is acutely aware of how quickly children can turn harmony into mayhem. As such, she has taken a number of shrewd precautions. Discreetly hidden beneath the stairs are a series of drawers and cupboards cleverly concealed within solid maple wall panelling, a contemporary design by Mongey, made by Calwood. These serve a very practical purpose for storing the children’s schoolbags, coats, dancing shoes and other items that might otherwise be scattered randomly around the hall.

Photo: James Fennell.

The same sense of order pervades the children’s playroom, a sweet and colourful space with its own direct access to the garden. ‘All the toys that go out into the garden can come directly back into the playroom’. The playroom is designed so that all toy tractors, jigsaws, soldiers, tea sets, play-dough, pop-up books and colouring pens have their own specially named storage baskets set into an alcove-shelf unit. The layout is resourceful, structured and undoubtedly encourages methodical conduct from the toddlers. ‘I wanted a playroom that would take me less than ten minutes to clear up’.

The kitchen doors are double-glazed meaning the noise of early morning children on the rampage need not interfere with the enjoyment of breakfast. The actual doors have three coats of exterior walnut stain. Deirdre designed the Alno kitchen in conjunction with Richard Fagan from McNally Kitchens ( A two-tiered island, part quartz, part cherrywood, occupies central stage with a high-stool bar and tan leather Frag chairs from Bob Bushell at one end. An enthusiastic chef, Will is now often found stirring pots on the Neff cooker, thumbing the pages of the Avoca Café Cookbook. The eating area comprises a bleached oak refectory table from Brown Thomas, surrounded by a bench and five chairs [from Bob Bushell] with a Tripp-Trapp chair from Stokke at either end. A striking wall of deep charcoal marks the end of the kitchen and is given added cheer by a painting by John Cronin. The sun rises at the front of the house and wends past the kitchen windows during the afternoon before setting behind the garden.

In the living room, a wall was recessed to conceal the television within a well stocked maple and walnut book case. A limestone fireplace by Artefaction, surmounted by a Barbara Boland abstract, remains the chief focal point. The floor is a rich chocolate Brazilian walnut wood with a TC Matthews Cream ‘Loft’ rug set into the floor on underlay. The lamp stands draw the walnut of the floor upwards. Inherited sofas clad in muted colours contrast with the retro design classics of the Orange Peel chair and the vibrant fire engine red chair and footstool from the Sofa Factory. Roman blinds made from a combination of luxurious caramel and cream upholstery chenille fabric frame the two picture windows with a view down the valley.

The artwork on the stairwell and Brinton-carpeted landing consists of three abstracts by Marie Hensey, a French writing mirror, Hulton’s stunning photograph of Grand Central Station and framed poems from the New York Subway. The main bedroom follows Mongey’s penchant for monochromes – deep slate blue walls from Dulux; frosted glass wardrobes from Bob Bushell (, champagne-hued velvet Ulster carpet and an inherited pale maple bed.

The younger children’ bedroom is a happy place, resplendently cast in primary colours. ‘The difficulty here was to create a room for a little boy sharing with a little girl when the girl really likes pink’. Mongey found a colour scheme that enabled both children to retain their sense of identity. Teddy bears stand guard by a magic door which leads through to a secret den. At the moment this is the exclusive terrain of six-year-old Robyn, being the senior child. ‘So long as the bedroom is tidy, she won’t get grief about the den’. Her elder son’s bedroom is remarkably tidy for an eleven year old, his bionic gadgets, guitar and books neatly arranged on shelves beneath the red walls and giant Beano poster. Habitat trestle tables are combined with glass tops to form the desk area; the white lacquer finish wardrobes are from Bob Bushell.

At ‘Freefall’, a practical approach to storage and furniture has combined with a sound sense of the joys of childhood. With their secret dens and orderly playroom, the entire Mongey family benefits from a calm environment.