Lights kids action
INTERIORS:Anthony Cleary uses his house as a testing lab for his designs. With two sons under the age of five, he’s extended to give them room to play, writes ALANNA GALLAGHER
LIGHTING AND PRODUCT designer Anthony Cleary, formerly one half of design duo Unleaded, lives in the Cabra district of Dublin with his wife, Pauline Gleeson, and two sons; Joseph, who is nearly five and Luke, who is two and a half.
The couple bought their terraced two-up two down in 2002 after they got married. “We did up the house as we went along, camping in one room and living on Marks Spencer ready meals as we slowly refurbished it room by room,” Cleary explains. “It was romantic and fun.” As their family has grown, their needs have changed. When Luke on the way, they decided to extend.
It was what Gleeson calls “a major period of nesting”. They called in lots of favours from family; Cleary’s brothers, one an engineer, the other a builder, helped with the physical renovations. He built the bathroom and kitchen, installed shelving and painted the place.
The house is perfect for their needs for now, Cleary says. “Thanks to the extension there is plenty of room for the little fellas to run up and down on their tricycles and little cars. The uncluttered space is planned around their needs and there is room for them to wreak havoc.”
The ground floor is now completely open plan with the original sitting room leading through to the kitchen and living room cum dining room. It overlooks a reasonable-sized garden filled with bamboo and montbretia.
A small courtyard set between the front room and the extension, a glazed back wall and roof lights allows light to pour into the back.
Examples of Cleary’s work illuminate the property. In the main room you’re immediately drawn to a large format Pl-y light, a six module wall-mounted sculptural design that uses low-watt halogen bulbs.
Pictured in powder-coated aluminium, it can be made in numerous colours including the bright orange designs he recently made for a hotel in Mexico, the Riu Palace in Guadalajara.
Playbox, a gorgeous kid’s toy box made using plywood, blackboard paint and truck wheels, is a piece that he has had his sons test drive to iron out any kinks. The fun storage box also helps tidy up some of their numerous toys.
Cleary, who once worked with a toymaker, made them in response to not being able to find what he was looking for in shops.
Eat, a quirky lightbox installation first created for hip Dublin restaurant Herbstreet, adorns a wall between the kitchen and the sitting room.
The kitchen has a simple galley-style feel and runs along the length of the open space. It has a stainless steel countertop and splashbacks.
Cleary used plain birch plywood, a cheap material, to good effect on the doors. The dining table was made for them by furniture maker Gildas O’Laoire. Both sides of the gate-leg design fold down and the top is painted Lamp Room Grey, a Farrow Ball colour that is also on the wooden floors.
The dining chairs were bought at auction. A Scandinavian-designed bent plywood Svan chair is one of the few things in the house that Cleary didn’t make.
Halfway up the stairs is Scoob, a concept piece he made for an exhibition based on heritage. Using a yard brush by Irish firm Varian Company, it is “a variation on the traditional three-legged stool”, he explains.
The house has two bedrooms. In the parents’ room a simple chest of drawers has been upcycled and now wears several layers of poster red paint. Graham, another of Cleary’s pieces, is a floor light inspired by 1970s racing driver Graham Hill. It acts as a reading light.
Many of the model planes hanging from the ceiling in the boys’ room have been built by Cleary in make and do sessions with his sons. For these, he likes to use Ikea cardboard because “it looks nice and it is well made”.
In the bathroom the sink pedestal is another Cleary production, made using recycled window frames. In the back garden, a prototype for a bird house he designed is perched among the greenery.
They couple have several good friends in the area who they invite over for tea on a Friday. “The area has a great community feel with local shops where everyone knows your name,” says Cleary. No wonder the area has been nicknamed Fabra.