Pieces of me: Paula Rowan, glove designer
Paula Rowan’s latest collection of gloves was inspired by the colours of the sea, which sparkle through the unadorned windows of her Sandycove apartment
Paula Rowan at home by the sea in Sandymount, Co Dublin. Photograph: Eric Luke
Paula Rowan’s painting of Bulloch Harbour in Dalkey, by Mark Cullen, and other favourite items including an antique globe. Photograph: Eric Luke
Paula Rowan’s antique gloves and glove stretcher. Photograph: Eric Luke
Paula Rowan’s marble blotter, which belonged to her grandmother. Photograph: Eric Luke
Paula Rowan worked as an interior designer and a caterer before setting up her eponymous leather goods business in Dublin’s Westbury Mall. It felt natural to develop her own line of contemporary gloves, which have graced the hands of Kate Moss, Chloe Sevigny and Helen Mirren. Tech women especially love Fergie, an elbow-length sleeve style that is fingerless, while actors such as Richard E Grant and a plethora of rugby stars have been spotted sporting her masculine designs, many of which have been named after their celebrity fans.
Describe your style
My environment is very important to me. It inspires my work. My apartment, on the first floor of a Victorian building, overlooks the beach at Sandycove. It is light-filled and eclectic, featuring classical and modern pieces, reflecting my overall aesthetic.
I had the apartment feng shui-ed and have set bulbous cacti, bought in The Garden, Powerscourt Townhouse, on its wide windowsills to create a buffer between me and the energy of the sea and the not-so positive energy emitted from the street lighting outside. I was also advised to move my TV. My favourite chair now occupies that space and it is interesting to see how all my friends now naturally gravitate towards it, utterly unbidden.
Which room in your home do you most enjoy?
The sea views from my sittingroom, which spans the width of the house, are the reason I bought the flat seven years ago. It has decorative cornicing, an original white marble fireplace and my favourite chair, where I sit and design and also study: I’m learning Italian at the moment. Draped across the chair is a sample of glove leather. Visitors love the way it feels when they sit in that chair. On the wall I have hung framed vintage gloves and I’ve arranged scissor-shaped glove stretchers in a vase as you would a set of cut flowers. One wall is covered in books.
The bookshelves are painted grey to match the walls. As well as encyclopaedias from my father’s house, my own design reference book is a copy of El Bulli: Adria Ferran, a keepsake of a very memorable visit to the restaurant in Roses, about an hour from the Catalan town of Cadaques on Spain’s Costa Brava. It was like something out of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. At its base, I keep my wine collection.
But it is the view that really draws me in. I don’t have curtains and I never close the shutters. I even removed the livingroom door so that when I get up in the morning the first thing I see is the sea. The blues and greens in some of my recent gloves have been inspired by these very seascapes.
Which items do you love most?
I love luxurious things and would prefer to wait and buy something good rather than buy something frivolous. I fell in love with my tobacco leather sofa with decorative studding that was sourced from Argentina. I bought it in Romany Stone
[in Wicklow] when it still stocked furniture and lifestyle products from Argentina and New York. I loved that it was already distressed, that I didn’t have to live with it for 20 years to achieve that look.
I found my old cracked globe, which is set on ornate brass legs, in an antiques shop in Cadaques called Es Doll. The fact that the names of many of the countries on it have changed since it was made really captures a moment in time. And a pink marble blotter that belonged to my granny and that still has its blotting paper is another favourite. It is the smell of the paper that really appeals to me.
Who is your favourite designer and do you own any of their work?
I studied interior design when I was younger and I really admired the work of Sir Terence Conran. This was 20 years ago when the way he used space was still innovative, the way the company styled its work and its use of objects at that time also dovetailed into a successful retail operation in Habitat. Now it’s all far more commercial. His House book, which was first published in 1974, kick-started a whole new interiors direction in coffee-table books.
Which artists do you admire?
I love Mark Cullen’s work and have a painting by him of Bulloch Harbour hanging over my fireplace. I find the way he layers his paint to create texture and then scrapes it back fascinating. I can look at it for hours. It hangs unframed because it needs no further adornment. I also admire the work of Eithne Jordan. I have one of her pieces, done I think in Bulgaria, and I almost bought a Donald Tesky, but that was before the recession hit. It’s still on my wishlist.
What is your biggest interiors turn-off?
I hate anything Day-Glo or fluorescent. My tastes are much more muted. For me it’s all about low-key luxury.
Which travel destination stands out for you?
Salvador Dali really put Cadaques on the map. He holidayed there as a boy. He later kept a house in nearby Port Lligat, a small seaside village near the town. Artists Pablo Picasso, Joan Míro and Marcel Duchamp also visited and it turned into an artists’ colony. It remains Dali country but it is very unassuming. You’ll find all walks of life there. Tom Waits walked down the street one day when I last visited. No one batted an eyelid.
If you had €100,000 to spend on anything for the home, what would you buy?
I love to cook. I was making chicken liver pate at the age of nine and used to run a canapé catering business so a state-of-the-art kitchen with navy units, brass detailing and white-tiled splashbacks would be high on my list. I’ve admired the designs at Dalkey Design House for years. By the time you throw in the six-ring Gaggenau cooker that I’ve also been hankering after, I imagine there would be very little left. But if there was change, I’d also buy a Donald Teskey.