Eclectic charm of Aoife's home with a heart


My Style: Aoife Tunney raids antique and junk shops to decorate her house, she tells Eoin Lyons

All long hair and long legs, Aoife Tunney is chattering away while preparing coffee in the kitchen of her Sandymount home, a mews built in the 1980s. These days the one-time model happily stays on the other side of the camera and instead appears on the printed page as a writer.

Gracious to the bone and ordinarily low-key, today she allows us into her home to publicise concerts she has organised next week at Whelan's Music Venue on Wexford Street. The gigs will raise money for the 20th Anniversary Chernobyl Children's Project's Convoy. Aoife will drive one of 27 vehicles setting out from Cork on April 7th on a one-week journey to Belarus.

This is not to say that she only turns on the charm when necessary. She is by nature a warm and generous person. Since her modelling days she has changed very little - the same hair worn in the same casual way, the same ready smile, direct gaze and easy manner.

Aoife lives with her 10-year-old son Cian, whose father is musician Liam O'Maonlai, to whom she was once married. There is an intangible quality to the little house but it's a place with family at heart. And when a house has a heart, you know it the moment you walk in the door, sometimes even before. First there's the setting: hidden behind a row of large houses, it is reached by a grassy lane that looks like it's going nowhere. But turn a corner and Aoife's dog Flash bounds out. Inside, the scene is marked by Aoife's creative touch. Finds from antique and junk shops add up to a ramshackle decorating approach that is incredibly charming. Still, she admits "The house is a work in progress - everything is randomly selected but it's a reflection of me. I'm a hoarder which means I end up with a lot of stuff all over the place." She adds with a grin: "As I get older, I'm being more practical about the things I hold onto."

Aoife has lived here since 1998, later adding the extension that now holds the kitchen. The pine units were built by cabinetmaker Roland Henderson (086 2642743). The glass knobs on each press and drawer were bought at a friend's shop in Notting Hill, cheaply because they're all oddly sized. She sits on a white stool found on a beach in Wexford. The double oven is a New World gas range: "I was thinking about an Aga but they're serious money. This is great for big family gatherings or kids' parties. I use it for baking bread a lot, which makes me sound like a domestic goddess - I'm not."

The little lamp on the window was bought on a trip to Greece.

In the dining area a Victorian dresser found in Kildare holds a selection of crockery. "I have a slight obsession with crockery. A lot of this was bought as a job lot in a second hand shop for a tenner. I love the gold-looking pieces because they're so kitsch but my favourites are the old blue and white styles. The glass doors mean you can see everything, although keeping them clean is another matter".

A pin-up board holds mementos. "There are Cian's school paintings, my drawings, a ticket to the Royal Art Museum in Belgium, a photograph of flowers from a trip to Japan, a snap of Cian having his face painted in Wexford, a postcard my sister Sorcha sent from Brazil and a photograph of me glammed up at a fashion show". The best sister acts come in pairs and another photo shows Aoife and Sorcha, who is also a model, at show in Dublin.

Elsewhere, a corner takes on much the same vibe: a collection of prettily positioned memories centred over two tables bought at a second hand shop in Ranelagh. "They were the first things I got after the extension was built. The teapot was bought at one of Cian's school fairs and the plant is one I love: a friend gave a cutting and it grew from there. Cuttings have been passed around a few friends and we each now have one". Above is a Buddha picture from Sri Lanka, a present from a friend, and Rosary beads hanging from a shelf that Aoife wore on her wedding day.

An old typewriter is particularly treasured. "I had a Petite Typewriter a kid - does anyone remember those? And loved it. I'm fascinated with original typewriters and I like the idea of writing on this but it's not quite in working order! When was young I was always writing little stories but I did the Three M's - modelling, marriage and motherhood - quite young so it was a while before I got around to doing anything about it".

By now you've guessed Aoife is not your average supercilious girl-about-town. "My parents were involved in the anti-nuclear movement here in the 1970s - they organised a music festival in Carnsore, Co.Wexford, with stars of the day such as Christy Moore, to help stop a power station being built there."

Which brings us neatly to her gigs next week at which respected artists will perform, hopefully raising enough money to pay for the ambulance Aoife will drive to Belarus. "Having a kid kind of focuses you on the well being of other children and over the years I met Adi Roche who inspired to be more aware about what happened at Chernobyl. We need between €15,000 and €20,000 to buy the ambulance - they don't have reliable emergency equipment so bringing this and other practical things is really important."

The first concert takes place in Whelan's on Tuesday February 7th when Mick Pyro of Republic of Loose, Bronagh Gallagher and Nina Hynes will play; and on Wednesday February 8th, when Mundy and Luka Bloom perform. Tickets €18 from 1890 200 078