An Avoca director’s home: ‘The dogs like the cushions’

Pieces of Me: The retailer’s creative director has a background in trend forecasting

As creative director of Avoca and part of the team behind the new Avoca store in Dunboyne, Ros Walshe's broad design experience has gone from clothes and textiles to product and space. From Yorkshire, the daughter of an architect and a doctor, she studied fashion design in Kingston University and worked in Italy and the US, first for a trend forecasting company and later for a fashion company in Los Angeles, which involved travelling all over the world.

Walshe is married to Irish painter Patrick Walshe. They decided to return to Ireland to bring up their two sons, but first they spent two years travelling widely in Africa, India, Thailand and Indonesia.

The couple settled in a cottage near Roundwood, Co Wicklow, in 1993 and set up a business making china and candles using drawings of period buildings and streetscapes by her father, a celebrated architect. They started selling to Avoca, and she's worked with the company ever since.

Describe your interiors style

Eclectic. I would not think of it as a style though people tend to say “that’s very Ros”. I mix old with new and use a lot of colour. It just happens that way. My home is a home and not a display case – the dogs are the only ones who appreciate the cushions.

Which room do you most enjoy?

It has to be my sitting room. It’s a large family room so I can be part of the general conversation while unloading or filling the dishwasher or tidying the kitchen table. My bedroom is tiny and I don’t even have a bedside table.

What items do you love most?

There is a small children's mahogany chair that came from my grandmother's house and I have a photo of myself aged about 15 months in a frilly dress and Mary Jane shoes sitting in it. It probably belonged to my great grandmother and I was never allowed to play on it. I have a lovely sofa from my grandmother and have memories of her knitting on it. We have a big carving on the entrance gate to our house which we call Haha, that my dad, Denis Mason Jones, carved from a piece of stone. He was a stone carver as a young man before he became an architect. A lot of my spatial eye and elements of humour come from him and there is a bit of that fun in what I ended up doing. "Come on Ros," he would say, "give it a bit of wallop."

Who is your favourite designer?

Yohji Yamamoto – I absolutely adore him from the 1980s, when the Japanese designers first came to Paris. I wish I still had the clothes of his that I saved so hugely for then. I am not a great slave to any one designer, but I love what Karl Lagerfeld does for Chanel.

What artists do you most admire?

Howard Hodgkin and my husband Patrick Walshe. Hodgkin is my favourite painter because he captures an impression with apparent simplistic brush strokes and his colours are magnificent. I wish I had some of his work. I almost bought it 25 years ago when he was becoming well known and I had some money – and I wish I had.

What is your biggest interior turn-off?

Things that match really turn me off – three-piece suites, fitted kitchens from a cookie-cutter model – too much twiddle as my father would say. I don't like fake things nor when proportion and balance don't work and things are fussy and not given space to breathe. I like materials that bounce off each other. So you get the softness of the wicker chairs with the hardness of the zinc table or the soft floral chairs alongside the precision of marble tables. As to interiors I find that they are either too stark, too fussy, too stylised or too designed. I think what Nick Jones has done with Soho House is amazing because they use real vintage with their own modern products.

Which travel destination stands out?

Somewhere I will never forget was Flores a small island in the eastern half Indonesia. It was so primitive in 1992 and we went out to it in a little fishing boat with a woman who had a chicken tucked under her arm. It was spectacular. I am dying to go to Sri Lanka and New Zealand.

If you had €100,000 to spend on anything for the house, what would you buy?

I would build a new bedroom and bathroom – a new extension perhaps. The only piece I would spend that amount on would be a Hodgkin painting, but I think it would be shameful to spend that amount on any one thing, though I would love to sit and look at a piece by Hodgkin. There is very little I need or want and I don’t hanker after anything. We are generously frugal and I don’t like too much excess.

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