At home with artist Ruthie Ashenhurst in Beara and Ballsbridge
‘My favourite thing? My mother’s face carved in a piece of driftwood”
Ruthie Ashenhurst, artist at home in Ballsbridge, Dublin. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
Born in Dublin, Ruthie Ashenhurst is a figurative and landscape artist. Having originally trained in fashion at the Grafton Academy in the 1970s, she taught art and design for many years before deciding to concentrate full-time on her art in 2005. Her main studio is on the Beara Peninsula in west Cork, where she spends most of the summer working, while her Dublin base is a newly renovated mews on Baggot Lane [Ballsbridge, Dublin 4] where she both lives and displays her art. Clients can call in and view the pieces in both locations.
Describe your interior style?
As a preference I find myself drawn to a very neutral background palette, with colour brought in through art, cushions, throws etc. I love doing up properties, a skill along – with painting – I inherited from my maternal grandmother. She loved a decorating project and transformed so many properties. My mother was used to constantly packing up and moving to a new destination when the challenge was completed. One such property was the now Ardmore Studios on Herbert Road in Bray. Purchased about 1940, old photos show the stunning end result, not only in the house but the gardens too. Now I’m living on Baggot Lane, space is a premium so there’s no room for clutter and excess knick-knacks and so my style has become minimal by necessity.
Did you have to do much work to your new home?
I concentrated on the basics first when renovating: insulation, plumbing, heating, new windows and doors. I was project manager for most of it – not sure if I would recommend that again! I have an encyclopaedic knowledge of suppliers and hints trawled from Pinterest, which is the best source of ideas. I couldn’t have survived without it. One essential was a second en suite shower room in the second bedroom and a study in a tiny room off the hall. It’s amazing what can be achieved with such a small footprint and a sliding door.
What’s your favourite room?
I love my kitchen area at the end of the open-plan sitting room where I paint at the island unit – made slightly higher as I paint standing up. There is a Velux skylight right above me which makes it bright and a perfect spot to work. The kitchen leads out on to a small decked sun trap where another passion is gardening. I have only space for a few pots, one which houses my prized peony which has been moved so many times from house to house but against all odds continues to thrive.
What are your favourite items?
My mother’s face hand-carved in driftwood – she carved it herself – and my father’s old army military locker, with the family motor business Ashenhurst Williams stencilled on it, where I store all the memorabilia from the past. Both have pride of place in the hall. I love mixing old with new and upscaling bits and pieces to add character.
Which artist to do you most admire?
It has to be Louis Le Brocquy for his originality and skill way before anyone else painted this way, Colin Davidson for his distinct style and captivating portraits, and the talented Christian Hook from Gibraltar, Sky Portrait Artist of the Year 2014, who makes it seem all so effortless .
Do you collect anything?
Any interiors turn-off?
Clutter in houses and rubbish bins, they are so ugly and a blight on the streets and front gardens.
Favourite travel destination?
These days it’s west Cork, I don’t enjoy all the tedium of airports and travelling, it’s an age thing! Overseas it has to be Paris and the south of France particularly St Rémy de Provence.
Any tips for keeping things tidy?
It’s a cliché I know, but Ikea is my go-to for just about everything, and brilliant for storage boxes and shelves.
What does home mean to you?
Home is my haven and my most favourite place. When I’m paint and listening to the radio, that’s my nirvana.