At home with salvage hunter Siobhan Burke
The Dubliner scours European cities to find vintage furniture for interiors back home
Siobhan Burke at her home in Portmarnock, Co Dublin. Photograph: Tom Honan
Having completed a fashion degree in NCAD in the late 1980’s , Siobhan Burke went on to work with designers Paul Costelloe, John Rocha and Chloe in Paris before settling in New York in the 90s as a design director for the Giorgio Sant Angelo house. Fascinated by the concept of loft style living in NY, she went on to study interior architecture at Parsons. Returning to Ireland in 2005, she worked with Penneys as a fashion buyer, while moonlighting as a freelance interior designer and raising her four children. She also began creating furniture pieces from reclaimed antique salvage and would spend all of her holidays scouring antique shops and salvage yards around Europe finding unique and interesting pieces to send home. This was the gateway to setting up her own online sourcing service and studio MOSA in 2016, now housed within Dublin’s Bailey Gibson salvage yard on South Circular Road. Burke now sources and creates unique pieces of antique and salvaged furniture and accessories for architects, interior designers, film set designers and private clients from across the globe. She lives in Portmarnock, Co Dublin.
Describe your interiors style?
Juxtaposed: I love mixing modern pieces with something with a bit of history or pairing industrial with delicate. I buy or acquire things that attract my eye, whether its furniture or even a plant. For instance, when living in New York I spotted a nine-foot tree trunk on the side of the road that I liked the shape and texture of, so my husband and I carried it up to our 3rd floor apartment and spent the weekend sawing and drilling into a coffee table that I still have 28 years later. I also love to fill the garden with contrasts too - like of lush plants against rust metal.
There’s a large Buddha head that I acquired from a night club that sits in the garden, peering in at us and an old reclaimed school window that I put mirror in and in the summer fill with plants.
Which room do you most enjoy?
Our open space kitchen/ living room. It’s a great versatile room for family life I designed it based on New York loft style, that can be subtly divided to accommodate all six of us doing different things at one time.
It’s also ideal for parties and entertaining as the big windows and high ceiling create great light and make you feel very connected to the outside space. In the summer, the garden becomes an extension of the kitchen, as we just open all the big doors and barbecue a lot, and hang around the fire pit all night.
What items do you like the most
I love my purple velvet sofa. It was the first grown up designer piece of furniture I bought when I felt the kids were of an age not to sabotage it, I remember the day it arrived, we named it Sasha (Salubrious Sasha) and treated it with such respect for a while but eight years later poor Sasha is looking a little tired.
Who is your favourite designer?
Elsa Schiaparelli, she was so talented and ahead of her time. I love that she had no training in the technical skills of pattern making and clothing construction but her method of approach relied on both impulse of the moment and the serendipitous inspiration as the work progressed. She really was so ahead of her time bringing art, sculpture and humour to fashion. On the home front, I think Una Burke’s creations are great and I have my eye on one of her amazing bags, although I haven’t checked the price tag yet.
What would you save from a fire?
My laptop for sure, then I’d be dragging my old New York vintage cinema seats, my reclaimed doors and my photo albums. Then I’d go back and check the kids were out!
What is your favourite gadget?
The Kitchenaid food mixer, I love the history behind the design and I spent weeks pondering on the colour options. It takes pride of place on my island.
Which artist do you most admire?
I love how Salvador Dali’s mind worked and how he depicted commonplace objects in a bizarre irrational fashion, I like to think that how I remake salvage and antiques is a bit like that. I am lucky enough to have visited his summer house in Cadaqués, Spain which really was an insight into his mind and personality, the Interiors and concepts in it are great and again so ahead of time, his house and museum in Figueres, Catalonia, is also worth a visit.
Any interiors turn offs?
Magnolia paint. I worked as a textile colourist in New York, so I am anal about colours. It’s high time magnolia was retired from all paint charts.
Your favourite travel destination?
Salina, one of the Aeolian Islands off Sicily. It’s not easy to reach but so worth it when you get there. It’s such a magical place, it doesn’t feel Italian, more tropical or Northern African, it has very few cars on the island and although quite rural, it is dotted with some really chic spots. The food is amazing and the whole chilled vibe of the island is fantastic. The movie Il Postino was filmed on a beach there too. I am looking forward to revisiting this year and travel to Stromboli (the island next to it) for a night hike to the rim of an active volcano.
What does home mean to you?
A home for me is a space that you have created from your journey through life. An architect or designer can give you a great space but it is up to you to put soul and your own style in it.
Do you have any tips for keeping things tidy?
Absolutely not! I’m a disaster.