Cian O’Connor: ‘I go to my cave to escape and to admire art’

Pieces of Me: The showjumping winner favours tradition with a splash of modernity

Cian O’Connor at home in Co Meath. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Dubliner Cian O'Connor is best-known for his showjumping prowess. A regular member of the Irish Nations Cup Team, he won a bronze medal in the London Olympic Games in 2012. O'Connor is also a member of the Irish Nations Cup team which won the Aga Kahn Trophy at the Dublin Horse Show in 2012, and he will be competing in the showjumping arena at the RDS again next weekend from August 9th-13th. He currently spends winters in Florida where he competes and trains, and when home in Ireland lives outside Dunboyne with his wife Ruth and their two small children, Ben and Cara.

Describe your interiors style?

I prefer a mix of traditional style with contemporary touches. I like a background pallet of muted beiges, and we keep our curtains and textiles pretty traditional, but then I add in a few surprises like the Emmental coffee table by Patrick O’Reilly which I picked up at DeVere’s Design Auction. My wife thinks I’m mad for buying a table that looks like a slice of cheese, but I love it, as does my little boy Ben, whose is always sticking his head into the holes in it. I also tend to pick up more unusual pieces on my travels.

An Emmental cheese coffee table at Cian O’Connor’s home. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Which room do you most enjoy and why?

A small room just off my office at home, which we call Cian’s Cave. I’ve just refurbished it and have hung up all my favourite paintings and art in there. I go there to escape, chill out and just admire the beauty of the art.

Who is your favourite designer?

Having been in Barcelona many times competing, I have to say Antoni Gaudí – both his interiors and exteriors are sheer genius. I'd love to own something of his, but I think I'd probably have to buy a museum to realise that dream.


What would you save from a fire?

Apart from the wife and kids, my Olympic bronze medal from London. I have it framed and mounted and hanging over my desk in my office. It’s my most treasured item.

A painting by Basil Blackshaw at Cian O’Connor’s home. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Which artist do you most admire?

I admire so many, thanks to an early education in art courtesy of my grandad, Karl Mullen (former Irish rugby team captain in 1948/1949 and Lions Captain in 1950). He owned and ran art galleries and always had amazing works hanging in his home, so would talk us through them all and taught us to appreciate each piece.

I love Irish artists Jack B Yeats and Paul Henry and have purchased Basil Blackshaw in the past year, one of racehorses on a beach and the other a portrait of Clint Eastwood – I'm not a massive Clint fan or anything, it's just a stunning painting.

I also recently came across an up-and-coming Swedish artist called Mia Jonshagen, who paints beautiful equestrian scenes. I commissioned her to do a painting of the horse I won my Olympic medal on, Blue Lloyd, and it's now one of my favourite pieces. I'm also a big fan of sculptors and have two of John Behan's famine ship pieces in Cian's Cave.

The biggest interiors turn-off for you?

Loud colours and uncomfortable furniture. When I come into a house, I think it should feel like a home, somewhere you want to relax after a long day.

What does home mean to you?

I travel all the time for work, so home is the place I love the most. Home means relaxation, family, Irish food, great people and horses.

Cian O’Connor’s pieces by sculptor John Behan. Photograph: Cyril Byrne
Cian O’Connor in his favourite room at home outside Dunboyne Co Meath. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

If you had €100,000 to spend, what you would buy?

I'd buy a new cross trainer with built-in wifi so I could listen to my favourite country singer, Cole Swindell, while training. I'd also like to build a gym at home to go with my new lifestyle – since injuring my groin earlier this year during competition I've been going to the Personal Health Clinic in Rathmines and they've helped me develop a change in lifestyle through rehab for my injury.

Combined with diet and exercise, I have never felt better, and my horses seem to appreciate their new, fitter jockey!