Enjoy the dark magic of winter days

Home Front: Here’s some presents to buy and courses to try

Now that Halloween has departed with a final rattle of its skeleton and hiss of its vampire teeth, it’s time to prepare yourself a cosy nest where you can retreat, relax and recharge your personal energy batteries.

It doesn't have to be a huge space: just big enough to fit an Evie chaise in on-trend emerald velvet (€549) from DFS. Put your feet up, ignore the storms raging outside and enjoy the dark magic of winter days. dfs.ie

The Design Ireland website, which celebrates its first birthday this month, is an absolute gift at this time of year. No matter where you are in Ireland or in the world, the site allows you to browse the latest and funkiest Irish-designed craft pieces, then links you seamlessly to maker websites or your nearest approved stockists so that you can organise your shopping in plenty of time for the festive season. New collections are added regularly, and with designers writing about the places and materials which inspire their work, you get a real flavour of the stories behind the various items. Some 40,000 users have visited the site over the past 12 months and that figure is set to rise as Christmas approaches. So arm yourself with a a couple of Karo Art's delicate robin or winter berry baubles (€25), a Field Apothecary Peat, Ivy or Rain candle, (€30), a Rosiline rocking chair in solid ash, birch or walnut from Bunny & Clyde (from €3,580) and a Bold Bunny grey and emerald green Xmas stocking (€25) – and you'll have the festive season well and truly under way. designireland.ie

When Louise Kennedy unveiled her latest designs at her headquarters in Merrion Square a couple of months back, there was a great buzz around the glittering crystal bees which adorned some of her statement fashion pieces. Now it's time to unwrap her carefully curated Christmas accessories-and-gifts selection. It sparkles from start to finish with high-end items from some of the world's most luxurious homewares specialists.


No matter what colour scheme you've chosen for your festive table this year, it's sure to be stylishly dressed with a set of blue RabLabs coasters edged in pure silver (€150), a pinecone-shaped salt-and-pepper set with 14-carat gold and Svarovski crystals from L'Objet (€495) or one of Jonathan Adler's green semi-spherical "Globo" acrylic-and-brass boxes (large, €395) – technically trinket boxes, but who would hide such a lovely thing away in a drawer? louisekennedy.com

As the days shorten and the temperatures start to drop, you could do worse than take a long, cool look at your energy consumption. Dublin's energy agency, Codema, and the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland are running some free workshops to help you cut down on costs and reduce your carbon footprint. Topics covered will include heating your home, hot water, electrical appliances, grant availability and understanding your energy bill. Experts will be on hand to answer questions, there'll be free giveaways and demonstrations of the Home Energy-Saving Kits, which are available to borrow free of charge from Dublin City Council public libraries. Codema's energy awareness manager, Verena Brennan, says it's a great chance to get independent advice. "We will cover everything from where you typically waste most energy at home, right through to the benefits of reading your meter regularly. You can also visit our display stands which will give the public great tips on what they can do straight away to reduce their bills, and areas they might consider investing in." The workshops will take place at 6.30pm in Raheny Library on Monday, November 13th; Cabra Library on Wednesday, November 15th, and Rathmines Library on Thursday, November 16th. See codema.ie

Is Westport House really Ireland's most beautiful historic mansion? Built in 1650, from an architectural point of view it's certainly one of the richest of our stately homes, with every room containing exquisitely-crafted treasures, from the Richard Cassels-designed entrance hall to the drawing room with its magnificent sky ceiling by James Wyatt. The latter is the venue for a forthcoming study day, organised by the Irish Georgian Society and Westport Co Council, which will dig deep into the history of the house and demesne. A guided tour will be followed by a morning session devoted to the socio-political context of the house; after lunch, the focus will shift to the picturesque origins of the planned Georgian town of Westport. Speakers will include Fintan Duffy, Gordon Kennedy, Martin Mansergh, Colm Murray, Aidan O'Boyle, Eamon O'Flaherty, Siobhan Sexton, Grainne Shaffrey and Simon Wall. Places are limited and advance booking is recommended. The cost of the day is €25, which includes lunch and tea/coffee; bookings can be made on igs.ie