Keeping her eye on Ireland’s historical and grand properties
Mary Heffernan says the interiors she looks after differ from hers and her small budget
Mary Heffernan adores the portraits of her two children. Photograph: Aidan Crawley
Mary Heffernan of the OPW: Turned off by “interiors that are spartan and spare and without any personality. I would prefer to see more of their owners’ particular style rather than a sterile magazine look.” Photograph: Aidan Crawley
Candlesticks by the Czech architect and designer Borek Sipek.
An assistant principal officer of the OPW with responsibility for many national historic properties, Mary Heffernan has been with the State agency for 25 years masterminding and managing many major projects. A native of Clonmel, Co Tipperary, she followed an economic and social studies degree with one in art history both from Trinity College Dublin and went on to do a further degree in design history at the National College of Art and Design while working at the OPW.
She has responsibility for among others, Dublin Castle, Farmleigh Gallery, Rathfarnham Castle, parts of IMMA, the Glebe Gallery Donegal and the Casino at Marino. Her first managing role was Farmleigh when it was acquired by the State and she has organised many successful exhibitions there and more recently Meditations on Plates at the Casino in Marino, Playing with Tradition at Dublin Castle and last week, CASA, a major exhibition of paintings by Richard Gorman at Castletown House in Celbridge, Co Kildare, which continues until September 30th. She is married with two children.
Describe your interiors style?
The kind of interiors I look after are opulent and grand and are a complete contrast to mine and my small budget, but although I live in a Georgian house it would be completely fake – and impossibly expensive – to furnish it with furniture of the period. I am into the 21st century and not afraid of new styles and designers, which are a lot more me.
Which room do you most enjoy and why?
What items do you love most and why?Gaetano PescePlaying with Tradition
But I adore the pair of portraits of my two children which I commissioned from the young Irish artist Siuan McGann. I save very hard to make the purchases I want and would rather have far less than more but of good quality.
Who is your favourite designer?Mariano FortunyAndree Putnam
In my work I am drawn to the ideals of Luis Baragan, the Mexican architect who believed that many words like beauty, inspiration, magic, enchantment and mystery have disappeared “in alarming proportions” from architectural publication and said that “all of these have found a loving home in my soul”.