The fit-out of a new nursery is a low-key way for decorators to establish a relationship within influential social networks where word of mouth recommendations carry the most sway. Made in Chelsea star Millie Mackintosh chose Dublin-based Arlene McIntyre of Ventura Design to decorate her bohemian London home following a recommendation from her friend, the Howth-born model, fellow reality TV star, and entrepreneur Vogue Williams, whose nursery McIntyre had designed.
McIntyre opened her London office 12 months ago, but by then she already had several celebrity clients on her books. They favour her discreet, underdone, classical style.
She met Vogue Williams through designer Paul Costelloe, after the two – Costelloe and McIntyre – got talking at the Ideal Home Show in Dublin. McIntyre had designed the showhouse at the event and met Costelloe at a stand she had taken with her husband Jurgen Riedel, who specialises in bathroom units. Costelloe was there to talk at an Irish Times event, and he and Riedel immediately hit it off. "The next thing they wanted to set up a meeting to discuss the idea of doing a furniture collection together," she recalls.
Costelloe later let it slip that he was designing Williams’s wedding dress and that she was expecting a baby. She might need some design advice at home, he said. “You guys should talk.”
Vogue's secret Scottish wedding in June 2018 later appeared on her Instagram feed and she and husband Spencer Matthews welcomed their first child, Theodore, in October of that year. McIntyre was commissioned to create a "gender neutral" nursery. "She was very practical and wanted it to suit all babies that might be in the space," McIntyre recalls. The nursery included a daybed that anyone could sleep on in case the baby wasn't settling. It was made in Ventura's factory in Santry, as most of the Ventura furniture is. The designer flew over her own wallpaper expert to hang the Style Library print in the space because she says it was still cheaper than using a London-based tradesperson.
Central to the room was a cot with Perspex rods that let Williams see the baby from any angle. The cot, which has been named after the Dublin model, is now available to buy through Ventura Design.
It was Williams who introduced McIntyre to Millie. McIntyre had never watched TV hit Made in Chelsea. “I didn’t know who she was. It started with a phone call and I travelled over and back every two weeks.”
She was travelling to meet clients in London for years before she set up an office there and finds FaceTime a useful tool to help communicate ideas. While an expert in working remotely for these jobs, when meeting Millie McIntyre would travel with a suitcase packed full of swatches, samples, ideas and materials. She also posted more suggestions to her.
Millie first commissioned McIntyre to do up an apartment in Battersea she had shared with Hugo, her second husband, with whom she had appeared on Made in Chelsea. When they moved into this Chelsea home, pictured, they were expecting a baby and once again called on her services.
“As a client Millie is quite bohemian,” says McIntyre. “Both she and Hugo had a rock ‘n’ roll sort of a vibe. They’re very cool, real homey and not showy at all.”
But disharmony is still common amid the design process, she says. “The secret is to work through it and compromise all the time. In-person meetings help. So does communication, broaching conversations the couples often haven’t even had themselves.
“While Millie is very into her fashion, her interior style is much more pared back and natural. She’s really down to earth. She wanted to mix textures, colours and fabrics, hence the use of a kilim-like fabric. It’s a pared-back natural look that is different to our traditional look, which is more tailored.”
The Crittall-like steel internal doors and glazing on the kitchen back wall overlooking the garden was there when the couple moved in. The kitchen has shaker-style doors and a quartz countertop, with the units painted in Farrow & Ball Railings to darken the mood. The bar stools are upholstered in a textured kilim-like print by Linwood.
In the area connecting the light-filled kitchen to the older part of the house is a painted Taylor console table that McIntyre had installed in Millie’s previous home. It is a repository for a slew of cookbooks, as cooking is a subject close to Mackintosh’s heart.
The livingroom is accessed via sliding steel pocket doors. Its bay window has louvered privacy shutters that allow the couple to stretch out on the super comfy Sebastian sofa. This sofa also came from their previous home, and McIntyre updated it by adding new scatter cushions in soft shades. The kilim-covered, secret storage ottoman in the room is now one of the pieces in a collection named after Mackintosh, a toffee heiress whose family invented household brands Quality Street and Toffee Crisp.
The nursery is one of the home’s real talking points. It features an egg-shaped crib that can extend in size as your baby grows, eventually turning into a small bed. It came from Scandiborn, where McIntyre also found the woolly mammoth and the stuffed toys that fill the shelves.
A daybed with scroll arms provides a useful place for a parent to nod off, while the jungle print on the wall, which is both visually stimulating and educational, came from Murals Wallpaper. It is an online find that looks as if it has been slightly sun-bleached. The rug underfoot is from Next.
The master bedroom has a bay window, as well as a smart scalloped-edge headboard upholstered in a soft, dove-grey, cotton velvet that was coated with Scotchgard to prevent the pile getting marked. A superfine cashmere throw in a dusky pink paisley print has been thrown across the bed. Another Ventura design, it is also available in soft grey. The stool of the mother-of-pearl dressing table was also reupholstered in a soft velvet. The Moses basket pictured is one of many baby buys made at Blue Almonds on Walton Street.
McIntyre has invited Millie to feature on her new podcast series, Shut the Front Door, which also features interviews with Vogue and Paul Costelloe, as well as with actor Doireann Garrihy, television presenters Anna Daly and Glenda Gilson, and stylist and designer Darren Kennedy, about what their homes mean to them, from memories of their childhood houses to their present-day dwellings.
The networking opportunities California-born McIntyre has profited from are something she says happens a lot when you work with Irish people, especially when they live abroad. “Irish people are quite close. They really stick together and look after each other.”
Shut the Front Door, hosted by interior designer Arlene McIntyre of Ventura Design, is available on iTunes, Google and Spotify. ventura.ie