Pieces of me : Niamh Banks, Seven Wood
This Sligo-native likes ‘mid-century meets Nordic style’ as both genres put function first
Niamh Woods: “I love Warren Hayes’s work – he makes these designer rocking chairs for Coolree Design.” Photograph: Eric Luke
Some of the former dancer’s favourite furnishings. Photograph: Eric Luke
Niamh Woods: “My house is compact so everything I bring in here needs to merit the space it takes up.” Photograph: Eric Luke
Some of Niamh Woods’s favourite furnishings. Photograph: Eric Luke
One time dancer Niamh Banks originally dreamed of dancing with Jean Butler but hung up her dancing shoes in 2001 to study business in UCD, followed by a masters at Smurfit Business School.
After graduating in 2006, the Sligo native joined Avoca, where she worked on the development of the Rathcoole and Belfast stores. Seven years later she launched her own brand, Mayfield Merchant, which centred around kitchen and homewares. She expanded to include vintage pieces, mid-century furniture, and quirky gifts. Banks then rebranded as Seven Wood and moved the store to Ranelagh. A Seven Wood pop-up store has opened on Dawson Street, Dublin, until January.
Describe your interiors style?
I’m drawn to mid-century meets Nordic style because both genres put function first. My house is compact so everything I bring in here needs to merit the space it takes up. Purely decorative objects rarely make it past the threshold anymore. I’m always curating both the shop and my home, moving objects around and adding in or taking out bits and pieces. It’s important to shake things up, otherwise you could be living in the same layout for decades.
What’s your favourite room?
I’m mostly found pottering around the kitchen, although I’m not technically a big cook, I’m more of a preparer. I need a daily hit of fresh brightly coloured fruit and veggies, so I prep lots of juices and salads: to keep my energy up – along with buckets of coffee too. If guests are over, they know not to expect any culinary masterpieces but they’ll be guaranteed great cocktails. I’m always picking up vintage drinks glasses on my travels to serve my concoctions up in. Currently I’m all about dainty Martini glasses.
Do you collect art?
I did buy myself a David Udo pop art canvas last year, but my budget doesn’t usually stretch to paintings and I find that whole art gallery scene very elitist and intimidating. I tend to buy photography instead as it’s much more accessible and reflective of my generation. I love works by Bruce Webber, Tim Walker and Richard Mosse but I’m also obsessed with an Irish photographer called George Karbus. He photographs all these beautiful and wild marine scenes of the west of Ireland which instantly bring me right back home to Sligo.
What designers do you admire?
Mostly furniture makers . I love Warren Hayes’s work – he makes these designer rocking chairs for Coolree Design. I’ve a mustard yellow one beside the fire and it’s where I do all my best thinking. Cillian Ó Súilleabháin is another Irish man flying under the radar – he works with reclaimed furniture and wood to make incredible pieces. His parquet diningroom table is top of my wish list for Christmas this year.
Any interior turn-offs?
A big bug bear is gigantic flat screen TVs in small rooms. Unless you’ve got sight problems, there’s just no need. I think getting scale right in general is a problem for many homeowners as furniture producers are not scaling down their products to work with average room sizes and heights. Loaf.com and made.com are two online furniture retailers I love and they have specific ranges for smaller rooms. Their smaller couches are still as comfy as the big ones but just don’t look like they’ve taken over the room.
Any other advice for small-space dwellers?
Folding screens or old dressing room screens are having quite the renaissance. They provide a simple way to section off open plan spaces, and of course they’re handy for throwing all the mess behind too when guests are on route. You could go down the traditional Japanese type screen route or you could repurpose old shutters for a more rustic effect.
Any standout interior shopping destinations?
I travel to Denmark, Sweden and Paris to buy for the store but, as a regular consumer, Lisbon is the best place I’ve been in years. You can feel this creative current running through the streets. Principe Real is full of cool concept stores, Embaixada in Ribeiro da Cunha Palace is my favourite – it’s bursting with Portuguese designers and amazing food. Baixa-Chiado is another Lisbon enclave jammed with design stores and stalls. And the MUDE museum is a must visit for design fans – it has everything from Dior couture to the Wiggle chair by Frank Gehry.
If you had €100,000 to spend on the house what would you do?
I’d commission a furniture maker to create a bespoke kitchen for me, with very minimalist Scandi lines and clean wood, topped with a steely zinc worktop and the best appliances money can buy.