Interior designer’s Dublin 6 home for €2.2m

Helen Turkington added a stylish extension in Rathgar – twice. Both luxurious and homely, the house is awash with her signature style


When interior designer Helen Turkington and husband, property adviser Garvan Walsh, decided it was time to sell their Rathgar home, they looked at the house they and their three children Tilly (13), Freddie (11) and Florrie (10) had lived in for 10 years with new eyes.

“I knew it wouldn’t work,” says Turkington. The late Georgian house had five bedrooms, two reception rooms and a relatively small kitchen: lots of room, but not for the market she was going for.

As this is a woman with more than 10 years’ experience working for demanding clients at the top end of the Dublin property market as well as on interior projects in London and Portugal, she is adept at sizing up properties. And so for the second time since they bought, they built out to the side, spending more than €150,000 on an extension.

The new addition is the first thing you see when you drive into the gravelled parking area of 68 Orwell Road. It’s a smart, single-storey extension with space for a bright, airy kitchen, a pantry and a utility room.

Signature look

The kitchen is fitted with painted timber units and a stone-topped island unit. The stone is mostly grey. Of course, it is: Turkington has a strong signature look that is immediately recognisable and her colour palette rarely strays from grey. She jokes that if you Google her, you will get lots of articles with “50 shades of grey” headlines. And she does use it everywhere, on walls, cushions, carpets and furniture.

She also understands comfort. Her sofas are the sort you sink into surrounded by plump scatter cushions and there is usually an ottoman upholstered in a luscious velvet nearby, its buttoned surface partially covered with neat piles of coffee-table books.

On the many tables and sideboards, every surface is laden with silver or mirrored picture frames and shiny, carefully placed new ornaments.

Overall, the effect is considered and luxurious, like a boutique hotel.

“It’s what I do,” she says, her tone suggesting slight amazement that her own home would have a different look from the ones she designs for clients. Minimalism was never going to be Turkington’s look. “My mum’s house is full of feck everyhere: pictures, cushions, candles, books,” she says of her mother, Hilary, an interior designer in Tyrone.

However, following her mother’s career path was more by accident than design. Working as a PA for a property developer in London, she was asked to do a makeover of a couple of cottages he owned and having enjoyed that, she kept going. Now the self-taught designer, who also has an interiors shop in Ranelagh, has a busy residential consultancy working out of offices in Dublin and London.

Latest project

Her latest project is managing the move from her fabric shop in Clonskeagh to a purpose-built showroom in Sandyford which will include eight room sets.

Her clients, she says, are now reluctant to have their interiors photographed for various reasons including security, so building room sets are the only way to show her work.

A decade ago, when deciding how they were going to rework the layout of the detached villa-style Rathgar redbrick – they were bringing the house back from four flats – they went a slightly unusual route.

Often in houses like these, the living accommodation is on one floor and the bedrooms on another . Not here. At hall level – where she uses panelling and mirrors to great effect – there are two interconnecting reception rooms and two bedrooms. These are all beautifully proportioned with high ceilings.

There are three more double bedrooms downstairs, the largest of which has a walk-in dressing area and a separate en suite.

Also at this level, the kitchen addition has freed up a room which is now another livingroom. Furthermore, linking the hall and the new extension via custom-built glazed metal doors, is a walk-through room fitted out as a familyroom.

Here the cool greys have given way to black on the walls, the ceiling and even the built-in furniture. “It’s a dark room anyway,” Turkington says explaining the sombre colouring, which, she says, creates a cosy feel.

Custom-built cupboards

Turkington also believes storage is important. “I’m a neat freak,” she says. There are tall, custom-built cupboards in every room and hallway, all painted to blend in with the walls so that while they hold a lot they don’t take up much space.

Outside the rear garden is not overlooked but is small relative to the 365sq m (3,900sq ft) house. It is also tailored and every inch is as carefully considered as the house, with clipped box hedging, a patio area and a vivid green Astroturf lawn. The family is moving to Co Wicklow for more outdoor space, something horse-mad daughter Tilly, who whizzes around the house on her hover skateboard is looking forward to.

Lisney is selling 68 Orwell Road with an asking price of €2.2 million.

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