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Cosy and colourful: this Wicklow cottage is a décor delight

Switching your mortgage could offer you the opportunity to create your perfect space. For designer Emma Edmonds, doing the work herself is all part of the charm

In part eight of our Switch it Up series, we discover the cosy country cottage owned by interior designer Emma Edmonds. Lockdown was a time when many chose to try their hand at some form of amateur DIY, but when you're a professional like Emma is, and you're working from home, house renovations can be taken to a whole other level.

Emma works as a designer and colour consultant for Stillorgan Décor and lives with her dog Maxi, “the love of her life”, in a beautifully renovated home in Ashford, Co Wicklow.

A stand-alone cottage, it is a stone’s throw from Mount Usher Gardens and Avoca, and is compact in size with a sitting room, kitchen, bedroom and a dressing room, as well as a wonderful porch that blends the inside with the outdoors, which was built by Emma’s dad.

Having bought her house 10 years ago, since then she has worked hard to turn it into her dream home. Plenty of inspiration came from visiting Martha’s Vineyard in the US on a trip with her mum a couple of years back.


“The house was built in 1984 and when I bought it, it was liveable, but a little run down. I’m on my own, I didn’t have anyone to help me financially or otherwise so my mum, dad and brother were great,” Emma says. “They came in and ripped up smelly carpets, took out old cupboards and a few big sheds out the back. Since then, I have made it more old-world. I love the white picket fence look in America and have incorporated that style into the house.”

In her own words, Emma is “never done” updating the cottage in some shape or form, mostly by her own hand, and at little expense. But renovating took on a whole new meaning recently. Tearing down walls, building patios and painting everything in sight are just some of her newest accomplishments. It gave her “little time to worry” she says.

“In my bedroom, there was a plaster board wall that stuck out and I could never get the bed in the right place. I tried everything including patterned wallpaper but nothing worked, so one night I took a hammer to it and knocked down the wall,” she laughs.

Taking inspiration from American interior designer and presenter of TV show ‘Fixer Upper’, Joanna Gaines, she decided to put shiplap panelling on the wall instead.

“On the show they find terrible houses in good areas and renovate them. When they pull off the wallpaper they almost always find this thing called shiplap, which is planks of wood going across the wall. I hid the old wall by putting that up myself. I ordered the timber locally, clicked it together, screwed it to the wall and painted it white. That changed the room hugely for me. I keep it very neutral, all white, and seasonally, I add pops of colour,” she says.

The bedroom is the only room where colour takes a rest. The rest of the house pops with black accents, deep forest hues, earthy neutrals and candy pinks.

“I am a visual magpie and there are no rules in this house when it comes to the pieces I fill it with. It’s a mix of antiques and modern and I have loads of old photos everywhere,” Emma says. “My grandmother was a huge influence on me – I lived with her when I was going to college. She was a really good gardener and won awards for it. I have her picture in the kitchen, watching over me as I’m cooking the apple sponge she taught me how to make.”

As a colour consultant, Emma knows you can rip up the rule-book. “People are sick of greys and that industrial look and are going for rich earthy tones, so I have Farrow & Ball’s Sap Green in the sitting room, which is really warm and cosy.”

Recently she painted another sitting room wall a deep mustard – so it, “now looks like a pumpkin latte”. A large mirror and ornate black fireplace complete the décor here.

“In lockdown, I also painted the kitchen cabinets black and papered the ceiling with a tin-effect wallpaper to give it that honky-tonk vibe. Everything is on a budget, and is usually done by me,” she says.

One of her favourite spots is her American-style porch, which doubles up as another room. It’s the perfect spot to have a drink or cup of tea with a friend, especially while restrictions are in place. “It’s covered on all sides but open to the elements and is so handy in summer,” she says.

The garden is her haven. “It slows you down. I recently made a patio out the back, it nearly killed me but I didn’t have time to worry while lifting slabs,” she laughs, adding, “I have a day bed on the porch so I plonk down there and read a book while listening to birds singing, which is heaven.”

While Emma is happy to turn her hand to almost any DIY task, she did pass on fixing a leaky roof. “A really good local builder sorted me out ­– he got me a roofer and took down the old popcorn ceiling. It was upsetting when it happened, but I have a new ceiling there now and it’s plastered and painted. That’s the one job I couldn’t do myself,” she says.

Next on the agenda is a possible attic conversion. “The perfect place to showcase all my Vogue magazines”, she says. Whether Emma takes on that particular project herself remains to be seen, but it’s safe to say, no better woman for the job.

About Switch it Up

Switch it Up is a new 12-part series for those who might be considering switching mortgage provider to make savings on their monthly repayments. It is a follow-up to the award-winning Story of Home series, which explored the idea of home through the eyes of creative people who found their dream place to live.

Now, Switch it Up, which like Story of Home is supported by Ulster Bank, looks at helpful information on home improvements as well as renovators' home tours. Plus, we've got helpful answers to your mortgage switching queries: from the incentives to how long it will take (not long!) and what's involved in making a mortgage switch, read our Everything you need to know about switching your mortgage guide at irishtimes.com/switchitup.

Perhaps now more than ever, we want our homes to suit the way we live and work, and being able to explore the potential in our homes offers us flexibility. This series is designed to unlock the ways in which we might Switch it Up in our homes as our wants and needs change.

Switching your mortgage could free up funds to help you make these changes. “At Ulster Bank, we want to be a part of the journey you take in making your home the best it can be,” says Sean Kellaghan, mobile mortgage manager at Ulster Bank.

“We want to make the mortgage switching process as simple and as hassle free as you do,” he adds. Kellaghan understands the stress that can come with making a switch, and he offers reassurance.

“We are here to help you, and the process is a lot shorter and a lot more straightforward than you might think. Get in touch today and we can talk you through the options and process.”

Ulster Bank Ireland DAC is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland