An opening thought
from Marie Kondo
“The question of what you want to own is actually the question of how you want to live your life.”
I’ve found that the careful acquisition of decor can be a form of meditation, and develops the personal atmosphere of a home. My philosophy is that lifestyle curation is an exercise in determining what is most beautiful in the context of a specific space, making a home the unique reflection of its inhabitants.
On a recent trip to Dublin for a design conference and buying excursion, I decided to indulge in the hidden paradise that is Ballyfin Demesne. Often unnoticed by those looking to see Ireland’s lush natural coastal landscape, Ballyfin is breathtaking in every way: visually, emotionally and inspirationally. Awarded the number two hotel in the world 2018, this destination estate is welcoming to seasoned travelers and novices alike. Moreover, the accommodations and services are what made this trip otherworldly for me. Below I’ve included a few of my favorite travel moments from this unforgettable excursion.
With preserved craftsmen and natural materials abound, Ireland is also a great sourcing location for me and my team, as well as a place of nurturing refuge. Ireland’s fierce history and agricultural beginnings have positioned it with a humble reputation, but upon closer inspection I have found that it boasts a full spectrum of world-class offerings.
It’s been my experience that Ballyfin is like staying in someone’s fabulous manor house in the European countryside, like a Downton Abbey of modern times. Ballyfin’s owner, Chicago businessman Fred Krehbiel, spent $50 million on its restoration and renovation after purchasing the former boarding school back in 2002. You’ll leave feeling like you’ve enjoyed yourself for every moment of the trip while being cared for in every possible way; at least that’s what it does for me. While there, I recommend that you take advantage of all there is to offer, as there is so much to explore.
Since I was traveling with several others, we did a “room tour” in order to be inspired as very room is decorated in its own unique way with a special view. “The [original] detailing was terrific,” declares London interior designer Colin Orchard, who led the hotel’s restoration. The interiors are modern reinterpretations of the classic English style, including portraits of the original owners throughout the home… a visual treat!
The offerings at Ballyfin are wide-ranging and I feel are very “of the area.” I was able to easily arrange a time to go horseback riding through the gardens with the help of the on-site coordinator. Whether you are an expert rider or not, a leisurely ride through the grounds is beautiful and peaceful. The topography is very lush and mossy, reminding me of something from a children’s storybook. It’s so transformative that you begin to think you might see a gnome or little creature round the corner behind a tree at any moment. Nature has always had a disarming effect on me; the character of the landscape forces one to reflect, and to slow down the pace of life and reduce stress. Shown in the photo below was another humbling experience: meeting and learning about the birds of prey that are cared for by the estate. I love this photo because shows the sheer power and beauty of these primal creatures.
Another memory I cherish was the carriage ride around the grounds filled with stories about the original owners, which were told in just the perfect way with an added dry sense of Irish humor by our carriage driver.
If fine spirits are for you, we enjoyed a well-curated whisky tasting in the cellar by candlelight. I learned a lot and the atmosphere was calm and unfussy. For another evening option, I would suggest a lounge in the outdoor stone grotto, which I found is perfect for a wine and cheese moment. Pack ensembles for meals ranging from elegant to more casual. Dinner can be formal in the ballroom, or less so in one of the smaller dining rooms depending on what you’re in the mood for!
As my comments probably infer, the food at Ballyfin is spectacular and the wine selection is world-class. Photos often don’t do this experience justice, as it was my time there that impressed upon me the luxury that is the staff, who are true servicemen, and the grounds that are breathtaking. It is hospitality in its truest form from the welcome champagne, to the bathtub with special homemade bath bombs, to some of the best spa treatments I’ve ever received, to lunch in the library next to the roaring fireplace, to selecting my own eggs for breakfast from the chicken coop next to the conservatory. The experience of Ballyfin is a return to nature and a taste of royalty in one trip, which is such a rarity.
Architect Joseph Dirand doesn’t fall far from the proverbial tree, and yet has built his own empire. Son of celebrated French interior photographer Jacques Dirand, who captured the homes of many early tastemakers, Joseph remains connected to his roots in his Paris studio with brother Adrien, a photographer. What began as French minimalism has since grown into its own distinctive narrative. In unison, the brothers Dirand have developed and documented a distinctive design language that is restrained in its elements, and opulent in spirit.
“It’s not about re-creating another time, but designing spaces where people of all cultures can find a connection.”
I was immediately drawn to the compositions given their simplicity without compromised impact. Joseph has perfected the art of honoring a space’s architectural history while injecting the right amount of modernity. Nothing is overdone or haphazard, and his work always presents as flawlessly intentional. His fine-tuned sense of balance is displayed in the visual weight and placement of furnishings that render as sculptural elements. We share an affinity for combining traditional elements with simple, modern furnishings and we look forward to what’s to come from prince of new wave Parisian design.
IN the Studio
at home with mdp
Over the past six months I have been working on mindfully collecting and constructing my new personal space. The intent of the move was to downsize and live more purposefully. I was ready for less wasted space, and fewer more inspired choices, especially given the amount that I travel. Thus, the renovation of my new home has been a measured project that has forced some internal reflection. A home is inherently personal – and in a sense autobiographical – and so with all the transitions of the new studio location, it felt like the perfect time to change the conversation in my home to reflect this new chapter in my life. In collaboration with some of my favorite creative minds, my “paired down essentials only” pied-a-terre is starting to take on a life of its own. Below are some of the concepts and closer details of my newly-inspired home.
The way I have approached this project is no different than the way I work to suit the needs of my clients, with a process that is individually tailored and more balanced than formulaic. As with the projects that come through our studio, the primary focus is that the entirety of the home is cohesive and informed to the life desired by the individual. With that, my team and I focused on distinctive pieces that would color the home in broad strokes of personality, and leave the details of my life to fill in the rest.
I was very contented that the well-preserved pre-war building is not only located on the lake, but has both eastern and western sun exposure. There is no substitute for the feeling of sun shining through your windows in the morning, so when I viewed the space flooded with light, it spoke for itself. Given the sunlight’s natural spotlighting, it seemed intuitive to preserve and enhance the natural plaster moldings. They not only lend themselves to a very French aesthetic but also serve as built-in art and highlight architectural details like a dream. To complement the wall character, the furnishings are very simple, sculptural and modern. We felt that this juxtaposition would play up the historical features that characterize the home while still feeling light to the eye. Together these elements will render as a space that incites a clear mind and mirrors my vision for the future.
PHOTO SOURCES | Personal title image | Ballyfin Title Image | Ballyfin: Gate, Atrium, Dining, Attire, Cellar Images | Personal Ballyfin Imagery | Joseph Dirand Imagery and Bio | Apartment: Main living, Chair, Kitchen Display, Hardware | Closing image by Janet Mesic Mackie