Máire Hennessey O’Connor lives on a busy dairy farm in rural Co Tipperary with her husband and four children.

As a co-ordinator with the Tipperary Food Producers – and having worked in hospitality and tourism for the past 20 years – she is no stranger to hard work. Over the years, however, she has developed another passion: interior design.

Máire Hennessey O’Connor.

With this in mind, she entered into a diploma course in interior design at the Dublin Institute of Design in 2019 and, in late 2020, launched her online (and on-farm) business Chic Dwelling Decor.

A sign

“I’m still keeping up my work with the Tipperary Food producers; which I love,” she explains.

“But I had started the course pre-COVID because I have always loved interior design. I was travelling up to Dublin once a week and had just finished [the course] when COVID-19 kicked in.

“People were always saying to me: ‘Would you not just start your own business?’ she continues. “It’s always been in the background, so when the pandemic hit I took it as a sign to make the change.”

With the pandemic, her work in tourism all but dried up; allowing the time to devote herself to her new business.

Local Enterprise backing

Máire received a business grant from her Local Enterprise Office which enabled her to develop an e-commerce website.

Since everything – from food shopping to consultations – has now largely pivoted online, her business launch came at just the right time. The online pivot hasn’t been without its hiccups, though. Maire’s speciality – which is upcycling older furnishings – often requires in-person sourcing.

“I love old furnishings,” she says. “I work with some upholsterers in the area to help bring [vintage] pieces back to life. I would have always gone to auctions over the years [to source new furnishings]. At the moment with the auctions you’re buying online and it can be a bit riskier.”

Personal style

Máire brings rooms together with the use of interesting fabrics, patterned wallpapers and well-developed colour schemes.

Her wallpaper selection comes from a Scandinavian company called Borastapeter. She says, while wallpaper has become more expensive in recent times, this company has the right balance between quality and price.

“They have a really lovely, reasonably priced selection.”

Though equally comfortable working in urban homes, Máire’s personal style is very much “Irish country chic”. She believes we should celebrate the past while enjoying the modern aspects of country life. When it comes to her clients, her approach is to help create an achievable vision of what their personal style encompasses.

Spoiled for choice

“[A lot of my clients] often feel overwhelmed with choice; they’re seeing so many things online. Having all of these options at your fingertips can become confusing,” she says.

“That said, there’s such a lovely feeling from having a room design complete. It adds a real feel-good factor to life.”

Máire has set up a shop on her farm where she’ll welcome customers when it’s safe. In the meantime, she is maintaining her online shop which features rugs, art prints, children’s decor and other furnishings, with as many local Irish offerings as possible.

She will offer in-home design consultations when things go back to normal, and currently offers virtual consultations (prices vary according to the needs of the client but start at around €50/hour).

Máire’s top tips for creating an inviting space

Cast a glow with warm lighting

With our Irish weather and long winters, it is important to ensure our rooms are nicely lit. Máire says it’s lovely, if possible, to have dimmable lighting in the living spaces.

She says wall lighting can create a sense of balance, while a corner floor lamp or table lamp with warm LED light bulbs can add warmth and comfort to a room. The more yellow the light, the cosier it feels.

Irish home fragrances

Máire says the right fragrance will make your home more cosy and welcoming. She sells Irish-made Somas Candles in a variety of scents, as well as plug-in mist diffusers and essential oils by Irish company Kotanical. She says these products have a sleek and attractive look, as well as providing a “hotel-feel” fragrance to your home.

She also loves Tipperary-made Brookfield Farm’s hand-dipped beeswax candles.

“They provide the perfect ambiance for Saturday night lockdown dinners in.”

Bringing the old back to life

Máire is passionate about bringing old antique and vintage pieces back to life. A lot of older pieces in our homes have sentimental value, though they may not be so visually appealing anymore.

By adding a fresh piece of upholstery fabric and matching trim, or piping, she says you can easily fall in love with these old pieces again.

Texture layering

On a chilly evening, it can be very inviting to have soft, warm textures to sink into. She says layering and accessorising furnishings with extra throws and cushions is a must for lounging on these lockdown days at home.

Small feel-good highlights

You can introduce a bit of sparkle with most colour schemes if you go for smaller highlights such as smart tea light holders or refreshed picture frames, giving old pictures a new and contemporary look. Another great option is wallpaper. “There has never been such a great range of wallpapers available with fantastic patterns to suit all tastes and budgets,” Máire says. “Then, if you wish to go a step further, a cosy rug over hard flooring can create warmth and texture to transform your living space while enhancing its visual appeal.”

See chicdwelling.com for more information and tips for your home.