A Holiday Home with Celtic Charm

The work of designer Helen Turkington exudes elegance, and her second home on the coast of Northern Ireland is no exception.  Every room is beautifully styled, but what lies beneath these stunning creations?

Interior designer and shop owner Helen Turkington, has the perfect tonic to maintain a healthy work life balance.  A second home.  But this isn’t just any second home; it is a renovated Victorian lighthouse keeper’s cottage on the coast of Northern Ireland, which provides a much needed haven for her family of five (and their two dogs Frankie and Charlie).

“We bought the house five years ago as an escape from our hectic work lives in Dublin. We needed a refuge at the end of the working week.  Door-to-door we can be here in two hours.  It was the location that made us buy it, set in two acres and surrounded by the sea, it was perfect.”

The interior style of this stunning retreat is unmistakably coastal, but refreshingly, this theme was not achieved through lashings of naval stripes or maritime memorabilia.  Rather, you will find classy hints of floral patterns, white panelled wood and the odd wicker basket; think Hamptons beach house, with a European feel.

“We did a cosmetic job when we first moved in, took the carpet out and installed wooden panelling in the bathrooms and bedrooms.  We painted everything in an off-white distressed finish, to give it a clean, nautical feel” describes Helen, “I suppose I would say my style is relaxed, with an emphasis on neutrals and a hint of colour.” “I love anything that is classical, symmetrical and ordered” she smiles.  

This is no exaggeration. Helen’s home is immaculate, unbelievably so.  Every mantel, ledge or side table is elegantly framed with sophisticated lamps, flowers, or lanterns.  There is not one item out of place.  The art on her walls is modern but simple, her furniture timeless but classic.  Yet behind this pristinely polished exterior there is a great depth to her look and as much as one would like to try, it could certainly not be recreated with a bucket of enthusiasm and a trip to Ikea.  The ensemble was put together by someone with an acutely honed skill, and one who clearly knows their craft.

“I opened up my first store in Dunville in the early nineties, when beautiful interiors stores were few and far between in Ireland” she explains, “it was a big gamble, but I’ve survived the ups and downs and grown the business into what it is today” she says wisely.  “My Mum was an interior designer and my parents have a long standing business selling paints and fabrics, they were ahead of their time.” “I definitely get my creativity and tenacity from them.”

The quality of Helen’s interiors, stems from her impeccable use of textiles.  The hand-me-down knowledge acquired from her parents, and insight from selling fabrics in her shop, has put Helen at the top of her game. Perhaps most tellingly, she likes to keep an eye on the trend forecasts.

“We sell fabric at my company and need to be a step ahead of the trends” she admits. “We opened our first fabric store over here four years ago, and another store in London a year later. It’s been gradual but challenging work.”

With a company mantra built on timeless and easy living, Helen believes in giving her clients “an interior that will stand the test of time, one which is comfortable yet has enduring elegance”. 

Helen has certainly stood the test of time; her years of hard work, irrefutable eye, passion for detail and splash of Irish charm makes for an interesting background to her wonderfully luxurious interiors.

See more of Helen's work at www.helenturkington.com

This article originally appeared in the Spring 2013 issue of Heart Home magazine.

Photographs: Barry Murphy. Words: Liggy Griffiths