Home tour: An artist's Donegal haven

Laura Ferguson’s home is a Scandinavian-inspired bright and neutral backdrop which showcases her stunning collection of Irish-made art

Art teacher Laura Ferguson is passionate about supporting indigenous artists and makers, and her colourful collection is displayed thoughtfully throughout her home in Ramelton, Donegal. When she and her partner David were looking to buy a home, they didn’t want a simple new build. “We wanted a home we could put our own stamp on but without the cost of a new build. We spotted this house, which was basically a building site, the structure was complete but nothing was finished,” Laura says. They tracked down the owner, who despite having intentions of completing the project, had let it lay dormant for five years. They convinced him to sell, and were delighted to have a blank canvas to work with. “We didn’t have a big budget and the plan was to just take our time and do it bit by bit, that kind of spiralled out of control (my fault!) and two years later the house is very nearly finished.”

One room they felt it was important to invest in was the kitchen. “The kitchen is grey with a white island, we got it from Duke’s Kitchens here in Donegal and they were great to work with. I had a very clear idea of what I wanted and they helped me make it a reality. I didn’t want it to feel built in so kept the wall units to a minimum and used open shelving on the wall units and island. We also wanted a larder cupboard to hide the not so pretty appliances like the microwave and for extra storage.” The SMEG fridge and white quartz worktop were priority purchases. “I always wanted a SMEG fridge and I just love the retro design. I don’t regret investing in the worktop because it is so solid and hard-wearing and looks fab.” White subway tiles with dark grouting tie in well with the dark cupboard handles, and Laura has introduced plenty of colour. “My sister made the kitchen blind from Orla Kiely fabric and we added lots of brightly coloured retro style enamelware and ceramics that stand out against the grey.”

SIMPLE SPACE

Laura opted for a Scandi aesthetic, a clean minimal style with whites and greys, so that her collections could take centrestage. “I’m really inspired by Scandinavian design, I love its simplicity, their homes never seem cluttered, they seem to strike a balance beautifully. I like to mix this Scandinavian style with vintage finds and colourful, patterned accessories like cushions, rugs and ceramics,” Laura says. A recent trip to Denmark proved even more inspirational. “I totally fell in love with Copenhagen, the colour palette is so tasteful, the Danish have such a sophisticated style,” Laura says. “Some of their designers from the 1950s and 60s were amazing, especially furniture designers such as Hans Wegner. The wishbone chair is just so simple and beautiful. We visited the Design Museum when we were there, they had a whole exhibition of Danish designed chairs, I was in heaven.”

Laura collected furniture long before they had bought the house. “I tried to find second hand mid-century modern style pieces that would create the Scandinavian feel I wanted. I love to buy old furniture and upcycle it, I like the idea that it’s been given a new lease of life and that it’s unique,” Laura says. “My sister and I always used to ring our father from salvage yards and vintage shops saying, ‘eh, any chance you could come down here with a trailer?’ And this was before we even had houses to put them in. They stayed in the garage for years but it was great when we moved in as there’s so much to buy and it would have been overwhelming. It’s always hard to find unique pieces when you need them so I’ve tried to build them up over the years.” The bright and colourful sideboard in the hallway was a particularly successful upcycling project. “I managed to find this beautiful second-hand mid-century modern style sideboard for €60 in a local auction house. I’m delighted with how it turned out, as it’s a real focal point when you walk in the front door and great for displaying sculpture.”

ONE OF A KIND

Laura has her own brand, Little Grey Living, creating limited edition collections of ceramic plates, each one handmade and painted so no piece is the same. Her own work from her new range, Droplet, is on display on a plate wall she has in the sunroom, alongside plates by Donna Wilson, a designer based in the UK and Irish ceramicist Danu. Her studio in the home reflects her style and influences. “My studio is one of my favourite areas in our home, it’s the smallest room but I’ve tried to make the most of the space,” she says. “Ceramics can get quite messy so I try not to be too precious about the space as it is a creative hub. It’s definitely more feminine than the other rooms, as it has a lot of pinks and pastel colours that are reflected in my work, and I keep the walls free to pin my work with artists, designers and craftspeople that inspire me.”

Laura is especially keen to support local Donegal creatives. “One of my favourite companies is McNutt’s of Downings, I just adore their blankets, the colours really evoke the landscape here it’s like bringing a bit of the outside in. They’re all woven here in Donegal and have been for 60 years, and it’s nice to support that tradition,” Laura says. “I also really admire the work of local company, Modern Eire. They create modern versions of the old railway posters from Donegal in the 1920’s and 40’s, they’ve designed one based on Ramelton, which I have in one of the bedrooms; it’s such a nice addition to the house.”

When Laura first walked into the house she knew that the wall in the hallway was going to be perfect for the gallery wall she had envisioned for all the pieces she had been collecting over the years. “We decided to paint it a dark grey to accentuate its height and you can see it from both downstairs and upstairs. We put a glass panel on the landing upstairs instead of wooden railings so it’s more light and airy,” Laura says. “One of my favourite pieces is a painting by Barbara Allen that David bought me for my 30th birthday, I just fell in love with it, it’s of an old petrol pump near Dunfanaghy that often drove by and every time I did I thought “that would be lovely to paint” then it was torn down and I had always regretted not painting it, luckily somebody else had!”

In one of the spare rooms the couple created a mancave for Dave, and Laura got to experiment with a different style for the room. “It’s handy to have a second TV, it avoids a lot of arguments when the football is on! The room has brick effect wallpaper and vintage style football posters for a more industrial style that the rest of the house, but still fitting in with the general colour palette,” Laura says. “I found a vintage tea chest in an auction house that we use as a side table, I love the old typography on it, and it still had tea leaves in it when I brought it home.”

The main bedroom is a tranquil space with a cottage feel thanks to the sloped roof. “To emphasise this and to evoke a kind of Scandinavian cabin feeling, our carpenter added tongue and groove panelling to the back wall. It creates a much more cosy space as well as accentuating the unusual shape of the room.” The bathroom is something she is particularly proud of. “It was one of the first rooms I had a clear vision for with a lot of help from Pinterest,” Laura says. “The patterned cement encaustic floor tiles have a matt finish and I just love them. They’re from an Irish company called besttile.ie. We decided to add tongue and groove panelling for the wall and I painted it a blue to match the tiles. I’ve been collecting little bottles for years and they matched in nicely with the colour scheme.” Laura’s various collections take pride in the home without ever looking cluttered. Each piece is there for a reason, for form, function, and fond memories. “We’ve collected a lot of mementos from travelling, maybe just a print from somewhere we’ve visited but it’s a nice memory so I’ll put it in a frame and hang it somewhere, you start to build a nice little eclectic collection after a while,” Laura says. “I think it’s all the little sentimental, personal objects that make a house a home.”

Follow Laura on Instagram @little_grey_living.

Words: Róisín Healy | Photography: Sarah Fyffe

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