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House Call: At Home in an Irish Stone Cottage with Superfolk

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House Call: At Home in an Irish Stone Cottage with Superfolk

September 26, 2017

Jo Anne Butler and Gearoid Muldowney make household objects and botanical prints that someone living in toadstool would appreciate. Drawn from nature and designed to accommodate small spaces, their work, they say, “tells the story of the ever-changing colors, patterns, and textures of the wildlife, wild food, geology, and seasons of Clew Bay” on the west coast of Ireland, where they’re based.

The two met in art school in Dublin in 2005 and three years later established their own design studio, Superfolk (see our post Art Foragers). They use sustainable, made-to-last materials and nothing goes into production before it has been test-driven in their own tight quarters. The results are so of a piece and tantalizingly evocative of their corner of the world that we asked them to show us where they live. Come join the cottage tour.

Photography by Superfolk.

the family rent a \200 year old stone house in the county mayo village of westp 9
Above: The family rent a 200 year-old stone house in the County Mayo village of Westport, population about 5,500.

Though they met in Dublin and spent time living in Scandinavia, Jo Anne and Gearoid both hail from County Mayo and knew they wanted to return: “We both have happy memories of childhoods spent outdoors, and of the strong sense of community and belonging that comes from growing up in the country. This was something we wanted for our own children.”

Their cottage is part of an enclave of dockworker and fishermen’s dwellings in the town’s docks area, and, Jo Anne tells us, has “really shaped how we live: When the sun shines, this house pushes us outside to the beach to go exploring or fishing. When the wind howls around us in January, our place is solid, unmoving, and so cozy.”

the couple design in tandem but divide the labor: gearoid, winner of the \20\1\ 10
Above: The couple design in tandem but divide the labor: Gearoid, winner of the 2011 Future Maker award from the Crafts Councils of Ireland, is the resident woodworker, and Jo Anne, who has a master’s degree in architecture and studied fine art, is the printmaker. They’re shown here with their daughter, Rose. Photograph by Doreen Kilfeather.
the house has two rooms downstairs, plus a galley kitchen, and two bedrooms ups 11
Above: The house has two rooms downstairs, plus a galley kitchen, and two bedrooms upstairs—each floor is 36 square meters (236 square feet). Like most renters, Jo Anne and Gearoid’s first move was customize the formerly all cream-colored interior with paint. They brightened the entry-dining-living area by whitewashing not only the bumpy stone walls but also the wood-paneled stair wall and ceiling.

To accommodate life in tight quarters, almost all of the couple’s designs are made to hang. Shown on the stair wall is an oiled black steel candlestick from Meander, Superfolk’s newest collection that was just unveiled at the London Design Festival. And their Oak Folding Stool hangs in the back hall.

the hearth is inset with a woodburning stove. when jo anne was pregnant, they  12
Above: The hearth is inset with a woodburning stove. When Jo Anne was pregnant, they found their antique Dutch rocker on “an online buy-and-sell page: The owner had lived in Holland and brought this with her back to Ireland.”
clew bay is part of the rugged coastal stretch known as the wild atlantic way.  13
Above: Clew Bay is part of the rugged coastal stretch known as the Wild Atlantic Way. The wooden doll is a souvenir from Gearoid’s art school internship in the StokkeAustad design studio in Norway.
the dining table area is set off by an exposed stone wall hung with a superfolk 14
Above: The dining table area is set off by an exposed stone wall hung with a Superfolk print. The couple resolved the cottage’s lack of built-in-storage by inserting high shelves and peg rails.

Gearoid made the rail using pegs that Jo Anne purchased on a visit to the Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village in New Gloucester, Maine (the unfinished Shaker Pegs are available from the museum’s online shop for 60 cents each, 25 for $14.25). The table, a charity shop find, is paired with Superfolk’s leather-slung Oak Folding Stool, £440 ($594) from TwentyTwentyOne.

&#8\2\20;peg rails are great for lifting things off the floor, especially w 15
Above: “Peg rails are great for lifting things off the floor, especially when you have a crawling baby in the mix,” says Jo Anne. Their fishing gear hangs alongside a car boot sale basket and Superfolk Oak Trivet, €65 ($77.22), a pot rest “inspired by the long shadows cast by a winter sun.”
the print is autumn beech leaf, €\240 (\$\286.46), hand carved and block prin 16
Above: The print is Autumn Beech Leaf, €240 ($286.46), hand-carved and block-printed by Jo Anne on deckle-edged Japanese washi paper. It’s suspended from Superfolk’s large plywood Hanging Frame; €40 ($47.75).

the narrow galley kitchen is painted in a soft gray from dulux called apple box 17
Above: The narrow galley kitchen is painted in a soft gray from Dulux called Apple Box and a basic white. “Two tones is  a really practical solution in a small, hardworking space like this,” says Jo Anne. “It masks scuffs at ground level and appears brighter and lighter at the top.”

The sink counter is covered with the couple’s ingenious Wooden Tablecloth, a design-in-progress for a “solid wooden counter that can drape and roll away like a tablecloth.” Dealing with your own counters you’d like to cover? See another solution in Sarah’s Refined Rental.

windows in the cottage are small and deep. this one displays the couple&#8\ 18
Above: Windows in the cottage are small and deep. This one displays the couple’s collection of vintage earthenware vessels and a red geranium, “a very nostalgic houseplant that reminds us of our grandparents’ generation,” says Jo Anne.
a round wooden tray, a prototype yet to be put into production, shares the tab 19
Above: A round wooden tray, a prototype yet to be put into production, shares the table with a Meander candlestick and Ash Trivet.
woody, the family&#8\2\17;s weimaraner, leads the way to the pale pink sitt 20
Above: Woody, the family’s Weimaraner, leads the way to the pale pink sitting room, which has its original wide-plank floorboards and fireplace. The little wooden school chair was Gearoid’s as a child and saved for him by his mother.

The armchair is an Ikea design slung with a Foxford Woollen Mills throw—”a ‘second’ bought in the factory shop in Foxford; it’s made from all of their yarn ends.”

the room is also the play area, decorated with a trio of superfolk seaweed prin 21
Above: The room is also the play area, decorated with a trio of Superfolk seaweed prints: Atlantic Wakame, Channelled Wrack, and Bladder Wrack, all €78 ($93.14). The table is from Superfolk’s 2015 camping collection. The wall paint color is Setting Plaster from Farrow & Ball; for more ideas see Expert Advice: The 10 Best Pink Paints.
the prints hang from superfolk medium hanging frames, €30 (\$35.65), which in 22
Above: The prints hang from Superfolk medium Hanging Frames, €30 ($35.65), which incorporate hidden magnets. For peg rail sourcing, go to Object Lessons: The Shaker Peg Rail).
superfolk&#8\2\17;s copper beech leaf print sets the autumnal palette in t 23
Above: Superfolk’s Copper Beech Leaf print sets the autumnal palette in the couple’s bedroom. The blanket is by Studio Donegal. The rustic bedside tables are old Irish pieces with “a clever use of timber sections” that Jo Anne says remind them of Italian designer Enzo Mari’s 1970s Autoprogettazione series.

a wardrobe of woolens is essential in these parts. 24
Above: A wardrobe of woolens is essential in these parts.
gearoid&#8\2\17;s wood shop is in the back of the house, where the couple t 25
Above: Gearoid’s wood shop is in the back of the house, where the couple tend a long flower garden and vegetable plot, “just as the original family living in this terrace did.”
the wild atlantic way. go to the couple&#8\2\17;s instagram feed, @superfol 26
Above: The Wild Atlantic Way. Go to the couple’s Instagram feed, @superfolk, to see more of their surroundings. And go to Superfolk to find more of their designs and a list of stockists, including Makers & Brothers, who introduced us to Jo Anne and Gearoid.

More small-space inspiration:

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