Oh so chic Carol O’Cal­laghan

Catches up with a Dublin-based, French home in­te­ri­ors shop as it cel­e­brates its 10th birth­day. She meets own­ers, the Pow­ers and finds that so­fas re­main the big­gest seller in the Sandy­ford..

Irish Examiner - Property & Interiors - - Interiors -

Do you re­mem­ber the re­ac­tion back in Jan­uary when Lionel Messi’s part­ner posted pho­tos on In­sta­gram of the FC Barcelona player and their chil­dren at home? The one with with their out­size dog prone on a floor height sofa?

It was fol­lowed swiftly and in­evitably by thou­sands of com­ments from the pub­lic, but less of the billing and coo­ing va­ri­ety one might ex­pect about a sweet vi­gnette of a celebrity fam­ily with lit­tle chil­dren pet­ting the gi­ant pooch, and, in­stead, an all-out furore about the sofa hav­ing no legs. Why, they asked, could the multi-mil­lion­aire foot­baller not af­ford to get him­self a proper sofa?

The leg­less sofa turned out to be the avant-garde, Mah Jong, a piece of in­for­ma­tion which a line-up of its de­fend­ers swiftly con­firmed, made by French brand Roche Bobois to a de­sign that just a few years ago was given a makeover by French de­sign tour de force Jean Paul Gaultier. And the fab­ric was by an­other iconic fash­ion la­bel, Italy’s Mis­soni which has also made the transition from fash­ion to fur­ni­ture.

But they’re not the orig­i­nal de­sign­ers. Let’s say that as fash­ion trend-set­ters they re-dressed it, with the de­sign ac­co­lade go­ing to Hans Hopfer who 40 years ago made this in­for­mal way of fur­nish­ing a liv­ing space with mod­ules which can be con­fig­ured to mul­ti­ple op­tions.

“They’re sell­ing a range of fur­ni­ture that ap­peals largely to the 30-60 age group

If you fancy what Hans Hopfer de­scribed as a “seat­ing land­scape”, a lit­tle pocket change re­trieved from down the back of your ex­ist­ing sofa won’t do much to de­fray the cost which can peak at €25,000, de­pend­ing on how many com­po­nents you want in your con­fig­u­ra­tion.

But not ev­ery­thing costs those sorts of prices at Roche Bobois at the chic French brand’s Ir­ish out­let in the Bea­con South Quar­ter in Dublin’s Sandy­ford, which this year cel­e­brates its 10th an­niver­sary.

Check out con­ver­sa­tion pieces like the Quadrille chair which takes the tra­di­tional rock­ing chair and rein­vents it to ap­peal to the eye of mod­ern de­sign afi­ciona­dos. Same goes for the Coin ta­ble de­signed to cre­ate an op­ti­cal il­lu­sion, sug­gest­ing the sur­face slopes when it’s ac­tu­ally a slop­ing rim re­spon­si­ble for trick­ing the eye, a fea­ture which makes it a sin­gu­lar but prac­ti­cal pur­chase to cre­ate a wow in your space.

Dublin na­tive Dorothy Power and her Lim­er­ick-born hus­band John, own the Dublin branch of Roche Bobois, where they’ve weath­ered re­ces­sion nicely, de­spite hav­ing it hit not long af­ter they opened. They’re sell­ing a range of fur­ni­ture pieces that, ac­cord­ing to Dorothy, ap­peals largely to the 30 to 60 age group. “It’s younger peo­ple trad­ing up, and older peo­ple trad­ing down”, she ex­plains.

This group, though, is far from con­fined to the Dublin area, with the shop at­tract­ing buy­ers from around the coun­try, help­ing to re-es­tab­lish the no­tion of the des­ti­na­tion shop, many of which didn’t make it through the dark years of eco­nomic down turn.

For the cou­ple, open­ing the fur­ni­ture store was a big ca­reer change. Dorothy had a com­put­ing back­ground, and John worked in bank­ing which saw them based in War­saw for a num­ber of years, al­though Dorothy spent some time study­ing in­te­rior de­sign and has also been in­volved with John in a tiling busi­ness.

“When we came back to Ire­land in 2001, I no­ticed the lack of nice fur­ni­ture in Dublin,” she says. A friend of mine in Paris had loved Roche Bobois and that’s how I knew about

it. I loved in­te­ri­ors, so John and I set up a fran­chise here.”

So­fas re­main their big­gest seller, with a few Mah Jongs hav­ing been picked up over the last 10 years, al­though Ir­ish tastes and, maybe, pock­ets, have erred on the side of other choices.

“The most important thing for Ir­ish cus­tomers is com­fort,” Dorothy points out.

One such com­fort­able of­fer­ing be­ing snapped up is the Ur­ban sofa which is prov­ing to be the most pop­u­lar in the shop, check­ing out at the till at €6,100 for a cor­ner ver­sion. Plain and min­i­mal com­pared to the colour, pat­tern and eclec­ti­cism of Mah Jong, it’s de­signed by an­other French­man, Sasha La­kic, who has, among other things, de­signed mo­tor­bikes from which he bor­rows prin­ci­ples of aero­dy­nam­ics to in­spire his stream­lined sofa fin­ishes.

Now, that’s not quite up there with the Messi story for some so­cial me­dia li­on­is­ing, but def­i­nitely it’s one to wheel out for din­ner party con­ver­sa­tion when you’re show­ing off your new sofa pur­chase.

“It’s help­ing to re-es­tab­lish the no­tion of the des­ti­na­tion shop, many of which didn’t make it through the dark years of eco­nomic down­turn.

The Mah Jong sofa by Hans Hopfer for Roche Bobois in the 1970s has been re-clothed by Jean Paul Gaultier and Mis­soni; (€22,000 as seen).

Dorothy and John Power, own­ers of the Ir­ish branch of chic French home in­te­ri­ors brand Roche Bobois.

The Ur­ban sofa by Sasha La­kic for Roche Bobois has a stream­lined fin­ish in­spired by aero­dy­namic prin­ci­ples La­kic has ap­plied to mo­tor­bike de­signs (€6,000 for a cor­ner sofa).

The Quadrille rock­ing arm­chair was de­signed for Roche Bobois by Al­noor, a man re­spon­si­ble for per­fume bot­tle de­sign at Yves St Lau­rent (chair €2,400).

The Coin oc­ca­sional ta­ble is made from sheet metal with a lac­quer fin­ish and also avail­able in cof­fee and cock­tail ta­ble ver­sions (oc­ca­sional ta­ble €700).

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