DAYS OF HEAVEN
Emma Lynch had wonderful memories of holidaying in Brittas. To her delight, she got an opportunity to buy that very holiday home, and it also led to a new business. Edited by Mary O’Sullivan. Photography by Tony Gavin
We all have our Proustian moments; when a sight, a taste, a smell, a touch, or a sound will send us off on a journey of nostalgia; a trip down memory lane. For the narrator in Marcel Proust’s famous series of novels called
this evocation of times past happened when he tasted a madeleine cake dipped in tea. For Emma Lynch, interiors entrepreneur and co-owner of Lamb Design, it’s the heady scent of her grandmother’s garden in summer which can evoke days of her youth; days spent happily splashing at the seaside in Brittas Bay and making castles on the beach; days of family gatherings and picnics and birthday parties. Happy days.
It was a scent which Emma never thought she’d fully experience again once she’d grown up — her grandparents had sold their house many years earlier, and Emma and her family stopped going to Brittas. Then, one fateful day three years ago, she got a call out of the blue from her father. “You’ll never guess where I am?” he said, down the phone to her at her then home in London.
That phone call led to Emma getting the opportunity to relive the days of her youth and give her own children a
Recherche Du Temps Perdu, A La
similarly carefree upbringing. It also led to the creation of her thriving new business.
A lot had happened in Emma’s life in the intervening years. Born and reared in Dublin, the youngest of three children, she had studied marketing and PR, and went on to become the marketing manager of British Telecom in Ireland, where she worked for three years. In 2009, she married her husband Peter, a businessman, and they decided to go and live where Peter’s work took them, first to the US and later England. “We lived for three years in Scottsdale, Arizona. It’s just gorgeous, and there was a great social life. Career wise, it was a bit tricky for me with work visas, but then Chloe arrived, and I looked after her full-time.” Emma recalls.
Chloe, six, was followed by Hugo, three, who was born in London, where the couple lived for two years. At the time of Emma’s dad’s phone call, they were debating about coming home, as they wanted Chloe to go to school in Ireland.
“Dad said, ‘I’m having a cup of tea with the lady who owns gran’s house’. It transpired that Carlo, who did painting jobs around the house for my dad, was doing a job for this lady, Susan. They got talking, and Carlo found out that Jill, Susan’s late mother, had bought my grandmother’s holiday bungalow in Brittas from her. Susan asked Carlo for my dad’s phone number, purely to have a chat,” Emma recalls, adding, “The house had been left to Susan by her mother, and it had been derelict for 10 years. At that stage, she had no intention of selling the house, but I expressed an interest, and she thought the fact that it had been my grandmother’s house, and that I loved it enough to want to buy it, even though it was derelict, was a wonderful story,” Emma recalls.
The happy outcome was, Susan agreed to sell, she got an estate agent to set the price, and Emma and her husband were thrilled to be the purchasers. Emma recalls with delight the day they came to see it; it completely lived up to her memories of the house — in fact, she thought it was even more wonderful. It was a glorious day, and the setting looked idyllic. “As a kid, you have no concept of views, and I suppose that was one thing I didn’t really remember. We came back to look at it on a blistering hot day and we realized the setting was amazing, with these gorgeous sea views.”
When Emma and her husband originally bought the house, they planned to do a complete redesign, and she was going to engage an architect and an interior designer. To extend would have meant looking for planning permission, which would take months, and, as the sale itself had already taken a year to complete because it was a probate sale, they just didn’t have the stomach for any more delays, so Emma went with her gut instinct and did an internal redesign herself.
For Emma to take it and bring it back to life was a joy, but she also felt a certain responsibility in that she wanted to honour the home of her grandparents. She and her husband transferred back to Ireland in 2014, and, while the house was being renovated, they stayed in Wexford with Emma’s parents, who had retired to Gorey.
The renovation, which took two months, involved tearing the house apart internally, leaving only a shell and a roof. “The house dates from the 1950s. There were always four bedrooms, but
‘She thought the fact that I loved it enough to want to buy it, even though it was derelict, was a wonderful story’