Jane Car­roll fell in love with her home be­cause of its large kitchen and be­cause it is dou­ble-fronted. How­ever, the more she wanted it, the more elu­sive it be­came. Edited by Mary O’Sul­li­van. Pho­tog­ra­phy by Tony Gavin

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Life - - MY FAVOURITE ROOM -

There’s a new kid on the block in Black­rock, Co Dublin; it’s a shop, which opened 15 months ago on the main street, and it’s at­tract­ing lots of at­ten­tion. In­vari­ably, clus­ters of kids can be found out­side with their noses pressed to the al­lur­ing win­dows, which are full of minia­ture Ge­or­gian houses, colour­ful clocks, soft toys and wooden play­things; while in­side is a trea­sure trove of hand-knit­ted ele­phants, cloth mice in match­boxes, Peter Rab­bit ce­ram­ics, pretty quilts, chil­dren’s clothes and bed linen in lovely prints, all against a back­drop of bright, fun colours.

The shop be­longs to Jane Car­roll, and much of the mer­chan­dise is de­signed by Jane her­self, who has cre­ated a de­light­ful world of whimsy and practicality com­bined; a world which is echoed in a more sen­si­ble, live­able-with way in her nearby home.

Jane is steeped in the area of chil­dren’s de­sign; she’s been de­sign­ing wall­pa­per, bed linen and other fab­rics for chil­dren’s rooms for over 30 years, but her in­ter­est in de­sign goes back even fur­ther, to when she her­self was a child.

Jane’s father was Don Car­roll, one of the Car­rolls cig­a­rettes fam­ily. He was a busi­ness­man, and at one stage he took a job in Eng­land and moved the fam­ily over. “I was about eight, and I re­mem­ber my mother bring­ing me to Habi­tat. I couldn’t be­lieve such a place ex­isted. I re­mem­ber be­ing amazed at all the won­der­ful prints and fab­rics and fur­ni­ture; Ire­land had noth­ing like it at the time,” Jane rem­i­nisces, adding that even at that young age, she fan­ta­sised about work­ing in Habi­tat and, as it hap­pened, that dream came true many years later.

Her par­ents re­turned to Ire­land af­ter a few years, but it was de­cided to leave Jane and her brother in Eng­land to fin­ish out their school­ing. Af­ter her A-lev­els, Jane got a place to study tex­tile de­sign in the Na­tional Col­lege of Art and De­sign in Dublin and it was then that “life be­gan”, the pe­tite blonde ad­mits, adding, “I loved be­ing back in Ire­land, and I loved col­lege”.

Af­ter grad­u­a­tion in the mid-1980s, Jane and her two best friends from art col­lege, Orla Kiely and Paula Flynn, headed off to New York, and all three got jobs in the same com­pany, Gear, which spe­cialised in in­te­ri­ors for chil­dren. “I did a kids-wall­pa­per col­lec­tion; I loved it there. We went on J-1s, which ex­pired af­ter nine months. The com­pany was will­ing to spon­sor us to stay on, but the oth­ers had had enough, and I wasn’t brave enough in those days to stay on on my own,” the softly spo­ken busi­ness­woman re­veals, adding that all three girls are still the best of friends.

Paula be­came a big noise in Baby Gap be­fore set­ting up her own com­pany in Amer­ica, and Orla is, of course, a house­hold name in both fash­ion and in­te­ri­ors. All three have helped each other over the years with con­tacts and free­lance work, and, of course, emo­tional sup­port. “Orla was here for din­ner last week. Orla and I are god­moth­ers to each other’s chil­dren; we’re al­ways in touch,” Jane notes.

Lon­don was the next ad­ven­ture, and both Jane and Orla got work in The Con­ran Shop, so Jane was back to the source of her in­spi­ra­tion. “I worked a lot with Ter­ence Con­ran’s sis­ter, Priscilla. She was won­der­ful to me, and re­ally gave me con­fi­dence in my de­signs,” Jane says, adding that one year while with The Con­ran Shop, she was asked to de­sign the com­pany’s Christ­maslights dis­play on Re­gent Street for a com­pe­ti­tion.

“Ac­tu­ally, by some com­plete chance, I won it,” Jane says self-dep­re­cat­ingly, adding with a laugh,“so off I went to a big, fancy party with Ter­ence Con­ran, and Prince An­drew switched on my lights.”

She free­lanced on and off over the next 10 years and then, in the mid-1990s, she got the idea to de­sign quilts for kids. “A good friend had set up a busi­ness in In­dia and of­fered me the op­por­tu­nity to get what­ever I wanted made in a very nice fa­cil­ity there. I’ve been do­ing that as­pect of my busi­ness since then,” Jane re­calls, ex­plain­ing that the quilts can be sized for beds, prams or cots, and can also be cus­tomised.

She sold the quilts through The Con­ran Shop and Brown Thomas, un­til she de­cided to open her first shop, which

‘The com­pany was will­ing to spon­sor us to stay in New York, but I wasn’t brave enough in those days to stay on on my own’

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