Halfway between Schull and Ballydehob, very near to a scenic walking route called The Butter Road, lies a field of over 100 newly planted budding trees that nestle around the newly built home of Amanda Connell, owner of East meets West, an interiors emporium in Schull village that showcases the traditional craftsmanship of Northern India.
Amanda first spotted her “treasured” field over 30 years ago and has spent the intermediate years slowly planning her dream home – a combination of location and design that serves as backdrop to treasures sourced from her travels and her own shop. Amanda shares her inspiration and design tips for bringing Eastern artisan design in to West Cork homes.
Amanda grew up in a rural village and has always valued the openness and unique light of the Mizen’s landscape, as well as its people, culture and quieter pace of life. “Although I have lived and worked all around the world, I’ve yet to find a place that is a match for West Cork,” she declares. “I love its understated vibrancy and sophistication. The area is home to both long-established families and newer residents from all over the world, all with fascinating life stories to share – I get to meet so many interesting people in the shop, from all walks of life.”
Running East meets West with her daughter Meg, Amanda has designed her home to echo the feeling of her shop – where everything is personally selected from individual craftspeople or small family businesses only – an atmospheric feast for the eyes where you are surrounded by beautiful things.
The unique ‘upside-down’ house has an open-plan living area upstairs that connects to the kitchen via a bridge. Downstairs the bedrooms each have their own separate access to the outdoors. “It was important that the house sits into the land so that, even though it is a modern new-build, it feels like it should be here,” Amanda explains. “It’s also designed to grow (age!) with me.”
White walls in the open-plan areas allow unique and colourful furniture and textiles to shine – old teak pieces, mosaic glass lights and soft furnishings blend with modern pieces and design.
Travelling the world has influenced Amanda’s design aesthetic; an extraordinary wall hanging of traditional embroidery, that she bought in Bhuj in Gujarat, India, was the starting point for her colour palette.
“When I worked in the Lebanon I loved their mosaics, and time spent in Southern Africa and India has shown me how to embrace vibrant colours without overwhelming a room. Singapore’s limitation of land and housing options has taught me to appreciate that space is a luxury so I am not going to clutter it; a functional statement piece beats any number of ‘useful’ cupboards!”
“The best advice I ever got was from reading my daughter Meg’s essay when she was studying Art History and Art World Practice – the eye is drawn to something and then on to the next thing in the middle distance and if done thoughtfully it creates a flow of colour and visual interest.”
Amanda struggles to name one favourite spot in her house. “As I source all the products for my shop myself, I love everything! I have designed the layout so that there’s a different view or feeling depending on where you sit. I love sitting at the breakfast bar looking down the length of the upper floor with its mosaic lights and pops of colour from the furniture; how Velux windows in the dining area spotlight the blue teak table and handmade upholstered chairs; and of course my bedroom with its hand-block printed quilt, pillowcases and muslin curtains.”
Amanda’s home is a masterclass in mixing Eastern and Western styles and she loves helping her customers to do the same. “I wish I had a euro for every time someone said that they loved our products but worried ‘where would I put it?’, only to find that once they’d made one purchase, especially a mosaic lamp, they are back for more. Our individual teak pieces of furniture sit equally well in an old cottage as a new build, the trick is finding the right spot for them.
“An ordinary room can be transformed with a single piece of furniture or an arrangement of cushions on a bland sofa. Maybe pair a mosaic light with cushions, throws or a hand block printed quilt in a previously plain bedroom, as we helped Schull Harbour Hotel do recently. For those who don’t have a big budget, it’s perfectly possible to add a real dash of style and flair to a room for €100 because we have something for everyone.
“My key design advice is to think more about how you want the space to feel and its real purpose. Stay away from matchy-matchy, I like to theme either colours or patterns rather than have everything the same, and take your time trying different combinations – cushions; cushions and lights; quilts and cushions…play!”
Amanda is overjoyed to be able to visit India again this October where she’ll be keeping an eye out for items that customers have asked her to source, and of course a few bits and pieces for herself, “Perhaps a glass-fronted wall cabinet or a hall table…. or another wall hanging will catch my eye!”