This is the story of Donaghey.
Warning: This story has evolved over the last 7 months of the project, so it’s going to take a minute to tell. You might want to brew some coffee and get a snack before you start reading.
The first time I walked inside Donaghey (more accurately, crawled thru the window), I knew she was destined for the french countryside. Not so much roosters and toile fabric french country, but more like an old french farmhouse with gray washed wood tones, linen fabric, carved and leggy furniture and marble topped vanities. I imagined the future homeowner as a sophisticated single woman or an older couple who spent quiet nights at home reading biographies or historical fiction with Michael Buble playing ever so softly in the background (The Buble is as sophisticated as my imagination will take me); but who also enjoyed hosting wine and cheese dinner parties with friends who looked like these people:
Once I felt confident in the story of the home, the layout and design fell quickly into place. I drew up a floor plan that included a pergola patio for their dinner parties and an ensuite bathroom complete with a curvy pedestal soaker tub in which she could enjoy a bubble bath and a book. I nixed the columns of the previous exterior elevation, and replaced them with frenchier corbels and began dreaming about marble and cool gray paint colors. I also commissioned my good friend, Donna, from Waterhouse Market, at the early stages of renovation, to be on the lookout for some very specific french antiques I could use as permanent fixtures in the design.
These are pictures from which I drew inspiration, courtesy of Pinterest, just to give you an idea of the direction I was going in my design:
And then came Joe. Our family loves Joe, we have known him for years. In fact, I had secretly been hoping to one day design the ultimate bachelor pad just for Joe. But when Rory told me that Joe had expressed some interest in our Donaghey project, I gotta admit, I just didn’t see it. I had always pictured designing something hip, urban and somewhat industrial for Joe, perhaps a cross between our Irby and our Mitchel rehomes. NEVER, did I EVER, picture Joe in french country. I mean he just didn’t/doesn’t fit the profile- Joe is a young MAN who loves all things outdoors, his dogs, and brewing his own beer… NOT wine, BEER.
So when I met Joe at Donaghey, to give him the grand prerenovation tour, my mission was simple- convince Joe this was not the house for him. (I seriously stink at the business side of this gig.) Honestly, I didn’t think it would take much unconvincing, the state of the house at the time of his walk-thru would be enough to scare most potential buyers away. Here is a sampling of Joes’ first impression of Donaghy:
While we walked thru the house I did give him a brief description of the renovation plans but mainly stressed the french and somewhat feminine design for the home. I also explained to him that because I wasn’t a “real designer” I couldn’t change the design plan to meet his taste and desires I HAD TO stick with what the house told me it wanted and the ONLY thing the house wanted was to be French and Feminine…..BUT I was sure we could find him another home that more appropriately met his needs.
I was pretty sure I nailed my desales pitch when Joe, sweet Joe, said 3 things that made this girl do a complete 180. (Or is it a 360 when you completely change your course of action?)
First thing he said to me was, “Niki, I have liked every home you have completed. I have complete confidence in you.” Well if you know me, you know that my love language is “words of affirmation” and flattery will get you ridiculously far with me.
Second, he said- “I do not want any say in the design- all I am looking for is an open floor plan and this house has it.” Um, FULL CONTROL! Full Control is my second Love Language. At this point I would have sold Joe my own house and thrown in my dog for free.
Honestly, I was ready to sell Joe french country after those 2 ego-boosting statements, but it was his 3rd point that sealed the deal for me and made me realize that perhaps Donaghey was a good fit for Joe after all. He said, “I know most people might be turned away from the idea of living on such a busy intersection, but I love the idea of being in the center of the action. Plus, the park is across the street and downtown Conway is just a bike ride away.”
And so Joe won the house. Without even realizing he was being interviewed for the position of homeowner, he earned the part.
At first, I held tight to my full on french design. I convinced myself that Joe would actually appreciate the more sophisticated design. This was solidified by the fact that I had one time, many, many, years ago seen Joe wear a bowtie. I clung to the image of Joe in that bowtie for dear life and forged on thru the Gouffre Financier (money pit) days when we replaced the foundation…twice and when if something could go wrong it did.
Oh my, those were dark days. Not only was I extremely depressed about the state of the house and the state of my budget, I am also highly guilt intolerant, so the thought of Joe never taking that bowtie off while he tried to read War and Peace in his girly bathtub just about did me in. So, I finally decided it was time to give up the french country fight, and migrate Donaghey west to the English countryside- still European just warmer, and more stately and masculine than french country. Here is an idea of what I’m talking about:
I kinda cringed when I realized I needed to break the news of the move to Donna who had already made two cross country trips looking for her french assignment. But boy she jumped on the British bandwagon before I even had to explain the bowtie. I tell you, it is such a blessing to have a friend and partner in crime who has as much a passion for your project as you do. I gave her a new set of criteria and off she went.
Unfortunately, my time in England was short-lived. Although definitely more masculine, I couldn’t shake the image of plaids, fox hunts, and riding pants; which does not fit Joe’s laid back personality. I felt my English Manor inspiration was close but just a little too formal and stately to truly fit Joe. So once again I decided the farmhouse needing to uproot and make another move across the map.
I knew I wanted to stay true to the old world European vibe of the house but needed it to be more earthy, informal, and homey to fit Joe’s personality. And it was with this thought I had my Eureka moment- an Irish farmhouse! I have no idea if Irish farmhouse is even a legit design style, and I didn’t take time to google or Pinterest to find out; I just let the idea flow and the final design and story unfolded before me.
Here is the final story that inspired the end product that is 846 Donaghey:
Donaghey was built in the hills of Ireland by an immigrant English sheep farmer for his French Bride. They met while he was stationed in France during World War 1. She volunteered as a nurse for the Red Cross and he served as a potato peeler in the British army mess hall. They first locked eyes when they simultaneously shouted “BINGO” after “G 46” was announced during a weekly Bingo Night held at the Paris YMCA. He would tell you “it was love at first sight,” she would tell you “he grew on me,” with a twinkle in her eye. His first marriage proposal came just three short weeks after their first encounter when he learned his troop was returning to England after the Treaty of Versailles was signed ending the war. She turned down his offer of marriage claiming it would be crazy to marry after such a short courtship.
Once he returned home to England, he discovered his father had sold off the family sheep farm and moved to Bermuda. While most people would view being rejected, jobless and homeless as a pretty hopeless situation, our Donaghey architect viewed it as a wide open door of possibilities. He remembered the stories of Ireland he heard while at war (as the potato peeler, he seemed to attract an unusual amount of conversations about Ireland). Although he would be happy to never see another potato again, the stories of lush green pasture land, fertile soil, friendly people and a happy-go-lucky lifestyle appealed to him. So, he wrote his BINGO soulmate and told her of his plans to move to Ireland and once again proposed she come with him. But, again, she turned him down; this time stating, she could not bear to leave her family and the city that she loved.
Undeterred, he set sail for Ireland. He was so optimistic and ready to start his new life in Ireland, that he purchased his first sheep within the first hour of stepping off the boat. 20 min after his purchase he realized he probably should have purchased the farm before the lamb but alas, a true Shepherd at heart, he had already grown attached to the wooly mammal; so, he named him Shamrock and the two set off on a 3 month adventure looking for the perfect land to set up house and farm.
He fell in love with the countryside of Northern Ireland and knew the luck of the Irish had struck when he met the widow of a prominent sheep farmer at a local pub. They traded sheep stories for hours, as Shamrock rested at his feet under the pub table. (The Irish truly were a laid-back lot, no one even batted an eye when Shamrock walked into an establishment.) Eventually, the widow confided that her farm was going downhill since the death of her husband and that it was just too much for her to look after. He offered to come run the farm in exchange for a small plot of land on which he could build a house and a garden. She agreed, and he and Shamrock moved to the farm and immediately starting working on part 2 of his master plan.
For the next year, he spent all his spare time building what would one day be our Donaghey home. You see, our optimistic architect believed that if he built the perfect home for his beloved she would surely agree to come live happily ever after with him in his Irish paradise. Therefore, he thoughtfully and lovingly added french touches to the architecture and furnishings to ensure she would feel right at home in her new surroundings. This purposeful flair toward the french mixed with his natural inclination toward English design added together with building materials and colors found local to Ireland is EXACTLY what makes up the house you will find on the corner of Donaghey and Caldwell.
Whew! So there you have it! That, Ladies and Gentleman, is how the Donaghey project came to be. You can expect to see nods toward French Country in the corbels, master vanity, and some furnishings, You’ll see hints of the English countryside in the office nook and guest bathroom, but the entire house is bathed in the earthiness and laid back colors and materials of the Irish sheep farm, which all comes together to create a home that is entirely unique and what I hope is perfect for Joe.
Oh wait! You wanna know what happened to the sheep farmer and his red cross nurse? Well, after he finished the house, he mailed, what he had decided would be, his last and final proposal of marriage to his beloved, along with pictures of the finished house, a four leaf clover, and this selfie that he hoped would seal the deal.
Four months later, after receiving no correspondence back from his proposal, there was a knock at the door late at night…… His french nurse had finally come HOME. They quickly married, and several years later learned that the widow left the farm to the couple when she died. And they lived happily ever after, with Shamrock by their side.
Legal Stuff: Surely you know, the story I just told you is not true. It is a story that my brain created and expounded upon throughout the renovation process to help guide my design choices. If there is any historical or geographical truth to my story it is pure luck. Photo creds to the internet.
Bonus Section for those that made it to the end of the post:
Things that I thought of AFTER going Irish in my design that got me overly excited:
1. Joe is a red head who sometimes has a beard! He could easily be a descendant of an Irish Sheep Farmer.
2. Our reveal and open house are in the month of March. Um, hello, St Patrick’s day is in March!
3. The Irish drink Beer, not wine, but Beer!
4. Red Cross Month is in March!
I hope you will come meet Donaghey and take a walk thru her story on March 12th from 2-4pm.