All the bases covered in West Cork – the small town shops showcasing quirky and trendy interior designs

West Cork has been cosmopolitan and bohemian for centuries, with a long history of welcoming and assimilating new people and new ideas.

o surprise, then, that amid the more traditional craft shops, there are a handful of indoor outlets selling interesting things in out-of-the-way places. These stores are robust hybrids, catering to local customers and online shoppers as well as vacationers.

“We don’t have many tourists in Ballinspittle,” says Emily Connell, interior designer, art therapist and owner of Chalk & Easel.

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Emily Connell, interior designer, art therapist and owner of Chalk & Easel in Ballinspittle

Emily Connell, interior designer, art therapist and owner of Chalk & Easel in Ballinspittle

“Most of my customers are regulars. Maybe they’ve already made their homes, but I have a reputation for finding the right gift for people. If you come up with a recipient description and price range, I can almost always help. »

O’Connell’s ability to choose gifts for people she’s never met is almost uncanny. “Maybe it’s the background of art therapy!” That said, she resisted the temptation to let Chalk & Easel become a gift shop. “I still have a lot of things for the interior because it’s my passion. I love the lighting, it’s so much fun. Every room should have a light in the corner. But not just a light source. It has to do something!”

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Chalk and easel lighting


Chalk and easel lighting

Chalk and easel lighting

Lamps range from small ceramic accent lamps with linen shades (€45-60) to larger metal and glass fixtures (up to €375). “Sometimes people come into my house and see a lamp with a tag on it because somehow it never entered the store.” It would be a professional hazard.

Her aesthetic comes so naturally to her that she instinctively knows what will work and what won’t, but with an emphasis on natural materials and longevity.

“Chalk & Easel is designed around the ethic of buying things you’re going to keep forever,” she says. “I am very picky about line, proportions and materials. He must deserve a place in someone’s home. I also tend to favor things that are simple and smooth because they don’t gather dust.

His pieces come from London, Italy, France and Denmark as well as Ireland. Like many retailers, it has upped its online game during the 2020 and 2021 shutdowns.

“Online has been amazing. I was so shocked how it took off. I thought it wouldn’t be personal but I was really able to connect with people. Strangers emailed me with pictures of their homes, showing me what the things they bought online look like in their homes.

“I don’t know how it works, but the atmosphere of the store seems to translate to the website, and it brings people into the store when they’re around. If they were in Cork they might take a trip. It’s lovely.”

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Claire Graham and Tom Keane, owners of The Old Mill Stores in Leap, Co Cork


Claire Graham and Tom Keane, owners of The Old Mill Stores in Leap, Co Cork

Claire Graham and Tom Keane, owners of The Old Mill Stores in Leap, Co Cork

It’s been ten years since Claire Graham and Tom Keane opened The Old Mill Stores in Leap, County Cork. It is located right on the N71, the scenic road from Cork to Killarney which winds through Conakilty, Skibbereen and Bantry. Not the obvious place, do you think, for an interiors store. But it works.

“At this point, we became sort of a destination store,” Graham says. “People factor in a visit on their way west.” Their customers range from locals, who come to buy gifts, to those who have holiday homes in West Cork and a bit of cash to spend on fine furniture.

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Fern Reed Glass Cabinet from The Old Mill Stores


Fern Reed Glass Cabinet from The Old Mill Stores

Fern Reed Glass Cabinet from The Old Mill Stores

“We are not oriented towards Ireland. There are already a lot of craft shops and that’s not what we do. We have handcrafted items, but they are not necessarily Irish.

“We travel a lot and it’s always a bus vacation, checking what’s going on everywhere we go. We try to keep our lines unique to ourselves. It’s extremely important for us to provide something that no one else don’t sell.”

During the 2020 and 2021 lockdowns, they increased their online offering. “We’ve made the famous pivot from bricks and mortar to online, but we’ve also expanded the physical store to include a third piece.”

This allowed them to offer more furniture. “We don’t sell huge pieces. We are aware of where we are, so we stick to tidy things like cabinets, sideboards and nesting tables. We have the usual sellers, then we throw some curve balls. »

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Cabinet from The Old Mill Stores


Cabinet from The Old Mill Stores

Cabinet from The Old Mill Stores

This year’s curved balls include a range of Italian loungers from Seletti wears Toilet Paper (€135 each) including the iconic Shit design (black polka dots on a yellow background and a lipstick mouth with the word “shit” written across the teeth Not your ordinary stuff, but Graham is a fan of the range.

It also offers Seletti’s gilded framed mirrors (€295) decorated with surreal collage-style stickers. One has a girl floating in the sea; another features the two of spades held between the cheeks of someone’s buttocks.

A range of playful ceramics from Pols Potten was discovered on a trip to Denmark and Graham is awaiting delivery of their Roman vases, which look like antiques except they are made of powder-coated iron and decorated with different bouncy colors (€265 for a set of 4).

For those looking for Irish craftsmanship and design, she recommends Forest and Flock in Bantry and Green Dot Design in Clonakilty.

For larger design projects, Embellish Home Interiors in Skibbereen offers a full design service.

“We’re very lucky to have talented tradespeople in the area,” says Lorraine Delaney, who started the business 17 years ago.

It all started with a shop selling home accessories, which now includes paint from Little Greene and wallpaper and fabrics from Designer Guild and Cole & Son. “We travel all over Europe trying to get original pieces that no one else has,” says Delaney.

In the nearby town of Clonakilty, Helen Coughlan of Meadows & Byrne, says her shop in the town is thriving.

“Since day one, this store has gone from strength to strength. People want to come to Clonakilty. It’s part of a day and it’s a stronger motivation for people than online shopping. The bottom line for us is that we are right across the parking lot from Supervalu.That helps a lot.

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Garden furniture from Meadows and Byrne


Garden furniture from Meadows and Byrne

Garden furniture from Meadows and Byrne

Earlier, she points to a thriving trade in outdoor furniture. “We sell aluminum furniture that is pretty much rust-proof and maintenance-free. It stands the test of time. You must do this if you live in West Cork with wind and salt water pounding your home.

A Grady 4-seater bistro set from Meadows & Byrne costs £349 and comes in a choice of seaside colours. “We sell from stock. This means there is no waiting. You can buy something and put it right in your car.

chalkandeasel.ie, theoldmillstores.ie, meadowsandbyrne.com, embellishhome.ie

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