When I met Darcie for the first time, she and her husband Gary were on their way to paper the sitting room of their Carnlough caravan in wall-to-wall pink flamingos. I knew right there and then that we'd get along. Her work in the design and marketing industry infers a natural link to creativity, whilst Gary's job as a yoga, fitness and wellbeing coach brings the balance.
Theirs is a home which blends personality and style in such a joyous, exuberant way. And not the sort of forced, faux personality that we sometimes see in interiors; rather, a true ability to display objects which are meaningful to them in a quirky, stylish fashion. I stopped by their Belfast abode to talk lifestyle, city love and caravan living.
Your home is a total hidden gem. How did you discover it?
I’d lived in Belfast since going to university, but had then been away for a number of years living in Stockholm, Glasgow and New York - amazing experiences which also definitely prepared me for living lighter. When it came to laying roots here, I was looking for somewhere central, with a bit of character. I looked at loads of places and none were floating my boat. I’d probably just fallen for the character of the old tenements I’d lived in in Stockholm and Glasgow, or the walk-up I lived in, right in the madness of St Mark’s Place in New York.
And then this place came up. It was a one bedroom apartment, on the second floor of the building, without a lift or parking space. It had been sort of half-finished, which was weird for apartments in Belfast which are generally turn-key, perhaps bigger, with on-site parking, maybe some outdoor space and definitely a lift! BUT this place had gorgeous original brickwork, high ceilings, big windows, so much natural light and was right in the middle of everything, exactly where we wanted to be, so we snapped it up!
It was a bit of a project, but we absolutely love it - and now I basically have a one minute commute via the stairs to work, so the absence of a lift actually helps keep me fit!
The secret to apartment living is...
Clear-outs, clear-outs, clear-outs! A ‘one in, one out’ policy on non-sentimental things like hoodies and jeans and trackies and jammies!
Other than that, it’s probably storage. We got some full height shelving made when we moved in, which holds a surprising amount of the graphic design & fashion mags I accumulate, and the wrestling paraphernalia that Gary accumulates - sorry, collects! There are under-bed boxes of wrestling t-shirts and clutch bags, built-in shelves full of heels & Nike Air Max, and there’s a big communal storage room downstairs for the suitcases of summer clothes or winter coats, so we do ok. And if in doubt, more clear-outs!
What's the most treasured object in your home?
Gary would definitely say it’s his signed Hulk Hogan figure (boxed, mint condition ;)), or his dartboard! For me, it’s all the little bits that are sentimental - the Summer Slam folding chairs from when we got married, the photos, the boxes of cards… not even pretty, but definitely treasure.
Perfect Sunday routine?
Now that we are caravan dwellers, we’re usually on the sunny/blustery/rainy but always gorgeous North coast on a Sunday. And as long as there’s some coffee, some pints, some chips and Netflix, in no particular order, then that’s a pretty good one in our book.
When it comes to homewares, are you happy with high street or inspired by indie?
If I’m honest, I can be a bit lazy about picking indie things up - especially when we were in the throes of renovating this place. We had loads of work going on and it just needed to get done. There are some great online places - BlueSunTree, MADE, CB2, Amazon, WallpaperDirect and Tile Fire. Then in real life, BHS for lights, ASDA Home for all sorts, House of Fraser where we got our sofa and bed. And then there were A LOT of IKEA trips. It’s probably not a very cool interiors thing to say, but I love IKEA - it gets a bad rap. We designed our whole kitchen there - Gary’s territory - complete with all the wee interior bits and bobs that I love. I think a it’s great place to shop!
When that all slowed down, and the major things were in place, it was great to choose some special little pieces - our bedside table from Oscar & Oscar and the chest of drawers and dining set from Betty’s Lounge; both great, Belfast-based, vintage furniture dealers. Some art from artist friends Lyndsey McDougall & Hannah Casey finished things off and, of course, the gorgeous, unique pieces from Salle Homeware - it’s like you’ve built the stock just for me; dangerous!
Gary, did you get involved with the interior details or was it more of a one-woman show?
No way! I helped Darcie make all the decisions! In all honesty though, I love Darcie’s style. She was very organised from the get-go, but I was always there and felt my opinion was fully valued.
Financially, I perhaps acted as the yin to her yang, as I knew deep down that Darcie’s indulgence on gold radiators would need to be balanced by my passion for a bargain. And so, Gumtree for coffee tables at a tenner, and Betty’s Lounge for dining tables were very much my idea.
Stockholm - definitely Stockholm. Beautiful in spring when it hits the early 20s, and even more beautiful in winter in the sub 20s. The mix of offbeat people - including friends! - beautiful spaces and incredible vegan food means that we’ll undoubtedly return again and again, for many years to come.
You both work and live in the city. Do you enjoy being in the heart of the buzzing Cathedral Quarter, or do you sometimes feel the need to escape the busy-ness of city life?
Totally! During the week, Belfast city centre is filled with culture, business and smiling faces, and is exactly where we want to be. Gary’s business is built around the schedules of the city centre workforce, and my workplace is literally yards from our home. We’ve positioned ourselves so that both of our working lives can function without the added stress of a daily commute, and it’s absolutely perfect. And at weekends, we’re placed wonderfully for coffees, bars and brunches!
But sometimes, it’s nice to disappear from all of that, unwind and spend time together, which is why we invested in a little coastal get-away project - a caravan! I’ll be honest, Gary was the driver of this one. I was pretty cynical, despite having had great memories of them as a kid - I thought they were a bit ‘old people’! Anyhow - he’s proved me wrong, and like the apartment, after a pretty thorough rip out, paint job, and IKEA bonanza, it’s a total wee home from home. Chippy chips and pints at the seaside are hard to beat.