Historic wallpaper designer David Skinner is a frequent visitor to this organic centre close to his home and studio …
Time travel is the strongest influence on what I do. I like the way discovering and investigating historic wallpapers opens up wormholes into the past. I’ve worked on projects for 14 Henrietta Street, and also created a wallpaper border for Jane Austen’s house in Chawton, England. [Skinner also recreated some of the wallpapers for President Abraham Lincoln’s home in Springfield, Illinois.] I’ve just completed work at Carton House where the design team at MDO Architects and the client decided to use historic Irish patterns in 23 rooms. Of the reception rooms, my favourite is The Morrison Room, where a damask pattern originally used in Lissadell, Co Sligo, has been printed in a deep ivory and gold colourway which fits perfectly with Richard Morrison’s magnificent neo-classical architectural scheme, dating from 1815. We used 44 rolls of hand-printed wallpaper in The Morrison Room alone! I also enjoyed recreating a large, mid 18th-century tree-of-life pattern from fragments of wallpaper originally found in Louisa Conolly’s bedroom in Castletown.
It was a challenge which happily resulted in two very cheerful, if slightly riotous, bedrooms. I’m currently working with paper conservator Ros Smith to separate layers of wallpaper dating back to the mid 18th-century in a bedroom in Castletown, Co Kildare. Uncovering the patterns and consulting with the house historians to figure out who might have chosen the paper and what was going on at the time is exciting. On holidays I tend to gravitate to houses and museums with historic interiors. I love skansens – outdoor museums of vernacular buildings. My favourite is the Franconian Open-air Museum in northern Bavaria, where Gabi, my wife, comes from. It’s full of massive and beautiful timber-frame farmhouses, furnished in period, some of them with rooms decorated with patterns hand-stencilled onto the plaster.
Gabi and I live in Leitrim and lockdown made us realise we wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. We’re even considering acquiring some chickens. Somewhere we return to again and again is The Organic Centre at Rossinver in north Leitrim. It’s more than an hour’s drive from where we are in the south of the county – Leitrim is small but long. This is an inspirational place for gardeners, even if what it often inspires is envy at the cornucopia-like levels of productivity they achieve there. When the restaurant reopened we were straight back for fantastic organic food fresh from the gardens and polytunnels, followed by a walk to the nearby Foley’s Falls, or – if we’re feeling more energetic – a hike up one of north Leitrim’s many mountains. Then perhaps a meandering return drive via Mullaghmore or Lough Gill, ready to go back into our own garden with renewed hope; www.theorganiccentre.ie.
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