An Ibiza-Inspired Banquette and DIY Wall Art Disguise the New-Buildness in This London Home
What happens when you collaborate with your twin and carpenter husband.
Published Nov 20, 2023 1:35 AM
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You hear about twins having telepathic abilities, and in the case of Orlagh and Gemma McCloskey, it’s certainly true—at least as far as decorating goes. “Even if there’s something I wouldn’t necessarily want in my house, I might pick it up and just know that’s Orlagh,” says Gemma, the founder of architecture and interiors firm Cúpla Studio. They’re so in sync with each other’s tastes that when the sisters got engaged around the same time, it only made sense for them to have a double wedding. “That was the best day,” recalls Gemma. Given their special connection, there was no question who Orlagh, the cofounder and design director of fashion brand Rixo, would hire to design her London home.
After living with roommates for five years and then temporarily in a dingy Airbnb for several months, Orlagh found a new home that had completely different qualities: namely more space and tons of natural light. The only challenge was the very fact that it was new. A developer had built the house as a one-off, and while its open floor plan, pocket doors, high ceilings, and wide-plank floors were perks, the space lacked charm. “The one room in the house that I found the hardest to get right was the living room,” says Orlagh. The area was almost too open. In an effort to section it off, Orlagh’s husband, Brook Lomas, a carpenter and joiner by trade, built a dining banquette swathed in varnished microcement. “I’ve always loved Ibiza, and every time I’m there, I’m like, ‘This is so cool how everything blends into the wall,’” adds Orlagh.
Still, the expansive wall with two teeny windows felt like it was missing something. Gemma weighed in: How about stained glass? When Orlagh found out she was pregnant and that they’d have to convert the office into a nursery, the struggle for a WFH space became real. “I needed something to hide the computer, and Gemma was like, ‘You should look at a secretary,’” recalls Orlagh, who shared the idea with Brook so he could get to work on building the super-functional cupboard. “I normally run my design decisions through Gemma first, and then he gets the third say,” says Orglah with a laugh. But the chain of command works for everyone in the family: “He builds from a technical perspective, whereas I’m more obsessed with the overall vision,” she notes.
When Brook created the coffee table, he used the same methods and materials as he did for the banquette. He started with a flexible wood base to achieve the wavy form and then plastered over the wood with microcement. Next, the surface was painted with a limewash and varnished to achieve a smooth texture. Many of the Murano glass fixtures seen throughout the home, however, are all Gemma—she sells the speckled handmade pieces on her site. “I was quite creative. Gemma was quite creative. And then I had a partner who could make and interpret both of our designs,” says Orlagh.
The soon-to-be mom wasn’t afraid to get her hands dirty either—specifically with paint. The large-scale, Matisse-esque works in the living room and stairwell are her own creations. “I did a fine-art course when I first moved to London and there was this warehouse where I’d always go to get my supplies and build my canvas size,” she says. At first, she tried to stretch the canvases herself, but she quickly realized how hard it is when the picture is three meters long, “so I ended up getting them to do it for me.”
When Orlagh is getting dressed for an event in the couple’s semi-custom closet (Brook replaced the wardrobe doors with cane inserts), you can find him underneath the stairwell waiting in a cozy striped chair. “I’d love to say I use it as a reading nook, but I’m not really a massive reader,” shares Orlagh. “It’s either my husband waiting on me or me having a coffee while on the phone.”
Sundays tend to be the most relaxing: They start with a run through Gunnersbury Park with the dog followed by antiques shopping in Chiswick and brunch. Then there’s usually a sense of urgency to return home. “We feel like we’re robbed of our Sunday if we’re not in the house” says Orlagh. “Whether it’s putting on a movie or cooking together, we’re homebirds.”