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Dublin Doors: 60 Lombard Street West

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Dublin Doors Souter and Johnson

All good stories start with a couch.

My kitchen has taught me this. It is a lesson that you think I would have learnt much earlier on in life considering that we never had anything less than about 10 people over for lunch every Saturday afternoon while I was growing up in the sweltering heat of southern African summers. But it took moving into a European seaside apartment with a daybed that really did not fit where it was “supposed to” for me to realise this.

You see, my daybed now takes up a prominent position in my kitchen. It stands where the dark stained oak dining room table, which I inherited from my parents, is intended to be. But between the over-sized couches, the kist, the low slung coffee table, the island counter, the floor-to-ceiling bookshelf, the fireplace and the open-plan design, it just did not quite go according to plan. In an attempt to fit it all in, the daybed was shuffled into the kitchen and it never left.

They say that the kitchen is the heart of the home but in this case, the daybed is. The fact that it stands in the kitchen just makes it really convenient for every guest to kick off their shoes and lie back into the mass of scatter cushions. I boil the kettle and the stories come without fail.

When I moved into shared office space, housed in an eclectic refurbished synagogue in the middle of a Dublin suburb, I came to realise that the neighbourhood around me was an authentic gem. As I walked the streets to reach Nelly’s, the popular lunch time cafe, I grew ever more inquisitive about the doors, painted in bold, bright colours. When I worked late some evenings, I watched as families returned home and my curiosity moved from the doors to the lives behind the doors. That is how you find yourself here, reading this very sentence.

These stories: they had to start with a couch, because that is how all good stories start.

It is a shop in the middle of the homes, No. 60 Lombard Street West, painted a luxurious olive green. The frontage is elegant if not sparse. The window display holds a side table with a few weathered books. The interior is inviting because of its mishmash collection of oddities that all beg for you to take them home. This is no modern interior design firm. This is understated workmanship that only the most discerning will ever really be able to appreciate.

I can see him keenly interested in something on his desk. His neck is tilted downwards, his greying hair tufted and wispy: a scattered genius at work. I approach, raise my hand to ring the bell, but hesitate to observe for a few seconds longer. My heart is beating fast. My feet shift. My fingers reach out to press the bell but he sees me with a slight changing of the light, a shadowing if you will. He looks up and immediately comes towards the door, a slow smile pressing into the corners of the lips. I speak haltingly. He agrees to meet me at 10:00 a.m. two days later.

 

He trained in a London art school, became an antiques dealer in Dublin and very quickly realised that furniture restoration and interior design were his two passions. He bought No. 2 Lombard Street as his home but soon realised that “the expansiveness of Lombard Street West in relation to the other streets” was ideally suited to a shop. “The generosity afforded to the wider street during its planning is what makes it unique,” he explains to me. And so it is that I find myself enveloped into rooms spilling over with material samples: textures, colours, contrasting and bold, plain and soft to the touch.

Names such as Warwick, Damas, GP & J Baker, Colefax and Fowler look back at me from shelves wanting to edge their content ever more outward. A large frame with a magazine spread takes prominent space above his desk. I ask what he would call his own style. He motions to the picture, inviting me forward. He uses words such as eclectic, mixed, modern and dated all in one sentence. And it is true because who would’ve thought that a lambent red couch would juxtapose so perfectly with a Danish woven chair dating from the 1940s?

His name is Peter. The frontage reads Souter Johnson. He speaks of regency furniture and uses the adjective beautiful.

It just goes to show that all good stories start with a couch after all.

Photo and Post by Claire Burge.

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Your Comments

13 Comments so far

  1. Love your door stories, Claire.

    A daybed in the kitchen sounds divine.

  2. Claire Burge says:

    Maureen thank you so much. Come over and have a cup of tea sometime?

    Better yet, maybe I should come and photograph your door?

    Now off to fix the uncapitalised i’s in this piece. They look shocking.

  3. Oh miss Claire! This is some outstanding writing. My favorite thus far.

    What I love about those images are the textures that you’ve captured, especially that of his corduroy pants. I don’t know if it’s weird or what.

    And about that couch in the kitchen… in our first rental house of our relocation saga, there was no room for all of our furniture so we had a lounge chair of sorts and a child’s table with 2 chairs smack in the center of the kitchen (with about 10 inches to spare between them and the countertops). Some called it crowded, I look back on it as a blessing.

    Thank you for this piece. (and for the space to ramble a bit)

    Blessings.

    • Claire Burge says:

      D I can remember that couch so clearly! You sent me a picture!

      Thank you so much for the compliment on my writing. My heart is in this project in all ways. I am nervous and excited each time I raise my hand to ring a bell.

      And yes, I totally get what you mean about his pants. The texture caught my eye too!

  4. Kathleen says:

    Claire, this is wonderful. An inviting piece opening the door of our imagination. I see a arrow shaped placard above the couch in the kitchen reading…..”Stories waiting to be told here.”

    iLove doors. iLove people stories. iLove how your writing is becoming…

    • Claire Burge says:

      Oh I do love that idea … maybe even painted directly onto the wall in a beautiful scrawl.

      Thank you also for the words about my writing. Becoming is the highest compliment.

      It is good to have you sharing my couch this afternoon.

      x

  5. Gops says:

    Mrs Burge! Lovely descriptive and colourful writing! It feels like I’m right there with you in the creativity-drenched 60 Lombard Street West.

    Looking forward to having you inspect our (then) newly painted front door the next time you come to sunny (yet presently thunderingly cloudy) South Africa!

  6. I long to curl up and hear more. I didn’t want this to end and I long to know more of Dublin, now. A beautiful telling of this intriguing man and his tufted gray swirl of hair. Long to know the more of the story.

    • Claire Burge says:

      Elizabeth this comment made me smile, I was hoping for this … the wanting more, that is.

      Stay tuned: I have some very interesting characters to share with you. And when I say very, I mean very ; )

      x

  7. L.L. Barkat says:

    and I would like pictures of those things you saw inside. yes, please? :)

    love the couch, love the description of this artist, love the windows into your mind

    • Claire Burge says:

      Oh how I wish I had them to offer but something that all photographers know too well is that sometimes your camera gets in the way of the story and it is better left inside its bag. This was one such case. The story was more important than the interior pictures and so I basked in his company instead.


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