My paternal grandmother used to always say to my cousins and I, “There’s no such word as can’t, only won’t.” From her, we inherited a belief that anything is possible.
When it comes to interior design, Aisling, creator of one of my favourite interiors Instagram accounts, Saimhin So, has the same attitude.
When I interviewed Aisling last weekend, she said, “If someone tells you that something can’t be done, I’ve learned that there’s always a way. It might not immediately come to you but eventually, if you look at it long enough, you figure out a way.“
I asked Aisling about her home’s interiors journey and her approach to design. Here’s what she told me…
We bought an ex-rental in Kilkenny
“I’m from Kilkenny, born and bred. We were renting for maybe 3 or 4 years in Kilkenny before we bought an estate house ten minutes’ walk to the city.”
“The house had been let out by its previous owners so when we bought it it was dull and dreary.
At the time we had a four month old and now we have three children, so piece by piece we’ve turned into a family home.”
In the beginning you’re afraid to be brave
“In the beginning you’re more afraid but as you go with it you gain in confidence. We started by painting everything white. Then gradually we did little bits from there, starting with the sitting room.”
“We did most things ourselves and at this stage we’ve tried pretty much everything from painting to wallpapering to taking down walls.”
Don’t be afraid to fail
Sometimes you make mistakes. We got a brick-effect wallpaper and we wallpapered our sitting room wall ourselves and didn’t do a perfect job; if you look behind the plants it’s fairly rough. Ideally I’d like to use brick slips here down the line.”
Do things gradually and you’ll start shedding your fears
“I knew I wanted a dark room and I was debating whether to go navy or something else. I had all the colour cards up. I was concerned about the navy because it was so dark. I wanted something with a warm hue so I liked the wine. Whilst it’s a dark colour, there’s a warmth to it.”
“Because it’s such a dark colour we literally painted the room wall by wall. So we did one wall, then six months later we’d do another wall, and six months later another wall. And then eventually we painted the doors in that room the same colour as the wall.
Doing it gradually allowed us to gain in confidence with each step.”
You can do it on a budget
“We did our house gradually because we were doing it on a budget and it’s really satisfying to do it that way.
Last year we finally got to do our kitchen. We were going to rip out the existing kitchen that we inherited with the house and put in a whole new one. We got a price for a birch ply one and we could have afforded that on its own but when you added in all the other bits—you know the flooring and all the rest—it would have been out of our budget.
Then, on Instagram, I saw somebody had up-cycled an old kitchen. We decided to do that and it ended up being a tenth of the cost.”
“Basically all we did was paint it. The original countertops were a black laminate so I rang Carlow Paint Hub. I remember talking to Kate and saying, ‘Look can you do this? Can you paint a countertop?’ and she said, ‘Yeah’ and it was as simple as that.”
“We got guys in to paint it. They painted it with epoxy resin so it went from a black laminate countertop to a white and it was just that simple. It was a solution to a problem.
To be honest it was probably one of the most satisfying jobs we’ve done because it was on a really limited budget and it just transformed our kitchen. Even though it’s a dark colour—it’s kind of a navy—’petrol’ is the name of the paint—the kitchen is actually much brighter because we also took down the upper cupboards.”
“Another project we did, and it didn’t cost us anything, was during lockdown we painted our daughter’s room using paint we already had and I hand painted a mural inspired by @lucytiffney.”
Get yourself an Andy
“We’ve done a lot of things ourselves, but sometimes we have an extra pair of hands. Once, this guy came to move a shed for us. We got talking to him and realised he’s actually a carpenter by trade so we asked him to help with some projects.
Andy is his name; he’s incredibly talented. He’s done so much in this house. Even recently he knocked a stud wall for us and he tiled all the hallway with intricate detail.”
“To be honest we probably wouldn’t have done half of what we’ve done if it wasn’t for him. He’s a guy that you go to with an idea and there’s never a no. If there’s a problem he’ll figure it out. He’s worth his weight in gold to be honest.”
You might never feel done and that’s okay
“I feel like we have it at a stage where it’s almost where we want it but I don’t know if we’ll ever feel like things are done. I don’t want to be constantly changing rooms but I want to get it right—to get it exactly how we want it.
We’ve picked up things along the way. I love the research. I love going around either online or even going into shops—even though I don’t do that very often at the moment—but there’s always the thrill of the chase, finding that one piece that’s so unique.”
Sometimes you can bend, or break, the rules
“If you have preconceived notions that you can’t do something, or someone tells you you can’t do something, you don’t know until you try it. Like you always hear that dark colours close the room up but actually I’ve found the opposite to be true.”
There’s always a way
“If someone tells you you can’t do something that just kind of drives me nuts to be honest because there is always a way. It might not immediately come to you but eventually, you look at it long enough, and you figure out a way.
There has to be a way around everything.”
Follow Aisling’s journey
Follow Aisling on Instagram to keep up to date with her interiors journey.