“Draiocht” – meaning magic – is written in neon lighting that casts a hot pink hue over the dressing room of primary school teacher, Mona Fox. As one of many décor choices wholly at odds with Mona’s Victorian home in Dublin, contrast and duality is a strong theme throughout. It’s a space where the traditional downstairs becomes the unconventional upstairs and the interplay of multiple design worlds is stylishly afoot.
“The house was designed in two quite separate styles,” explains Mona. “We flipped the traditional layout of a Victorian house from living downstairs and sleeping upstairs to the opposite. The main, original part of the house is where old meets new and the newer lower ground floor, which we completely re-designed, is more modern in style, with strip LED lighting and no original features.”
Built in 1864 and now home to Mona and her husband, Rob, and their two rescue cats, Iggy and Sumi, their redbrick terrace Victorian home has been unpicked at the seams and reconstructed to form a delicate balance of old world and contemporary.
“I have always loved old houses, particularly Victorian with the great proportions, high ceilings and ornate embellishments,” says Mona. “Here was a beautiful historical house that was falling to ruin, and it needed saving, which was also a chance for us to design the house as it suited us.”
Since moving in four years ago, their renovations have flipped all interior predictably on its head. The kitchen doesn’t open to the garden, but upstairs to the front. Wallpaper was stripped to reveal Victorian lime plaster. A four-bed is now a one-bed. No en-suites. Instead, a secret bathroom hidden behind a bookcase door. “This is my hideaway sanctuary,” she says.
Their home’s two halves, modern and vintage, are not entirely incongruous, owed to the continuation of bare plaster walls and a cohesive colour palette, which successfully refreshes any lingering feelings of nostalgia – brought on by the cornicing and ceiling roses – with a playful sense of exuberance.
The Foxed House (as Mona is known as on Instagram), to all ends, is a home of opposites, where even the exterior brickwork is divided into two camps. “The brick at the front is red, but the back of the house was built in yellow brick, which was cheaper and more plentiful at the time as it was sourced locally. I can’t choose between them so luckily I have both,” says Mona.
Inside their home, carefully selected items make for evocative statements on a grander scale. Different eras and locations find new meaning in a world where everything is highly detailed and exceptionally thought out. Oriental nuances meld with mid-century accents. Tonal touches intersect with well-balanced lighting achieved, in places, by a mix of screen doors, spherical lampshades and soft string lights. In one room, a large square window dominates a back wall, framed by indoor foliage that meets imperceptibly with the garden beyond, aptly named ‘the garden room’.
“This was definitely the higgledy-piggledy spare room until the pandemic,” says Mona. “Now it’s a ‘wellness room’ on evenings and weekends and my husband’s home office by day.”
Among Mona’s favourite items are hand-painted antique scrolls in the bedroom, a drinks cabinet and storage drawers in the living room, three George Nelson pendants in the dressing room and a velvet daybed.
“I really love the contrast and frisson of old and new items together, I think it creates interest, drama and balance,” says Mona. “I really wanted different rooms to serve different functions so the distinct looks and styles were absolutely deliberate to create different feelings.”
“I have a huge passion for sustainability and vintage items,” adds Mona. “I have a particular love for local antique auctions and charity shops as a unique, one-off is generally guaranteed.”
In the kitchen & dining area, the new build Valchromat kitchen has an antique Oriental dresser as a drinks’ cabinet. The new Kohler basin in the bathroom is mounted on an antique gilt-edged table from auction and the new Bo Concept velvet daybed in the garden room is complimented by a hand-painted vintage Indian cabinet that stores a TV.
“The biggest priority was designing a house that suited us, with rooms that are used every day and that feel good to be in. It was important not to be swayed by what was expected or what other people do,” says Mona. “I would love to do it all over again with another house, and although my husband may need a little persuasion first, I definitely have dreams.”
Find Mona on Instagram at @the_foxed_house