Although this Belfast cottage has a fascinating history – the Andrews family, local landowners and the owners of the firm that designed the Titanic, built it for farmhands – it was the property’s location that first drew in Eniko and Michael Kirkwood.
‘It’s just outside the city and surrounded by woods and fields,’ Eniko explains. ‘We spotted it for sale while out on a drive. Michael’s family live nearby as well, which is an added bonus, and it’s an easy journey into the centre of town for work too.’
They bought it in 2015 and got started on transforming its bland interior, working from the ground up.
‘It was magnolia with green carpets when we moved in,’ Eniko recalls. ‘It was plain to the extreme.
‘We found some reclaimed wooden floorboards for the living room – salvaged from a local stately home – and laid practical engineered wood flooring in the snug room and neutral, cream carpets upstairs.
Welcome to our home…
We are Eniko and Michael Kirkwood. I am Hungarian and work as an interpreter, and Michael is a civil servant. We have three rescue dogs, Penny, Alfie and Hugo.
Our home is a three-bedroom cottage on the outskirts of Belfast, built in the late 19th century.
‘It was a great start to the improvements, as flooring is the basis of everything,’ Eniko believes. ‘I would still like to lift the carpets upstairs as well, actually; maybe paint the floorboards white,’ she reflects. ‘I do enjoy changing things up!’
When Eniko moved on to the rest of the décor, she found herself making bolder and bolder choices with paint colours, tiles and eye-catching wallpapers.
‘I love experimenting. I do follow fashion, but not slavishly. I would rather do something original if I’m honest.’
Her husband, Michael, is totally on board with her bold decorating decisions. ‘We discuss everything, and we are both willing to turn our hand to anything involving DIY,’ Eniko explains.
A bit more about our home…
My top tip is don’t be afraid to experiment – take a chance!
My advice is to go for something different. If you don’t like how it looks at first, you can always change it.
My decorating style is dark, moody, eclectic and evolving. I love sharing my ideas on Instagram at @mydarkhome_
Once she started to experiment with quirky colours and boho décor, Eniko found she had an eye for unusual furniture and design details.
‘I posted my efforts on Instagram, and I don’t know why but I quickly grew a large following. I think people want to know what I will do next!’ she laughs.
The cottage is constantly updated with on-trend accessories from Eniko’s favourite high street stores: H&M and a Northern Irish store called Dunnes Stores.
She also developed something of a Gumtree habit. ‘I found I could buy so many beautiful pieces of vintage furniture locally.
‘Belfast is such a historic city and has become very culturally vibrant recently. Many people are updating their homes so there are always amazing things for sale. I bought too much and had to stop – I only buy what I need now!’
Discovering her talent for styling has led to a new career direction for Eniko, and these days she is often asked to photograph products in her home for design companies.
‘I enjoyed art at school and remember doing well at it, but never studied formally or expected to work in the arts,’ she admits. ‘I am delighted, though.’
Eniko collects fine art prints and photographs, framing and hanging them in carefully curated groups. She also arranges objects into beautiful vignettes.
‘I visualise in advance and am quite bold about putting things together. I’m not scared to try out radical colours and I love to layer textures as well,’ she adds.
Every corner of the house is filled with a uniquely styled, eye-catching installations, but without losing that all-important essence of cosiness, which Eniko believes is crucial.
‘My aim is to create a beautiful home, not a stage set,’ she asserts.
When Eniko arrived in Belfast from Hungary to learn English, at the age of 19, she thought it would just be for a summer. But she ended up staying.
‘It quickly felt like home to me. I met my husband and my mother came to live here for a while as well.’ Not only did Eniko make a home here, but she found her creative calling, too.