Home makeover: ‘I experimented with rich hues, and it paid off!’

Intent on adding impact and a little bit of theatricality to her cottage, Eniko Kirkwood made some bold decorating decisions

Eniko with Hugo, her first rescue dog, a beagle-Labrador cross. ‘I was inspired to buy the green sofa from MADE by the Instagrammer, Girl With The Green Sofa,’ Eniko shares. ‘We are friends now!’

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.

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‘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.’

Good idea! Group framed pictures together to tell a story. Eniko collects prints by artists and hangs them together.
Good idea! Group framed pictures together to tell a story. Eniko collects prints by artists and hangs them together.

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.

Changing the wall colour is an easy way to refresh a space, as Eniko discovered here. ‘I painted this room dark at first but recently updated it by painting it in Sulking Room Pink by Farrow & Ball, which is a lovely warm putty colour. I love it now it is brighter. It gives the room a French feel.’
Changing the wall colour is an easy way to refresh a space, as Eniko discovered here. ‘I painted this room dark at first but recently updated it by painting it in Sulking Room Pink by Farrow & Ball, which is a lovely warm putty colour. I love it now it is brighter. It gives the room a French feel.’

‘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.

Eniko Kirkwood

‘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!’

A drinks trolley from Oliver Bonas often takes a starring role on Eniko’s Instagram. ‘I love styling it up for a photo!’ The faux plants are from a selection at IKEA
A drinks trolley from Oliver Bonas often takes a starring role on Eniko’s Instagram. ‘I love styling it up for a photo!’ The faux plants are from a selection at IKEA

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.’

‘This is where we watch movies. We have a projector and snuggle up with the dogs with the shutters closed and the fire on,’ Eniko shares. ‘The engineered wood flooring laid in chevrons is practical for the dogs, as they do scratch sometimes.’ It’s finished with walls painted in Basalt by Little Greene, a round mirror from IKEA and a pencil-drawn portrait from Desenio
‘This is where we watch movies. We have a projector and snuggle up with the dogs with the shutters closed and the fire on,’ Eniko shares. ‘The engineered wood flooring laid in chevrons is practical for the dogs, as they do scratch sometimes.’ It’s finished with walls painted in Basalt by Little Greene, a round mirror from IKEA and a pencil-drawn portrait from Desenio

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_

Eniko Kirkwood

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.

Good idea! Paint kitchen cabinets and add open shelving with hanging rails for an easy update on a budget.
Good idea! Paint kitchen cabinets and add open shelving with hanging rails for an easy update on a budget.

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.

The cabinets were already here, and Eniko gave them a new look by painting them in Marine Blue by Little Greene. The dark brown walls are painted in Mole emulsion by Abigail Ahern. ‘I removed the wall cabinets and replaced them with open shelving. Blackboard walls are great for styling up Instagram moments!’
The cabinets were already here, and Eniko gave them a new look by painting them in Marine Blue by Little Greene. The dark brown walls are painted in Mole emulsion by Abigail Ahern. ‘I removed the wall cabinets and replaced them with open shelving. Blackboard walls are great for styling up Instagram moments!’

‘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!’

Eniko isn’t afraid to try something different: ‘I really experimented with paint in here and created two-tone walls. I painted a chalky grey halfway up and used lilac above, with a lime paint by Bauwerk Paint. It looks like a wash once it has dried.’
Eniko isn’t afraid to try something different: ‘I really experimented with paint in here and created two-tone walls. I painted a chalky grey halfway up and used lilac above, with a lime paint by Bauwerk Paint. It looks like a wash once it has dried.’

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.’

The mural is from a Californian company called Rocky Mountains Decal. Eniko created the ombré walls using Green Smoke estate emulsion by Farrow & Ball. The velvet pillows are from H&M, and the fluffy yellow throw and emerald quilt are from The Conran Shop. Eniko bought the vintage-style metal bed on Amazon. The Wayfair bedside tables are styled with lamps from Laura Ashley
The mural is from a Californian company called Rocky Mountains Decal. Eniko created the ombré walls using Green Smoke estate emulsion by Farrow & Ball. The velvet pillows are from H&M, and the fluffy yellow throw and emerald quilt are from The Conran Shop. Eniko bought the vintage-style metal bed on Amazon. The Wayfair bedside tables are styled with lamps from Laura Ashley

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.

‘Michael made the hanging rail from copper piping. I got the idea from Pinterest,’ Eniko shares. The walls are painted in Hague Blue by Farrow & Ball, and the teal sofa is from MADE, brightened up with accessories in rainbow hues
‘Michael made the hanging rail from copper piping. I got the idea from Pinterest,’ Eniko shares. The walls are painted in Hague Blue by Farrow & Ball, and the teal sofa is from MADE, brightened up with accessories in rainbow hues

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.

Eniko mixed modern and traditional in the bathroom, with Moroccan-style patterned tiles by British Ceramic Tile, a classic bath by Victoria Plum, and a ladder shelving unit from Amazon. The wooden bath rack is by The Wolf & The Fox, which specialises in sustainable products
Eniko mixed modern and traditional in the bathroom, with Moroccan-style patterned tiles by British Ceramic Tile, a classic bath by Victoria Plum, and a ladder shelving unit from Amazon. The wooden bath rack is by The Wolf & The Fox, which specialises in sustainable products

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.

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‘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.

Good idea! For smaller bathrooms, go for versatile storage that can slot into unused space, like this ladder unit.
Good idea! For smaller bathrooms, go for versatile storage that can slot into unused space, like this ladder unit.
This is a digital version of a feature that originally appeared in Your Home magazine. For more inspirational home ideas, why not subscribe today?