Design Coach: 5 Steps to Irish Kitchen Style

Cottage charm, country elegance and rustic beauty come together with the stunning kitchen and dining room decorating ideas in Essentially Irish.

kitchen dining table

This stunning formal dining room provides the family and guests of Ballyvolane House with an elegant yet comfortable place to enjoy their meals. The painted black fireplace provides warmth on chilly evenings, while the mirror above it adds depth to the room. The simple lines and colors of the table and chairs offer a perfect contrast to the intricate rug pattern. (Photography by James Fennell, courtesy of Ryland Peters & Small,

Garner kitchen-decorating ideas from a faraway land—without actually traveling there—in Essentially Irish. Author Josephine Ryan acts as a tour guide for readers as they travel through lovely kitchens and dining rooms dripping with the charm o’ the Irish. From a cozy County Kerry kitchen to an elegant dining room in north County Cork to a well-preserved historic mansion in County Kildare, Ryan touches on styles that are no doubt unique to Ireland.


The dining area in this restored mansion overflows with Irish country charm.
Victorian-era chairs and a vintage table provide a charming yet comfortable place for guests to enjoy meals, while the oversized hutch displays antique platters, plates, jars and vases. The large rug boasts a bold pattern that complements the general décor. (Photography by James Fennell, courtesy of Ryland Peters & Small,

In her introduction, she acknowledges that because of Ireland’s tumultuous history, Irish style is somewhat hard to define. Several historical and social factors play into Irish design aesthetic: “All these factors, combined with the country’s architectural history, make it hard to define exactly what is Irish style, and the houses featured in this book, which are all very different, bear witness to that.”


Thus, what follows are pages filled with varied kitchen ideas that are sure to inspire readers of all design tastes and preferences. What’s more, each featured kitchen not only includes beautiful photography and styling, but also historical facts and tidbits, which add to the lure and appeal of Ryan’s book. Whether readers desire to add Old-World charm or simple elegance to their kitchens, Ryan’s exceptional knowledge of Ireland, her people and her culture provides a wealth of useful information in this lovely book.


A pine-green oven and stove provides a colorful pop in this otherwise neutral kitchen. The black-and-white checkered backsplash lends visual interest, while cobalt Le Creuset cookware adds a bit of French charm. Shelving flanks each side of the stove, providing open areas to display dinnerware or stockpile extra foodstuffs. (Photography by James Fennell, courtesy of Ryland Peters & Small,

Here’s how you can get the look:

1. Statement flooring: Notice that each of these rooms features eye-catching floor coverings, whether antique hardwood draped with a pink-and-orange ikat rug, a rainbow-colored Persian carpet or turquoise-and-white checkered tile. Make your floor pop with bright but worn colors–like rust-orange or Provence blue.


2. No built-in uppers: These kitchens utilize three storage strategies: below-the-counter built-in cabinets, floating shelves and free-standing hutches. Hide your unsightly modern tools in easy-to-reach under-counter cabinets, but air your utensils in the open for a practical, pretty display. Choose natural wood cabinets or vintage metal shelves with a distressed finish to complete the rustic ambiance.


This sweet kitchen is simple and functional. A large oven and stove provide ample space for preparing meals, while the tile floor is suitable for a high-traffic area (not to mention cleaning up spills). The modest seating area allows family and guests to move easily throughout the space. (Photography by James Fennel, courtesy of Ryland Peters & Small,

3. Simple, geometric backsplash: Forget the 4-inch factory-standard backsplash. Lay several feet of dual-colored glass tile behind your stovetop to enhance the vintage vibe and reflect light around the space.


4. Practical, rustic furnishings: Keep furniture to a minimum. Instead of an island, opt for a round wooden table that can serve as both a prep zone and an eating station. Select moveable seating moveable to foster easy traffic flow, especially in a small kitchen. Free-standing wood furniture–especially primitive antiques–also add extra charm.


5. Bold color: Kick Victorian jewel tones up a notch. Infuse your kitchen with an electric royal blue, vibrant emerald green or shiny fuchsia centerpiece backed by white walls for a crisp, quirky look.


Irish Kitchen

“Essentially Irish” by Josephine Ryan. Published by Ryland Peters & Small, $29.95;


Book review by Lindsay Horvath

Decor tips by Elaine K. Phillips

Photography by James Fennell

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