A CORK woman who was made redundant after the closure of Debenhams after working there for 15 years used lockdown to transform her unique house, with incredible results.
Ger Dorgan worked in Debenhams as the supervisor of the Visual Team, and was shocked when the company announced the closure of all their Irish stores last April.
“I absolutely loved all aspects of the job. Learning the new trends each season, dressing mannequins, creating window displays, doing seasonal moves,” said Ger.
“My favourite part of my job was working in the home department, where I think my love for interior design began.”
Losing her job, combined with Lockdown, made it a very bleak time last spring, she admits. Her weeks saw her spend time on the picket line with her former colleagues, protesting for better redundancy terms.
“But with so much extra time on my hands, I threw myself into redecorating my house and getting up to mad antics with my camera,” said the Limerick College of Art and Design graduate.
Ger has lived in her distinctive blue home near Bartlemy, North Cork, for 19 years. In fact she was born there — her house is built on the site of her former home.
“When I painted it blue, people were intrigued with the colour choice. I was asked if it was the ‘Virgin Mary Blue’. In fact, when people are looking for directions to my local village Bartlemy, they are always told turn right before Rathcormac and when you see the blue house go up the hill next to it!
“I get post often with just the address ‘Ger in the Big Blue house’. Who needs an Eircode?”
But after nearly two decades, this creative woman decided it needed a revamp — with her original twist.
“I don’t tend to follow trends as I am a firm believer that you collect the things you love that are authentic to you and your house becomes your story,” she said, adding that she found her cast iron bed in various ditches!
Car boot sales were another great source for her eclectic interiors, and she really misses them in lockdown.
“The parish stall in our local village, Rathcormac, was a great place to pick up old ugly furniture that could be upcycled into something beautiful. In fact, the older ladies who run the parish stall are always on the look- out for the wonderfully weird items for me.”
She says her dream home is Father Ted’s house on Craggy Island.
“What’s not to love? The crazy carpets, high ceilings, psychedelic wallpapers, free-standing lamps with hideous fabric lampshades, brocade armchairs, and don’t get me started on the collection of teapots Mrs Doyle had.
“All the above are trending on interior Instagram accounts I follow.
“My interior style would be bohemian/maximalist. Loud style, mixed patterns, excessive but curated colours, wallpaper, the more hideous the better. I love mixing the old with the new. I love quirky prints and sure I am my own homage to myself as I have my own photos up everywhere.”
So far, during the lockdowns, she’s totally transformed her downstairs bathroom, is in the process of a kitchen makeover, and is gradually upgrading the sitting room.
Photography is another big love of hers, just not the traditional type. She has a room full of strange dolls, fake dogs, old toys and masks, and has used them as props for lockdown shoots in various locations. She even has a costume of Chewbacca from Star Wars, which a friend gave her, and a skeleton called Boo Radley.
“I sometimes drive around with Boo in the car — he has been all over Ireland. I do get strange looks, but I assure you he does wear a seatbelt and with the current pandemic he also wears a mask!
“And in fairness to my nephews and nieces (my models), they are always game ball for whatever daft notions I have and are happily dragged to the strangest and creepiest location of my photo shoots.
“I am a member of Fermoy Camera Club and they are such a great bunch, we have the best craic. While I do appreciate the genres, I am not into landscapes, seascapes or wildlife (unless it’s a tired, worn out old taxidermist duck). As one of my favourite photographers Diane Arbus once said ‘I really believe there are things nobody would see if I didn’t photograph them.’”
Derelict houses are another fascination of Ger’s: “I love to document a life once lived. I hate to see these houses just being left, old suits hanging in a wardrobe, Valentine teddies gathering dust, old beds with springs sticking out, peeling wall paper, maybe this is where I get my Father Ted house obsession?”
Geraldine also volunteers with Fermoy Street Arts, and is currently training as an SNA. When restrictions allow, she also aims to be back out on the picket line, documenting the ‘struggle’ with her camera.
“The lockdowns and being made redundant gave me chance to pause, to reflect what direction my career will go next. The thought of going into a new year without a plan or a job was really causing me anxiety.
"So I switched up gears and am currently doing an SNA course and hopefully following that with Creative Arts for Early Childhood. I love working with kids and doing arts and crafts with them. Sure, in my head I’m a kid myself. I refuse to grow up!”
Follow Ger on Instagram @ger_inthebigbluehouse