Published 19th May 2022, Written By Charlie Porter, Photogrpahy By Jasper Fry
I first came across Lou O'Leary's work when Heather Bullard wrote a piece about his French home some years ago. There was a toleware orange chandelier over the kitchen table, and for me, it was close to perfection. Faultless use of Toleware used as a finishing touch, not overwhelming. So I posted this picture, and through that, I started following Lou. We messaged here and there, and more recently, I reposted that picture, and Lou messaged me to say that he had moved to Deal. We discussed photographing his house, but only having just moved, he wanted to settle in a little more. I believe there was a lockdown or two in between but skip to May 2022; we've set a date, and photographer Jasper Fry and I set out on our journey to Deal. We got there on a perfect sunny day; Deal was shining. Walking over to Lou's house, you can't help but admire the fantastic architecture of Deal. The back alleys can whisk you away to the 19th Century. Unlike many UK seaside towns, Deal seems to bustle with activity, with different age groups buzzing around town. The shops themselves are engaging. Obviously, Lou's shop is one place I think every visitor needs to pop their head into. But while I was there, Lou kindly took me over to meet Nolan, founder of the exquisite antiques brand, 'Tyssen'. They are a short walk from one another; Nolan has an impressive range of pieces, arranged in a way that I would only dream of doing. It takes a particular sort of person to create a space like that, considered curation with a flair that makes the pieces from varying ages sing in perfect harmony.
Talking of harmonising, I know another man who is good at it. Lou O'Leary's house on the seafront is everything I could have dreamed of. On entering the front room, which acts as Lou's shop, it is filled with bits and pieces that any Tat fan would delight to rummage through. As I caught Jasper's eye, we smiled at each other, knowing we were in for a treat with the rest of the house. We weren't wrong; although 'diddy' (Lou's word for the house and many of its pieces), the house does not lack the grandeur of character. With the help of Lou's mother and brother, this house has been brought back to its Georgian routes. The flooring has been lovingly replaced, and the panelling is splendid. Lou has dressed each room, making them feel homely but stylish. There are no trends here, just expert collecting and much love. Instead of having two bedrooms upstairs, Lou has turned one of them into a sitting room which looks out onto the beach. Unfortunately, the council has decided to plonk a mini-golf course directly in front of them, but I hope it will be less intrusive once construction has finished. That being said, the shop is a five-minute walk from the beach, so even with the construction, the view is still pretty spectacular.
But who needs a view when you have so much beauty inside. Each wall upstairs has a few perfectly placed antique oils, I could not tell you how many I would happily rehome, but Lou has hung them so well together it would be a travesty to move them. Another piece hanging upstairs is an old friend, the orange toleware chandelier, hanging off centre in the sitting room, again making itself known and then perfectly merging into the surroundings.
The kitchen downstairs is well spaced with furniture from the 18th and 19th Century. The latest addition is the dining table from Tyssen, although I have an inkling that another chair from Nolan might be on its way. With the beauty of the dark wood in the centre, the industrial stainless steel cooker at the side it all looks exceptionally handsome. You follow through to the back room, where Lou's bathroom is placed. The walls are panelled, and the floor has been painted in a refined checkered floor pattern, no vinyl here. The shelves above the bath are filled with antique apothecary bottles and could not have found a better home than that of Lou's bathroom.
All in all, the day out in Deal, meeting Lou, his family, and his dog Pip was one of those days that made me remember why I love Tat.
Thank you to Lou for letting us come and poke around and the excellent Jasper Fry for taking these glorious photos.