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Home Comforts: Paddy O’Donnell on deliciously déclassé drinks and dancing with his dogs

Farrow & Ball’s international brand ambassador is fond of a Frangelico, makes perfect piquant pickles and knows the merit of a bit of clutter. We want an invitation

Grace Helmer
Home Comforts: Paddy O’Donnell on deliciously déclassé drinks and dancing with his dogs

Choosing the perfect paint can be agonising (we all know the torture of staring at coloured squares on the wall). Thank heavens, then, for Paddy O’Donnell, the delightful and debonair colour whizz – and Farrow & Ball’s secret weapon. As its international brand ambassador, he acts as the gracious go-between with interior designers, advising them on how to get the best from the company’s extensive palette. He’s worked with Benedict Foley, Plain English at Museum of the Home, at the Beckford Arms in Wiltshire… When we went to visit Butter Wakefield in December, she told us he’d recently been chatting to her about turning her kitchen pink. Watch this space.

A thoroughly nice chap, it’s no wonder everyone’s beating down his door – which, incidentally, can be found in north Worcestershire, south of Birmingham. It’s here that Paddy lives with his partner, the brilliantly talented needleworker Paul Bailie (aka @thismanswork), mother and two dogs, Hilda and Flo. Oh, “and the voices inside my head,” he adds. (Whatever they’re saying, it’s good.) The house itself is an interwar building “of no architectural merit, which is why it’s such fun decorating”. It’s amazing, he says, how “even with little to work with, you can still have great fun creating comforting and hopefully interesting spaces.” Hear, hear.

My most recent home improvement
We moved back from County Down in Northern Ireland a couple of years ago to live with my mum, who needs ‘light-touch’ care, in Worcestershire. It means any work to the house has to be done with some sensitivity, as it’s not ours. But I’ve been tinkering around the edges and have decorated our bathroom, which has changed from ‘abattoir chic’ (yikes) to something happily more cluttered, with wallpaper, pictures and slightly camp blinds in a wonderful discontinued print of mischievous monkeys.

The latest addition to my wardrobe
A brilliant pea coat by Studio Nicholson for Zara. It reminds of old the jackets dustbin men used to wear. It’s navy-blue wool with a chocolate leather trim on one shoulder and on both sleeves.

The most useful item in my kitchen…
My mandolin. It fills me with dread every time I have to use it, but speeds up the process so much if you’re making slaw, remoulade or any gratin dishes.

What’s always in my fridge…
Homemade ‘cowboy candy’ (sweet pickled jalapenos, which are totally delish on almost anything), St Félicien, which is the finest soft cheese in the world, and lemons – the best seasoning tool and Earl Grey buddy.

The prize bottle in my drinks cabinet…
Deliciously déclassé Frangelico – it’s heaven on the rocks. I also make a mean mascarpone ice cream with it.

Hanging on my walls…
Too much – I’m a bit of an auction and junk-shop junkie. I am constantly rehanging, so the walls look like a slab of Emmental. At the moment, I’ve a big crush on a wonderful bowl by Fitch & McAndrew we’ve hung up, and there’s a glorious painting with Charleston vibes I found in Tetbury. We call him The Gardener, as he has great tan lines. There’s also a gorgeous pin cushion I bought for Paul for Christmas – fabulous bit of folk art – and some cameos.

The knick-knacks on my mantelpiece
An Astier de Villatte ‘Cambridge’ candle, some heavenly fox-and-hound candlesticks by Andrea Shemilt Kashanipour, and a pair of sculptural olive-green bookends in the shape of Hermes from Unpolished Space.

The books on my shelf right now…
The War of Don Emmanuel’s Netherparts by Louis de Bernières. Piranesi by Susanna Clarke (superb magical realism). Claire Keegan’s Small Things Like These (devastating and beautiful). Treacle Walker by Alan Garner. And I’m currently ploughing through Still Life by Sarah Winman. I was hooked from page one and I’d cried by page 40.

The music on my stereo…
Little Bear
by the Guillemots – I’ve no idea what it’s about but feels heartbreaking – and Up with People by Lambchop. Also: Sault, Nick Mulvey, 4hero, Hot Chip, The Beta Band, John Martyn, Patrick Wilson and – my Desert Island Discs track – Prisoner’s Song by Nova Nova; my dogs and I dance to this – pure joy!

Growing in my garden…
Not a lot – that frost in December wreaked havoc on the cuttings for the borders we were growing in the greenhouse; they were all wiped out. The clematis armandii – evergreen and highly fragrant – is looking promising, however, and full of bud. We’ve some Jerusalem artichokes and loads of digitalis ferruginea, the most elegant copper-orange foxglove.

Hidden away in my cupboards…
Too many clothes – I can’t throw anything away – though it is so exciting to revisit some old gems occasionally. I found a wonderful Vivienne Westwood ‘coatigan’ the other day, which is comfort personified.

On my to-do list…
Figure out what the future looks like! Wish me luck.

Further reading

Paddy O’Donnell on Instagram


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