SOUTH BELFAST LIFE
Katie Larmour, luxury Irish Linen designer, tells us…
’WHY I LOVE SOUTH BELFAST’
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR CAREER PATH TO DATE?
I studied Fine & Applied Art at the University of Ulster, where I specialised in ceramics. During the course I did my placement at the Ulster Museum, and that was followed later by work experience at Ross’s Auction House, as I have a passion for antiques as well as modern design. I’ve also been a regular presenter for Belfast Fashionweek over the years which was more than just a job as it has always been a special date on my social calendar too. Setting up my own brand of couture cushions evolved from this background as I’ve combined both fashion and antiques in my designs. I create bespoke cushions from vintage silk scarves backed with new Irish Linen, which I incorporate into all my work. I have an online boutique and sell my collection of one-of-a-kind cushions through a New York based dealership. After exhibiting my work with the British European Design Group as part of New York Design Week I was invited to design an exclusive collection of contemporary patchwork Irish Linen cushions for the well-known and historic home-furnishing firm, Heals of London; this has definitely been a highlight in my career. I showcased a display of my couture cushions within the Palm Beach Art & Antiques Design Centre in Florida and am currently organising a second one for Jeddah in Saudi Arabia. I’ve been invited to participate in the first ever Linen Biennale, a celebration of all things Irish Linen here in NI, which I’m very excited about, and I have just finalised a collection of my vintage cushions for Brown Thomas, to be launched this summer as part of their Create project.
HOW DO YOU SPEND A TYPICAL WORKING DAY?
Going through new designs with my seamstress as every scarf I work with is different; these are handcrafted and so a lot of time is spent on attention to detail. The product photography and website presentation constantly needs updating as each cushion I make is unique. Planning my next trip abroad to various markets where I personally source my hand-picked antique silks, and of course visiting local linen mills for more backing cloth. Parcelling up orders to ship which are mostly international, and, not forgetting taking a break and going for coffee with my mother or sister somewhere lovely on the Lisburn Road, where there is lots and lots of choice; our favourite establishment at the moment is Maryville House.
HOW DO YOU RELAX IN YOUR SPARE TIME?
I’m very close to my mother and sister and we love getting together for an evening out, especially every time a ballet company visits Belfast’s Grand Opera House which is at least three or four times a year. We always sit in the same seats in a position where we can watch the dancers on stage as well as see the orchestra in the pit, and also catch a glimpse of the performers warming up ready to make an entrance. For something completely different, I’ve recently been accepted into the Ulster Society of Woman Artists and I enjoy painting Irish landscapes, very often with a palette knife alone and no brush.
WHAT DO YOU LIKE MOST ABOUT LIVING IN AND WORKING IN SOUTH BELFAST?
I grew up in Malone so I feel comfortable here in South Belfast. I used to walk to and from school everyday and so it’s nice when I find myself walking along part of that same familiar route. My highlights in those days were the ice-cream parlour, the swings in Drumglass Park and the public Library set in a cosy old Edwardian building on Lisburn Road. Now of course those earlier favourites are replaced by barista coffee shops and independent boutiques.
HOW DOES SOUTH BELFAST COMPARE TO OTHER PLACES THAT YOU HAVE LIVED.
I travel a lot and have enjoyed exploring fascinating places all other the world, but no matter how long I have stayed away it’s always nice to come home.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE HIDDEN GEM IN SOUTH BELFAST AND WHY?
I really enjoy cycling and this is the perfect area for it. As well as being situated close to town we are also close to nature and the countryside with the Lagan Tow Path, Malone Meadows, Shaw’s Bridge and wildlife all at hand. I’ve seen seals, herons and even cormorants along the tow path, and when one dismounts to cross the ‘Red Bridge’ by the Lockkeeper’s Cottage it is always worth keeping a look out for Kingfishers. I’ve only managed to spot two or three over the last couple of years but it’s really special when you look down from the bridge and see an incredible flash of blue as they skim the surface of the river below.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE RESTAURANT IN SOUTH BELFAST AND WHY?
At the moment I love dining at Saphyre on the Lisburn Road. It is an opulent fine dining restaurant in a former church. One of my favourite evenings there was when then head chef Joery Castel served us the same meal which he created for the BBC’s Great British Menu competition. It was a very intimate and entertaining experience as he joined us in between each course to explain the Wimbledon themed menu in detail and his creative approach to cooking.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE SOUTH BELFAST IN 3 WORDS?
Vibrant, cultured and green.
(an Ulster Tatler Group published magazine)