Interior design for Jeremy Clarkson. Who made his house beautiful?
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My Favourite Room: From hot stoves to the Rolling Stones, Sarah Hogan’s varied career informs her eclectic style
A bicycle accident in London brought Ballymaloe-trained chef Sarah Hogan home after years abroad. Her return led to a new line of work... enhancing different types of interiors, including Jeremy Clarkson’s home in the Cotswolds
Interior stylist Sarah Hogan in the grey and cream kitchen of her period apartment by the sea in south Co Dublin. The French oak table was bought in an antique shop in London while the chairs are from The Conran Shop. Photo: Tony Gavin
Mary O'Sullivan September 26 2021 02:30 AM
When Sarah Hogan waves nonchalantly at some of the mirrors in her delightfully eclectic home in south Co Dublin and says she made them herself, it doesn’t come as a surprise.
Sarah has done so much in her life to date, anything is possible, and she might easily have had a career as a mirror maker.
She’s been a chef in top-class restaurants and has also done front of house in them, and she’s catered enormous parties. She then turned to fashion and became the manager of the late L’Wren Scott’s studio in London. She’s even done a stint as a bicycle courier.
Then, in the last 10 years, she pivoted completely and moved into interiors and has worked extensively on high-profile projects including restaurants like The Market Bar and, more recently, the complete renewal of House and other properties owned by businessman Alan Clancy. She’s also advising her sister Lisa, and Lisa’s partner Jeremy Clarkson, on the interiors of the farmhouse they’re building in the Cotswolds.
Embracing a career in a visual world like that of interiors seems a natural progression; Sarah’s late father Maurice Hogan was an acclaimed architect while her mother Arlene studied art history as a mature student.
“My mother is amazing. She went to nine different schools before leaving school at 15 to become a model. Then she married my father and had four daughters. Because she had so little education, she worried how she was going to educate me — I’m the eldest — so she bought this whole set of encyclopaedias which I still have on my shelves.” Sarah laughs. “My father wasn’t best pleased as money was tight then.”
Sarah in her elegant living room. The grey sofa unit is from The Sofa Room, while the green chair is one of Sarah’s antique finds which she had re-covered. She made the green and purple cushions with fabric from Murphy Sheehy. The three paintings by the late Patrick Scott were gifts, one from Patrick to Sarah on her wedding day, one from her parents-in-law and one from Sarah to herself on her 30th birthday. Photo: Tony Gavin
Sadly, Maurice died at the age of 51, when Sarah was 15 and the youngest Tamsin, was seven — as well as Lisa, and fourth sister Aoibhne. “It was very sudden, very hard, particularly on my mother, she had to educate herself and look after us. I think she still misses him every day,” the glamorous blonde says. “She’s amazing, she went on to do her PhD and is doing really well.”
One of Maurice’s clients was Myrtle Allen — he had designed her French restaurant La Ferme Irlandaise in Paris and they had become firm friends so some time after she did the Leaving Cert, Sarah went to Ballymaloe and did the cookery course.
Sarah bought the architect’s measure to the side of the period mantelpiece in an antique shop. “I had to have it as it’s a wonderful reminder of my father and his career.” Photo: Tony Gavin
“We used to go down every summer in my teens from about the age of 12 and I loved it. There was always such a warm welcome. So after I left school, I went to the College of Marketing and Design but I think I was too young to know what I wanted and I dropped out. Darina had just started the cookery school, so I did her course. I think it was only the second course she organised.
“Actually, I loved it so much that my sister’s friend Rachel also decided to do the course. And she’s still there,” Sarah laughs, naming checking the popular cookery writer.
“Ballymaloe is such a special place for me, showing that food is about many dimensions and its importance in our lives. Rory was my teacher and he also ran the restaurant. I worked for two years in the restaurant so I was lucky to work with three very inspirational people — Rory, Myrtle and Darina.”
After her two years, Sarah did some ski seasons and cooking on boats, then she decided she’d try front of house and again worked with the greats, this time in London.
“Richard Corrigan opened Mulligans of Mayfair, I was front of house there, then I did the same with Antony Worrall Thompson at two of his restaurants, Zoe and 190 Queensgate. I also did front of house at the R Bar which had a fleeting moment of greatness, 30 years ago. Four restaurants in three years, then I said, ‘that’s enough’.”
After that she headed off to Australia where she spent seven years, again working in the food business and she absolutely adored it. “It’s God’s own country, I just loved it there, I had a working visa and a long-time boyfriend but I got to 29 and I thought ‘I want to be back in Ireland’.”
Back home she started a new career — this time in PR, and also met the man who was to become her husband, Patrick Cruise O’Brien. He worked in London so they settled there and her two sons, Milo (20) and Inigo (18), were born there. “I did a bit of catering with girlfriends and I enjoyed that, but I had a demanding first child — demanding in that he was jumping out of his cot at nine months — and I needed to be at home. I was happy creating a nest and being a mum.”
Sadly, her marriage ended and she felt she had better get back into the workplace. “As most people know, marriage isn’t easy and divorce is harder. We have a good relationship but initially all you can do is put one foot in front of the other and get on with it.”
And, seemingly typical of Sarah, she got on with it in spectacular style by applying for a job with Mick Jagger. That didn’t materialise — but she got an even more enjoyable position — working for Mick’s then partner L’Wren Scott.
The Irish pine chest came from a local antique shop, while the gallery wall in the kitchen is a mix of mementos. The large painting is by her sister Aoibhne, and there are several works by her father. “We found some of his early architectural pitches in a file and I thought it would be nice to frame them.” Photo: Tony Gavin
“I was going for the job of Mick’s PA and the woman interviewing me was so nice. But she said, ‘look you’ve no experience of the music business, so I don’t think this is going to work out — but I have another job you could have’, and that was as manager of L’Wren’s studio.”
It was a job Sarah loved; she discovered she had a flair for fashion and also L’Wren was sweet to work for.
“I’d never been in fashion before but it was a learning curve and I ended up learning a lot,” she says. “She was making amazing clothes, she dressed Oprah and Nicole Kidman and lots of other stars. My job was to make sure the fabrics were coming in and the orders were going out on time to clients. I also had to catalogue her archives.
“She used to design Mick’s costumes and I often had to search the Stones’ archives for costumes when she wanted to reference something, and there would never be much information. I’d have to be like a detective to find the correct piece,” Sarah says.
Tragically, L’Wren took her own life in 2014.
This landing at the top of the stairs from the kitchen to Sarah’s bedroom is home to a distressed Spanish linen cupboard picked up in a flea market. Sarah adds contrast with cushions, which she made. The painter of the seahorse is Marcelo Vattuone. Photo: Tony Gavin
“Her designs were exquisite but they were so labour intensive and costly to make, it wasn’t sustainable. Globally it was a very tough time, things were tough. I could see she was very stressed, the anxiety was there.”
L’Wren’s business folded in 2013 and after that, Sarah herself came back to Ireland. The main catalyst for her return was the fallout from two bicycle crashes.
“Cycling is my number one thing to do and I still love it. I cycled all over London and even had a job as a courier for a while but I had two bicycle crashes. The second one was really bad. I was going down a road, a car came at me from the side, somehow my head was implanted on the bonnet and I was then flung back. I was semi-conscious and broke quite a few bones. It was traumatic. The police said, ‘think of yourself as lucky.’ And I did. I said, ‘Sarah, for God’s sake, how many more do you need to get the message?’ So I came home.”
She immediately got interiors work with businessman Alan Clancy of NolaClan who owns pubs, restaurants and clubs including 37 Dawson street and House. In the case of House, she was involved in the hotel as well as the bar. All of her experience, both in restaurants and in fashion, came together; over the years she had learned so much about the combination of luxury, style and comfort.
“I designed the hotel bedrooms and I was very much the go-to interior stylist when the architects and other interior designers left the premises. I was dispatched to New York several times to work on bars in the NolaClan group there,” Sarah says, adding, “I’m very much the person who adds the aesthetics, warmth and a human quality to a space, commercial or residential.
“I find the essence of the space, the secret sauce for a room that speaks to you. I search, source and collect artefacts and decorative accessories, colours, fabrics and art that are held in my mental hard drive and are pulled up when I need them.”
She also has private clients and, of course, there’s Jeremy Clarkson and her sister Lisa. “I’m helping Lisa, in relation to the interiors of the house. She is really insanely busy with the farm shop called Diddly Squat on Jeremy’s farm in Chipping Norton in Oxfordshire, so I’m guiding her with regard to crockery and fabrics, that kind of thing.”
Sarah’s philosophy is simple, yet very effective. “I ask myself the basic questions. Is it beautiful? Does it help create calm? This applies as much to a basket of logs as anything else in the house. It’s about bringing harmony into a space using design, craft, art and textiles.”
Sarah's light-filled bedroom features a large artwork and sculptural light fitting. Photo: Tony Gavin
Sarah’s own home is an eclectic mixture of all those elements — design, craft, art and textiles — and it works beautifully. It’s a three-bedroomed apartment in a period house in Monkstown which she moved into 18 months ago with Milo and Inigo.
It has some lovely period details and is greatly enhanced with Sarah’s own treasures — her lovely Pat Scott paintings. Her William Scott print and other paintings include a Pauline Bewick which she received as gift for her first birthday. There are also many unusual artefacts she’s picked up like the architect’s measure which is a constant reminder of her father.
And then there are the mirrors she made and the pictures she’s framed herself; it turns out that she actually once did a framing course. However, It’s unlikely that she will ever work as a framer — happily, she’s in too much demand as an interior stylist.