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Dublin: Design of the times in the Irish capital

Traditional crafts are being given a contemporary spin by local artisans, says Aoife O'Riordain

A shed tucked into the grounds of a house in one of Dublin's more affluent suburbs, Blackrock, may seem like an unlikely place to begin a tour of Dublin's new wave of appreciation of Irish craft. Makers & Brothers HQ is an artfully rustic outhouse in the grounds of the elegant family home of its founders, siblings Jonathan and Mark Legge. Theirs is a stylishly curated take on Irish design, with almost two-thirds of its stock made by artisans working in Ireland and several items conceived exclusively with the makers.

However, now a pilgrimage to Blackrock isn't necessary: the brothers have recently opened a pop-up store, Makers & Brothers & Others, until Christmas in the centre of the city at 5 Dame Lane (makersandbrothers.com) that incorporates a florist, café and fashion boutique. This is as good a place as any to start a saunter through the centre of the city with an eye on native talent. There is a hand-blown bedside carafe and glasses from the Jerpoint Glass Studio in County Kilkenny, a striking copper and brass Strand Lamp designed by architect Andrew Clancy, as well as smaller, more affordable items, including simple wooden plates made by Cork-based wood turner Tony Farrell.

Irish design can be found all over the streets of Dublin, with established and emerging designers putting contemporary spins on indigenous materials and traditional crafts.

Continue along Dame Lane; depending on the time of day you could pop into the Stag's Head (00 353 1 679 6387; stagshead.ie) at 1 Dame Court. This is one of the city's classic Victorian watering holes, with many original features. Bear left on to South Great George's Street, a bustling thoroughfare lined with restaurants and independent shops. Designist (00 353 1 475 8534; designist.ie) is one such example, stocking a tasteful mix of objects, toys and graphic art. Pick up a quirky mug printed with a delicate laser cut map of Dublin by Alljoy Designs; or an Irish linen apron from Cake Café in one of two graphic designs depicting Dublin or Ireland in jaunty graphics.

Across the road is the entrance to the George's Street Arcade. It contains a medley of second-hand shops, bookshops, cafés and small traders. At the opposite entrance across the street you will see the Irish Design Shop (00 353 1 679 8871; irishdesignshop.com), which opened on Drury Street earlier this year. There are beautiful, neutral Irish linen cushions from 31 Chapel Lane and quirky bauble-like Seed Pod bird feeders made from native oak by Quercus as well as delicate glass lampshades with vibrant cords blown freehand by the Handmade Glass Company set up by former workers from Waterford Glass.

For a caffeine fix, pop across the road to the recently opened Kaph (kaph.ie), which serves a superior brew in cool surroundings.

Continue your retail ramble along Castle Market. In front of you stands the Powerscourt Townhouse Centre, one of the city's finest Georgian buildings repurposed as an elegant shopping centre. Just inside the door you'll find Article (00 353 1 679 9268; articledublin.com) a tastefully laid out boutique with homewares, stationery and other objects that includes the work of several Irish designers such as textile designer Jennifer Slattery.

The Design Centre (designcentre.ie), on the third floor, showcases emerging and established Irish fashion talents such John and Simone Rocha, while nearby The Loft Market (theloftmarket.com) is a collective of young, Irish clothing and jewellery designers.

Emerge back on to South William Street and bear right, then continue along Suffolk Street passing the Discover Ireland Centre on your right, housed in a 19th-century former church.

A few steps along the street on your left is the flagship store of Avoca (00 353 1 677 4215; avoca.ie). One of Ireland's retail successes of recent years, Avoca started out as a weaving mill in 1723 in the picturesque County Wicklow village of the same name. But this family run business has expanded beyond its simple origins with its own fashion label, homewares and a foodhall. Try a delicious rotisserie chicken or porchetta sandwich from Poulet Bonne Femme in the newly renovated basement café.

Walk down Suffolk Street and continue past Grafton Street until you reach the Nassau Street entrance of Trinity College. There is plenty to discover within the university's walls. The Douglas Hyde Gallery (00 353 1 896 1116; douglashydegallery.ie) is an exhibition space that shows contemporary work from all over the world. Or visit the college's Old Library (00 353 1 896 2320; tcd.ie) to admire the handiwork of 9th-century monks who illuminated the pages of the Book of Kells, one of the country's most cherished religious manuscripts.

Exit on to Nassau Street and walk south until you see the Kilkenny Shop (00 353 1 677 7066; kilkennyshop.com) on your right. Celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, the Kilkenny Design Workshops were established to support Irish craft. On its shelves you can find the classic hand-thrown pottery of Nicholas Mosse and the distinctive black and white Shanagarry pottery made by Stephen Pearce. You will also find the newly launched homeware range by famous export Orla Kiely, whose bold florals and geometric patterns have gained a worldwide following. It's all a far cry from scratchy Aran jumpers and novelty shamrock jewellery.

Fresh cuts

Next to the Daniel Libeskind-designed Grand Canal Theatre overlooking Dublin's docklands,

The Marker Hotel (00 353 1 687 5100; themarkerhoteldublin.com) is one of the city's newest luxury hotels opened this year. Doubles start at €179 (£150), room only.

Good fish restaurants are a curious rarity in Dublin, but that is set to change on 15 December, with the opening of Super Miss Sue (00 353 1 679 9009; supermisssue.com), a new fish and chip shop and oyster bar on Drury Street – certain to be one of Dublin's hottest new tables.

Travel essentials

Getting there

Ryanair (0871 246 0000; ryanair.com), Aer Lingus (0871 718 5000; aerlingus.com), Aer Arann (0870 876 7676; aerarann.com) and Flybe (0871 700 2000; flybe.com) fly to Dublin from a range of airports. British Airways 0844 493 0787; ba.com) flies from Heathrow, CityJet (08716 633 777; cityjet.com) from London City.


More information

Crafts Council of Ireland: giveirishcraft.com

Tourism Ireland: ireland.com.