Chip shops are like pubs in Ireland; there is one on every corner. But on Limerick’s Parnell Street there is one that is not like the others. Luigi’s is a family fish and chip shop opposite the city train station in a fairly unsensational part of town. But step into this long-established eatery and you will be transported to a little piece of Manhattan, New York.
Opened 30 years ago by Luigi Orlandi the takeaway had languished in traditional chip shop décor for years – generic menus on the wall and Formica countertops for example. But after Luigi’s son, Interior Designer Tullio, returned from a stint working in New York, he wet his feet in the Irish market by taking on the family business premises.
I meet Tullio early one morning at Luigi’s, shutters down and staff cooking up the first batch of breakfast. First things first we discuss what he is up to now; an expanding corporate client list plus exciting residential projects in the pipeline. It seems his return to Limerick was a worthwhile risk. But it all started here in this bijou chipper.
It’s clear this project was a labour of love. Inspired by the antique hammered tin ceilings in New York, Tullio shipped these reproduction tiles in from the U.S. and then struggled to find someone who could fix them to the ceiling (the first attempt resulted in the entire ceiling crashing down to the floor). At the time of the renovation metro tiles were not an interiors staple and could not be found in the quantities required not to mention the curves in the wall that proved a nightmare for the tiler. There was major rewiring to accommodate the cluster ceiling lights, another challenge for the local tradesmen as they were the first of their kind in Limerick. The classic Tolix design chairs and stools had to come straight from the original manufacturer as they were not yet available in Ireland.
But there are some design elements that came easy, using home-grown talent to give the interior a bespoke edge. The lights were handmade by Irish manufactereres Mullan Lighting; the wall finish was created in situ by local decorative artist Noel Donnellan (check out this awesome video of him applying gold leaf to a ceramic wall); the chalkboard signage was handpainted by Irish graphic artist Jo Cregg; the pipe bracketed shelves were custom made locally; and the beautiful gilded shop front sign was masterfully created by local sign maker Tom Collins.
This I what I love about interior design. It’s not just about making a room pretty, but curating a range of master skills, be it handmade lights or bespoke wall murals, to create a comprehensive and cohesive space that appeals to all eyes. Of course it helps that your chomping down on a fine plate of fish and chips while taking it all in.
I did ask Tullio if there was anything left of the original chip shop. “The Formica countertop,” he replied. “It’s still there under the stainless steel”. If it not’s broke…
Luigi’s Fish & Chips, Parnell Street, Limerick
Tullio Orlandi, Interior Architect and Designer, www.tullioorlandi.com
All photos © Alexia McInerney 2016