Friday, February 10, 2017

Emma Ahern in the shop boutique floor area of Brocade & Lime on Cornmarket street
Picture: Eddie O’Hare

Converting a townhouse in Cork city centre into her dream business took a lot of hard graft for Emma Ahern, who talks to CHRIS DUNNE about the latest dimension to Brocade & Lime and plans for a special Valentine’s movie screening

THERE is a hidden gem along the bustling, busy thoroughfare of Cornmarket Street; a fabulous jewel that is to be found via a winding staircase atop the vintage boutique and beauty parlour; Brocade and Lime.

The Victorian event space, which boasts a wine bar called The Hour Glass, is in keeping with the refurbished near-derelict former town-house which mum of two, Emma Ahern, restored to its former glory.

“When Number 4 became vacant, I decided to sink my savings into it and create an elegant and inviting vintage boutique inside the building,” she says.

Emma, whose background is in biomedicine, has stayed true to the Victorian roots, transporting fashion lovers back to the romance and beauty of a bygone age.

“I’ve incorporated pieces to compliment the stock,” she says.

“The cash desk is an art-deco theatre kiosk from France dating back to the 1920s. The genuine salon dryer bank in the beauty parlour is of the ’60s era.”

The 1950s-inspired chandeliers high-light the glamour of that era, while the Moroccan-tiled courtyard is a fitting introduction to the beauty salon that host vintage-themed soirees.

“I think Cork women are a good deal more interested in developing an individual look while investing in classic styles and interesting pieces that won’t date,” says Emma, who sources her stock from Moscow to Costa Rica.

Brocade and Lime could be a cocktail? Emma laughs.

“Brocade is a luxurious fabric very popular in the ’50s,” she says.

“Lime is my favourite colour. I’m a vintage girl myself. I love the timeless style, the hats and the furs and the gloves.”

And how did the Scot meet her Cork husband?

“We met in Australia,” says Emma. “And we met up again in Edinburgh by accident!”

Brocade and Lime was a labour of love. The newest addition, The Hour Glass event space, could be from a scene in Downton Abbey.

And you can become a real-life screen Goddess at Brocade and Lime.

“Yes, if you wish to spend an afternoon in our authentic retro beauty parlour with your friends; you can sip on a cocktail and travel back in time to 1956 where we will style your hair and makeup to a glamorous screen goddess of your choosing,” says Emma.

“You can play dress-up with our stylist and pick a complete vintage ensemble to wear. Eat cup cakes whilst you watch your favourite classic movie in the hidden Victorian Courtyard. It’s great fun!”

Emma leads the way to the winding staircase where more delights await.

“There is a huge interest in themed parties,” say Emma.

“The event space is an intimate, exclusive venue with a difference. The boutique, beauty parlour, vintage cinema and champagne bar is all under one roof.”

The winding staircase needs to be negotiated carefully; especially if one favours high-heels.

“We spent nearly four years collecting all the items to create the luxurious atmosphere,” says Emma.

Stepping out onto the roof terrace, it is hard to imagine that you are above a busy main Cork street. You could be in a boudoir circa 1950 with your very own private cinema.

Where did Emma source the magnificent Victorian chiffonier?

“We got that at an auction in West Cork. Ebay was a good source for some of the items like the large mirrors.

“The bar counter came from a Manor house in Midleton. We added the back bar piece ourselves. The cash register is French and we sourced that in an antique shop.

“Tom and I had a great time going around to all the local auctions,” says Emma.

“We really enjoyed browsing and looking through all the items for sale. Some of the furniture, we got on Ebay. The trade shows were interesting too.

“We did a lot of walking to find the right pieces for the room. The oil lamps, lit by candles, were collected over five years.”

Emma Ahern in the art decor and cinema area of Brocade & Lime on Cornmarket street
Picture: Eddie O’Hare

The cinema seats are the real deal; they transport you back to the back seat of the cinema of your youth. Although I rather fancy the chaise lounge where one could linger to listen to the soft crooning from the authentic gramophone.

“The cinema seats originally came from the cinema in Dunmanway,” says Emma.

“You and your party can watch a vintage movie while you sip a glass of Prosseco.

“Afternoon tea is popular too.”

The light dances on the decorative windows.

“My friend from Clare designed the reflective paper,” says Emma.

“He is very artistic. The windows look like stained glass.”

How is business?

“Business is picking up,” says Emma.

“We’ve catered for 30th birthday parties and we’ve hosted small parties from offices in the city who want a small, intimate space. There is a lack of small venues for people who don’t necessarily want to go to a pub to celebrate.

“Also, we offer something different, something from back in the day that is original and timeless.”

Number 4 has certainly cheered up the street.

“It took a lot of hard grafting,” says Emma. “The place was falling down. It is my baby and I did it my way.”

Brocade and Lime is hosting a screening of the classic love story, The End of The Affair, in the private cinema on the third floor from February 11 to February 14. Groups and couples can sip a glass of prosecco in intimate surroundings and enjoy the weepy love story starring Deborah Kerr and Peter Cushing. For more Tel: 021 427 8882 or email:

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