The Shell Cottage, Carton Estate, County Kildare, Ireland

Evelyn Moorkens

There are a number of examples of the use of shells as interior decoration, but the Shell Cottage at the Carton Estate must be one of the finest examples of its kind.

The history of Carton Demense spans more than 800 years, it was given to the FitzGerald family in 1170 following the capture of Dublin by the Normans. The magnificent Carton House was built in the early 18th Century and the house and estate now hosts a prestigious hotel and two of Ireland’s best parkland golf courses.

In 1747 James FitzGerald, the 20th Earl of Kildare married Lady Emily Lennox, daughter of the Duke of Richmond and great–granddaughter of the English King Charles II. The pretty shell cottage was built for Lady Emily. It originally had a thatched roof, but nothing from the outside could hint at the amazing décor inside. The centerpiece is a beautiful dome lined with thousands of tropical shells of every size. The walls, windows and furniture are all patterned with shells. While Carton House has had many famous residents and guests over the centuries, the shell cottage has made an interesting home also; one resident over the years was the singer Marianne Faithful.