Amy Huberman turns 40 later this month. If if her productivity rate is anything to go by, the actress/author/TV series writer/business woman, shoe and jewellery designer plus mother to two young children, Sadie (6) and Billy (4), will be an expert at finding time to mark the milestone with a birthday cake with hubbie Brian O’Driscoll and their families in between doing a thousand and one other things.
And the cake and balloons could well be pink, a colour she wears well and is the colour of her favourite Roja runners from her latest Bourbon shoe collection. We are wearing Spring Summer and she is finishing off designing looks for Autumn Winter.
The day we meet for lunch in Ranelagh, the couple’s move into their brand new home is imminent and the excitement is palpable as we discuss everything from Pinterest interiors posts to creating memory books with the kids and printing up photos of family outings because she is terrified of leaving everything on a cloud.
“I’m a hoarder that hates clutter which is the worst kind – all the sentimental stuff I keep, like the children’s art work and photos and memory books we’ve made together. I have them tidied away in boxes. When we eventually move into the house, I will probably get a skip because I’m going to be ruthless and nothing is being let into that house,” she laughs. You just know Amy means business.
In her first four decades, the petite actor has racked up an impressive body of work and has gone from receptionist Daisy O’Callaghan in The Clinic to solicitor Tara Rafferty in Striking Out, put-upon wife Sarah Poynter in Cold Feet and recovering addict Karen in Rewind, for which she won an IFTA for Best Actress in a film. Ten years ago she published her first novel, Hello, Heartbreak, followed by I Wished For You, six years ago.
Amy has starred in 14 films and in 15 TV series. In the latest one, Flack, currently showing on W, she stars with Anna Paquin. But it was her last RTÉ series, Finding Joy, which probably gave her most delight because she conceptualised the six-part series, wrote it and starred in it, making 2018 a very productive year.
“In that year, I finished writing Finding Joy, it went into pre-production, I filmed it, edited it and it went out so it feels like a very condensed, busy year,” she says. “I feel so massively grateful for having done it and I learnt a lot in the process. I’d never been in the edit so I did that for the first time as well. I took the last couple of months off after Finding Joy to refill the tank. I definitely felt at the end of the year that the well was empty. It was such a personal journey and I was having so much fun writing it.”
Amy and Brian moved out of their home of over a decade in Goatstown, Co Dublin last month. “We sold our house and we are staying with my in-laws which is great and the kids are excited because they are staying with Granny and Granddad,” explains Amy.
Next stop is their new home in Rathmines which has been a big restoration and building job.
“I’ve really enjoyed the creative side of doing the house which is late Victorian, and I’ve kept everything old that I could,” said Amy.
“I’ve been piecing together who lived there and I’m trying to get a sense of it from the census. I found the 1911 census but I still haven’t worked back to 1901 so I’m going to try that because all the numbers were different so I haven’t pinpointed it exactly. Maybe it’s an urban myth but a neighbour I met told me that Bram Stoker (author of Dracula) used to stay in the house. I don’t know if that’s local goss but the house was painted red at one stage.
“It’s the detail of the layers and the charm of an old house, that’s what I love,” she says, clearly finding a “joy” of her own in it.
Talking me through all the elements of their home-to-be, Amy explains, “At the top of the house, there was really beautiful old wallpaper. I used to say to the builder, ‘I know we have bigger fish to fry but could you please take off a piece of wallpaper?’ The paper is raw and dusty, it’s a royal blue with a gilded pattern and we’ve managed to take a small piece down and I will have it framed up and put back up in the bathroom.
“Our poor builders, I kept asking, ‘Have you found anything, any artefacts’? We found old hot water bottles in the garden that had ‘Bon Nuit’ stamped on them and the name of an ironmonger in Rathmines that doesn’t exist any more. It’s things like that I absolutely love,” says Amy.
With all that’s happened over recent years with work, marriage and motherhood, Amy acknowledges that moving out of their home of a decade “was a big thing in our worlds.”
“We got engaged in the garden in Goatstown and I was sentimental to a point but I’m excited about the move and what’s to come. I was doing okay until I saw the lorry arrive – that kind of stopped me in my tracks, seeing people help you take your life out in boxes.”
She started the ball rolling by doing “a big clear-out at Christmas and I watched the Marie Kondo TV series concurrently with that and found that really helpful.”
However, by her own confession, “I didn’t really fold. For me, it was more the clearing out thing and I also forgot to said ‘thank you’ to everything I chucked out,” she says with a look of mock horror.
“Brian has a friend who works in tiles and I loved that design side. The thought of doing it was nearly ‘I don’t know can I do this’ but I have really enjoyed that. It’s a slow process and we won’t be done for a while but so long as we can get in and we can make a cup of tea, we’ll be grand and the rest of it will come,” she says philosophically.
Another milestone in the last decade has been collaborating with Barry and Jim McArdle from Buddha Brand in Carrickmacross, Co Monaghan to do her own Bourbon shoe range. They started out in 2012 with the ‘American Beauty’ shoe and since then, Amy’s range has had over 700 styles and 1,648 ‘unique’ lines of shoes/boots and runners with 150 different pieces added each season. The Irish brand is sold in over 100 Irish stores and online at bourbonfootwear.com. Amy’s shoes are reaching a wider audience through Bourbon’s online site, with steady deliveries to France and Switzerland. The ‘Amy Factor’ has kicked in too with sales to Australia and America, especially to ex-pats, says Barry.
“When we started out naming the shoes after movies, I said we would run out, but we haven’t – I can’t believe it’s been seven years. I felt really lucky to have dipped a literal toe into the world of shoes because design was in my family. My dad, Harold, was a fashion designer. I have a love of style and a love of clothes and to be asked to go on a journey with people who know this world, you feel a comfort and safety because it’s their baby and their family have been working in shoes for years so I have their knowledge behind me. I love glitter and sparkle and this season, I have bright pink runners with gold laces and a coloured trim on the side. I love that even if I’m just wearing jeans and a black jumper, I feel if I have the pink runners on, I’ve made an effort for the day,” she laughs.
Her modus operandi has been to wear “really high shoes on a night out but for day, runners and a small boot is what I live in now. I’m forever saying to Barry, ‘I need a high’ and he says, ‘Nobody wears as high as you’, but I think we have a really broad range for everyone. In the last seven years I’ve learned about an industry that I knew nothing about and how forward-thinking it has to be. We are currently planning AW19 which is probably not as ahead as the big fashion houses. As I work, I’m learning lot.
“I’ll give you a laugh,” she adds. “I am two inches taller than I always thought I was. I discovered that at a medical for a film last year. I am 5ft 4in and I had told everybody for my entire adult life that I was 5ft 2in. When the doctor measured me, I said that’s wrong but I am two inches taller than I thought. I rang my mum and my pals. Nobody was as excited as I was!”
When it comes to storing her shoes, Marie Kondo would approve as they are kept in boxes. “That way I can keep track of what’s new so there’s new, new/new/ and newest of new.” Clothes-wise, Amy’s regular go-tos include her favourite Topshop black leather jacket which she’s had for eight years, a treat to herself in London after doing a job.
“I wear it a lot with long floral dresses and I love metallic-like gold boots, gold shoes and belt,” explains Amy who wore a gold The Vampire’s Wife dress when she went with Brian (pictured above) to meet Meghan and Harry at the British Ambassador’s residence last year.
She mixes her brands, from designer to high street, favours Irish designers like Helen Steele and finds cute things at &OtherStories, whose black cardi with three dinosaur buttons she wears to our lunch with jeans, a vintage gold belt she bought for a tenner and her Out of Sight studded black ankle boots (below).
In her busy life, Amy says, “Podcasts from Audible have been a revelation in my life in the last six months. I wasn’t reading as much and when you are reading scripts and I was writing, I felt my head was full of stories. Then when I get to bed I can’t read anything, so with Audible, I have got through about 15 books in the last two months and it was 15 minutes here and there. I listen to The High Low with Dolly Alderton and Pandora Sykes. I also love The Guilty Feminist and I listen to that more than music at the moment.”
Amy’s humour shines through loud and clear on her Instagram account on which she has 311k followers and one of her most popular posts was an image of Brian with a child’s rucksack, with the caption, ‘They grow up so fast’. “I don’t think he would be a husband of Instagram. I don’t think he would have the patience if I wanted him to be taking pictures and stuff,” says Amy. But, she says, if she wanted to take the piss out of him, he will usually grin and bear it. “He has a great attitude. It’s grand if you are having a bit of fun,” says Amy.
Milestone birthdays present the opportunity for forward planning. Amy says, “My hope this year is to write and hopefully do other acting jobs as well. I want to pour my energies and resources into another Finding Joy. I don’t want it to just be a one-off. I have to put the time into that if we are going to do it again.”
And will we see another novel?
“I’ve been pretty lazy on the book front in the last six or seven years. I was pregnant with Sadie when I did the last one but, yes, I would love to do another one. I have these moments before the day gets started where I wake up and I have the first three lines of a story and it’s always a woman who is about to have a change in her life and then I never go further with it, but I will, and I’m excited to do that again down the line.”
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