Interiors... The twain shall meet
Fractious relationships between architects and interior designers are common, but when they click, everything is built on solid foundations
'INFERIOR designer" is the disparaging monicker architecture students like to use to describe the profession properly known as interior design. There's no love lost between the two professions.
For many architects, an interior designer is someone who comes in at the end of a project and ruins their beautiful building. The caricature interior designer floats around, waving their hands, issuing instructions that have nothing to do with the intended rationale of the space. "Move this! Change that! Paint that blue!" For this reason, many architects prefer to do the interior design themselves.
In contrast, the interior designer's point of view is that architects that "do interiors" often create austere and beautiful spaces that are totally impossible to live in. I'm thinking white walls, an oak floor, and a single back breaking le Corbusier chair. Job done! The architect vanishes (apart from the bill) with not a curtain in sight. They may also have overlooked the fact that their up-to-the-ceiling windows have left no room for a curtain rail.
The truth is that interior designers and architects need each other. A large renovation project or a new build may require the expertise of both professionals. If only they could work peacefully together.
Flying the flag for harmony, Eoin Lyons (interior designer) and John Kelly (architect) have joined forces to become Lyons Kelly, a company that offers their combined services as a package. Not that I'll ever be in a position to hire them. The design duo tend to work on projects with budgets from €500,000 upwards. But I still think that it's worthwhile looking at what they do for the purpose of gleaning some guidance and tips for home owners.
Firstly, I think the team thing works. If you are hiring an architect and a designer, it really makes sense to find a duo that's used to working in tandem. Although there aren't a lot of formal partnerships, many architects would be able to recommend an interior designer that they've worked with successfully before and vice versa.
Second, if you don't get yourself an interior designer and an architect who can work together, the results can be shambolic as each tries to dominate the scene.
Our own compatible dynamic duo, Kelly and Lyons have plenty of ideas that could be executed in low budget projects as well as high-end ones.
One of these is to reintroduce panelling. The wooden cladding that once covered the walls of old cottages is frequently ripped out of Irish homes for the sake of creating a few inches of space or revealing the stone work below.
In a small 1930s cottage belonging to a friend, Lyons and Kelly have showed how restoring the panelling helps take the austere edge off a tiny living room and turns it into a cosy snug. "People associate panelling with cosiness," says Kelly. "It encloses the space and makes it seem warmer."
The plywood cladding, decorated with a grid of timber laths isn't particularly expensive and the storage fits into the spaces defined by the panels. It's painted in Farrow & Ball Wimborne White (€55 for 2.5 litres). It's not the cheapest brand of paint you can buy, but some people swear by the lovely muted colours. I like the names: Arsenic, Bone and Speckled Trout.
"We put in a solid fuel stove but kept the original fireplace surround and painted it in the same soft white as the panelling," says Lyons. The sofa comes from Orior by Design in Newry. All their sofas are made to order and are priced individually, but this one is called Copenhagen and cost around €3,000. The rug is from Oriental Rugs of Francis Street in Dublin where a 6-by-4ft rug can cost anything from €300 to €1,500. The white lamp came from Hicken Lighting, where floor lamps range from €100 to €500.
The living room was created by opening the two-up, two-down cottage into a single downstairs room. The key to open-plan spaces, Kelly feels, is to create rooms within rooms.
Meantime their recent renovation of a 1980s bungalow involved creating a study that is sectioned off from the main living space by a glass wall (more panelling here). "It creates a place that is separate but not isolated. You can see what's going on in the rest of the house."
The joinery in both projects was done by Jason Behan of Perfect Homes. Again, they enclosed the space, this time by using a dark blue hemp wallpaper with taupe running through it, which they used on both walls and ceiling, and behind the open-backed bookshelves. "The soft dark textured paper gives it a softness and a contrast to the outside space, which is very sharp," says Lyons. The rug comes from Hedgeroe Interiors (from €295).
In contrast the kitchen, another alcove off the open-plan living room, is lit by an overhead window with light bouncing off an antiqued mirror at clerestory level. The mirror, once again divided into sections, costs €250 per square metre from Capital Glass. The centrepiece of the kitchen is a bright red oval island (so expensive that I'm not even going to go there) which creates a French bistro effect nicely offset by bog-standard subway tiles on the wall. The kitchen is unconventional in that there are no wall units above the counter, the lower units are drawers rather than presses. Genius idea.
In the corner above the counter, Kelly has introduced a tambour unit (you pull the cover down like a blind) which conceals the kettle and the toaster. "I hate seeing kettles and toasters left out - it drives me demented!" Kelly says. Lyons gives him a funny look. Collaboration may be the road to harmony, but design partners still have to put up with each other's quirks.
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