Touch of gloss
Cutting edge Irish interior designer Maria MacVeigh tells Eleanor Flegg how to plan a truly co-ordinated look for your home.
HAVE you ever tried to copy one of those contemporary room interior schemes you see in a glossy magazine spread – only to discover it doesn't quite wash round your house?
In particular that contemporary trend for combinations of striking wood fittings, stone floors and natural fibres offers a look which is wonderful on the magazine page but notoriously difficult to achieve at home.
According to Irish interior designer Maria MacVeigh, it's about planning – or lack of it. The big mistake we make is that we all go decorating on a piecemeal basis instead of starting with a co-ordinated plan.
"For the very best results you really need to have an overall vision in mind when you're decorating and furnishing a room," she advises. "There's no problem with doing it in stages, but there needs to be a master plan at the heart of it."
Although the use of a professional designer like MacVeigh will certainly add a percentage to the cost of decorating a room, it's usually money well spent in the long run because, first of all, you avoid those jarring mistakes which will haunt you for years.
Second, and as the man says, not a lot of people know this, the end cost might not be as high as you expect because the pros are experts at using their purchasing clout and contacts to source furniture and fittings at sub retail prices.
If you've decided to employ a designer where do you start when it comes to finding one?
The first step is to do your research and hone in on one whose work you genuinely like.
The pages of Irish magazines will give you an idea of the individual styles of designers based here.
MacVeigh, for example, tends towards contemporary interiors. "If someone comes to me wanting something traditional, I won't be able to satisfy them," she explains, "but I will be able to recommend someone whose work will suit them better."
Next, please do trust their skills and instincts – it's why you've hired them in the first place.
In MacVeigh's experience, the most successful projects are based on trust. "Where there's harmony in the working relationship it translates into a truly winning design," she says.
In particular when it comes to those building a new home or renovating an old one, the interior design project tends to be a collaborative effort between the designer, the builder, the joiner and the client.
To show examples of what's possible, MacVeigh refers to some of her most successful schemes.
One recent project, a renovated 1980s apartment in Dublin, shows MacVeigh's penchant for combining materials to their best advantage.
The walls are painted in strong white from Farrow & Ball, framed by the dark stained oak of the kitchen units and the floor of Torres blue limestone.
The rug, surprisingly, comes from Ikea. "The rug is made in natural fibres and it doesn't need to be expensive. Ikea has some fantastic designers working for them," MacVeigh argues.
Part of the reason that this design scheme works well is the combination of colours and textures.
"The built-in furniture and the walls are sympathetic to each other and there are resonances between the stone and the timber and the carpet. There's the same blue-grey in the rug and the flooring, but they're made of different materials. It's like a family – they are subtly linked to each other without matching.
"The red legs of the table correspond to the red sofa and the white dining chairs link in with the white sofa. They're not obvious matches, they're just picking up on each other," she explains.
One of her challenges was to combine the functionality of kitchen, dining and living area in such a way that no single function dominated the space.
"Because you have to walk through the kitchen to get to the living area, everything in the kitchen can be closed off. The doors hide away the washer and the drier, the oven, and even the sink," she says.
The kitchen was made to her own design by a joiner who also constructed a bench to one side of the dining table, which is placed close to the wall to avoid having two walkways. The artwork at the rear of the room was commissioned to the same size as the panel of the balcony door.
Much of the furniture in the space is supplied by Minima, including the dining table, Eileen (€5,000), which is designed by Antonio Citterio for B&B Italia and the stackable occasional tables, Fat Fat (from €490), designed by Patricia Urquiola and based on the idea of a tray. The sofa, also from Minima, is called Tufty-Time sofa and designed by Patricia Urquiola for B&B Italia.
It's a modern rendition of the traditional Chesterfield, the upholstery divided into large pleated squares. The sofa is modular, the white section is less deep, which means that you can sit upright, and the red section at full depth for lounging. The design is modular and comes in different variants, but a corner sofa will start at €6,500.
Not everyone can afford a Tufty-Time, but for high quality handmade sofa that makes a big statement, one need look no further than Newry where Ciaran McGuigan has just returned from America to work in the family firm, Orior by Design, that his parents set up thirty years ago. "You can come to us and choose the fabric and then we'll come to the house and make sure that the sofa we're going to make for you will suit you and fit your house," he says.
The company is the Irish equivalent of the same small Italian factories where the big brand name furniture is made, with all designs made in Newry and a range of style that include contemporary and modular sofas.
Do it right and you can have true gloss round your way.