Get your house in order
Preparation is key to getting the most out of interiors exhibition at RDS
It's arrived! House 2017 kicks off in the RDS Main Hall this weekend. If you've got plans for your interior, there's never going to be a better opportunity to gather ideas, information and inspiration. It's a chance to make contacts, ask questions and meet some of the country's leading interior and furniture designers. The question is, with so much on offer, how do you make the most of the show?
Preparation, preparation, preparation!
"The most important thing is to plan ahead," says Eva Byrne of Houseology. She's one of the exhibitors at House and an expert in planning interiors projects. "House is a brilliant opportunity to see everything under one roof, but it can be overwhelming. If you lose focus, you can miss things very easily."
Some people just love the spectacle of the show. They'll be perfectly happy to drift around, soaking up the atmosphere and looking at anything that takes their fancy. If that's you, there's no need for strategic planning. Buying your tickets online will save time. Bring a bottle of water and some snacks.
And wear comfortable shoes. Your high-heeled sandals may look amazing, but you'll be cursing them by the end of the day.
Other people come to the show on a mission. For them, wandering around the show without a plan is no fun at all. They'll be worried about being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and missing the things that they want to see. These are the people that will benefit from identifying what they want to get out of the show before they arrive.
Byrne is a strategist at heart. She recommends you do your homework before you set out. "Check out the exhibitor list on the website and make a list of the people that you want to see," she advises. "Take a note of the number of their stand. Then print out the floor plan and mark the stands that you plan to visit."
She also suggests you look at the schedule of speakers in advance, decide who you want to hear and use those talks to punctuate your day. In the middle of a full-on day of human interaction, it's very restful to sit quietly and listen to someone else talk for half an hour.
All the talks take place on the Inspiration Stage at the back of the show hall (same place as last year). There's a full programme on both days, with speakers including Jo Hamilton, Róisín Lafferty, Dermot Bannon and Denise O'Connor. Because it has seating, it's a good place to go when you're flagging. It can also be a useful space to park your husband.
We've all had the experience of seeing someone (usually female) struggling to navigate an interiors show with an unwilling partner (usually male) in tow. He's there on sufferance and would much rather be in the pub/at the football/anywhere else at all. Byrne's advice is to leave him at home. "Do not bring a disengaged other - they will only hold you back!"
Instead, team up with someone that actually wants to be there. "That could be your mother, your sister or your best friend."
Some partners may be afraid to let their other half head off to House unsupervised. What if they come home with a maxed-out credit card and a cocktail cabinet from Zelouf+Bell? While this could happen, it's not that likely. For most people, House is a fact-finding mission. It's more about making contacts than signing contracts. There's no entry fee for children under 12, but Byrne points out that bringing children will change your experience of the show. For some families, it's a lovely day out. But, if you have serious things to accomplish at the show, you will be quicker and more efficient if you're not trying to keep the children happy as well.
"Ask the disengaged other to mind the kids at home for the day," says Byrne. "It's the perfect solution!"
Byrne's final tip is to talk to the exhibitors. "Don't be shy. We've paid to be here and we're here to do business."
With Houseology, she offers consultations that help people to make the most of whatever work they are planning in their home. Because she's trained as an architect, these can include structural renovations as well as decorating and storage issues. It costs between €180 and €360 for a one-off consultation. The Interior Design Clinic is one of the highlights of House. On both Saturday and Sunday, there will be four accredited interior designers, members of the Interiors Association, ready to answer queries. This is a drop-in clinic - you can just turn up and try your luck - but last year, it was very busy. Booking a 15-minute slot online will save time in the long run.
I asked Kathtrina Furlong (above), one of the interior designers on the panel, about her tips for attending the clinic.
"The more information you can bring with you, the better," she says. "Photograph the room that you need advice on and bring in samples of any fabrics, paints or flooring that you have. A rough floor plan will help a lot."
If you have a tablet or iPad, bring it along to show your photos of the space. It's easier for the designer to get an impression of your home on a larger screen, rather than squinting at photos on your phone.
Furlong's other tip for the show is to take photos of the stands that you like as you go around. "Then take a photo of the name of the stand," she says. "Otherwise you'll be looking at the photos and wondering where you got them." Her own company, Yours Personally Bespoke Interiors, offers a full interior design service with a special interest in fabrics and upholstery. Her fabrics range from €30-€110 per metre.
Orla Walsh is one of the 40 exhibitors in the Art Loft on the balcony of the Main Hall. She too recommends forward planning. "Have a budget in mind and know how much you want to spend," she says. "And don't be afraid to ask questions."
She also recommends that you decide in advance where you want to hang the piece in your home and bring the dimensions of the wall space with you to the show. "It's amazing how many times an excited buyer finds out that the piece does not fit the spot they had in mind!"
You'll find me there on the Inspiration Stage on Saturday and Sunday mornings where I'll be leading a panel discussion with members of the Interiors Association between 10.30 and 11.30am on both days. On Saturday, I'll be back on stage chatting to Róisín Lafferty on 'How to Design Happiness at Home'. That one's between 1 and 2pm.
The interior design event, House 2017, takes place in the RDS Main Hall this Saturday and Sunday. See house-event.ie, houseology.ie, theinteriorsassociation.ie, yourspersonally.ie, orlawalsh.com