Interior architect Róisín Lafferty gives her top tips on how to overhaul your home
Even in a one-size, ticks-all boxes dwelling there's no need to compromise on decor, interior architect Róisín Lafferty tells Eleanor Flegg
'Most new homes are mirror images of each other," says Róisín Lafferty.
"They're fitted out - you have everything that you need - and they're inoffensive because they have to appeal to a range of tastes. But there are no exciting layouts, no quirky nooks and crannies, and it's all very shiny and new. I don't think that interiors should be like that. Especially not people's homes."
Lafferty is a hugely experienced, insanely hardworking interior architect and the creative director of Kingston Lafferty Design. Her award list is lustrous and long. In 2017, she won two first prizes at the Irish Design Awards.
Last week, she was announced the Image Interiors & Living Design Awards Interior Designer of the Year. She's also the leader of what she describes a "highly excitable team of interior designers". They're not afraid of colour, they're not afraid of pattern, and they're not afraid of mixing humble and high-end design. In short, Kingston Lafferty Design is known for projects with a lot of personality and this is something that a lot of new homes lack. For Lafferty, interiors are as individual as their inhabitants, and creating a home with character begins with getting to know the characters that are going to live there. "We get to know our clients a lot better than they expect," she admits. "We need to understand how you live and to get a deeper understanding of the sort of person that you are. Otherwise, we'd just be rolling out trends."
The person who loves cooking, for example, will want a suitably equipped kitchen. The person who lives on adrenaline and spice bags may not. But they might want a room set aside for gaming. Someone who entertains a lot might like a bar. And the family with small children will need a decent laundry room, military-grade upholstery fabric, and wipe-clean everything.
These are the details that the interior designers from Kingston Lafferty Design will tease out before start. Honesty is the best policy, even if it's not entirely comfortable. When a firm like KLD does your home, the designers need to get to know the real you - not the aspirational you.
"The first step is to make sure that your functional requirements are taken care of," Lafferty explains. In most new homes, the layout is predetermined. This can be costly to change but, if something really isn't right, it's cheaper and easier to change it before you move in. "Changing the layout can often still be done without too much disruption, but do it at the start if at all possible. Make sure that you have enough storage and check that the doors are where you want them."
Currently, she's working on three different apartments in the Lansdowne Place development in Ballsbridge. These aren't show houses, her clients are the people who are going to live there, but the project is unusual in that she is working on the apartments before they're built. "It makes sense to make the changes at this stage," she says. "You can do simple things like making the wardrobes deeper and integrating the joinery."
Once you're happy with the functional aspects of the design, the next step is decoration. This, Lafferty feels, is completely subjective. "Don't compromise on what you want your home to be! You don't want to feel like you're renting an apartment when you've just bought it." That said, she admits that it can be challenging to bring an overlay of colour into a new interior that's painted in shades of greige.
Lafferty is known for working with high street, as well as high-end, brands. Her recent collaborations include DFS and Fleetwood Paints, but she feels that no home should look like a showcase for any particular company, and that includes her own. "One of our key objectives is to try and not create the same thing twice," she explains. This translates to furniture and the old adage of not buying everything in the one shop. "A home should be a great curation and selection of pieces, but you wouldn't necessarily know where they're from."
So start with what you have - old pieces give character to new homes. Then spend your money on the things that you love and economise on the things that you don't. "Life is too short not to," she says, confessing a weakness for buying art. "Having a beautiful piece of art on the wall adds depth."
She also suggests that you play around with scale. Oversized lighting can also be really effective. "It's not budget dependent," she explains. You can buy dramatic light fittings from Mullan Lighting, or from Made.com, or even from Ikea." Another way of playing with scale is to upscale the sofa. "When a small space is filled with one large piece it makes it look planned and considered," she says. "Proportion is really important and having a sofa that fits the space perfectly can pull the whole room together." Irish companies like Finline Furniture offer bespoke options that, while more expensive than buying an off-the-peg sofa, aren't double the cost.
Irish people are slow to pick up on the trend for brightly coloured sofas but, before you take the conservative option, she suggests that you think about the consequences of that. "Do you really want a massive block of grey in your living room? Yes, it's safe - but what if you already have safe flooring and a safe kitchen?" At the end of the day, a new home doesn't have to please anyone other than the people that live in it.
Need a bit more hand-holding? Next month, Kingston Lafferty Design is launching a consultancy service, Create by KLD. Sign up, and one of their designers will drop round to your home for a one-off, one-on-one, consultation. The session is designed to help you transform one or two rooms in your house and will last two to three hours.
See kingstonlaffertydesign.com, dfs.ie, finlinefurniture.ie, made.com, ikea.com/ie, mullanlighting.com.