Thursday 25 April 2019

Interior architect Roisin Lafferty: 'My job is kind of like turning a house upside down and shaking it'

Roisin Lafferty (29) is the managing director and creative director of Kingston Lafferty Design, which specialises in interior architecture. From Goatstown, she lives in Ranelagh with her boyfriend, Conor, and their two cats

Roisin Lafferty says interior architecture is her life and passion.
Roisin Lafferty says interior architecture is her life and passion.

Ciara Dwyer

I've just started going to a personal trainer, three days a week, so I get up at 5.50am. Work is frantic, and I need some balance. Also, I'm doing Super Garden again on RTE and I want to get fit for that. I'm a design judge on it. Doing the training - a 40-minute session - sets you up for the day. I live with my boyfriend Conor in Ranelagh. He is often away for work. For breakfast, I usually have something healthy like porridge, or eggs with spinach and tomato.

My office is in our home. It's mainly in the basement, but it's slowly seeping into the rest of the house. There are six people in the basement and I'm on the next level with our office manager. I'm an interior architect, but my role is both managing director and creative director of the company - Kingston Lafferty Design. We have a team meeting first thing in the morning because we tend to have about 15 jobs on at the same time. We want to make sure that everything is going according to plan, and if any problems come up, we solve them. We do mainly interior architecture and, with that, we do both residential and commercial work - essentially, it's the interior space. We maximise the space to give a better experience. Lots of Irish houses, especially standard semi-detached houses, still have small, poky rooms, but that's not really how people live anymore. It's about making the best use of that, perhaps by adding an extension. I don't design new buildings, but we reconfigure existing ones. It's kind of like turning a house upside down and shaking it. Interior decoration is part of it. Then I look at the finishes as a separate issue - things like tiling, timber floors and lighting. Storage is a huge thing, and I love designing joinery for that. Recently, we did a whole panelled room, and all the panelling was secret storage.

My working day is often taken up with meeting clients - potential clients and existing ones. It's so important that I have a good relationship with the client. Rather than me being the interior designer, saying, 'I can do anything you want', the important thing is that the client likes our work. There has to be an affinity there. It is two equal people working together. There has to be mutual trust. Sometimes people want to create something they have just seen in a magazine. There are so many trends, and you are bombarded with this idea of perfection. It's very easy to get swept along. It'd be easy for me to push all of my ideas onto someone, but in my opinion, that is a failure as a designer. It is far better if we bring out their personality.

I look at who they are - the dynamics of a family; or, if it's a couple, where do they spend most of the time in the house? You have to look at their activities - do they like having people over? Do they like gardening? You explore what works for them. Often, it's as helpful finding out what they don't like, as much as the other way round. Sometimes residential design can be seen as something less than commercial design, but actually the home is the most important place. It's where people can be themselves most, so it should be a true reflection of you personally.

It costs a lot of money when you are reconfiguring your whole house, and it's normally a one-off thing. It has to be adaptable. For example, a family's needs change over time from when children are small and need to be supervised to when they grow up and want privacy; all of a sudden, the whole open-plan space may no longer suit. You have to foresee those changes and have those base ideas put in at the start. You need to be able to look at the overall picture. It's about setting a scene for all the spaces and how they link together. It's about the whole flow. We do mood boards for every room, and that is what people buy into - it's a mixture of furniture, finishes and colour. The main thing is that everything has a reason, because otherwise it's just a question of taste and it's completely subjective. Space really affects everybody all of the time. You could go into someone's house or an art gallery and feel calm or feel a bit uneasy, but not know why. There could be a feeling of claustrophobia. So many different things impact on your mood and emotions.

My creative side was always there. I loved art in school and it was my best subject. But it was considered as something for weaker students. I detest that attitude. Look at the working world now, where there are as many creative jobs as financial jobs. My work is so much more than a job. It's my life and my passion. There is no time to stop for lunch, and that doesn't bother me. It can be pretty high-pressure dealing with a lot of clients and meeting deadlines, but I absolutely love it. I'm obsessed with it, and I don't ever switch off. For me, everything is design.

At the end of the working day, I might go out for a bite to eat with Conor. I seldom cook at home. Also, because I work from home, it's nice to get out. There are so many good restaurants in Ranelagh, but my favourite is The Butcher Grill. Everything about it is calm. I need that at the end of the day.

Before I go to bed, I usually read Kinfolk magazine. It's quite insightful about design and gorgeous places to visit. I love travelling, and when I'm away, I'm always looking for inspiration and checking out other designers. I'm quite competitive, but I think we all do different things. In the end, I'm competing with myself, for my own personal best. I try not to look at the phone too late, but sometimes I end up dreaming about emails to clients.

See Kingston Lafferty Design at house 2016 - Ireland's first ever high-end interiors event taking place in Dublin's RDS on May 20 to 22, showcasing world-class interiors, art and design. Buy your tickets now at and avail of the reduced online price

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