Words by Tanya Grimson
March 9th, 2018
We had the pleasure of catching up with Roisin Lafferty, the Founder and Managing Director of Kingston Lafferty Design, renowned as a powerful creative force, with a string of prestigious design accolades to her name, including three collaboration design projects with Iconic Offices.
Roisin talks to us about her passions, her inspirations, what it takes to succeed and her secret sauce…
In a word… Chaotic! No, in reality, it is always different and always exciting. I start work at 8 am to try and get a head start and fit in a reformer Pilates class before that to ensure a clear head. Generally, my days are varied but will often include a team brainstorm or meeting first thing. We tend to have many jobs on the go at different stages, across both commercial and residential fields, so I sometimes have to find the hard hat and Hi-Vis and head off to those. I love the mix and I love seeing progress on site; it beats sitting at a desk all day. I encourage the team to sketch too so that there is a free and creative feel to the work. An afternoon spent sourcing, either online, meandering Francis Street and sketching new ideas is pretty common. I continue to be overly optimistic about how much you can fit into one day… So working late is also quite familiar!
I was always the arty one. I have loved art ever since I was a very small child and was forever drawing and painting throughout my time at school. My granddad, who I grew up with, instilled a strong love and appreciation of art galleries from a young age. Art and design became my passion. In school, creative careers were not embraced or pushed but I think times have changed and now there is more of an awareness of the possibilities. I went on to do a portfolio course from school and only applied to Interior Design. I loved my degree in Interior and Furniture Design and happily gained first-class honours before moving to London to pursue a masters in Product Design at Kingston University.
During my studies, I wanted to immerse myself in the creative world as much as possible, so worked in architectural practices, on visual display teams and creative to gain experience.
After my masters, it was the height of the recession and good grades didn’t cut it. I was always ambitious and wanted to work for a well-respected firm. In order to do so, I needed more experience and this is how KLD (Kingston Lafferty Design) came about… And what started out as a few months plan turned into developing a talented and creative team almost 8 years later!
I believe it is because of my all-consuming passion for creativity and a commitment to design integrity that I have never wanted to compromise on. Pushing boundaries, growing as a designer and continuing to challenge myself and my team is everything to me. Because I set up straight after college, I had no frame of reference. As a result, we take a very organic and creative approach to design.
I try not to repeat the same things and always to be drawing inspiration from other designers and places I travel to. Design is a way of life for me. It infiltrates all aspects and it is how I want to spend my time, so it means more than a job. It is also extremely exciting and fun. The endless possibilities of what you can do with space and how it can impact on people’s lives.
I think it is because of this that we have been recognised. It is always frightening putting yourself out there. My work always has a personal element to it that you are opening yourself up to judgement on. But thankfully we work with some very exciting and equally passionate clients who embrace what we do and allow us the freedom to create spaces and environments that excite and delight. The best projects are the ones with the best relationships and a genuine collaborative approach.
Understanding the Iconic (Offices) vision and target market was crucial before we could start working on the projects. The great thing about Iconic Offices is the unique personality and variation of style that each of the properties has. The approach was very collaborative, so my team worked side by side with Iconic to create the spatial identities of The Brickhouse, South Point and The Greenway.
They are very much known for taking risks with design-led co-working spaces which coincide really well with our own creative approach. I particularly liked the fact that each of the three projects has a very different feel and provides users with a different experience. We tend to be very detail oriented with our designs and the size and proportions of the Iconic buildings embraced this well.
The most challenging was Ranelagh Residence. It was the first large project I worked on after finishing college and it was a full-on architectural and construction project on a protected Georgian property. I learnt more on that job than any amount of education could have ever taught me. Total fear of the unknown pushed me to learn quickly, adapt and deal with the many issues that continually arose (including discovering a 100-year-old well buried under the location for the new extension!). It is still a project that I look back on proudly.
There have been some extremely exciting projects over the years, all at very different times and places. I have a fondness for the vast majority, but Stephen’s Green private office was one of the most exciting for me. It was a penthouse on Stephen’s Green that we had the creative freedom in designing and combining a collaborative working environment with an entertainment space, reception area and private office. The detail was like no other, from custom marble illuminated tunnels, secret upholstered planted rooms to custom rotating boardroom tables and full brass cocktail bar.
There is less of a split now that the economy is booming! The main difference in the past was that the UK and European market tended to place a higher commercial value on the importance of design and as such had more of an understanding of the budgets needed to achieve high end looks. Design is definitely more appreciated in Ireland over the past couple of years and now that there is so much construction again both in commercial and residential sectors, there is much more brand competition which means that people want to do things differently and bring something fresh and unique to the various markets. People are definitely braver now in Ireland in line with the European market and this is really exciting for us as it means a much more creative design process.
Seeing a space that started out as a scribble and an idea in your head come to life. There is no better feeling for me in the world, it makes all of the hard work so worthwhile. With my work, I continually strive to push the creative boundaries and create exciting and unexpected spaces for people to enjoy and want to spend time in. Getting to see completed spaces being embraced is also pretty thrilling! Another hugely important and positive aspect is collaborating with people who trust in the vision and fellow creatives. It takes a lot for clients to trust your ideas and a vision that they can’t physically see. But when you get that kind of trust and creativity is embraced, the best results are achieved.
Step into discomfort.
The best things are always scary and the more you embrace living out of your comfort zone and taking risks, the better the results. I find that planning can only take you so far; often it is the least expected opportunities that lead to the best places if you say yes to them.
Whatever field you are working in, try and look at challenges and projects with fresh eyes. There are always ways to achieve the same result, it may not be the same safe way you are taught. Brainstorming with other people can often get you thinking more creatively, leading to new and exciting possibilities.
Daydream and unwind.
The day to day will always be stressful and can quickly become all-consuming. It is important to step away and remember why you are doing what you are doing. Try not to lose sight of the passion and the point of it all. Sometimes taking time to clear your head reminds you what the bigger goal is and often leads to being able to think more creatively.
Ask for help.
Everyone who has had a successful career had to start somewhere. And they usually remember how hard it was. I am always amazed by the kindness, openness and willingness of people to give their time and opinions in difficult situations. If you are looking to start your own business, you will never stop learning!
Travel mainly. I travel as much as I can and am constantly planning on new places to visit.
I try to get to a mix of different places to get as diverse a mix of inspiration as possible. Marrakech is one of my favourites. It is a sensory treat with such a brave play on colour, texture and detail. Milan and Paris are also great, their whole city gets on board for their design weeks so it is great to wander, see how the people live and get to try out the bars and restaurants.
Layout is the most important thing. Gone are the small box rooms, each with a specific function. There is no reason why you can’t create something unexpected and exciting. Think about how you live, your family, partner, friends and how you like to spend your time. As the way we live continues to evolve, the way we use our homes continues to change. Think outside the box and try where possible to reconfigure the layout to allow for adaptability in the future. Try and keep flexible circulation space by opening up smaller rooms and including secret pocket doors. Giving yourself the option of both open plan and privacy is a good long-term solution.
Invest in good quality finishes that will stand the test of time. And go bold and playful with paint. Colour is the most transformative tool in interiors and it is also the friendliest on a tight budget. Get creative and try incorporating a colour palette that makes you happy, brightens up your day and makes you feel something.
Never underestimate the importance of your home. It is the one space that is yours. It is where you wake up every day. How you feel in your home impacts your perception of the world around you… So make it count!
Technology will continue to impact design as it evolves. As we change how we live, design adapts to frame our lives. In essence, design is everywhere around us, in everything that we see. That will always be the case. Trends can be fleeting and are often based on aesthetics. Good design should challenge perceptions to stand the test of time and genuinely make lives better, even if it is just in some small way. Verner Panton is one of my design heroes, his work is timeless and still completely relevant today.
There is a strong focus on immersive and experiential design now which is going to continue as co-living, co-working spaces grow. People expect more from every experience, no longer having the luxury of time. The design side of this is exciting and new, with many creative and conceptual possibilities.
Design, colour and styles are hugely personal and subjective. With fashion, people tend to be more confident expressing themselves and what they like. I am delighted to see this beginning to filter into people’s homes and spaces. Bravery and boldness with colour, materials and collections mean that people can create places that mean something personal to them, brighten up their day and are completely unique. So I guess you could call it the opposite of a trend!
For more information on Roisin and Kingston Lafferty Design visit kingstonlaffertydesign.com.
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