Aileen Lee talks to Eoghan Ó Cathasaigh — designer with Helen Casey Design Associates Ltd.
What’s your background?
I studied architectural technology in Cork Institute of Technology. Then I studied construction management. Since graduating, I have worked on contracts in the Middle East, Africa, and mainland China.
In Africa, I spent two months on the ground. I was working on an exciting holiday-home development overlooking a beautiful beach.
In Saudi Arabia, I worked on a new university project, designed by an Irish architectural firm, but China was where my eyes were really opened.
I was just shy of two years in China. It was amazing. That experience has informed my work. It put discipline on me. I have seen all sorts, from the outrageous to the very high-end too.
I returned in autumn 2014 to join my mother’s business.
What’s a typical work day like for you?
As I am sitting down in front of a computer for long periods, I try to do something active most mornings before work, either a swim or going to the gym. I find this a great start to a day.
Our projects are so varied that there is no such thing as a typical day.
There’s a considerable amount of correspondence, travel, and planning on any given day, so a good day ends with a smaller list than I started with.
Tell us about a recent project or design/favourite project or design you have worked on?
We’ve been really very busy in recent years, travelling the length and breadth of the country, so being Tralee-based, we were delighted to get a call from the owners of the Plaza Hotel in Killarney.
Our brief was to bring a more cosmopolitan look and feel to its bar and restaurant wing.
We’ve been working on that project since early summer. We were also involved in the design of the new café, Café du Parc — working very closely with Gemma Ring (the owner) — who wished to expand on a classic Parisian theme.
What’s your design style?
I don’t think I have cultivated a definite style, and maybe hope I never do.
I think that quality is what stands the test of time.
What/who inspires your work?
Too many to mention, but travel really inspires me — it’s one of the best ways to see quality design in-situ and in-action.
What’s your favourite trend at the moment (if you have any)?
I’d like to say that I don’t do trends, but that’s probably nonsense.
If it weren’t for trends, we wouldn’t have much to study in the history of art, architecture, music etc., would we?
Gothic; Baroque; Neoclassical; Art Deco; Modern; Contemporary; Eclectic… all trends!
In terms of my own favourite trend, I like the effortless style of Scandinavian interiors and design, that would be my own preferred style.
What’s your most treasured possession?
I like photographing nice things and sifting through them at the weekend, so my camera would be one of my more valuable possessions, for now.
Who would be your favourite designer, or style inspiration?
Sir Terence Conran — growing up my mother had lots of Conran books and even to this day looking through them, they are still so fresh.
I think he has an amazing eye for design.
What would be a dream project for you to work on?
I’d love an opportunity to work on renovating or remodelling a block of abandoned period buildings — the ones that grace our larger towns and cities — making them practical for modern family living, business, and shopping.
Have you any design tips for us?
My main tip would be: Identify a look you’re comfortable with yourself.
Develop this look and maybe try and avoid the labyrinth of web-based, design-search engines.
I use them myself, but it can be bewildering at times — the array of amazing stuff you can come across.
There are plenty of good design magazines — one good quality magazine can save you a world of confusion. I like to pick-up the international ones in the airport, you won’t find them in a dentist’s waiting room!
Pinterest and Houzz are great resources, but I think you can lose sight of your own style and individuality, and end up questioning your own judgement. Stick with the plan.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved