Design/Life: Meet interior designer Emma Kelly

Design/Life: Meet interior designer Emma Kelly

Exercise helps get the creative juices flowing as well as giving me the headspace to figure out whatever design conundrum may have arisen, interior designer Emma Kelly tells Aileen Lee

What’s your background?

I qualified as an electrical engineer from UCC, and subsequently worked in corporate technology which took me all over the world.

I always had a grá for architecture and design and became more fascinated by them the more I travelled and saw different design styles and cultures.

Design/Life: Meet interior designer Emma Kelly

As I began to have my children, I struggled, like many young mothers, to balance the full-time demands of a career in engineering with the demands of raising a young family.

I decided to undertake a diploma in interior design and loved it and from there went on to set up my own practice in 2006.

When the recession hit in 2008 and the market folded, I went back to consultancy work as an engineer but when the market picked up again, I saw my chance to forge ahead with a career in design.

I have been steadily growing my portfolio and client base the last number of years and I hope to continue to do so long into the future.

What’s a typical workday like for you?

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Been sitting on this one a while, forgot I hadn’t posted it completed. Living room with mirror backed custom joinery, bespoke artwork, the most beautiful contemporary sofa which I fell in love with the minute I saw it. The colour, the lines the shape down to the two cylindrical bolster cushions💙 For kicks I mixed two completely different styles and eras and placed a @williammorrislondon tapestry print cushion on it which gave it a lovely extra dimension I think. So many different details here, if design is in the detail I hope pulled it off. It is the living room of the last of my 3 showhomes for the O’Flynn Group. . . . . . . #cork #home #design #interiors #interiordesign #interiordesigner #irishdesign #irishdesigner #interiors_andliving #countryliving #coastaldecor #coastal #bespoke #interiorobsessed #houseenvy #panelling #irishinteriordesigner #realinstahomes #designisinthedetail #cosy #home #architecture #create #interiorstyle #luxuryinteriors #dreaminteriors #interiorblogger #myspacecurated #myhouseandhome #showemyourstyled

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I have four kids to get to school, and once that is done caffeine is the order of the day along with some form of exercise. I feel exercise always helps to get the creative juices flowing as well as giving me the headspace to figure out whatever scheduling or design conundrum may have arisen.

Some days I have client meetings or site inspections, or quite often I may be project managing onsite or meeting with collaborators.

Other days may include any of the following: road trips for sourcing items for a project; online research; creating moodboards or plans for a project; or working with graphic designers.

Tell us about a recent project or design you have worked on?

Design/Life: Meet interior designer Emma Kelly

I recently completed three showhomes across two sites for the O’Flynn Group. These sites are some of the biggest new developments in Cork and whilst it was challenging to work concurrently on the three houses, each with differing design elements, there was a great feeling of achievement upon completion.

What’s your design style?

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‘Tis only myself .....trying to act like a cool customer and ruining the shot of this recently completed space with my big mug 😁 I’ll give a little tour in my stories tomorrow and save it to my highlights as can’t fit all the pics on here but have shown a few more of the spaces if you scroll’s a cracker to be sure🥳 We put a lot of work into the design, details and selection, still a few little additions but very nearly there. Delighted for this lovely couple who are as cool as their new home is 😎 wishing years of happiness for them in this beautiful seaside home. . . . . . . #cork #contemporary #home #design #interiors #interiordesign #interiordesigner #irishdesign #irishinteriordesign #interiors_andliving #countryliving #coastaldecor #coastal #bespoke #interiorobsessed #houseenvy #panelling #irishinteriordesigner #realinstahomes #designisinthedetail #cosy #home #architecture #create #interiorstyle #luxuryinteriors #dreaminteriors #interiorblogger

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I like to use as much raw organic material as possible, such as woods, stone, linens, cottons, wool, leather, and any metal, but vary the application of said material to come up with a slightly unexpected or different result.

Art is also a vital addition to all my interior spaces as this is what usually personalises a space and lifts the design to another level.

What/who inspires your work?

Design/Life: Meet interior designer Emma Kelly

Travel — there is nothing more I love than getting lost in a foreign city and taking in every last detail.

Art is another great source of inspiration for colour palettes — one of my showhouse designs was based on a palette I saw and loved in a painting in a gallery in London.

Nature and the outside world are also a constant inspiration in my work.

What’s your favourite trend at the moment (if you have any)?

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Up and at ‘’s a restful room from one of last years projects 😴 Loved this platform mid century inspired walnut bed from @westelm teamed with these elegant @dutchbone wall lights. The beautiful textured throw is from @studiodonegal . Have to admit i’m not exactly leaping from my bed these dark, wet mornings, though once up and moving and mainlining caffeine it gets a little easier doesn’t it, I also quite often have a miniature co-sleeper who I have to wrangle out from under the covers too ....can’t say I blame her😍🐒 Hurry up Spring with some bright sunny mornings please and thank you🙏 . . . . . . #cork #ekdesign #home #design #interiors #interiordesign #interiordesigner #irishdesign #irishdesigner #interiors_andliving #countryliving #coastaldecor #coastal #bespoke #interiorobsessed #houseenvy #panelling #irishinteriordesigner #realinstahomes #designisinthedetail #cosy #home #architecture #create #interiorstyle #luxuryinteriors #dreaminteriors #interiorblogger #myspacecurated #myhouseandhome #showemyourstyled

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I’m not a huge believer in trends as I feel they have the potential to date but one trend I am happy to work with is biophilic design — it refers to the art of reflecting nature in our homes and spaces, and is thought to have immense psychological benefits.

What’s your most treasured possession?

Design/Life: Meet interior designer Emma Kelly

I have no possession I would ever treasure more than the health and wellbeing of my family; however I do love a beautiful antique table that sits in my bedroom window that my mum and dad gave as a wedding present.

My dad passed away 11 years ago so anything I have belonging to him has sentimental value, he was a huge and defining influence in my life. I have books and sculptures from his travels, and my children love to listen to stories of his adventures.

Who is your favourite designer, or style inspiration?

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Did I mention I like blue and white 💙 💫 It’s never a bad fall back position. Works on floors, walls, tiles, tongue and groove paneling or beading all in the mix here, I always like to give it a lift by adding a metal to the mix, in this instance aged brass mirror from and complimentary IP rated bathroom light from @corklightinginteriors I’m always happy to support local businesses as much as I can. Pics from recently completed showhouse. . . . . . . #cork #home #design #interiors #interiordesign #interiordesigner #irishdesign #irishdesigner #interiors_andliving #countryliving #coastaldecor #coastal #bespoke #interiorobsessed #houseenvy #panelling #irishinteriordesigner #realinstahomes #designisinthedetail #cosy #home #architecture #create #interiorstyle #luxuryinteriors #dreaminteriors #interiorblogger #myspacecurated #myhouseandhome #showemyourstyled

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I love mid-century design classics. I recently acquired three Hans Wegner wishbone chairs in walnut and leather and an original Charles Eames chair in a very rare black fibreglass.

What would be a dream project for you to work on?

I would love to branch out into product or furniture design, I feel it would be a nice marriage of my engineering and design backgrounds.

Have you any design tips for us?

Design/Life: Meet interior designer Emma Kelly

For a home design, pick three inspiration images and stick to these, otherwise it’s easy to get overwhelmed and side-tracked.

Consider light and room orientation in respect of light and dark palettes, light colours will give a feeling of space, darker colours will enclose a space to make it feel moody and cosy.

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