Ronan Holohan: Managing director Millimetre Design
What’s your background?
I’ve always worked in the design industry. It’s what I’m most passionate about. Having worked for a number of interior design companies, across multiple sectors, I always felt the scope for creativity and delivery was limited.
In 2005, I set up my agency, Millimetre Design. We work with clients to deliver engaging, positive customer experiences across all aspects of their brand, from their menus and business cards to bars and bedrooms.
What’s a typical work day like for you?
Always busy, mainly reactive, often long. As any business owner will tell you, the day you plan at the start is rarely the same at the end of the day.
We are a team of 32, running up to 70 projects at any one time, so it is a busy office.
For me, it’s about being available to clients, reactive to site or project issues, and accessible to the team, helping where I can and guiding all elements of the projects.
Tell us about a recent project or design you have worked on?
A big project we did lately, that has won several international design awards, is Café en Seine in Dublin.
Nothing had been done to the venue for nearly 26 years and it was not performing at the level it needed to. Large sections were empty for a lot of the week and in some areas the interiors were too dark and not suitable to attract day-time business.
Taking inspiration from its French name and with strong Art Deco, Art Nouveau and French Colonial influences, we created a whole new Café en Seine experience, centred around the venue being more food-orientated, a venue for casual coffee and meetings during the day, as well as a high-energy venue at night.
What’s your design style?
It’s key to who we are as a company that we don’t have our own style, because we work in so many different areas and at very different levels.
In hotels, we work from two-star up to five-star, so you can’t bring the same style into all those areas.
We enable our clients to realise their own style.
What/who inspires your work?
Diversity is the spice of life. At Millimetre, we’re bringing together different cultures, backgrounds and age groups of our team, so everyone’s experiences feed into our work’s inspirations.
What’s your favourite trend at the moment (if you have any)?
Not that it’s a trend but details in design have become much more prevalent. I think that’s been good for a company like us.
We’re all about detail. Now, people see the importance in that.
For example, even if you want a standard table in a coffee shop, now people are willing to try different tops, details, edges and they see that it brings something to what their business is.
What’s your most treasured possession?
I don’t really have a ‘treasured possession’ but I would think from a work side that it’s definitely my phone. Being contactable for clients, staff, suppliers is critical.
We are a service business and have to deliver. My phone gives me that accessibility.
Who would be your favourite designer?
Phillippe Stark — his ability to transcend from interiors to brand to product to architecture is something that inspired me to set up Millimetre Design the way it is.
His desire to push the boundaries yet making sure everything works functionally, and giving an iconic nature to everything he designs, is truly inspirational.
What would be a dream project for you to work on?
Cruise ships are a hugely growing industry, and there is a massive design input into a person’s experience of one, from food to leisure to sleep.
You are constrained by the tighter spaces and heavy restrictions on the materials you can use, but the endless possibilities in their design is just fantastic.
Have you any design tips for us?
Plan and understand what it is that you want before you invest. You have to understand the design of the rest of the room, and not just think of the one element you are getting.
Fail to do this and you’ll likely end up with ‘red sofa syndrome’, where more time and money are spent trying to make things fit around that element.