Aoife Rhattigan: Great design is part of the fabric of life

Aileen Lee interviews Aoife Rhattigan, Creative director at Restless.Design.

What’s your background?

I graduated with a first-class honours degree in Interior Architecture and Design from Dublin Institute of Technology in 2001. From there, I spent some time in the US, working in the high-end residential market.

After moving home in 2005, I began working with Douglas Wallace Architects & Designers, one of the top firms in my field at the time. This was where I really cut my teeth in the commercial interior design field, working on a wide range of projects from retail to workplace to hospitality.

Douglas Wallace shut its doors when the construction downturn hit hard, but fortunately my skills were in demand as a freelance designer.

After a couple of years of this, I realised there was a clear demand in the Irish market for a design firm that could deliver bold, brave and ground-breaking interiors, while always listening carefully to the clients’ business requirements and always being fun and friendly to work with.

Fortunately, I was able to bring together a team of designers, who share my passion and who were hungry to set new standards for design here in Ireland, so Restless.Design was born. A lot of hard work, smart hustling and a bit of luck got the business off to a strong start, and we have grown steadily ever since.

We now work with some great clients like Dulux, Lily O’Briens, Peter Mark, Ericsson, the Armada Hotel and Market Lane restaurant, who all see the value that investing in design can bring to their business.

I always enjoy new challenges and any opportunity to preach the importance of good design, so it was also fun to present the Design Doctors TV show on RTÉ.

What’s a typical work day like for you?

I wake to hollers of ‘Momma’ from the next room. The next hour is spent being bossed around by the benevolent dictator that is my daughter. She goes to creche and I get a coffee on the way to work.

This is the time I screw my work head on and plan my day, so that by time I get to the office I’m in the zone.

From there, my day could be anything really. I like a week when I don’t have to go to site and run around, but I seem to spend most of my time trekking around the country to various sites.

I have a great team so thankfully they keep the show rolling while I’m out of the office.

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

We recently designed the Lily O’Brien store for Kildare Village. Chocolate, hugs and a theatrical theme were the three sources of inspiration behind the store interior.

It feels like a warm chocolate box embraced full of the delicious colours, scents and stories that define Lily O’Brien’s chocolates. It ticked a giant box on the Restless.Design bucket list — a chocolate shop interior.

We’re also working on number of projects in Cork City. We are developing designs with Market Lane restaurant and also some really exciting interiors for The Castle Restaurant in Blackrock.

What’s your design style?

I like to think of my style as transitional — each new concept is a response to the particular brief at hand. That being said, I love bold strong statements.

I’m thrilled when a client asks for theatre. An appetite for the not-yet-created is what really drives me. If you’re not living on the edge you’re taking up space, is a motto I try to live by.

What/who inspires your work?

I love street art. Artists like Maser Okuda San Miguel always puts a smile on my face. I’m also loving designer Camille Walala at the moment.

She so 80’s its fab. My ultimate design heroes would have to be Vivienne Westwood and Iris Apfel – two strong woman who never shy away from making a statement.

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

Rough Luxe is something I see being massive in 2017. I love the contradiction of the luxury and raw. Black metals are very cool right now also. No more copper or stainless steel — it’s all about black metal, particularly in appliances and accessories.

What’s your most treasured possession?

That’s a tough one. I go through mini phases of obsessions with certain things. They tend to dominate my thoughts and design process for a while, until I happen upon the next obsession. Right now, I’m obsessed with animal print shoes. They can dress up even the most basic outfits.

Who would be your favourite designer, or style inspiration?

I love Dorothy Draper. She was an American interior designer known for her anti-minimalist approach to design. Never afraid of being out there, she steered away from boring muted nudes and whites. I recently wrote a blog post about her work.

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

I would love to design a lingerie shop — Victoria’s Secrets would be nice! I would also love to work on a city hotel.

We are just completing refurbishment of the Armada Hotel in West Clare. We sourced our materials and inspiration from the surrounding landscapes and local crafts.

It’s all about the Wild Atlantic Way and Irish Heritage conceived in a new modern Irish style. I would love to apply the same approach to a cool, urban hotel.

Ultimately though, it’s more about the dream project with the dream client. The dream client is one who, like me, believes design is about raising the bar for everyone — good design should not be a luxury. Great design is simply part of the fabric of life.

Have you any design tips for us?

Understand your budget and what it will get you. Do your research.

Identify your needs — make sure what you are investing in is really what you need.

Be careful with mirrors. They should always reflect something pretty.

Paint is your friend.

Place your art in unexpected places. It will get much more notice.

Lighting is key; always use lighting appropriate for the task or requirement.

Purge. Throw out, donate or give away what you don’t need. The more stuff you have the less space you have for living.

Blog post about Dorothy Draper:

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