Gráinne Weber takes regular trips to London and Paris to trade shows to keep up with what’s going on.
What’s your background?
I qualified as an architect from UCD. When I went to work in an architectural practice, some years ago, they did a lot of hospitality projects and tended to keep the interiors of projects in-house.
The result was that I got involved in hospitality projects from planning through to construction and on to the interiors.
I then set up Gráinne Weber Architects in 2006, and we do a lot of hospitality projects and are happy to get in involved in any or all stages of a project.
What’s a typical work day like for you?
Once I have gotten the kids out the door and the dog walked, my work day starts. Every day is different.
I have three staff at the moment and I like to spend at least part of every day in the office with them, reviewing where they are at with various projects, and assessing what to prioritise.
Site meetings or informal site visits to check on things often break up a day.
We have two jobs on site at the moment, a Saba to Go in Deansgrange and a Fonte Coffee unit in Parliament Street and we have ongoing works at the Haddington Hotel in Dun Laoghaire.
I try to get staff out of the office at least once a week to enforce the idea that what they are drawing relates to real-life construction rather than drawing for its own sake.
If it were always desk-based, the job of an architect could be really tedious, but building is a very collaborative process, so meetings with a client, a builder or a consultant are very important to give projects momentum and energy.
The day usually finishes up around 6.30pm/7pm. I like to have an hour or so of quiet time to myself after staff go home to think or just gather myself for the next day.
Tell us about a recent or favourite design or project that you have worked on?
The Montenotte Hotel was a project we worked on last year.
As interior designers for the job, we did sketch designs in January for rooms and by July the whole hotel — including 110 bedrooms, lobby, restaurant and bar, function rooms, cinema, and gym — was completely refurbished.
We had a great team on the job with KPH as contractors and PML as architects.
The hotel enjoys a great location overlooking Cork city, but was starved of investment for a long time.
What was a dark and musty hotel is now bright and airy.
The ground floor is completely opened up from front to back, yet there are a number of separate spaces, like lounges, breakout spaces and a private cinema, which act in contrast to the generous all-day dining space with its fabulous south-facing balcony.
The rooms and corridors also got a complete overhaul and we enjoyed using lots of different textures and tones with three different room types.
With multiple rooms, budgets are always important so trying to keep what was acceptable in some of the room types is always something we will try to do — throwing out perfectly functional pieces is never something we like to do without justification.
We also got to refurbish the gym and enjoyed using bright and vibrant colours along with a full wall print of an image by photographer Joleen Cronin, whose photos of Cork city and county were also used in the bedrooms.
What’s your design style?
I like to think it is classically contemporary.
As an architect, I like straight lines and simplicity but more and more, I am enjoying using blocks of bold colour and even pattern, but I still think in the same understated style.
What/Who inspires your work?
I think you have to take inspiration from everything you see whether its other buildings and interiors, film, fashion or the outdoors.
When we were designing a pavilion recently, we looked at the old reliables like Mies van de Rohe and Philip Johnson.
When looking at brick buildings then, we looked at Grafton Architects and De Blacam and Meagher, as well as a host of new practices that my young staff keep me up-to-date on.
In terms of interiors, we took a trip to Paris to look at some fabulous boutique hotels, and take regular trips to London and Paris to trade shows and to keep up with what’s going on.
What’s your favourite trend at the moment (if you have any)?
I’m not into trends, to be honest.
I picked up an interiors magazine the other day and I think there were 10 dark blue kitchens in it.
Last year these kitchens were grey, before that they were taupe! And as for bare light bulbs and the Industrial Shoreditch look… don’t get me started!
I like the fact that the world is more design-aware than it was. With that hopefully, comes a confidence in making design choices.
If people are comfortable with their own sense of style then they don’t have to slavishly follow trends.
What’s your most treasured possession?
I’m not big into possessions. I have a coffee table which I try to encourage my kids not to stain, but without success.
I have some lovely bowls which are starting to chip because I use them for my breakfast every day.
I love my big couch especially when myself, the kids and the dog are all on it together, with the fire lit.
I love my surf board just because, and I love my car because it gets me places.
I guess, for me, objects are the things that life happens around, and they enable us to live our lives, sometimes more beautifully, some times more effectively.
Who would be your favourite designer, or style inspiration?
David Collins would have to be top of that list.
He did lots of interiors when he was an architect and so even though some of his materials were a little embellished, there was always a rigour to what he did.
He also had a fabulous client list with huge budgets which helped.
What would be a dream project/design for you to work on?
A high-end hotel project in a warm city by the sea with a mixture of existing building and new build, taking the project from inception to completion including architecture and interiors.
The budget would be generous and the client would want to create something really unique.
Have you any design tips for us?
I think design needs time and it needs to be your own.
I think a lot of people look at design websites and borrow images without much thought.
By all means, look at these for ideas but they always need to be put in a context.
I think things need to be beautiful and useful, but we always need to think of the bigger picture.
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