Aileen Lee meets Michelle Keane, an interior designer and owner of mibeau Interiors
What’s your background?
I was interested in design from a young age. At 16 years of age, I got my first real break when I was asked to design a family friend’s kitchen. From then on, my passion and career grew.
After a postgraduate qualification from the Scottish College of Textiles in Galashiels, I freelanced for four years as an interior designer. In 2000, I decided I wanted to createmy own job in Kerry so I set up what I would call a bespoke market for my designs and products.
In April of this year, I was awarded the Ralph Lauren Home and Designer Guild, as their only online presence in Ireland. I beat off stiff competition to get that. I have another 20 international brands on board now, based on that award.
What’s a typical work day like for you?
I am up every morning at 5am. I have a studio out the back of my house. I come out here in my dressing gown. I have my music blaring, whatever I feel like, it could be Leonard Cohen one morning and Madonna the next. I have my cup of coffee and I am at my desk doing colour storyboards or whatever I have to do. Then at 7.30am, I go in and take a shower, get the kids up and take my son to school and my daughter to the babysitter.
When you’re working for yourself, your work is never finished. It has gone to a different level for mibeau Interiors — I am hiring people and building a team around me that I can trust and that will help me.
Tell us about a favourite project or design you have worked on?
My favourite would be a house I designed for a lady in Ballybunion. This is what really spurred me on with Ralph Lauren. She wanted to use their Côte d’Azur signature collection. I realised that no one in Ireland stocked it. I went over to Chelsea in London and got the products. I asked them who in Ireland is selling this online and they said no one is, but it’s coming up for tender. I cancelled my flight and I spent another day in Bond St at their flagship store, and I researched everything to know about their fabrics. Then I went about how I would get called for an interview. I have a lot to thanks that client for — because I got the Ralph Lauren tender on the back of it.
What’s your design style?
I am known for my classic contemporary style, for my taupe colour palette and minimalistic taste.
What/Who inspires your work?
The greatest influence in my career to date would have to be my mother, Therese Culnane Keane. She’s gifted with her hands. She instilled my passion for arts and crafts.
What’s your favourite trend at the moment (if you have any)?
Wall coverings — they’ve made an amazing comeback. I have seen an increase in patterned and textured wallpapers over the past year.
What’s your most treasured possession?
It’s a photo of my Auntie Bríd on her wedding day. She tragically died at the age of 47 from cancer when I was 15 — it’s a happy day captured on my kitchen wall.
Who would be your favourite designer, or style inspiration?
It’s Ralph Lauren, of course! I love the use of simplicity in his designs.
What would be a dream project for you to work on?
I would love to be involved in Ballybunion’s first five-star hotel. I think it would be a huge opportunity for Ballybunion. I feel it is so magical with its breathtaking scenery and amazing cliff walk. It also has one of the best links golf courses in the world.
I would call it the Bill Clinton Hotel. I would have a rooftop presidential suite overlooking the Atlantic. I would use the Ralph Lauren Côte d’Azur collection for my inspiration. I would get the man himself, Bill Clinton, to open it.
Have you any design tips for us?
Use trends as a guide rather than a rule.
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