Aileen Lee Arlene McIntyre — creative director and founder of Ventura Design
I first started working as a furniture agent, which was the school of life in terms of learning about this business.
Then a lot of my clients were asking ‘why aren’t you doing this directly?’ and it was just something that happened organically, and suddenly I had my own portfolio of work.
I have been in this business for 20 years, working as Ventura on my own, and then myself and my partner went into a limited company in 2005.
We have 40 people in our company. Ballycoolin is our head office. Our other showroom is on the southside of Dublin in Deansgrange, and then we opened our new showroom in Kinsale, just before Christmas.
Seventy per cent of our products are manufactured by Ventura. People appreciate that we employ a team of people to make our sofas, tables and chairs.
If somebody loves that table, but wants a different colour on the top, a different width, a different length, a different paint base, we can do it.
A typical day would start at 7am getting on top of my agenda. We deal a lot with Europe — they’re an hour ahead, and we’ll get lots of calls, emails from them, so it starts early for us. If I have in-house consultations or need to meet a customer in our office, I’ll have to do that in the day. I also keep an overview on all the projects that are going out. It’s a lot but I enjoy what I do. The day can end for me as late as midnight, if I’m catching up on things.
We have been working on Luttrellstown Castle in Castleknock. It’s famous for Posh and Becks getting married there.
Phase one was the first six bedrooms; Phase two was looking after the foyer, the Gothic Hall, the reception area, the Kentian Room and the Dining Hall, and the Aileen Plunkett Suite — she was Arthur Guinness’ daughter.
The brief for us was that it needed a good freshening up. Phase three is the next phase of bedrooms, so each room has its own personality.
We have refurbished all the bathrooms, and all the bedrooms have different colour schemes.
We would have a classic-contemporary look at Ventura Design.
Comfort and functionality are important for me. I don’t like rooms that are boxed off and only used at Christmas time. I like a home you can really use and that’s always special.
The trend I love that I see coming in slowly is the return to neutrals and warm tones, so we’re going to see a lot of browns and creams and sandy tones and gold tones.
My new puppies, Sweetie and Boo. The team love them. Boo is such a charmer, he’s up on everyone’s lap.
Mary McDonald is amazing in the US, as is Alexa Hampton who is just so talented.
I am working on two dream projects — one is for Pippa and Brian Ormond, the second is for Naomi Clarke, the blogger also known as the Style Fairy.
We’re looking after Naomi’s nursery, so that’s exciting. We have a new line of luxury nursery furniture, Baby Ventura, so that’s our new baby, literally. I’m looking forward to seeing that grow. They are beautiful homes and are two wow projects for us.
Try to maximise the light in your room — if you have a small space and it’s a dark room, work it with mirrors and how you position your furnishings, steal light wherever you can.
Don’t buy a sofa without space-planning first. It’s a classic mistake and it happens a lot. And do your homework — research.
No two designers are the same, no two companies are going to be the same, so shop around and see what their services are and how their offerings are different.