Describing themselves as “collectors, designers, explorers and haulers”, young Irish design couple Blanaid Hennessy and Conor Langton are Kilkenny-based Gild and Cage. And if you haven’t heard of them yet, you will soon…
Think a Moroccan concrete floor meets a battered leather chair, a 5-star bathroom clashing with a bleached white French dining table, a casual sheepskin and a fleece-lined curtain. This is the jumble of style choices that inform the work of fashionista-turned interiors visionary Blanaid Hennessy and hip hotelier Conor Langton, who have come together to form interiors shop and design business Gild and Cage, which launched in November 2013. “Gild stands for luxury – cage is for industrial style” says Conor. Intrigued? Us too. Here’s a glimpse into their ultra-stylish life and design process.
Can you tell us a little bit about Gild and Cage? What’s in the pipeline?
We’re currently working on both commercial and residential design projects, and building up our homewares store in Kilkenny and online. Our objective is to make a home or business feel as though it has a sense of maturity – that the owners themselves have travelled the world finding items of beauty to fill the space. It’s our job to give our clients a space that is perfectly ‘them’ with a ‘G&C ‘ slant, for them to feel like they’re at home, but at the same time they can’t quite believe that they get to live there forever. We’re the collectors, the designers, the explorers and the haulers but it’s our clients who are the ones that know what they love – and it’s our job to make sure we listen.
Have you always been in a design atmosphere of work or have you also had more corporate jobs?
We have pretty much both been self employed for all of our working lives – Conor running the family hotel and bar business (Langtons of Kilkenny), and Blanaid developing her fashion and media business with her brother Eoin (they run fashion businesses, Folkster.com and Shutterbug Vintage together). We work in a creative industry, but it is still an industry so the work is divided evenly between creative and the development and maintenance of a business! Also with our own experience, we definitely understand budgets and appreciate quality and affordability.
Does coming from a fashion background inform your interiors choices, Blanaid?
Definitely – it’s such a fast-paced business so it’s taught me to be decisive and trust my instincts. I’ve also learned to keep learning – there is always something new and different that you can add to your core design principles!
What does a ‘normal day’ look like for you both?
It’s really hard to pin down a normal day! A buying trip day is all day walking, searching, carrying, lifting and packing. Pre-project days are a lot of design meetings, research trips, sketching, sourcing – and a lot of talking! We’re pretty involved hands-on type designers, so on project days we’re on-site as much as possible, doing whatever needs to be done to help make the design come to life.
You are both clearly incredibly creative people. When did the ‘style bug’ first hit?
I think we were born obsessed with aesthetic and creativity. We were both lucky to have families who really nurtured that and then when we met, we recognised that the other person was a little bananas about design too – the perfect chemistry!
I know you both travel a lot. How does where you go to inform your buying choices and ideas? Travel is just the best way to continue learning and developing our aesthetic. It gets us out from behind our desks and opens our eyes as to how other cultures view comfort, elegance, impact and refinement. We don’t just go to factories and markets on our trips – we visit local homes in the area to really educate ourselves on other lifestyles, and then add a little of everything we see, to everything we do. We both loved the creativity of India, the flea markets of Paris, the homes in Morocco and the bars and restaurants of London and New York – all very inspirational.
How does being based in Kilkenny inform your work?
This is a wonderful, creative, entrepreneurial city – and with that comes a real support for anyone trying to make a living from doing what they love. It’s also one of the most beautiful places in the world, with wonderful architecture and landscape. We feel very lucky to be surrounded by its charm and aesthetic.
Please describe the design process to us and our readers
We actually do a lot of our initial designs on our buying trips abroad, as that’s where we’re absolutely focused on the interiors aspect of our lives. So there’s a lot of sketching in hotel rooms, then when we get home – we each have our own office where we get to the computer design aspect – taking a room or space each and just going for it! We have a big old dining table which then gets pretty covered quickly with our designs, mood boards, textile options, samples and of course – sketches, re-sketches and more sketches!
What do you feel is your best design achievement to date?
We loved working with all of our clients on every single project – but the hardest thing has been having ourselves as clients! So we think maybe developing our home wares range for gildandcage.com has been the biggest challenge and from which we’ve garnered the most experience. We’re so excited about the potential and the plans for our store, ranges and website.
And, finally, what’s up-and-coming for you in 2014?
Definitely the home wares – not just stocking other brands or vintage, but creating our own designs, seeing them from sketches through to manufacture and retail. We plan on using a lot of Conor’s art on our textiles, and creating the most comfortable, timeless furniture that represents the eclectic Gild & Cage style! We have some great interiors projects lined up and already underway, so 2014 is hopefully going to be busy and exciting!
Gild and Cage, shop and design services T: 056 7703312
By Ciara Elliott @CiaraEll