Fresh out of college, Roisin Lafferty worried that there wasn’t room in this economic climate for another interior architect. Turns out, a fresh, innovative eye was just what the industry needed…
In the aftermath of the bust, students graduating in architecture and interior design despaired; the outlook was bleak. Though Roisin Lafferty and her classmate Susanna Kingston had both graduated from Dublin Institute of Technology with first-class honours degrees in interior design, the chances of them getting work here were slim. They were both offered places at London’s prestigious Kingston University, and, following a stint there for their masters (during which time Roisin exhibited at Tent London), they returned to Dublin for a small job, which led to another, and eventually to the creation of Kingston Lafferty, an exciting and forward-thinking design agency. Their “don’t move, improve” philosophy has proven key to their success, nabbing them a spot on the shortlist of the Institute of Designers in Ireland (IDI) Awards.
A large mirrored wall-to-ceiling panel at the end of the dining table creates the illusion of elongating the space.
How did you go from graduate to business owner in such a short time? I had always wanted to work for myself, but didn’t think it would be an option straight from college. Susanna and I got offered a chance to come home and work on a temporary exhibition. At the same time, we got asked to do an architectural survey on a house. The architectural survey turned into an opportunity to pitch for the design, which became a huge interior and landscape architect project that we’re just finishing up now. It’s been our baby. Because of it, we ended up staying, getting recommendations, and growing as a business. It was never meant to be a full company straight away – when we first started out, I was working as an intern on Image Interiors & Living! Now we’re actually looking to hire people.
It must have been a scary time to graduate… Yes, it was definitely a bad time. But in saying that, a lot of people really wanted to make the most of what they had. We found a niche, working to improve people’s existing houses. It was a good opportunity for us.
How were you able to find work during such a difficult time with so little experience? Certainly, part of it was our youth and our energy. Also, we had never experienced the Celtic Tiger, where people were throwing money at things. So, from the very start, we were dealing with people who had tight budgets. Our main objective for so many of our clients at the start was to give them a high-end result for a low enough budget; that’s all we knew, and it worked in our favour.
“We decided to keep the base elements quite neutral and incorporate vibrant pops of colour through artwork and textiles,” Roisin explains.
How would you describe your design philosophy? Our main starting point with everything is to improve the space; I would always say to people that you don’t want to cover things up or just decorate well. If the space is wrong, you need to start with improving that. A lot of Irish houses have quite small, pokey rooms that don’t really work any more, as people want open-plan living. Our approach has always been about improving the interior architecture first, then choosing the finish.
Your Smithfield Residence project recently got shortlisted for an IDI Award. What was the space like before you got to work on it? It’s a very small terraced house in Smithfield – the size of an apartment, really. My client rented the property initially, and didn’t want to spend too much money on it. There was no character to it, and it doesn’t get much natural light, and there were no defined spaces. The client was great fun to work with, though, and was open to quirky ideas. It was brilliant to be shortlisted for a project that was very much about improving what people have and giving them quality for their money.
Roisin (right) and business partner Susanna. kingstonlaffertydesign.com
Want more inspiration for city living? Try a little taste of France – a Parisian-style penthouse in Dublin’s Docklands.