How art can make a space

For many people, in designing spaces, art can be something of an afterthought and yet it’s something we notice everywhere we go. In restaurants, in bars, in other peoples home and yet we are so much more likely to hang pictures of us on our J1 from 10 years ago than of art. Especially when it is art that can inspire us or add texture, depth and colour to our environment.

And now in a world where most of our photos and inspirational quotes and artwork mainly exist on our mobile devices we really need to look at our bare walls and rethink things.


One of the most important things for me in designing a space – be it personal or commercial – is what is the end goal? What opinion do we want customers or guests to reach when they enter the space? Fun, quirky, chic, elegant, minimalist, vibrant, reserved. Yes interior design can cover all these bases in our use of colour, tone and texture but artwork can enhance all of these things and really help to deliver your message.

Over the past number of years there has been a huge uplift in Ireland to promote the wealth of Irish artistry that is available at our fingertips. Historically art was only available via elite galleries and showcased on a rainy day on Stephens Green. Now however its everywhere you go you just need to know how to access it.

On one of Tall Boy’s most recent projects, Bar Rua on Clarendon Street, we tapped into the amazing plethora of talented Irish artists out there right now. Modern art adorns the walls of the interior with an emphasis on colour and quirkiness.

redheadArtists like Morgan, Gary Reddin, Steve Simpson, JillandGill, Pat Byrne, Rob Stears, and Claudine O’Sullivan add vibrancy to the space and catch the eye of punters drinking their pints. Many of them asking the bar staff “Where can I buy that print?”

The availability of reasonably priced print works is at an all time high – the likes of Jam Art Factory regularly have new artists in stock on their website and in their shop and the lads running it are sweethearts. Rubio in Hang Tough Framing also provides an online gallery and shop where they stock most of their artists they regular frame works for, check out Tough Love Gallery.


Damn Fine Print over the Northside of the Liffey provide screen printing courses but also sell artists work via their website too. One Strong Arm focus on typesetting pieces but still very impactful design. For a larger range of art you can check out The Copper House Gallery which hosts a selection of Irish artists – a portfolio of illustrators, photographers, painters and screen printers – so you’re sure to find something you love on their site. Prices can vary but it’s definitely a haven for any taste.

The positives to bespoke framing

captureSo now having chosen your work of art don’t forget the home in which it will live all its days and by that I mean the frame. Unfortunately so many people make the mistake when purchasing a print or artwork to house it in an ‘off the shelf’ basic frame when really your options for display can be endless and totally bespoke. Floating, non-reflecting glass, colour insets to highlight and accentuate the colours within your art piece; different mount widths and colours, a selection of frame widths, frame styles. The combinations are endless and beautiful.

Yes it can obviously be more expensive than a standard shop bought frame but the impact that it can have on a room or on you is incredible and not to be dismissed.

Two very skilled framing companies that I would recommend would be Hang Tough Framing in Portobello and Fox Framing in Foxrock. The quality, skill and inventiveness of bespoke framers is definite worth the money you pay and they tend to be very passionate and happy people.

Maybe dealing in creativity and viewing works of art every day makes their lives more fulfilling….which is definitely food for thought.

Planning Your Refurbishment – Defining a brief, budget & timescale

If you have a home requiring a little love and attention or are maybe thinking of buying a home or premises in need of renovation here are some tips that will help you on your way.


The most important thing before you start your project is to define what it is you wish to achieve and try your best to stick to it. Many people make the mistake of not defining what they truly want from their refurbishment and end up changing their goals as the project progresses. This in turn increases the budget. The more definitive you are with your brief the more exacting you can be with your budget and cashflow. The more exacting you are the more controlled you are of the overall project.

Questions to ask when creating your brief are:

a. What is my end goal? A larger kitchen, a second bathroom, to let more light into the property, more space etc. Whatever the ultimate goal is, define it and put it on the list.

b.  What are my Must Haves? Is there a specific thing you just have to have and won’t negotiate on? When renovating my own home I specifically wanted a retro fridge, a new bespoke handmade kitchen and wooden shutters on my windows. I would not budge on these items and made sure I factored them into my brief and then in turn my budget.

c. Where is their room for movement? Laminate instead of semi-solid or hardwood? Do you really need new tiles in the bathroom? Can the walls be papered instead of replastered? These are all viable questions that will have a knock on effect on your budget. If you can identify your Must Haves you can also identify the things that you can be flexible with.


Unfortunately if clients don’t do their research when it comes to cost and renovating it is very easy to see things escalate out of control.  Most people just don’t have realistic knowledge of how much things actually cost. It is only when you start itemising the requirements of the job and start ringing would be contractors that’s when you can really get a handle on estimating your outgoing spend.

Again it goes back to the brief and your must haves. What can you skimp on and what is essential. Make sure to get 2-3 quotes from different tradesmen and suppliers you will be surprised the difference in price from company to company. Use websites like, word of mouth is great and LinkedIn is actually a great one too which people wouldn’t think of.

Once you start building your budget and collating your contractor list you can start getting an idea of when your project is likely to start and more importantly, finish.


Setting a realistic timeframe is of the utmost importance. Also what a client might think is realistic might not be realistic to a contractor so bear that in mind. Try and use a main building contractor who will sub-contract out the electrics, plumbing etc so that they have full management and responsibility for the tradesmen onsite every day. If you decide to have your own electrician or carpenter on site then you are responsible for making sure he or she is onsite every day when they are supposed to. If you use a main contractor looking after everyone it does help to keep everything running reasonably smooth.

Make sure you agree specific stage payments throughout the project. This is so the project isn’t delayed in any way. I once had a project where my contractor didn’t ask for any money and when I queried why there was no one on site one day he said he hadn’t been able to pay them! After that I made sure staged payments were made regularly to him so as not to delay the project in any way.

If you have a specific timescale in your head – 1st July, Christmas week – it could be anything, always factor in 1-2 weeks of delay sometimes longer depending on the scale of the project.  Anything can happen and if it can happen, it will!

So there you have it – Brief, Budget and Timescale. The basis of your successful renovation project.

To get some inspiration for your prospective project check out Tall Boy designs Instagram page!

The Need to be Unique

It’s a common crux for a designer – you want to set yourself apart from your contemporaries  but not too far apart so that you’re no longer on trend. You strive to be seen as individual, new and unique.

In the age we live in it’s become so much more accessible to tap into social and cultural trends in other cities and bring an element of that design back home to Ireland. At what point though do our designs, that we’ve systematically created and laboured over, just start to look like everything else? We are all researching in the same pools – Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook etc.  We find something – a theme or design that sparks our creativity – tweak it, develop it, put our own stamp on it and call it our own but at what point does design inspiration equal just plain plagiarism?


It is the way of the world to take inspiration from different avenues. We see a common theme occurring particularly in music recently with the plagiarism case of Mark Ronson, Bruno Mars and 70’s funk pop group The Sequence for their copyright infringement of Uptown Funk. Also to note the successful plagiarism case brought against “Blurred Lines” singer Robin Thicke for his direct sampling of “Got to give it up” by Marvin Gaye.

In this day and age, with a world of art, design and music that’s gone before us, it is nigh on impossible to be truly original – elements are taken from all avenues and facets and of course the old adage is true “Imitation is the best form of flattery”

So how can we still be seen as unique if a common trending theme runs through all our designs?

  • Through Clarity. How we present our ideas to the world and most importantly to our clients. Know what you message is, define your brief clearly and concisely and commit to it.


  • How you Deliver your design.  Do you do it with a smile? Well if not, you should. The easier you make life for your client the happier they will be and in turn, happy client equals happy designer.


  • Be Honest. This seems to be a common thread amongst my peers. The more honest and upfront you can be with your clients, your contractors or suppliers you will help to create a more positive and fulfilling working environment for everyone.


So being unique in today’s market doesn’t always boil down to your design and what you’re putting on a page but more about how you present that design and yourself to the world.