Irish Traditions

Brian and Rosie McGuigan designed and built furniture in Denmark in the 1970’s. Upon returning to Ireland in 1979 Orior was born.

Orior took the inspiration of Scandinavian design mixed with their Irish heritage to create a family furniture company. Today their son Ciaran McGuigan, is the Creative Director at Orior, and he continues to grow and expand on the very foundations his parents built.

Each Orior piece is handcrafted in their workshop in Newry, Northern Ireland. Skilled and dedicated furniture makers combine long standing Irish traditions of craft infused with Danish furniture making methods.

The result is supremely covetable furniture. Pieces that will become the family heirlooms of the future.


Art Inspiration

Sophie Ashby began her design education with a BA in History of Art (Hons) at Leeds University, going on to study Interior Design at Parsons, The New School in Manhattan, New York.

Art continues to play a central role in the Studio Ashby inspiration and process. As Sophie says ‘We believe art has a vital place in every interior and no space feels complete without it.”

Studio Ashby draws on Sophie’s love of colour, antique furniture, photography and her latest discoveries in British craft to deliver an eclectic richness to each interior. 
Sophie has a simple mission. She believes that design should be approachable, not exclusive, and that it can enhance an experience and inspire people.

Studio Ashby

Unhappy Families

As Leo Tolstoy, the great observer of the human condition, wrote, “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” It’s easy to talk about surrounding yourself with a home full of furniture and objects that bring you happy memories. But, of course, life is never quite that simple.

I work with clients who, like many of us, have mixed emotions about their past. They may feel a burden of responsibility, rather than pleasure, when it comes to inherited objects. Sometimes they own very little from the past. Sometimes way too much. Here’s some thoughts on how I help my clients (and myself!) work through these complexities.

First of all, it’s important to understand that the furniture and objects that belonged to, or are a reminder of, a particular person are not actually the person themselves. If you find yourself overwhelmed by too many inherited possessions you may be finding it difficult to make this distinction.

It is also not anybody’s responsibility to be the family archivist or keeper of objects if they don’t want to be. Just because you’re the one with the big shed doesn’t make you automatically the one ‘in charge’. Only keep the furniture and objects that fit into your current life and home and give you genuine pleasure now.

Remember how thrilling it is to find something wonderful at an auction or vintage store? Release your unwanted family objects and let other people enjoy that excitement of uncovering a ‘new to them’ gem.

What if your experience is at the other end of the scale? Perhaps you came from a poor or transient background with few collected objects of worth or meaning. Or perhaps there was a wealth of material things in your family home but a lack of emotional warmth connected with them.

The fabulous thing is –  it’s never too late to have a happy childhood. You’re an adult now and you’re in charge.

If family is (meant to be) about a sense of belonging and feeling loved, then the question we all need to ask ourselves is “What do I need in my home now in order to feel loved every day?”. An easy question to ask, but one that often requires some time and reflection to answer. And everybody’s answer will be different.

What’s yours?

Magical Journey

As early as the Middle Ages L’Arlatan was recognised as being Arles’ most lavish hôtel particulier – a grand townhouse.

Now it has been transformed into a boutique hotel thanks to the exceptional vision of Cuban-American artist and sculptor Jorge Pardo.

A gigantic 6,000 square metres of handmade mosaic tiles (two million pieces) now adorns the hotel with an explosion of colour, light and contemporary design. It’s a phenomenal feature incorporating a palette of 18 colours and 11 different geometric shapes laid in a pattern that never repeats itself.

Most of the light fittings and furniture are also Pardo’s work, as are the 400 paintings on almost every door, drawer and wardrobe.

L’Arlatan welcomes you and takes you on an exceptional, magical journey through history, culture and the senses.

Check it out if you like the idea of sleeping in an art installation!


My Favourite Bedrooms

Bedrooms are one of my favourite rooms to design. They’re highly personal, so they must be super comfortable. But perhaps they can also be a little eccentric. After all, the bedroom is really only for the people who sleep in it. It’s the ideal room to design precisely as you would like.

On first glance my favourite bedrooms may seem to have little in common. They certainly vary widely in style and colour. However, I think that at their heart there are a few common threads.

In fact ‘threads’ is where I’ll begin. I believe bedrooms are all about textiles. Layers of touchable, tantalising textiles. Don’t stop at basic bed linens. Think upholstered bedhead or perhaps even upholstered walls.

Your feet deserve fine textiles as well. Plush carpets underfoot please. Or if you can’t bear to be parted from timber flooring, at least something warm and soft to step on to when you get out of bed.

The bedroom is also a great place to invest in beautiful lighting. The lamps on your bedsides are well out of harm’s way compared to the more public areas of your home. Love that lamp as you turn it off to snuggle in for the night, every night.

And speaking of light – darkness is also important. Floor length lined curtains are another opportunity to bring texture, colour and pattern into your day (and night). They will block out more light and noise than blinds and they’re just a beautiful thing to enjoy. (Yes, I am on a one-woman crusade to bring back custom made curtains!)

If you’d like to learn how to lift your bedroom design to the next level, click below for more info about the OLIO Interiors’ presentation on Thursday 5 September.


More info on the designers of these four bedrooms via the links below.

1. Brett Mickan

2. William McLure

3. Rachel Reider

4. Kit Kemp

Free and Sensitive

“Her drawing is searching, free and sensitive, and her painting possesses an appreciation and understanding of tone and colour values.”
Reginald G Brundrit (British Landscape Artist 1883 – 1960)

In 2008, while looking for artwork to hang in her newly renovated home, art gallery professional Chelsea Cefai stumbled across an extensive collection of textile designs at auction. A spur of the moment purchase led to a six year quest to discover more about the artist who created them – Sheila Bownas.

Sheila  Bownas was born in 1925, growing up in the small Yorkshire Dales village of Linton. Displaying a natural talent from an early age and with the encouragement of her art mistress at Skipton Girls’ High School, she attended Skipton Art College in the 1940s and secured a scholarship at The Slade, London’s prestigious art school, where she won a number of prizes for her work.

After graduating in 1950, Sheila forged a career as a freelance designer, supplying patterns to the likes of Liberty and Marks and Spencer.

She moved between London and Linton for twelve years, before finally settling in her beloved Dales for the rest of her life. She continued selling designs by post for a further twenty years and worked on several portrait commissions until her death in 2007.

The archive consists of just over 200 hand painted patterns, the earliest dating from the 1950s, the entire collection spanning thirty years. Since first discovering Sheila’s work, Chelsea has founded the Sheila Bownas Archive and collaborated with artists and designers across the UK to produce a range of unique products that bring Sheila’s patterns back to life.

Sheila Bownas

Letting It Go

Yes, it’s come to that. There’s a skip at my place ready to be filled with the things I no longer need or want in my home.

Before you judge me too harshly…. This skip is the end of a long process of re-distributing unwanted furniture and homewares that has involved many other more environmentally-friendly options as well. If you’ve got furniture and homewares that need to be re-homed, let me tell you how I go about it.

It can sneak up on you or it can come in one almighty rush. One day you wake up and you’ve simply got more than you need. Perhaps you’ve moved to a smaller home, your children have moved out or you’ve recently cleared out your parents’ home. You feel overwhelmed and have a shed full of stuff you don’t know what to do with.

After you’ve given away pieces to family and friends…. what next?

One of the tricky things you learn at this point is what the things you own are really worth in the marketplace. It doesn’t matter how much you, your parents or grandparents paid for it new – now it’s only worth what somebody is prepared to pay for it – and that may not be very much.

But first, how to separate out what may be worth selling?

Ask the experts. Take lots of photos and send them to someone who knows.

For pre-WWII furniture and homewares I use Scammell Auctions. They hold Estate Auctions weekly and more specialised auctions throughout the year. They will give you an auction estimate – don’t forget to include the cost of transport and their auction commission in your calculations. If you have many items of value, they will send someone out to your home to identify particular pieces they know are likely to sell at auction. Having a look at their past auction results will also give you an idea of what certain pieces are currently being sold for.

For mid-century furniture and homewares I talk to Ben at My Modern Nest. He is very knowledgeable and will pay a fair price. Retailers like Ben often buy stock at the auctions, so you’ll get a better price going to him directly.

Then there’s the odds and ends like cut-glass, wicker, pottery, tea cups, mirrors and pictures. This is when I talk to Sam at The Fabulous Scavenger. For most of the items of this ilk from my parents’ home I simply donated them to Sam. For instance, I had many, many preserving jars. They didn’t have enough financial value for Scammells to take them. But they were so wrapped up emotionally in my childhood that I found it difficult to just donate them to a charity. I wanted someone to understand their emotional value and make sure they went to a good home. Sounds a bit mad, but that’s how I felt. Sam took these pieces from me with respect and genuine enthusiasm and then someone else came into her shop and was delighted to take them to a new home.

Then there are the things I donate to Savers. Contemporary items in good condition like cutlery, crockery, clothing, sheets and small appliances. I go to the one on Churchill Road Kilburn. It’s drive-through and there are always staff on hand to take your donations directly out of your car.

And then finally the skip bin for the broken-beyond-repair and just plain rubbish.

It can be a long process. The end goal is always, as designer William Morris so clearly said to “have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”

Adelaide Uncovered

What happens on an OLIO’s Adelaide tour?

Well, every one’s a little bit different……

On Saturday 19 October we’ll be starting the day with an awarding-winning coffee and learning about SA’s best designer-makers.

We’ll be exploring great sources for vintage furniture and objects, and enjoying an exclusive look behind the scenes at stunning timber furniture being handcrafted.

Do you know where to source natural paints for lasting colour and beautiful finishes?

Meet the Adelaide couple travelling the globe to bring you the most stunning, affordable, practical and stylish items for your outdoor space.

And much more………..

It’s always a fun day! Hope you can join us. (This will be the last OLIO’s Adelaide tour in 2019.)

Natural Resources

Eny Lee Parker is a designer of objects, furniture and lighting, using clay as her main medium. Parker reclaims the essence of traditional craft making – the slowness, the intention, the respect for natural resources – and applies it to creating highly contemporary objects.

Parker is a true millennial-style success story.

“My parents were in the fashion world, so I grew up in a design-oriented family, but it wasn’t until I started grad school that I designed and built my first piece of furniture. I had no idea what I was doing, but I had never worked harder.”

Parker shared her unique inspirations and process via social media and started to build an avid fan base. “People assumed I was a legit business, so at some point I just said, why not?”

Stunning objects and an inspiring social media journey!

Eny Lee Parker

Eco-friendly Brooklyn

It’s not just the spectacular views of Brooklyn Bridge that set this hotel apart from the rest. Reclaimed materials and naturally sourced furnishings add to 1 Brooklyn’s distinctive eco-friendly, industrial-chic style.

1 Brooklyn Bridge is situated on the waterfront with spectacular views of downtown New York over the East River and, as the name suggests, the magnificent Brooklyn Bridge. Dumbo ferry terminal is next to the hotel, and High Street and York Street subway stations are eight and 11 minutes’ walk, respectively.

The hotel boasts a plethora of facilities, most impressively a rooftop pool with spectacular views towards Manhattan. The hotel’s designers, many of them local, gave huge thought to its social spaces, including the coveted rooftop bar and inviting lobby.

The hotel operates entirely on wind power and uses a rain-water reclamation system to irrigate neighbouring Brooklyn Park. From the low-energy bulbs, to the five-minute sand timer in the showers to remind guests of water wastage, this is a hotel that truly lives up to its eco-conscious claims.

1 Brooklyn Bridge