Name: Audrey Gaffney
Company: Audrey Gaffney Associates
Position within company: Managing Director
Tell us a little about your background in design
“I’ve always had a love of design from a very young age and wanted to get into fashion. As a teenager I was always designing and making clothes. Directed by teachers to choose a different industry due to realistic employment difficulties in the fashion industry, I chose computer programming and later, retail management. It wasn’t until I was reminded that I could just spend the rest of my life complaining about not ‘going-for’ fashion design or else do something about it, that I decided at the tender age of 23 to return to full-time education and enrolled on the Interior Architecture degree course by night at Griffith College Dublin. After graduation, I was lucky enough to secure an interior design position within a prominent Dublin architectural company, Project Architects. I was the only Interior Designer among a 60-strong workforce but I learned so much over my time working there and loved the commercial sector so much that I eventually decided in 2008 that I needed to take the leap and start my own company. And as they say the rest is history!” Audrey Gaffney
How would you describe your personal interior design style?
Due to working so intensely on various projects with various styles, my own personal style tends to change and vary frequently. I can appreciate the simplicity of a furniture piece with the elegant grains coming through or admire a more modern painted version depending on its surrounding. I like good design that solves problems and as I get older I can appreciate good design from the point of view of ease of use. I appreciate the elegant, classic design be it in interiors or fashion but I do have a soft spot for all things Italian.
Where does your design inspiration come from?
I keep abreast of current trends but I find that inspiration for a client’s interiors require research into their customer profile, the market that they want to expand within and also the building itself which houses the interiors. I believe that the customers expectation should flow from first arriving at the building through their journey through the building and so I find that my inspiration is taken from many aspects in life including nature, travel and even movies.
In what direction do you feel that design is moving towards in a general sense?
Due to the global slowdown we have seen luxury-brand awareness that had been there originally but now has people more focused on the value and quality for money in these branded services and products. Our clients value the time and effort in researching their brand to develop unique concepts to give their business interiors longevity. I believe that even with brand standards and hotel chains that the high-end luxury market will forego with the much used outdated brand standards when creating new interiors into the future.
Name five key themes to consider when approaching design in 2018 and beyond.
1. Exceeding expectations – A luxury watches which ten years ago probably only offered you the time and date, now offers you a higher specification which can take your heart rate and calculate your distance in training. A city centre hotel will offer more than just its B&B rate where some hotels offer exclusive tailored packages to their customers, for example a package for a marathon runner may include a personalised training programme, branded merchandise and spa treatments.
2. Speciality – With the continued rise in cocktail bars, the industry and especially in Ireland, have seen an increase in specialised bar, e.g. gin and whiskey bars. Clientele are more aware of high end products and exclusive luxury. These bars have surrounded themselves in unique interiors for an elite customer experience. Luxury interiors will be seen in the same light with the clients expecting exceptional service, good food and distinctive interiors. As designers, we are constantly focused on this need. Honing in on possible ideas that we can showcase to our client and developing with them any concept requirements within the interior.
3. Form follows function – hospitality interiors need to work for the end user including staff. We believe that once the spatial arrangement is successful that the look and feel of a property has a higher sense of luxury and quality to the design.
4. Adaptability – We see future luxury and high-end brand developments as a continuing learning curve for all designers. It is important to be adaptable to all possibilities and to have a good understanding to be able to offer options to your clients.
5. Uniqueness – thinking outside the box in terms of creating an individual scheme for your client is of upmost importance for a unique customer experience. Each client has a unique brand even within a hotel chain as each property, location and client profile will vary. Researching this prior to concept stage is imperative and being bold and brave to showcase these options to your client will lead to your client appreciating the value in partnering with an experienced interior architect.
If you could offer one piece of advice when it comes to interior design schemes, what would it be?
For commercial design I always advise our clients to leave their personal taste out of their commercial business design. Hospitality design is about building their own brand and meeting their customer expectations.
How important are The International Hotel & Property Awards as recognition of talent and achievement?
Hugely important. As commercial hospitality designers, The International Hotel & Property Awards is a global recognition of our hard work in delivering unique, bespoke interiors for our clients. Within the competitive design industry, these awards are seen as recognition by our peers and not just critiqued by a select panel of judges. We would be very honoured to receive such an award.
What projects are you currently working on?
Currently we are working on a new-build 5-Star hotel & spa complex in Derry, two hotels in Spain, Cabra Castle, Belleek Castle, hotels in Dublin, hotel in Belfast, restaurant and bars nationwide.
What are your aims and goals for the next twelve months?
Our strategy for future growth is to continue growing our profile and experience of high-end hospitality design within the Irish and European markets. We are now beginning to focus our skills and expertise on spa resort design as an integral inclusion of our increasing portfolio. We will continue to search for new innovative and luxury design solutions, maintaining building regulations and building control requirements, and ensuring that licensing, environmental and conservation needs are met. Our skilled design team are continuously expanding our understanding of the end user and operational aspects of hospitality. Our constant delivery of unique properties for each client is testament to their growth in revenue and their continuous partnership.
Audrey believes that her firm has grown to its strong position competing with the best of what this country has to offer in interior architecture and design. “I suppose we have built our profile and reputation on creating and delivering honest unique interiors, with a high-end finish”, said Audrey on looking ahead with the aim to now further develop her firms standing within the Irish and European hospitality industry. At the start of this year we were awarded a five-star new build hotel and spa complex in the North West, which include nine private cottages and a stand-alone demonstration restaurant; all due for completion by 2019.
“The interiors are no longer simply furnishings, fittings, and finishes; they are the soul of each building. Interiors require unique expertise and technical knowledge to ensure that a lasting customer experience continues well beyond the launch party.” Audrey Gaffney.
Final thoughts; tell us a little more about yourself and your daily inspirations:
Your most treasured possession?
Murphy my maltese dog.
Your favourite holiday destination?
Tuscany in Italy where I got married.
Your favourite hotel, restaurant & bar?
La Bandita Townhouse, Pienza, Tuscany for a modern take on Italian style. The Oak Room Restaurant, Cavan, Ireland for their amazing food. Buza Bar, Dubrovnik for sipping cocktails by the sea.
Your favourite book, film & song?
The Secret. A Beautiful Life. You’re my everything, Barry White.
Your favourite food and drink?
Your favourite way to spend an afternoon?
Having afternoon tea with my best friend.
If you weren’t a designer, what would you be?
Anything else interesting?
We’re approaching 10 years of business and I have built an amazing design team around me which I am very privileged to have. Each team member plays a key part in building our own brand and successful projects which has allowed us to retain many of our client base. We are very lucky to have designed and created a number of high profile and unique interior projects. We are very excited about the growth in the industry, of obtaining projects both home and abroad and we look forward to what the future will bring.