An interview with Johanne O’Neill, International interior designer

Interior designer Johanne O’Neill talks to The Interior Design Showcase about her work and her design philosophy

My background and my approach

Johanne O'Neill My interior design business has been running since 2012 although I have worked within the furnishings industry for over 15 years. I have been greatly influenced by the fact that I grew up within the building industry, surrounded by skilled trades people, crafters and artists, so I always approach design from the building’s perspective as well as that of the client. I take into account the proportions and nature of the exterior and that is always included in my specifications. I have always appreciated architecture, design and furnishings since a youngster with a particular interest for period interiors and restorations, lending my hand to all kinds projects.

My ideal type of client

I do commercial, residential and work for developers too. I find the commercial contracts are not as emotionally charged as residential because there isn’t the same attachment generally and the budget is set before you start. I like having the scope to work across both of these sectors, in any aspect, business or hospitality projects, or a private home.

Currently I am working on two residential projects and one commercial.

Classroom and Library refurbishment - Marymount International Girls School, Kingston upon Thames, London - Interior Design: Johanne O’Neill
Classroom and Library refurbishment
Marymount International Girls School, Kingston upon Thames, London
Interior Design: Johanne O’Neill

Any no-no projects?

I don’t have any no-no projects. I want to find solutions even if a building is falling down and sometimes have intense conversations with developers.

I am currently working on a residential project in County Down where the client travels a lot and needed some clarity and direction for his home. I have made it more themed in the rooms and very personalised. I replaced curtains with blinds, bought new pieces of furniture and furnishings, some antiques and period pieces to fit in with the overall look, including a beautiful one-off 1960’s credenza and commissioned new art work to complement some areas. This was as well as having antique furniture and pictures restored that belonged to the client.

Music room, interior design and refurbishment Private residence, Rockdene, County Down, N. Ireland - Interior Design: Johanne O'Neill
Music room, interior design and refurbishment
Private residence, Rockdene, County Down, N. Ireland
Interior Design: Johanne O’Neill

I am currently working on a restaurant function room which serves for all types of gatherings such as christening and wedding parties in County Antrim. It is set within a beautiful building in a lovely location and I have developed a concept that is unique to its situation and clientele, sourcing furnishings that fulfil this vision.

I am also working on a private domestic client’s home, a home refurbishment of kitchen and dining rooms and consultancy work in New York from a recent trip and a hotel in Belfast.

I have also been involved in sourcing furnishings and upholstery as well as providing space planning consultancy for a restoration project for Galgorm Castle and its estate in Ballymena.

Dining room with deep saffron walls, plaid upholstery and velvet drapes - Galgorm Castle, Ballymena, N. Ireland - Interior design for restoration and refurbishment: Johanne O’Neill
Dining room with deep saffron walls, plaid upholstery and velvet drapes
Galgorm Castle, Ballymena, N. Ireland
Interior design for restoration and refurbishment: Johanne O’Neill

Most common frustrations

This is delays on shipments, which are usually out of our control, be it because of weather or manufacturing.

Part of a community or not?

I am part of conservation associations and practices and support some that are of interest to me. I love to go to events in the city and feed my imagination with art, design, architecture and business. This will be in London and in Paris and Italy too. My most recent visits were to Liverpool for a conservation event and New York for design. I also enjoy getting away from it all and being in the countryside for the space it offers my creative imagination and interests in nature.

My philosophy

I am interested in contemporary and traditional design, domestic and contract and concepts and designs from all mediums. Relating to the previous question, although I am not part of any interior design body I do feel part of a community that is involved in restoration, that is forward-thinking and not wasting resources but making things beautiful again. I cherish the existing so being presented with decay is no problem for me, I am motivated to bring furniture, paintings and buildings back to life.. My approach is to celebrate what exists and bring it back into a useful and beautiful life