Inside the little black book

Interior designers have a wealth of valuable information in their contact books from cool curtain makers to off-the-beaten track warehouses that offer a selection of home buys not found elsewhere. Three experts share their secrets with Alanna Gallagher

Liz Dolan is an interior designer who in a former partnership with Joanne Peat as Sketch Design created the much talked about look of Ranelagh restaurant Eatery 120, the multi-layered look of which has stood the test of time. The two also worked with architectural practice Douglas Wallace on the design of the Cliff House Hotel in Ardmore, Co Waterford.

Dolan has since gone out on her own and is a big fan of vintage accents like mid-century mono radios which she describes as “design features”. When she buys them at Rathmines-based auction house Herman Wilkinson they are usually in need of repair. She has them reconditioned for €40 each by Bernard Mothersill who is based in Rathfarnham. “Aesthetically they look great but in this digital age you are restricted to RTÉ 1, 2FM and longwave.” Mothersill can be contacted through the designer.

For talking-point lighting try Etsy, she says. She's a fan of Studio Snowpuppe, a Dutch firm that makes origami light shades that work as well in ultra-modern settings as they do in traditional homes. They come in powder blues, sherbet pinks, sage greens and other pastels and cost from €89 to €139. The site also does beautiful ceiling roses in the same soft colours.

Dolan is a designer who abhors a vacuum. She fills empty wall spaces in kitchens, halls and bathrooms with cheap, chic prints. She has used tea towels from UK-based website To Dry For, that she inserts into simple Ikea frames to create an area of interest. Prices start from about €11.


Smithfield is where the studio of Damn Fine Print is based. “This is another place to go to for reasonably priced and Irish designed illustrations that can decorate empty spaces,” she explains.

For other types of wall decoration she suggests Wallpaper Rock Scissors, a young Irish company selling a great range of wallpaper. "Their fresh range offers younger home makers an alternative to the more traditional paper styles."

She uses the services of Mick McKeon at McKeon Upholstery on Rialto Bridge, Dublin 8, for upholstery and French polishing.

“I can send him pieces of furniture in any condition and he’ll manage to turn them into something great. His selection of fabrics is limited but his leather quality is unmatched.” For bespoke furniture her go-to cabinetmaker is Vincent Hatton.

She attends lots of house sales, never sure of what they might reveal, and recommends signing up to the newsletter of Matthews Auction Rooms, to be au courant with upcoming sales. Based in Oldcastle, Co Meath, it has auction rooms on Capel Street, Dublin 1, and recently sold the contents of the Morrison Hotel at its Tougher Business Park premises in Naas.
Studio Snowpuppe, (0031-647760630, is a Dutch online lighting shop, also on; To Dry For (pictured) has tea-towels (0044-8456529274, Todryfor. com); Wallpaper Rock Scissors is an Irish wallpaper company run by interior company Think Contemporary (087-9683101,; McKeon Upholstery is at 43 Dolphin's Barn (01-454 1829,; Vincent Hatton runs Hatton Woodcraft at Killiskey, Ashford, Co Wicklow (0404-49010,; Matthews Auction Rooms is at Oldcastle, Co Meath, and 116 Capel Street, Dublin 1 (01-872 9555, ; Damn Fine Print, Smithfield, Dublin (087-282 1969,

Milo FitzGerald works mainly with private clients but also created the the atrical interior of Tayto Park. He's a fan of accents and accessories, such as the Bambi console table, a talking point piece by Caroline Olsson made by Ibride. The range includes a cool ostrich table, and a horse leg table, Elisee, stocked in his shop, Gorgeous, on John Street in Kilkenny. For interesting finds he visits The Gaiety, an antique and vintage emporium that has shops in Galway and Westport and is also online.

Former fashion designer turned antique dealer Michael Mortell has become a more visible presence since he moved from his offbeat Central Hotel Chambers address to a shop on Francis Street, Dublin 8. "He has exquisitely chosen things that are mid to high end," says FitzGerald. His most recent purchase was a pair of tub chairs, a design by Mortell, now in production.

For window-dressing FitzGerald has two women listed in his little black book. "Angie Lee makes curtains with a bit of swag to them. Her client list includes 1980s pop star Adam Ant. Theresa Czerniak's work is a cross between high-end tailoring and curtainising."

The Gaiety, Islandeady, Westport, Co Mayo (098-56799) and 3 Francis Street, Galway (091-564 966,; Michael Mortell, 53 Francis Street, Dublin 8 (01-473 6324,; Theresa Czerniak (085-7260462,; Angela Lee (01-4902307);

Set designer Sabine D’Argent loves the Aladdin’s cave set up of Astór, run by Galway-based costume designer and props stylist, Triona Lillis. The shop is secreted away in Liosbán Industrial Estate off the Tuam Road in Galway.

Lillis has worked for Macnas and still designs costumes for the theatre company. Her partner, Gavin Morgan, is a set designer who D’Argent has commissioned to bring her designs to life. Morgan also upcycles pieces that are for sale in the shop, including a pestle and mortar made from a fire extinguisher.

For 1950s and 1960s shows she visits Table Lighting Chair, a furniture and accessories warehouse that is open to the public. Mid-Century Online, the sister online presence of prop shop Historic Interiors, run by Killian McNulty, is the place to find “high end American designers”.

She also suggests checking out Age Action Ireland on Dublin’s Camden Street, which holds a sale every two weeks. Recent treasures included a pair of original Eames chairs and an Ercol sofa.

Astór, 24 Kilkerrin Park, Liosbán Industrial Estate, Tuam Road, Galway,(091-761 75,; Table Lighting Chair, Ruttledge Terrace (the lane beside Donore Avenue Credit Union), Dublin 8 (086-824 3789,; Mid-Century Online, Lusk, Co Dublin (086-257 7232,; Age Action, 30/31 Camden Street, Dublin 2 (01-475 6989,