‘Irish people have been pretty bad at paying attention to our homes. Now we want comfort’

Interior designer Maoliosa Murray moved from London and set up a business in Dublin

Maoliosa Murray in her showroom apartment. Armchair Eileen from The Invisible Collection. Photograph: Simon Watson

Maoliosa Murray in her showroom apartment. Armchair Eileen from The Invisible Collection. Photograph: Simon Watson

 

Growing up between London and Dublin gave Maoliosa Murray a dual perspective on living between two cities, absorbing different cultural influences.

When her mother, ceramicist Anne Murray, moved to London and set up a gallery in Kensington, her young daughter, an only child, spent her early years there, then completed her education at Stratford College in Rathgar. Having established a successful career in interiors working with trade and private clients, Murray has followed in the family peripatetic tradition and moved back to live and work in Dublin with her two-year-old son, Max, and opened a new apartment/showroom in an elegant Georgian building on Pembroke Road.

Maoliosa Murray in her showroom apartment on Pembroke Road in Dublin. Photograph: Simon Watson
Maoliosa Murray in her showroom apartment on Pembroke Road in Dublin. Photograph: Simon Watson

Furnished with some of the top international interiors and furnishing brands that she sells exclusively in Ireland, it gives any first-time visitor an awareness of the origins, scale and craftsmanship involved, two of the main being The Rug Company and The Invisible Collection. The Rug Company founded by Christopher and Suzanne Sharp in 1997 is now a global operation and Murray has been working with them for 12 years.

The Invisible Collection’s three founders are women who have worked with luxury brands such as Chanel and Hermes and offer more than a hundred of the best interiors brands. Others include the celebrated furniture and homeware designer Bethan Gray and CTO Lighting. The British ones Murray represents have all set up in European areas “so there are no import duties and all prices are in euro”, she says.

So how did it all begin?

“I wanted to be an architect but went into fashion design at the Grafton Academy,” she explains when we meet at the apartment one sunny autumn morning.

“I then returned to London and cut my teeth in PR and in property and interiors working with developers – I knew some of the Irish ones coming into the boom time.” She then moved to Monaco working in luxury branding partnerships around Formula 1 for two years, before returning back to London and further improving her skills, completing a masters at the Royal Institute of British Architects in construction project management.

Maoliosa Murray’s showroom apartment with lacquered coffee table and brown table from The Invisible Collection. Patrick Scott artwork from Stoney Road Press, cabinet by Bethan Gray. Photograph: Simon Watson
Maoliosa Murray’s showroom apartment with lacquered coffee table and brown table from The Invisible Collection. Patrick Scott artwork from Stoney Road Press, cabinet by Bethan Gray. Photograph: Simon Watson

“I also trained with Kelly Hoppen [the multi-award-winning British CBE designer] for a year in 2019 and learned a lot from her. She was a skilled stylist and would say to me: ‘Style that shelf and look at everything as if it is an altar.’ I learned about running a business from her and managing clients.”

Many high projects followed and “life was good”, Murray recalls, “and I owned my own place in Chelsea. But after the crash everything came to a complete standstill, so I rented out my apartment and came home.”

Pop-up

Murray started by introducing Jonathan Adler, a famous modern home decor business whose “accessible luxury” suited the Irish market, “but then I met Bethan Gray and The Rug Company and we just connected”. In 2011 she did a pop-up in Ebony and Co, an extremely successful Irish flooring company with many high-profile customers.

“They allowed me to cover their floor /[with the rugs/] in their Fitzwilliam Square headquarters and it brought them a whole new clientele. Then I took a space in Minima in Dublin and, over time, grew The Rug Company business.”

She now divides her time, working with developers as well as private clients.

“A couple might see a cabinet that they like and I might end up doing the whole house for them,” she says. Her apartment, displayed with the objects and furnishings that she represents, was formerly a show apartment. When it came up for rent, she decided to take it having fallen in love with its high ceilings, stucco work and the light from its enormous windows.

So why did she return home? “Brexit was looming and from a work perspective I thought I would be better off here. I wanted to have my baby here and educate him here, so when Covid happened and this came on the rental market, I thought ‘here we go’.”

Maoliosa Murray with her son Max in her showroom apartment: ‘I wanted to have my baby here and educate him here.’ Photograph: Simon Watson
Maoliosa Murray with her son, Max. Photograph: Simon Watson

The rugs are all hand-knotted and hand-loomed in Nepal and the one on the floor in the showroom, a graphic gold and cream number called Channels Copper, certainly adds luxury to the space. It’s by Kelly Wearstler, a designer from the United States and one of the many fashion and interior designers with whom The Rug Company collaborates. A bookcase displays samples of their many rugs: a striking one in emerald green with a cream and black climbing leopard is one designed by Diane von Furstenburg.

“If you are furnishing a room from scratch, a carpet will dictate the furniture and lighting,” she says, “and a lot depends on the size of the rug – in my opinion, the more rug in a room, the better.”

Upmarket home offices

The most common comment Murray gets from private clients is “we know what we like but we don’t know how to put it together”, and she proudly describes herself as an interiors concierge for either one room or the whole house “with a little black book of people who can carry out the work”.

“It’s about a turnkey service for people, organising projects, logistics, sourcing art and deliveries – having spent most of my life in high-end, white-glove service working with architects, interior designers, developers and private clients.”

The Rug Company sample library on bookcase at Maoliosa Murray’s showroom apartment. Photograph: Simon Watson
The Rug Company sample library on bookcase at Maoliosa Murray’s showroom apartment. Photograph: Simon Watson

What is driving business, she says, is Irish people returning home from abroad and others spending more time in their homes because of Covid. There are increasing requests for more upmarket home offices.

“That has been quite exciting. Up to now we have been pretty bad at paying attention to our homes and becoming aware of brands that are interesting and exciting. People want luxury and comfort and have saved money. There has been a huge surge in the 40-plus age group who are buying bigger, forever homes, happy to invest in interiors and are looking for unique pieces. I think [when it comes to taste/ the Irish are a little more glamorous, have a more US-style aesthetic rather than hardcore minimalism,” she says.

Lamp and sconce, CTO Lighting, cabinet by Bethan Gray at Maoliosa Murray’s showroom apartment. Photograph: Simon Watson
Lamp and sconce, CTO Lighting, cabinet by Bethan Gray at Maoliosa Murray’s showroom apartment. Photograph: Simon Watson

Murray describes her own interiors style as “simple luxury with a touch of rock ‘n’ roll”, a statement that could equally apply to the way she dresses – that morning in a leopard-print cardigan, leather leggings and black ballerinas, a look that’s cool and classy, rather like the labels she represents.

Maoliosa’s showroom is at 19 Pembroke Road, Dublin, by appointment. Her rugs start from €2,250, furniture from €950 and lighting from €550. No charge for consultations.