Pieces of me: Nuala Goodman, artist, designer and curator

In her spacious but warmly chaotic Milan home, the Irish artist is glad of the haven of her studio, where she can get on with her work and declutter her mind

Irish artist, designer and curator Nuala Goodman has been based in Milan for more than 20 years since her graduation from the National College of Art and Design. She has worked with Ettore Sottsass, founder of the celebrated Memphis Group, as well as with Fiorucci, Alessi, Paul Smith and other well-known Italian companies, including Moroso, with which she collaborated for the Venice Biennale in 2010.

Her ‘Paintings from Milan’ series was shown in the Fortuny Museum in Venice and her experimental flocked-velvet fabric was displayed at Salone del Mobile 2015 in Milan’s Nilufar gallery.

In Ireland, she recently co-curated, with Mary Heffernan of the Office of Public Works, a limited-edition installation of plates for the Casino at Marino and an exhibition of Irish and Italian designers in Dublin Castle. Current projects include wallpaper and product design for Italian companies. She lives with her family in a spacious former commercial building in Milan.

Describe your interiors style

My style is really quite austere and I don't like lots of stuff lying around because it clutters my head. Living with three young adults means stuff accumulates, which is why it is such a relief to have my studio, which is generally a haven of tranquillity. I like some Indian/ethnic items mixed with some design pieces; generally serviceable furniture like the black leather sofa by Molteni & C; or the dining table and chairs by Monica Armani, with a few quirky odds and ends.


Which room do you most enjoy, and why?

I love the main livingroom because of the quality of the light 365 days a year. It is the heart of the house: Luca can be making music, Frances watching TV, Vincent working on the computer, or me cooking. It lends itself to dinners and parties.

What items do you love most, and why?

The atmosphere of a place is more important to me than the objects, but I do love the following pieces: the bookshelves, which convey the chaos and warmth of our house; the aluminium tree by our friend Alex David, an Indian designer who didn’t want to ship it home after displaying it in Milan, so it found a home in our garden; the papier mâché container from a desert area in India, made from waste material and decorated with mirrors and pieces of coloured glass; and finally, a rug I made from silk/allo rug samples in colours the company wasn’t producing any more.

Who is your favourite designer, and do you own any of their work?

I like Ron Arad, the Israeli architect and industrial designer. To me, he is as much an artist as a designer. I have a chair of his, which was part of a collaboration I did with Moroso for an exhibition in Venice a few years ago. I'd love to have one of his early metal chairs. I like Patricia Urquiola too: our bookshelves are hers, but I would love some of her funky multicoloured garden furniture.

Which artists do you most admire?

It is hard to say. I identify most closely with someone like Mariano Fortuny, who was a painter, sculptor, designer and inventor of fabric, because his creativity crossed so many disciplines. And Nathalie du Pasquier, who moves effortlessly between painting and textile design.

What is your biggest interior turn-off?

I dislike over-designed spaces with fecky details that aren’t necessary and simply reflect the designer’s vanity. “Vanity project” is an apt term. I hate Versace’s interior style – so vulgar and heavy.

Which travel destination stands out?

First choice would be Japan. The aesthetic sense which permeates everyday life and the attention to detail, like the way they package things, fascinates me – like Italy in some respects. On another level, there seems to be a strong spirituality in Japan which is not unlike my idea of Ireland.

If you had €100,000 to spend on anything for the home, what would you buy?

I’d build a prefab house on the piece of land we have in the hills of Piacenza.