Pieces of me: Oonagh Young, graphic designer

Graphic designer Oonagh Young set up her gallery in Dublin’s Monto district in 2008, mortgaging her home to establish the contemporary space, where she shows work by Irish and international artists

Graphic designer Oonagh Young set up her gallery in Dublin’s Monto district in 2008, mortgaging her home to establish the contemporary space, where she shows work by Irish and international artists. Her home in Ranelagh reflects her cutting-edge, yet timeless taste.

Describe your style

I think it is quite minimal, idiosyncratic, with a touch of “austerity nostalgia”, as the writer Owen Hatherley would say. He describes the popularity of the “mid-century modern” look as being about our anxiety about the world at present. It’s a misplaced nostalgia for this post-war, utopian aesthetic (minus the politics). I think that the present is always linked to the past, so mixing old and new is going to make for a pleasing combination.

The personal objects we collect have the voice and add character to every interior space. That’s particularly true in the case of art works. My furniture tends to be minimal or mid-century, while the artworks I have collected reflect my interest in contemporary sculptural objects and artist editions.

Which room in your home do you most enjoy?

Without doubt, it is my new and beautiful "barter" kitchen by Donal Colfer Architects. My kitchen needed an overhaul and Donal offered to take a look. He came up with a proposal to design it and, in return, I would do a sleeve design and artwork for his brother Niall's new album Dovecote, so we traded design expertise and both projects have been successfully released this year. I love the clean lines, the restrained palette of grey and off-white stone and then the bold green floor. It has revitalised my culinary life.


Which items do you love most?

This changes after every exhibition in the gallery, but currently there are four: Slice Boy by John Rainy is a porcelain edition which I commissioned for an exhibition, sponsored by Year of Design 2015, looking at the blurred lines between art and design. I love the direct reference to neo-classical sculptures, plinth included, but reduced for contemporary domestic display. I also love a pair of aluminium framed, formal graphic prints of icebergs by Amy Stephens, who is a very exciting artist. Unfurl Again by Fiona Mulholland is a wonderfully playful edition in powder coated steel and brass rods – and you get to arrange or display the work as you please. Finally I love my small baroque porcelain figurine by Ursula Burke that subverts the idea of romance as she is portrayed with a bag over her head.

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

I have many favourites, particularly in graphics, but sticking to interiors, I always come back to Jean Prouvé whose austere elegance is starkly beautiful. Unfortunately I don’t own any of his work. Nor do I own anything by Hvidt and Nielsen or Eileen Gray – but I do own a classic swivel chair by Antonio Citterio that he designed for BnB Italia. That came to me through a fortunate collision of pay day and a closing-down sale many years ago.

Which artists do you admire?

I admire all Irish artists who continue to practise despite the difficult economic climate. Most of the artists I have worked with, despite the near demise of the market, continued to create and make work. Artists I tend to revisit, like old friends, include Gerhard Richter, Richard Serra, Sophie Calle, Eva Hesse, Agnes Martin, Harry Clarke and Patrick Scott (whose book I designed for IMMA to celebrate his major retrospective in 2014).

What is your biggest interior turn-off?

Crooked artworks on walls: it means nobody has looked at it or nobody cares. Also, the cold weak light from some LED light bulbs.

Which travel destination stands out for you?

Travelling overland from Cape Town to Victoria Falls was a highlight. We camped out on the Namibian desert and watched the sun rise over the red sand dunes through a morning mist. The quality of changing light in this landscape was like nothing I had ever experienced and was truly breathtaking.

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

As a city dweller, I crave more space. I would reconfigure the upstairs and build an extension to create more light and space and expand the mini-orchard on my roof garden. Then if I had any change, I’d throw lots of parties for my friends.