Pieces of me: Architect Declan O’Donnell

The style and design the ODKM architect admires and surrounds himself with


Architect Declan O’Donnell is creative director and founding partner of ODKM architects. He almost pursued a career in music before switching to design. He has just completed a second season as a judge on RTÉ television’s Home of the Year series, and published his first book, Rooms

Describe your style?

As an architect I like clean lines but I like old stuff too. Super contemporary, I like the logic of modernism but I love living with an eclectic mix. My fiancée and I live in a rented apartment and it’s a wee bit retro. We took one wall and painted it a deep and very oily slate blue that has totally changed the mood of that room. It’s a dining room cum office. We have a second living space, a TV room.

It was a family holiday to Barcelona that turned me on to architecture. It was the first time I saw architecture on a grand scale, the general architecture of the streets, Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia and the pavilion by Mies van der Rohe and it imprinted something on me. I was nine.

The room in your home you most enjoy?

This office space is home to a 1970s’ teak sideboard that we bought from Table, Lighting, Chair (tablelightingchair.blogspot.com) and there’s loads of art on the walls. In it there’s a record player and full electric piano keyboard and loads of books. The apartment came fully furnished and we both hated the dining room table but since we’ve painted the room it doesn’t look too bad.

I’m from Belfast and I studied at Queens and did my post-grad at the Mackintosh School of Architecture in Glasgow so I’m only starting to look at putting down roots in Dublin. It was heart-wrenching to watch the fire that destroyed the Mackintosh building (in 2014), which is of such cultural importance to the people of Glasgow.

The items you love most?

I’m a classically trained flautist. All through my teens I played in orchestras with the BBC, playing to very high level.

I was in a band with singer songwriter Eoin Colgan and we made it all the way to the offices of Island Records. We had entered a competition and had won. The prize included money to make demos but the company was only signing sure things and they couldn’t figure out how to package us.

We did get to play Wireless Festival in 2007 along with the Manic Street Preachers and The White Stripes. My flute has a Japanese head joint and a gold lip plate and is irreplaceable.

I’m not really a things person. I have a nice whiskey collection of Irish and Scotch. My love of the ball of malt came from my days as a student in Glasgow when I worked in The Ben Nevis pub where they stocked more than 300 varieties of amber.

Favourite designer? Do you own any of their work?

Every project from Norwegian architectural firm Snohetta, who did the opera house in Oslo, where you are positively encouraged to sit on the roof, feels fresh. They are fiercely passionate about what they do, and they push boundaries.

I’ve been saving up for ages to buy one of Andreas Engesvik’s lights. Corky Carafe, the piece I’ve bought feels more like a free-standing piece of furniture that you can move around.

I’d love to own a piece by Dan Flavin, an American artist famous for his arrangements of commercially available fluorescent light units and the work of Japanese concept artist On Kawara who distils his ideas right down has really stayed with me.

The artists you admire?

I have a signed print by Dubliner Maser that I bought at an art fair. In the info-laden world we live in his work stands out. I’ve got very good friends living in Oslo in Norway and the county has a different take on design so much so that on my last visit I came home with a sheet of Christmas wrapping paper that was so obviously Scandinavian that I’ve since had framed by Hang Tough Framing. I have a large oil on canvas by one of my business partners Ciaran McCoy. It is big, bold, fresh and semi-psychotic and exudes his personality. It dominates the room.

Biggest interior turn-off?

I dislike big overstuffed matronly sofas and glass worktops that blunt your knives.

Travel destination that stands out?

New York, because every time I go back I find something new and Rome, because it is like a walking museum – it is inspirational in a historical way while the Big Apple is all about the now.

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

I would enjoy the hunt to find every piece of designer furniture I ever desired starting with a set of Cesca dining chairs by Marcel Breuer. The antiques portal 1stDibs.com has a fine set of six made in the 1920s for 15,893 from a dealer in Bremen. I’d spend the rest on art.

Declan O’Donnell recently published his first book, Rooms, Create the Home You Want For Your Life through Hachette Publishing.

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