posted on February 8th, 2018
Featured in:


Ulster Tatler Interiors chats to Emma Johnston of Emma Johnston Interior Design.


How did you get into interior design?

As a small girl I painted the roof of a Fisher Price house with nail polish; I don’t recall my client’s mother being all that impressed but luckily standards have improved. In retrospect, I think I gained a lot of knowledge from my mother who took on a Victorian family home in the 1980’s that was in dire need of restoration. I was able to see and learn about the work involved and the importance of getting the details right. The restoration of old buildings needs to be sympathetic yet also functional for today’s living. Later on I attended Leeds College of Art & Design gaining an HND in Interior Design, this was followed by a BA (Hons) in Interior Design from the University of Ulster. I then worked as a set-out technician for James F. McCue (now McCue Fit), this was an excellent environment for learning about construction, fit-out and project management. I then worked in London, first for Jane Churchill Interiors, then based on Sloan Street and for Percy Bass Interiors in Walton Street.


What projects are you currently working on?

Having moved into new premises in Lisburn Square my private client work has expanded considerably and I am currently working on a number of private homes. I love helping people to realise the full potential of their homes. I am also working on the exciting renovation of the Belmont Hotel in Banbridge. The hotel, originally the home of a linen baron, was built in 1838 and it has been a pleasure to breathe a new and vibrant style into the hotel but in such a way as to celebrate the beauty and tradition of this delightfully traditional house. It has been a joy to be able to see listed features being restored and enjoyed.


What is the most exciting project you have ever worked on?

Well the Sheikh’s London residence in Knightsbridge would have to be up there for the experience of the project alone. It was important to learn about a different culture and to get the brief right. Working with that amount of gold was great fun, but not necessarily to everyone’s taste!

My most favourite to date would have to be the neo-classical Bishop’s Palace in Armagh (built c1770) where I was part of a multi-disciplinary team. I was integral to the transformation of a tired run down old building into a vibrant, traditional yet functional civic headquarters. I worked closely with the client and all the contractors on site and enjoyed working with Ulster Carpets who wove the carpet to my design. President Michael D. Higgins was very complimentary about the Palace’s interiors when he visited: I am still flattered by this.


So what’s the future?

It’s been challenging building an interior design business in the great recession, but if anything it encourages discipline and hones one’s passion for good quality design that has longevity. I hope to continue to look after my private client work and continue to find new and exciting brands to feature in my Lisburn Square shop. I would like to concentrate on working with grand old buildings and helping the client, whether they be hoteliers or private home owners, to bring these buildings back to life: sympathetic yet functional for today’s living.


Emma Johnston Interior Design

9 Lisburn Square, Lisburn, Co Antrim

BT28 1TS

Tel: 028 9267 6015