A Word With Kris Turnbull

Ulster Tatler Interiors speaks to award winning interior designer, Kris Turnbull.

Describe your typical working day.

I get up, consume my ‘clean greens’ and go straight to the gym every other day to have the brain in the right order for the big day ahead. The truth is, each day is so very different hence the addiction with my job; it’s really a lifestyle. I meet with my right hand, Nicola, in The Vestry to review, implement and discuss works and the company. Then it can be up to the studio to design projects, out on the site to meet contractors or to review presentations for sign off. I work in the middle of the design team with a holistic approach so I am constantly bouncing and reviewing ideas with the architectural and interior team on projects, both large and small.

I typically do my best design work in the evenings, when I have the studio to myself. I am a night owl! I love my job and each day that comes along with it.


How do you keep up with all the latest trends in interior design?

International travel, exploring and research trips to different cultures around the world, international clients and world design fairs.


What is your signature style, what makes something ‘Kris Turnbull’?

The composition of the design work is what contributes to my signature style. Often the balance between different periods of time, style and design makes the interior styling very eclectic in approach and truly most interesting. The influences in all my work vary between classical textiles and modern lifestyle to create the ultimate living environment.


How has the interior design industry changed over the years?

Interior design is now a global market with much more ethnical influences from the Middle East, North Africa and various forms of Asia. People have become more educated with world culture and want to be a part of it. It is a sophisticated environment when cultural influences are brought together.


Is there a particular project of yours that stands out and why?

 A beautiful refurbishment of a Victorian townhouse on the beach in County Down. The clients gave me a subtle design brief to give a seaside theme without it being obvious. This was delivered by pushing boundaries using international design houses and fabrics with cutting edge materials filling the house with depth and interest from every angle. The client left it completely to me and didn’t see it until completion. This was even more pressure but encouraged me further to be the best I could. The result was stunning, I would live there myself!


How has your career evolved to where it is now?

I always wanted to create quality, design and lifestyle. Graduating from design and interior architecture, my dream was more than just decorating, but to create the space, the depths and finishes to complete an unrivalled interior lifestyle. My biggest aim was to establish an interior and architectural practice that is first and foremost a Design House to create from the inside outwards.


Is the design flair in you or can you learn it?

You can always learn something and get better at it but I believe you are born with it. I never want to stop learning. My grandparents were

florists and my grandmother made the hats in the days gone by for Robinson & Cleaver. I grew up in the flower glass houses and watched my grandmother pull colour and shape together from a very young age. My dad was also a graphic designer for The Telegraph a long time ago. My mum is musical too, so the arts have been a big part of my life.


What do you feel is your biggest achievement to date?

I completed a 20,000 square foot classical summer residence for The Royal Family…I can say no more.


What are the most challenging aspects of your job?

Managing the administration of all elements that come together to make the project brilliant. Typically on any single job, we could have over 200 suppliers on board to deliver an individual and unique concept. This constant search for new and exciting things is also what makes it so exciting and gives me that buzz!


Kris Turnbull Studios

135 Lisburn Road, Belfast, BT9 7AG

Tel: 028 9068 8600




Ulster Tatler Interiors speak to one of Northern Ireland’s and the UK’s most exciting architects, Patrick Bradley. 


In the early days what inspired you to become an Architect?

When I was a child I was completely obsessed with Lego and Meccano, building everything from fire stations to houses. With new pieces available every year, birthday presents were never a problem for my parents! Although she didn’t realise it at the time, my mother’s enthusiasm for old buildings and houses generally also had a profound effect. From the age of about 7, we used to stop whenever we passed an old building and, if possible, go in and have a look around it. She would point out any interesting features and despite no formal education in the subject, it must have rubbed off on me.


Where do you draw your creativity from at the start of each individual project?

I am a believer in drawing inspiration from the site and the clients themselves. It is always the starting point to analyse the sites pros and cons, its strengths and weaknesses and working very closely with the client’s brief aspirations. I usually then put the project and site to the back of my mind for a few weeks and by the time I come to put pen to paper, the creative juices start to flow as I have been unconsciously thinking about the project over and over in my head.


Since your appearance on Grand Designs that has firmly placed you as one of the edgiest architects in the UK & Ireland with your ‘Shipping Container Home project’, do clients often ask for parts of their design to emulate certain aspects of that project?

I have been offered commissions on a worldwide scale since I appeared on Grand Designs. The largest portion of my commissions are in the private residential sector; mainly one off bespoke houses but I also do quite a lot of restoration work to old and listed buildings which is quite close to my heart. Although clients wish to employ many ideas from my house (Grillagh Water), I always explain that no design or project is the same. Each project evolves from the site and client’s aspirations, so they soon understand that every individual project is unique and personal to them as clients.


Who has been your biggest inspiration in your life?

My inspiration has been fuelled from many things and individuals throughout my life. This ranges from sports personalities to famous Architects, from family to friends and from nature to buildings. We all take inspiration from different things, but I believe it is just as important to set goals and challenges, never be afraid to fail as failing is the only lesson on your way to achieving your goal. “He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life” – Muhamad Ali.


For any young person seeking out a career in Architecture – What’s the best advice you can give them?

I think every Architect will agree that it mostly is an enjoyable, creative career developing a concept to realisation. Architecture can be very subjective so always understand your designs may not be to the taste of everyone. However, for me to see a client excited and truly satisfied with the overall design is greatly rewarding, especially observing their enthusiasm and emotions as the building rises from the ground through to completion.  It is a very fulfilling career, you never stop learning, exploring new ideas, pushing the limits and although it is hard work, I never consider being an Architect a job, I consider it a hobby.


Have you seen a shift in the way homes are designed over the last decade?

Design can mean different things to different people. When I think about good design, I think about the functionality, the distinction and the style. It is not about re-inventing the wheel but more about having integrity when fulfilling brief combining form. A design must be clear and easily understood by the user or the audience or both. Simple, good design enhances and improves the quality of life of the end user. I find the clients I attract have budgets ranging anywhere from £100,000 to £3,000,000 and the architectural styles vary greatly too from the very traditional to the very contemporary. Over the last decade, I have noticed a lot of people starting to understand the importance for good design, and how it can enhance their lives and emotions for the better.


With modern materials becoming more robust / flexible giving the ability to push the design boundaries. Has this made the process of designing a modern property more complex one?

Not necessarily. Form always follows function. I always maintain to achieve the floor plans and flow of the spaces to suit the client’s lifestyle first. I prefer to understand how they live and how they function to inform my design. After that elevating is easy for me as I usually have some forward thinking after the initial site visit in relation to the elevational treatment and the materials. I am always interested in new materials on the market and enjoy when we have a client with a vision and who is willing to let me have the freedom to push the boundaries in the designs.


Is there such a thing as a typical day’s work for you?

No there isn’t, but I think that’s what makes my job so enjoyable. There is hardly ever a time where I felt I have worked the same day twice. I can be in the studio designing, out on site, meeting existing or new clients and everyday offers a new challenge to me. It can be hectic at times and I do work a lot of hours as I have commissions throughout Ireland and the UK, I also have a studio in London and I am very grateful that I get to work on some very interesting challenging commissions.


What are the main trends going to be for 2017 into 2018?

It’s always difficult to gauge what the trends are going to be year in and year out, as everyone has their own style and ideas. I believe the ever-increasing demand for TV shows and publications on Architecture are definitely opening people’s imaginations into what they can achieve. As a result, I believe people are more open minded and courageous to go that little bit extra to achieve outstanding design.


Patrick Bradley Architects

30 Gortinure Road, Maghera.

Tel: 028 7940 1814


Architecture with Patrick Bradley


Ulster Tatler Interiors chats to Giuseppe Gaudiano, owner of Carlanto tiles.


What does a typical day’s work involve if there is any such thing for you? 

Head office is in Belfast. No two days are the same, however the first port of call would be answering emails followed by general meetings with the management team. Then comes the buying and selling part. Meetings with Export Managers and Factory Agents. Meetings with Architects and Interior Designers. Meetings with Builders, Shopfitters, Developers and Surveyors. Sometimes it feels like meetings, meetings and more meetings, but that’s what it’s like to run a business of this size.  It’s definitely not boring that’s for sure.


How much does Innovation play a role within your sector?

We always have to stay ahead of trends. The sector is very competitive and the key players are continually trying to negotiate for the most creative and innovative products recently launched into the market. Fortunately we work with some of Italy and Spain’s finest factories and we get ‘first bite’ at the new products being launched.


Has there been a shift in product popularity over the last 10 years, particularly in recent times since Brexit?

Manufacturing has changed enormously over the last 10 years with the advent of digital technology. Porcelain woods, large format, geometric and victorian tiles all leading the way in a continued change in consumer habit and interior design. We have recently brought in a range of porcelain woods which look like real wood but with the advantage of being technically non-porous, frost proof and suitable for indoors and outdoors. Key colours are soft greys and blues such as sapphire and azul.  Blush, moss green and emerald are also being used to give a contemporary and elegant style. Textures, Terrazzo and Hexagonal Shapes are also all high on the hit list.  Plenty to mull over when considering designs and concepts. We price our product to satisfy our customers’ needs and we haven’t found Brexit a deterrent in this regard.


Who has been your biggest inspiration in the creative world?

I’ve always been a huge fan of mosaics even though the Northern Irish design culture does not lean toward mosaics. One of my favourite cities is Barcelona and the Architect Gaudi’s work can be seen all over the city, particularly the mosaics. My surname is Gaudiano which when broken down is translated into ‘Year of Gaudi’. Gaudi’s influence continues to drive my imagination. I have been very fortunate to have grown-up multi-lingual and this has allowed me to communicate with top European manufacturers in their own language. I love imagination and creativity and I completely respect the work that Architects and Interior Designers do.  To be a part of that design process inspires me to continue the search for beauty.


Is there such a thing as a typical client and what a client expects as standard nowadays?

I would like to think that there is not a typical client. I believe that every client has an individual expectation. At Carlanto, we do our best to offer The Personal Touch, alongside exclusive, fashionable product and all at a competitive price.


With methods in production changing with technology in recent years how do you keep informed of the latest developments in the industry?

Last September I attended the Italian Tile Exhibition followed by a Chinese Exhibition in October. In January I visited a number of specific Italian factories and I have just returned from the Spanish Exhibition in Valencia. As I am answering this I am yet to decide whether or not to visit the Turkish Exhibition in March. I’ve been in the industry for 25 years now and the mileage is taking its toll on me however I enjoy what I do and it’s the only way to stay ahead.


What are the main trends going to be for 2017?

Large format (3mx1.5m, 1mx1m, 800x800cm etc), lots more porcelain wood and distinct shapes for feature walls. Clean lines and minimum maintenance.





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



Ulster Tatler Interiors chats to Kelly Hoppen, International Interior Designer and a former ‘Dragon’ on BBC Two’s Dragons’ Den.


In the early days what inspired you to become an Interior Designer?

Interior design has always been in my bones. As a child, my mother says I was constantly shifting furniture around our home and displaying everything at its best. I also had a passion for looking around show houses and being exposed to different approaches to interior design.  My mother has always been an inspiration to me. She has amazing style and is a big fan of retro furniture which has influenced my designs massively.  This all eventually evolved from being a hobby to being my job. Through a lot of hard work and not being afraid to take the next step, I have managed to grow my business into a very successful enterprise.

Where do you draw your creativity from at the start of each individual project?

I always get to know my clients before I start a project and seek to understand how they live and what is important to them. It is not enough to simply fill a space with beautiful items if they are not going to work with the client’s lifestyle. It would be wrong to try and sell a current fashion to a client which is simply not suited to him/her. Once we have spoken about it at length, I visualise the room and from that point my creativity flows. Planning is also absolutely essential when designing your perfect space. Many people do not plan as it is time consuming and involves a lot of drawing, costing etc…However, it is crucial in attaining your perfect space.

For any young person seeking out a career in Interiors Design – What’s the best advice you can give them?

You need to put in a lot of hard work, be determined and not be afraid of taking the next step to achieve more. I have always lived by the motto ‘Nothing is too big and nothing is big enough’, it keeps me focused. It is also very important to keep an open mind, and use every resource you can. Listen to any advice that is going, soak it all up like a sponge because at some stage or another it will be of use to you.

Have you seen a shift in Interior Design since the start of the credit crunch?

The credit crunch has affected everyone and people have had to cut back drastically in every part of their life. Until recently, people were borderline obsessed with having the latest trend but now you can see people are trying to stick to what they already have and modernising it. It is so important that your interiors suit your lifestyle and that you invest in timeless and elegant pieces that will not go out of style and need to be replaced.

What are the best and/or most challenging aspects of your role?

The best aspect of my job is when a client is happy with the end result. This is immensely motivating and the reason I get out of bed every morning. I also love my role at the Princes Trust. It allows me to share my experience with young entrepreneurs and their motivation for success inspires and motivates me every day.

What does a typical day’s work involve? 

I try to sit and meditate for 15minutes every morning when I wake up, I am so busy every day so I need to take a little time to center myself in preparation for the day ahead. I then tend to spend most of my days in my studio meeting clients, brainstorming for upcoming projects and I am constantly coming up with new ideas for my ecommerce site, kellyhoppen.com. In the evening I like eat out with my friends or stay in and feast on a delicious home cooked meal from my favourite Honestly Healthy cookbook. I rarely get a moment to relax but it is important to make time as inspiration always comes to me when I take a few minutes away from my normal routine to just sit back and reset my mind.

Who has been your biggest inspiration in your life?

There have been so many throughout my life and for many different reasons. My friends and family are my biggest inspirations by far, my daughter Natasha in particular. Donna Karan, Ralph Lauren and Nelson Mandela also stand out. People who have a voice and are not frightened of speaking up and are true to their thoughts are always an inspiration.

What are your typical clients looking for?

I have a very distinctive design philosophy which is to create timeless elegance whilst fusing the eastern principles of simplicity and the western taste for sumptuous textures and luxurious finishes. People know my style and are looking for it when they take me on. However, I always aim to create a space that fits my clients lifestyle perfectly so it is great to work with a client who knows what they want as this can lead to a wonderful creative collaboration.

What are the main trends going to be for 2015?

The bath, which was once a disappearing aspect of the bathroom is making a huge return in 2015. People are dying for the ultimate relaxation time in a deep sunken tub. Sleek showerheads and statement freestanding baths are all the rage at the moment. My recent collaboration with apaiser perfectly illustrates how bathware has now been redefined.


You will also see many different colour woods being used together. Blonde, taupe, black and grey woods are being mixed to bring a lovely feel to the home. Rose gold, bronze, silver, and nickel are also being introduced to the home. The same way we have started to mix different jewelry together, we are now repeating the trend in our homes with wood and metals. It goes to show how interiors and fashion really do go hand in hand.


In terms of lighting – BAN the down lighter is what I say! They are the most unflattering bulbs. You want wall washers, up-lighters, pendant lights and lighting in shadow gaps to compliment the room and space. The added bonus is that you can save lots of money too!.