Meet the nominees of the 2019 Design Awards

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As we count down the final weeks to the 2019 Design Awards on September 12, sponsored by Dulux Signature Collection, we introduce our shortlist of the Irish creatives and makers who deserve special recognition in our fourth annual awards.

After a lengthy process and some lively discussion, our Design Awards judges whittled down an extensive and worthy longlist to this final shortlist. With nominations coming from readers across the country and the judges themselves, the variety of excellent work happening at the moment made the task quite tricky. One person’s favourite might not have appealed to another, so each judge had to consider as many aspects as possible when coming to their final decisions, and the resulting shortlist reflects the deep pool of talent working in Ireland today. 



A discipline with a strong heritage in Ireland, the judges sought to have representatives that are doing something above and beyond the rest. Kathryn Davey made the shortlist for her “consistently excellent” plant-dyed linens, to which she added new colours this year – a much appreciated antidote to mass-produced fabrics. Ceadogán Rugmakers was chosen for the quality and craft of its luxurious rugs, and for an eagerness to work with Irish creatives on intricate handcrafted designs. Jennifer Slattery’s Imperfect Check blanket, produced in collaboration with McNutt of Donegal, caught the judges’ eyes, as well as her linen collection, which has “grown in depth and richness”. Finally, Studio Donegal’s successful foray into home interiors as a heritage fashion brand was also commended by the judges. 



This category had many excellent nominees from everyday tableware to pieces for a special occasion, giving the judges lots to mull over. Maka Ceramics made the list as a reader favourite, and their playful designs feel like a fresh addition to the Irish tableware scene. Babs Belshaw won the praise of the judges for her intriguing, tactile designs, and they were excited by her plans to open a café next to her studio near Coleraine. Criostal na Rinne was chosen for their rebrand, bringing this heritage company right up to date. Master craftsman Eamonn Terry “feels like the new kid on the block, despite the fact that he’s been around for years”, according to one judge. Fermoyle Pottery join the shortlist for their tableware created with Jordan Bailey at Aimsir, which is tailored to the dishes they serve. Details like ridged edges to contain sauces show the level of thought that goes into each piece. 



There’s plenty of Irish makers producing exceptional one-off pieces, many that defy any tight definition. Alan Meredith’s vessels were admired by the judges as being “so unusual. Are they glass, clay, wood? It’s hard to tell.” Joe Hogan’s baskets were shortlisted for their mesmerising shapes that toe the line between functional and sculptural. The striking resin work of Sasha Sykes once again won the praise of the judges for fusing the natural and the architectural, while Jennifer Hickey’s almost-impossible seeming porcelain sculptures joined the list for their delicate beauty.



Always a varied category, this year the judges noted an increase in eco-conscious offerings. They loved Cupán Cré, a brand handcrafting reusable coffee cups in Donegal for their environmental appeal and adorable designs. Another product offering a more accessible way to live sustainably was Obeo Living’s food waste bags, and the judges noted it was great to see an Irish company giving people options like this. The Easca mattress was described as “the best mattress I’ve ever had” by an enthusiastic judge, and it was agreed that it was great to be able to buy this essential item Irish-made. Cloon Keen’s Transatlantic candle also joined the shortlist for their gorgeous packaging, as well as the all-important scent, which transports you with Cypress tree and Mediterranean citrus notes to the landscape surrounding Eileen Gray’s E-1027, its inspiration. 



Quality furniture will last a lifetime, and we certainly would never want to part with any of the pieces our nominees make. Tricia Harris was shortlisted for her designs that marry function with a clean aesthetic. Her detail-driven work feels considered in a way that the judges appreciated. Elements of Action join her for their mirror made of ancient Irish bog oak, combining heritage with modern aesthetics, while Stevan Hartung’s creations were noted for their “sense of honesty about materials, which are really allowed to shine”. The simple forms of Colin Harris’ designs using Irish wood join the list, with the judges being impressed by his range from smaller pieces such as vases and shelving, right up to tables and chairs.  



We love when Irish creatives work together, and this year’s nominees prove exactly why. The Stable x Molloy & Sons Pub Wall blanket was noted for its tactility and intricate weave, and the judges commended the continued efforts to revive this iconic design by the late artist, Pat Scott. We Make Good is a social enterprise that was described as “the way forward” by judges. Their products are designed by contemporary Irish creatives and made by craftspeople who have overcome adversity and upskilled. Finally, J Hill’s Standard’s collaboration with illustrator Nigel Peake joins the shortlist. The judges admired the process of having Nigel draw directly onto the glass, “when it would have been easy to have it digitally scanned”. 


supported by Messe Frankfurt


This category caused some healthy debate in our judging panel, with the definition of “emerging” getting hashed out before any decisions could be made. First on the shortlist is metals and jewellery graduate Annemarie Reinhold, with the judges particularly admiring her silver carrot spoons. Anya Paine’s architectural textiles earned her place on the list, which were described as “incredibly mature”. Ceramicist Chloë Dowds was chosen for her new architectural vessels in striking colour palettes, which the judges felt showed creative progression since her graduate collection. Hugo Byrne joins them with his “really exciting” handcrafted knives. Both useful and beautiful, he’s challenging what we think of as Irish materials, using anything from bog oak to plastic washed up on Irish beaches, to create the knife handles. 


supported by Kilkenny Shop


Another tricky task with so many excellent small businesses, the judges tried to find shops going that extra mile to promote Irish design. Granny’s Bottom Drawer in Kinsale was commended for how long it has been championing Irish makers, having opened in 1993, with one judge noting “their stock is also a pleasant deviation from the usual offerings”. Maven in Belfast was picked out for how their events have helped foster a design community in the city. “From merchandising to fixtures and fittings, everything there is exceptional,” one judge noted. Dublin’s 29 Bride Street were shortlisted for their impressive efforts in both stocking Irish craft and making their own linen designs, giving an eclectic mix of things you won’t find elsewhere. Carlingford Design House got the final place on the list for not only stocking over 100 Irish makers, but also the range of workshops they offer, allowing the public to participate in design and craft. 



With such a potentially broad list of architects that could be considered, the judges decided to narrow their criteria to those who have produced an exceptional residential building, conversion or extension that has been shared with the public. With this in mind, T O B Architect’s bright extension in Cork was applauded for its combination of raw textures with a playful colour palette. Another architect using ordinary materials to create noteworthy spaces is David Leech, who was shortlisted for his two debut projects: a show-stopping extension completed on a tight budget, and a new build that can be almost completely opened up at ground level. They’re joined on the list by Sketch Architects and their Ash House project – two beautiful brick buildings that are connected by a timber-finned structure. Clancy Moore were chosen for their warehouse conversion project, which the judges thought was a “considered example of repurposing”, and as a practice were noted for having “done a lot for Irish design.”


supported by Komandor


Another category with a huge variety of entries, the judges again decided to look through a residential lens, opting for nominees whose project could inspire how we approach design in our own homes. Suzie Mc Adam has been creating beautiful spaces for several years, but the judges were especially interested in a private residence her team worked on for Jameson, where she collaborated with Irish makers, artists and craftspeople to create custom designs for a city centre space. Oscar & Oscar were included not only for their design work, but their ability to source salvaged and reclaimed furniture for any project, reminding us to not always default to buying new. Maven’s The Irish Project saw them commissioned to completely furnish a home with products made or sourced in Ireland, with truly impressive results, while AB Projects stood out to the judges for their functional, clean designs.


supported by Lacey’s


Who have we been double-tapping the most this year? @superfolk for jaw-dropping photographs of the Irish landscape, useful guides on Stories, and some homeware styling thrown in for good measure. Catherine Keher of @ck_ireland has been another engrossing follow, as she documents the renovation of her Tipperary townhouse, coupled with travel and design inspiration. Interior architect and designer @tullioorlandi was selected by the judges for his curated feed featuring his own projects and other inspirational ones, while interior designer Stephanie O’Sullivan @theinformedcreative joins the shortlist for her aesthetic account that includes her own projects, international designs and updates on her own self-build project.

WORDS Megan Burns

The 2019 Image Interiors & Living Design Awards takes place on September 12 at Fire Restaurant on Dawson Street. Kicking off from midday, there will be a drinks reception before guests are ushered upstairs to a three-course candlelit meal, during which the winners will be announced. Tickets are available here.

Lauren Heskin