Women We Love: Arlene McIntyre, Leading Interior Designer

While filling a friend in on IndulgeMe’s latest #WomenWeLove candidate, Arlene McIntyre, I casually name dropped some of the incredible projects this leading interior designer has in her portfolio.

I knew she would be impressed, but I wasn’t expecting the reaction I would get on mentioning how she was responsible for the revamp of Luttrellstown Castle Resort.

My friend gushed about her recent stay there and about how she practically “refused to leave,” so enamoured was she with the resort’s redesign.

That’s the Arlene McIntyre effect. Establishing Ventura Design in 2005, along with her husband Jürgen Riedel, Arlene has built an impressive client base, along with a following over 60,000 on Instagram, and opened three showrooms – two in Dublin and one in Kinsale.

Arlene McIntyre

We got a chance to catch up with Arlene, and she shared with us some fascinating insights into her life and career.

From her predictions for the interior design trends of 2018, to her ambition to redesign the White House, read on to be as inspired and motivated as we were after chatting to this interiors expert.

How did you get involved in the world of interior design?

I first started out working as a furniture agent in Ireland which allowed me to meet really interesting people and contacts across Ireland. One door lead to another and a number of my clients asked me to interior design and fully furnish their properties.

Business expanded and grew very quickly and that’s when I realised we needed a showroom and staff. My partner also soon became my business partner during this time and he introduced the manufacturing and design side to our business which has really opened up different markets for our business.

Stepaside Showhouse

I had so many exciting projects all coming in at once which lead me into building a design team to work alongside myself. The rest is history!

How did business change when the recession hit?

It was a time of extremes, on one hand we were dealing with extremely wealthy clients who were snapping up property for great value, did very well during the recession, and were completely remodelling and building their new private homes.

On the other end of the spectrum where we were dealing with receivers who needed blocks of apartments fitted out for the rental market through NAMA.

I love the expression “life is what happens to you while you are making other plans”

We were busy during the recession, but what helped us is that we were in a position to adapt quickly. The market in the middle fell off a cliff. We didn’t have any over heads or our business premises during this period, so we were extremely blessed.

What were the signs that the economy was on the up again?

The new homes market started to return around 2010. We really started to see the old “new” market return around 2010 with new developments being built. More and more of the upper end of the market started spending again which is always a good sign.

What has been your favourite project to date?

We are currently working in the Adare Manor on their two heritage cottages on the grounds. These are two listed buildings and so beautiful. We’ve been working closely with the conservation architects and construction team to bring them back to life. They will be used as part of the 5-star hotel once completed and this is due to be completed by Spring 2018.

We are also working on phase 2 in Luttrellstown Castle this year which is just amazing. This January we are renovating the Aileen Plunkett bridal suite, where Victoria and David Beckham stayed during their wedding in 1999, and renovating the main hallway, stairwell and dining rooms.

Other favourite projects would be working for some amazing private projects on a stud farm in Co. Meath and our commercial new home projects of four show houses which launched in the Marina Village in Greystones 2016. This development has won so many awards and we are so proud to be a part of its success. I think 2018 will be our most exciting year yet.

What are your predictions for 2018’s top design trends?

This could be a year of boldness in terms of colours. Deep tones including rich purples, rusts and Bordeaux tones will be seen a lot more. People will be less afraid of using colour this year and really embrace it. Ultra Violet 18-3833 TCX is the Pantone colour for 2018 – and a lot of different tones of purple will be introduced to interiors.

We created a luxurious living room in our show house in Stepaside Park which launched in September. Here we used a smokier purple combined with taupe tones which gave it a very luxurious look and feel.

We are creating a new exclusive furniture line for a leading Irish fashion designer… all will be revealed in 2018!

I also noticed a lot of Perspex being combined with natural wood finishes when sourcing last month in the Pacific Design Centre in West Hollywood.

Beautifully upholstered furniture with clean lines will be strong for 2018 too. Customised built-in joinery in natural wood finishes will also be strong.

What trends did clients request most in 2017?

Ventura manufacture 70% of our product range – made in our own workshops here in Ireland. Our biggest sofa sellers were our Bentley sofa which has a lovely pipe detail, our modern Markus dining table with a Nordic grey oak wood top, and our more classic Lincoln dining table with a painted base.

We offer a complete interior designed 360 turn key service which most of our clients availed of. Most of our projects were supplying a full commission to an entire project from conception to completion including our full interior design and furniture products. Trends were again for a very coordinated interior designed and sophisticated look.

If you could design anybody’s home would it be?

I’d love to redesign the White House!

Of all the rooms in a house which is your favourite to decorate and why?

I love seeing a living room being transformed as this is where you spend most of your time. I also love when a kitchen is open plan to a living area and seeing the entire space working together.

Social media has been huge for us… It still amazes me how much business we generate through it.

Your husband Jürgen Riedel is your business partner, how do you find working with him?

We rarely see each other in the office or during the working day! It can be so busy at times that you only really get time to have a proper catch up on the day at home over dinner or over a glass of wine.

We are lucky to have each other to bounce things off, as both of us really understand the other ones “job” so to speak. We solve problems and share victories together.

How has the rise of Instagram and other social media sites effected your business?

Social media has been huge for us. We have approximately almost 60K followers and Instagram. Just this summer we started working with an amazing marketing team who are creating video content for our new website launch in January 2018. Most of our new website will be around videos.

The future for us is digital marketing which is a very exciting way to communicate with our current and future clients. Fresh and new information is being circulated about our business and projects at much quicker pace through social media. It still amazes me how much business we generate through it.

Where is your favourite place in the world and what makes it so special?

I love Italy and all things Italian. We have a place in the centre of Florence which allows us to visit quite frequently.

We also manufacture our own range of textiles through mills outside Florence and our handmade crystal chandeliers. I miss California, where I am from originally, and it was lovely going back to visit for Thanksgiving of this year.

The Californians live life well and this transcends into their homes and lifestyle also. Instabul is also a place we frequent for business and pleasure – we are hoping to go back this Spring.

What is the one thing you wish you could tell your 16-year-old self?

To be grateful for all your life experiences, both good and bad, as they will help to define you and lead you exactly to where you are today.

Keep moving and don’t be afraid of change. I always keep an open mind, and love the expression “life is what happens to you while you are making other plans”.

What is the most treasured item in your wardrobe?

Juergen’s mom left me a beautiful string of pearls before she passed away and her Louis Vuitton hat box which is amazing. I also have an amazing blue velvet Gucci evening bag which I bought in a vintage shop in Florence.

I cannot relate to toxic self-absorbed people. We are all in this world together and need to help and support one another along the way.

Aside from this, what are the four things that you would save from your house in a fire?

Photos, I have amazing black and white photos of my mom and dad when they first moved to the USA, their wedding photographs, and photos of my brother who passed away, along with my laptop, car keys and passport!

If you could invite four people – living or dead – to the ultimate dinner party, who would they be?

I would love to meet with Wallis Simpson to try and understand her, Anna Wintour, Oprah Winfrey and Diane von Furstenberg because they are all inspiring and strong business women.

What do consider your greatest achievement?

To be able to adapt during difficult times and build up a company with Juergen that we are very proud of. It’s been a lot of hard work!

What trait do you most dislike in others?

100% Narcissism. I cannot relate to toxic self-absorbed people. We are all in this world together and need to help and support one another along the way.

How do you relax?

Long hot baths and long walks in the Phoenix Park! My two favourite things to in the world!

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Try and surround yourself with genuinely positive and inspiring people. Be kind and compassionate in life and always give people a chance in life, give from your heart, and always give more than you get. I’m a big believer in Karma.

What is in the pipeline for you and Ventura Design in 2018?

We are creating a new exclusive furniture line for a leading Irish fashion designer. This exciting new collaboration will be revealed in 2018!

Other exciting projects are new hotels which we’re working on and new home developments launching in 2018. We are also further expanding our showrooms in the North and Southside of Dublin in 2018.

We are also delighted to be in planning mode for the expansion of our customised nursery furniture line called Baby Ventura. This range is made in our workshops here in Ireland and we cannot wait to share the news of our latest arrivals in 2018.

To make an appointment or visit any of Ventura Design’s three showrooms, please contact 01 820 8480. To view the Ventura Design portfolio visit www.ventura.ie.

You can also follow Ventura Design on Facebook and Instagram.