Q&A with Sara Cosgrove
Sara Cosgrove is the founder of Sara Cosgrove Studio which has bases in both Dublin and London. The studio works on a range of commercial and residential projects including hotels, bars, restaurants, and multi-unit residential developments, as well as one-off projects with private clients.
Sara is originally from County Mayo and studied at Trinity College Dublin before moving to London to study at the KLC School of Design. She has worked for a number of highly regarded design houses including Helen Green Design and Candy & Candy. Before setting up her own studio she was the Head of Design for Harrods in-house interior design practice.
We are pleased to have the opportunity to interview Sara to learn more about her background, how she has tackled the tumultuous last 12 months and ask her to look ahead at the rest of 2021 and beyond.
*The interview was conducted via e-mail for the purposes of social distancing*
Sara, thank you for taking the time to answer our questions, perhaps you could start by telling us a little more about your background and how you came to work in interiors?
Thank you for having me.
I actually started out in fashion. I was lucky enough to get an internship with the legendary Irish designer John Rocha. He had an architectural practice alongside his fashion studio and I realised my love was in interiors and architecture rather than fashion. From here I was lucky enough to study at the KLC School of Design, and then started my working life at Allegra Hicks, followed by Helen Green Design and Candy & Candy.
Why did you decide to take the leap into setting up your own studio?
I was at Harrods for 5 ½ years as head of design and whilst I absolutely loved the cut and thrust of working in such an iconic place, I knew I was ready for a different challenge. I set up Sara Cosgrove Studio in 2014 but quickly got involved in a new hotel brand project with Starwood Capital. After three years of working on this, the company was sold and I went back to SCS full-time. Since then we have been working on incredible projects in the UK and Ireland.
Looking back at some of your earlier projects what would you do differently with the benefit of experience?
This is a tricky question. The design world is ever-changing and what I loved 10/15 years ago might not be what I do straight off the bat now. Saying that I always try and create timeless design and some of my earliest projects are still my proudest. If you buy well and use colour in a clever way, interiors can last far longer than one would expect.
What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out in the industry?
I would advise them to be organised, be polite, be passionate, and be up for a challenge. I was proud to make the tea and do the photocopying in my early days as a designer. I learnt so much from the people I worked with doing just this, listening in and observing the design process from inception to completion. Designers such as Sarah Hammond and Victoria Hodge are to this day huge inspirations for me as to how to manage my own team. They shared their knowledge in a patient and clear way, and really boosted my growth as a young designer starting out.
You’ve worked on residential and commercial projects – do you have a preference between the two?
I love the challenges that both arenas bring, and I always try to have both styles of project on the go in the office. I find I get great inspiration for both and that there is fantastic learnings that you can bring from hospitality into residential projects and vice versa. You also get to work with a really diverse range of suppliers and craftsman, as well as architects and technical specialists. I love that every day is a learning one when it comes to design.
How have you had to adapt your working practices in the last 12 months? Have you noticed a change in what people are specifying?
We have had to adapt our practice significantly over the last 12 months. From the day-to-day challenges of working from home, when you work in an industry that is at its absolute core collaborative, to interacting with suppliers and getting samples online rather than in person, we’ve had to make lots of changes. In terms of our clients and what they’re specifying we are seeing a trend towards natural, rustic and earthy design ideas and tones. We are also seeing an increased interest in sustainability and the origins of products. In tandem to this a revived interest in buying at auction and reinventing or reimagining antiques. In terms of fabrics and materiality we are seeing softness and natural materials such as wools, printed linens and cottons gain popularity.
Are there any interior design projects that you would either love to have done, or would like to do?
I would absolutely love to collaborate on a spa resort with my former Harrods colleague Sian Parry Jones, formally MD of Aveda. Sian is an incredible friend of mine and a true visionary when it comes to the area of wellness, I would love to design the ultimate spa resort alongside her.
How do you think the current situation might affect design and influences on design in the coming months and years?
I think the last 12 months will certainly affect and influence designs going forward. People are spending a lot more time in their homes and are assessing their spaces in a far more clinical way. I call this year the one of the ‘nook’, symbolising the need to maximise every space in your home and this will continue after we get back to some sort of normal. We have also been doing a lot more research on anti-microbial materials and fabrics and we will continue to look at this when we are specifying specific projects.
Who are your personal style icons?
I have multiple personal style icons for varying reasons. In terms of fashion and personal style I absolutely adore Julianne Moore and how she puts herself together. In terms of creative vision and incredible creative abilities I think Yves St Laurent is unparalleled both on his private interior creations and his iconic fashion. In relation to my Irish roots Sybil Connolly who created the Modern Irish look alongside fabric collections for Brunswig and Fils, plus Schumacher, as well as dining collections for Tiffany & Co, is an ongoing muse for me.
Are there any trends or styles that you think are due to make a comeback?
In terms of a comeback, I think yellow and highly saturated colours in general are coming back to the fore. On a recent Insta live that I did with Paddy O’Donnell of Farrow & Ball we were even discussing the arrival of neon on the scene. I think in these often dark times a bright coloured piece of art, cushion or chair can bring a smile and bring delight to an interior. I also think display cabinets will make a revival as people look to organise their homes in a more appealing way.
Can you tell us about your plans for 2021 and beyond?
We have big plans for 2021, we are working on a range of really exciting projects both private residential and commercial which will be delivered this year. We are launching our lighting collection with Imagin Lighting, which is super exciting and we are developing a range of new products. We also have a multi-unit furniture range in development under the SCH logo and this will be brought to the market in the third quarter of this year.
Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions – we hope you continue to stay safe and well.