Celene CollinsInspirations

Luxury living room in an estate home in East Cork, Ireland, designed by Celene Collins—interior architect and designer

Solving the Big Problems with Interior Architecture & Design

You could say I’m a bit of a fibber. I tell everyone I’m an interior architect and designer. But that’s not really why people hire me. They hire me to solve problems they can’t solve themselves. For my clients, I’m an interior architecture and design problem solver. And the problems almost always boil down to one thing.

The big interior problem

You can distill nearly all of the enquiries we get at the studio down to one phrase: “Can you help us make this space our space?”

This phrase takes on many guises, but fundamentally they are all the same:

“We don’t know what to do with our space.”

“We don’t know how or where to start.”

“We can’t be there to oversee the work.”

“We’ve done this much, but don’t know what to do next.”

“We can’t imagine what the space should look like.”

“We want to change the space, but don’t know how.”

“We don’t know any reliable tradespeople.”

You get the gist.

My job, and the reason people pay me, is to take their space from where it is now (a problem) and turn it into a space they completely love (the solution). And it’s not enough to help them with the solution. People hire me to make the journey to the solution a smooth and enjoyable one. So not only am I a problem solver, I’m a problem blocker. If a problem wants to get to a client, it will have to get past me first—and I won’t let it.

Keeping problems at a distance

Converted interior of an old post office in East Cork, Ireland
Converted interior of an old post office in East Cork, Ireland

Sometimes the distance between the client and the project is actually the problem. They might be in a different country. Or even on a different continent. That makes managing a project in Ireland a massive headache for them. Fortunately, I’m a very potent cure for that sort of headache. Let me give you a couple of examples.

In late 2023, we finished a project for clients who were based in Kazakhstan. They had bought a period building on the main street of a town in East Cork and wanted to convert it into comfortable accommodation to act as their base in Ireland.

In case you’re wondering, Kazakhstan is over 5,000km away from East Cork, making it a tricky project for them to oversee themselves. They needed someone local who could take control and bring the project to a successful conclusion. After some initial Zoom calls and presentations, we were asked to go ahead with a full-service design and installation project to completely refurbish the building to meet their needs and tastes.

Converted interior of an old post office building
The converted kitchen interior of the old post office building

One of the big concerns the clients had was finding the right tradespeople for the job. And it was something they commented on once they saw the quality of the work we arranged to be done on their behalf. “Top drawer”, “above and beyond”, “Oscar performances” were all phrases the clients used.

When the clients arrived in Ireland for the second phase of the project, we had furniture, fixtures and furnishings all ready and lined up for their approval, so not a moment was lost with the final installation of everything.

Service across space and time

Living room interior by Celene Collins, interior architect and designer
Living room interior for our Fota client

In addition to bridging distances, we also help overseas clients bridge the time difference between Ireland and their current home. In some cases, the time difference can be extreme.

We completed a project in Fota for a couple who were relocating to Ireland after a 12-year spell abroad. When they got in touch, they were based 8 hours away, in Singapore. Basically, their working day there was ending just when it was starting here, making it virtually impossible for them to manage the project effectively.

When clients deal with us, they only have one professional to deal with—and we can do so in a way that fits their time zone. Zoom calls can be scheduled to suit and emails can be sent and dealt with when it is convenient for the client. More importantly, the project is progressing even while they sleep.

For our Singapore-based clients, we designed and oversaw major modifications to their house, which involved shifting walls or removing them altogether, resulting in entirely new spaces. We completely fitted out a new kitchen, created two new downstairs living spaces and added a downstairs bathroom.

Bathroom interior by Celene Collins, interior architect and designer
The finished bathroom interior in the Fota property

Were the clients happy? They were:

“Moving back from Asia and 12 years abroad, we decided to completely renovate our house before moving back in. We knew that it would be a challenge to coordinate the renovation from so far away and decided to ask for help. Celene has been our saviour to coordinate 10/15 contractors at the same time, give us brilliant ideas to improve the design of our interior and all within a very tight time frame. We certainly couldn’t have done it without her input. Thanks again Celene!”

I’m a time traveller too

We help our clients do a different kind of time travel too. We don’t just take them across time zones, we actually take them into the future as well by showing them 3D renders of what their design will look like when it is finished. I can hand on heart say that we have a time machine in the studio.

Annex interior for a house in West Cork, Ireland, by Celene Collins, interior architect and interior designer
One of the highest ceilings I’ve ever worked with

Understandably, most people find it hard to imagine what the final space will look like. So being able to see it in advance is very useful. It allows clients to make informed choices and gives them peace of mind that the outcome of all the hard work (and, let’s be honest, expense) will deliver exactly what they are looking for.

In some cases, clients are working with a blank canvas. For instance, we helped a couple in West Cork who got in touch after the first fix of a newbuild project. Basically, they were faced with an empty shell and wanted help turning it into their perfect palace.

I could tell you all about this project, but actually, the clients themselves do it much better:

“Celene worked with us on the interior design of my home in West Cork. Bringing Celene on board early in the project was key to ensuring a 360-degree approach to the overall design and finished look and feel of the property. Celene’s advice on design and layout of each room, and in particular the kitchen and bedrooms, was invaluable. I particularly liked the 3D renders of each room, which helped me visualise the eventual outcome.

“Celene was there for every step in the journey, her advice and selections for flooring, sanitary ware, tiling, colour schemes, finishes, light fittings, curtains, etc. was brilliant. I am absolutely delighted with the outcome and would have no hesitation in recommending Celene for similar projects.”

I’m blushing.

Leave the space alone, but change it completely

Luxury living room in an estate home in East Cork, Ireland, designed by Celene Collins—interior architect and designer
The finished living room in an estate home in East Cork, Ireland

Some projects come with restrictions—either enforced or by choice. For example, if you have a property that is a heritage building, you won’t just be able to knock through to create a bigger internal space and tack on a modern glass conservatory. Or you may own a period property and want to treat it with respect and not diminish its architectural integrity.

We recently helped clients who had bought a period home and estate in East Cork and wanted to change the interior decor of the house to match their own tastes and interests, including their love of horses and dogs. At the same time, they wanted to be respectful of the style and period of the original house architecture and design.

Because they live busy lives, the first part of the project was done remotely by email and video calls. We matched their tastes with gorgeous fabrics from Barneby Gates, elegant wallpaper and rugs with William Morris designs, and a luscious green colour scheme using Farrow & Ball paints. We were also able to create a lighting scheme using chandeliers and exquisite wall lamps made here in Ireland.

Once the designs and materials were approved, we took responsibility for arranging and managing the tradespeople to carry out the work to the highest standard. The clients were so happy with the results, they asked us to do another project for them.

No project too small, nor too important

It’s not just empty houses that clients find hard to imagine fully fitted out. Small spaces can be just as hard, if not harder. And sometimes those small spaces are the most important ones in the house. Take, for example, the sensory room a couple built on to their house for their child. Building the shell is one thing. Designing the interior of such a vital and life-enhancing space is quite another.

We met with them here at the studio to go through their specific needs and to brainstorm ideas with them. For me, this was one of the most satisfying jobs I’ve ever done. Interior architecture and interior design are all about enhancing the quality of people’s lives. Creating a sensory space that will contribute to the wellbeing and development of a child is extra special.

We were able to give the parents clear guidance about converting the bare space into an effective and above all comforting space for their child.

Sensory playroom for a child, designed by Celene Collins, interior designer and interior architect
Sensory playroom for a child

We know how to make your space work for you

Whatever problem you’re facing with your room, rooms or house, it’s likely to boil down to that one single issue: you’re not sure how to make your space work for you. It could be an issue of time, distance or lack of knowledge—or all three.

We’re here to help, regardless of where you are or what space (or spaces) you are struggling with. We’ll make your space work for you, and we’ll make your journey from what it is now to what you want it to be an easy one.

We’re problem solvers and problem deterrents.

We are interior architects and interior designers.

(Marvel should really look into that for their next superhero film.)