Design talent at The Malthouse (from left): Rosemary Ryan, business development officer, Jennifer Slattery, Niamh McNeela, Daria Lisowska, Aislinn Lynch Kathryn Payne, Shane Wilson (standing) and Andy Burdock.

DESIGN: This is generation next, Ireland’s home-grown design talent, pictured in the creativity hub that is The Malthouse, writes ALANNA GALLAGHER.

IN A RUNDOWN part of the North Circular Road, a hive of activity is taking place. The Malthouse, situated on the grounds of a former whiskey distillery, is a design hub founded by architect Arthur Duff and one half of furniture company Duff Tisdall, best known for its classic contemporary range made using specimen and native woods.

He has housed a baker’s dozen of up-and-coming designers and design-related practices in the industrial space. Each gets a work area and space within the gallery to showcase their work. They pay a nominal rent.

The Malthouse is a space where nascent talent can put down roots and hone the commercial side of their businesses. These spaces need to be supported and celebrated. They form part of a growing trend towards finally recognising our wealth of design talent and the need to champion it. Retail spaces Project 51, the Irish Design Shop, Designist and I Heart Design are others playing their part in getting this talent in front of consumers.

“Design is first and foremost a commercial business,” Duff explains. He has employed Rosemary Ryan, who worked with Blarney Woollen Mills and the Kilkenny shop, as business development manager. She helps the designers with pricing and delivering marketable goods. The end result feels polished and professional.

The shop floor is vibrant and full of colourful and occasional objects for the home. It is a must-visit for anyone interested in adding unusual accents to their home. Prices start from about €70. Everything on show is made in Ireland by Irish-based designers.

There is a strong sense of community within the group and an understanding of the need to put in the hours to succeed. From 6.30am, the buzz saws at Sticks Fine Furniture herald a new day, while the clatter of the sewing machines at Jennifer Slattery Textiles rings out a sonar welcome as you cross the threshold of the main space.

Slattery has a workshop on the ground floor. She originally trained as a graphic designer and went back to NCAD to study embroidery. Both sets of skills are evident in her linen napkins and table runners, which have been inspired by special pieces her grandmother used to bring out when she came to stay. A set of four napkins starts from €68. Table runners cost from €78.

Up on the top floor is Locker 13, run by two childhood friends, Shane Wilson and Karl Medcalf, who both studied industrial design at NCAD. “The set-up offers a ready-made group to present at shows with and insulates you from the isolation of the design process,” Wilson explains. Locker 13’s fun pieces include smart ceramic vases and carafes, €70, and lighting made from melted plastic drops.

Seek Design is a partnership between Daria Lisowska, an architect who graduated in Gdansk, Poland, and University of Ulster design graduate Niamh McNeela. They met at a life-drawing class. They rework pieces they buy at auctions, charity shops and sites such as Done Deal, Dublin Waste and Gumtree. They’re currently working on a cafe in Limerick that is due to open in June.

Andy Burdock, great grandson of renowned chipmaster Leo, and Nik O’Donnell, are the design duo behind Sticks Fine Furniture. Both studied industrial design at NCAD. In 2005, instead of putting a deposit of €30,000 on a house, Burdock invested in wood-cutting machinery. Sticks’s pieces are made from birch ply, hand-painted and sold flat-packed. Each piece comes in a board format with the components jigsawed together. They come with either mirror or blackboard backing, a piece that can also be reused by being hung on the wall after you’ve put the piece together. The Frog coffee table, €140, has a little lip on which to place your cup. Big kite, €165, is an asymmetrical chair and kite is a stool, €150.

Next door is Kathryn Payne whose polypropylene pendants all use the same floral modular shape. They come in round ball shapes, €32; a closed drum form, €52; and a large open drum style, €108. Payne also makes really interesting-looking laser-cut steel shelves, €125 each, and side tables, €550 each. The prototypes are in black but they are available in a wide selection of colours.

She shares a workspace with Aislinn Lynch who makes sculptural pendant lights, which cost from €180 upwards.

Lynch and Payne are two graduate Malthouse members. They studied interior and furniture design at DIT. “The older and more experienced designers are very encouraging of our work and also offer practical advice,” Lynch says.

The Malthouse is also home to the architectural practice of About The House presenter Dermot Bannon. Architect Greg Tisdall’s Studio D offices are also in situ, as is the bureau of interior designer Anne Kirby, who started her professional life working for interior design company, Beyond The Hall Door.

The design hub also has associate members. These include established lighting designer Shane Holland, cheap chic accessories outfit Klickity, Jenny Walsh Furniture and Wedge. There are painted clocks by Martin Gallagher, a surfer who has also created a rather cool half-pipe hall shelf for keys and other ancillaries. Koo Young Design has reworked wooden Venetian blind slats to make splayed floor lamps.

For design fans, the atmosphere at The Malthouse Design Centre makes it a browser’s paradise. There’s a sense of can-do that translates into a want-to-buy mood.

There is plenty of room to manoeuvre and buggies and children are welcome. Visitors are encouraged to touch and sit on the pieces to try them out.

The Malthouse is open from Monday to Saturday (10am to 5pm), at Distillery Court, 537 North Circular Road, Dublin 1, tel: 01-8558070