Regina Rogers Fallon is well on her way to achieving her goal of becoming a recognised name in the area of interior design in Ireland. She combines her artist's eye and experience in customer service from Aer Lingus, with her BA in Interior Design from Griffith, to deliver a bespoke service to clients across Ireland.
From a young age Regina knew that she wanted to be an artist. However, when she was finishing school in the 1980s, the only art school around at the time was the National College of Art and Design, which was difficult to get into without the proper contacts and financial resources. So for the first number of years after her Leaving Cert, instead of enhancing her creative side, Regina signed up for an adventurous career in the airline industry.
While busy at Aer Lingus and raising a family, Regina still took time to paint. A lucky break came when her uncle, who had an art gallery on Leeson Street, saw her artwork and said, “Wow! I have an exhibition coming up, would you like to be in it?”. All of her art sold and it was the easiest check in her hand”. Shortly thereafter, voluntary redundancy came up at Aer Lingus and it was “now or never” for Regina to make the jump into focusing on her art. And so it was, that in 2005 at the age of 35, she launched into a career as an artist.
Her first experience presenting her work on her own was at Art Ireland at the RDS, where, again, she sold everything. While she thinks part of the appeal in her artwork has a lot to do with the vibrant colours that she uses, she definitely says that when it comes to selling art, particularly in a trade fair setting, “it’s not just the art on the walls that counts, but how the artist presents herself/himself”. While other artists at the fair “were never making eye contact,” everything about her stand was professional, from her desk showcasing her portfolio to the clothes she chose to wear.
Why the move into Interior Design?
In another moment of madness, and in the height of the Celtic Tiger, Regina thought that a degree in Interior Design would add another level of creativity and skillset to her portfolio. She wasn’t quite sure what the degree entailed and why it would take three years, but she decided it was a good time to go back to school.
What was the experience of going back to school like?
When Regina got the Interior Design brochure from Griffith College, she recalled, “I looked at it and had no idea what I was signing up to. How would it take three years to coordinate cushion colours? What was CAD?” Despite these questions, she was “just determined to go for it”. Regina loved the creative side of the curriculum but admits to shedding a few tears over the technical elements as she found CAD, Photoshop, etc. overwhelming at the beginning. Once it caught on she then flew with
How did your Griffith classes prepare you for the career you’re in now?
“In industry now you need to have a degree; it’s too competitive,” states Regina. “In an industry where you’re working with architects and tradespeople, you need to know what you’re talking about.” Instead of designing for yourself, you’re now designing for others. How has that changed your perspective?
Regina is adamant that her success in interior design is in having her own brand and style: “When clients approach me they approach because they like my style. There’s something that appeals to them. They understand through visuals on my website or social media feeds what my work is like.”
While some designers might be repetitive in the solutions they provide to their clients, Regina puts a huge effort into understanding what the clients want and goes the extra mile to customise products in order to achieve the perfect design. If she feels she can’t deliver what the client wants, she’s not the right designer for the job.
Advice to people starting out in interior design
Regina can’t stress the importance of professionalism enough: “You can have amazing designs and mood boards, but you have to operate as a professional. You need to sell yourself. A client is buying a piece of you, your creativity.” Another key element is knowing a thing or two about running a business. Regina suggests taking a “start your own business course”, looking for Enterprise Ireland grants, creating a decent website and using social media.
From there, it’s all about finding the right suppliers: “Suppliers represent the way you design. Finding the right products is key, as is making sure that they provide good customer service to clients”. If those aren’t enough good pieces of advice, Regina stresses that, “networking is huge. It will always lead to something else, another contact, another phone number.” So focusing on how you will build your business is just as important as what you learn in the classroom.
Another key piece of advice is to “know your style and what you want to do. Do you want to design sofas or do renovations and structural work with architects? You need to set yourself goals and create a simple business plan: what you want to do, where you want to be.”
It seems like you’ve really created a niche for yourself as a colour expert. How did that come about and how did you connect with Colourtrends? Regina’s passion for art is apparent in her approach to colour: “I’m always fanatical about colour. When it comes to colour, I’m just obsessed, it has be perfect.” About five years ago she had the opportunity to design a room for Ideal Homes and since then she’s been able to do that every year. Regina is now under the Colourtrends brand and does their colour consultancy around the country.
What challenges do you face running your own company?
Regina’s biggest challenge is time. She needs to divide her time between trying to give 150% to her clients, and acting as the Head of Marketing and Accounts. But customer service is absolutely essential to Regina. If she’s going to be five minutes late to an appointment, she calls the client. Part of the challenge is figuring out “what is the cut-off point”. Now that she’s more established, outsourcing some of the admin work is key. What are your long-term goals?
For Regina, her goals are clear: “Keep going. Build my profile. Be recognised as one of Ireland’s top interior designers. End up in position where if someone mentions my name they know who I am, what my style is and how I operate.” In addition, Regina is hoping to do commercial work. While she really enjoys the residential work, it can be “very personable”. Commercial work will bring a different element of experience to her portfolio.
What are you up to in your free time?
With everything on Regina’s plate, it’s no wonder she doesn’t have much free time. She’d like to travel a bit more this year and she has a family which keeps her very busy. If she could, she’d “press the pause button” a little more. So this year is all about “keeping the right balance”.
Regina’s ending words are definitely worth heeding: “Nothing comes to you without hard work, hard graft. Especially as a designer, be yourself and believe in what you’re doing. It’s important to define your style; you’re selling your personality and style. Never move too far away from that. You need to be brave enough to stand out. Refuse to be just what the market wants.”