Belfast born Lee Austin studied architecture in Brighton before branching into the area of interior design and starting his own company several years ago.
'I had been working for a different practice at the time and that was coming to an end so I decided to go out on my own. I haven’t looked back. It’s been hard but very enjoyable work,' he explains.
The company specialises in interior design for the high end residential market and recently has moved in to some areas of commercial work. While many of its projects are around the greater Belfast area, Lee Austin Design is also taking on work all over Northern Ireland, Dublin, Galway, London and France.
'We look at sourcing the products for our clients and bringing them an original design that they are happy with. It involves spending a lot of time researching and travelling to come up with the best ideas.'
'Whether it’s working on someone’s home and finding out how they want to use their home, it’s about having that first conversation. I like to meet with potential clients and discuss, in an informal way, what their needs are.'
'The same applies to business as well. If for example we’re working on a restaurant, we want to know what style of food they are going to serve, what kind of atmosphere they are trying to create and what age demographic they are thinking of.'
Once the brief has been discussed, Lee’s company will create some concepts for the customer to consider before any building and decorating work begins.
'Sometimes the client doesn’t have an idea of what they want, so it’s down to me to try and get inside their head and read what it is they are looking for. A lot of people know what they like, but don’t know how to get there.'
And thankfully for them Lee Austin is able to transfer the imagination on to the page, using much of Belfast’s industrial heritage as the starting point for his concept drawings.
'While I love being able to use objects and projects from Belfast’s bygone eras, it’s exciting, too, when I’m working abroad, to be able to observe other cultures and learn from them. It stops you becoming stagnant and keeps ideas fresh.'
'There is that point in a project where the client sees it for the first time completed. The excitement of everybody from the building team, myself, decorators and, of course, the client, is so rewarding. It’s why I do it.'
By Padraig Coyle