Judge Interview: Leonie Cornelius

Super Garden has just come to a dramatic end with the final of the five gardens being revealed. The countdown is now on to Bloom 2016 and the winner of Super Garden being announced. We chatted with Roisin’s fellow Judge Leonie Cornelius about her love of garden design and the latest series of Super Garden.

What is your own background and how did Super Garden come about for you?

I have always been fascinated by nature and design, even from a young age I have always appreciated well placed objects and had an appreciation of beauty. My career in design started with my studies in Interior Architecture which I have an Honours Degree in. I decided to study Garden Design with KLC in London because I was fascinated with how the interior and the exteriors connect and how, in cleverly designed spaces, they can seamlessly blend to create one living space. Now I see design everywhere, from plants to shells to graffiti walls, it’s hard to switch it off once you become aware of it!


What appeals to you about gardens and garden design?

Gardens are fascinating to me, they are ever changing and evolving-never stationary. I love how the plants create a perfect theatrical moving display and how they are such a fantastic juxtaposition to the solid forms of structure and hard landscaping. I am also fascinated with clients and how every person, brand or company I design for has a different dream and idea of what their personal space should be, it makes my job really fascinating and never boring!


What are you looking for from this year’s contestants?

I am a firm believer that a strong concept makes for the best garden.

Good concepts take the clients dreams, combine them with the knowledge and talent of the designer and create a new synthesis which is unique and personalised. Show gardens are fantastic examples of concepts condensed to become incredibly strong and impactful. I hope that the winner of this year’s show will take an approach that creates an exciting and fresh concept which will work for the homeowners but also as a stunning show garden at Bloom.


What criteria makes a garden worthy of a spot at bloom?

I think a lot of the above applies here-a strong concept is one people will recognise walking past a garden. It will allow the garden to speak for itself. Also, people come to Bloom to get inspired and take ideas from the show for their own gardens. I remember when I won the show in 2012 and my garden went to Bloom a lot of people commented on the fact that they liked that the garden was a real, usable garden. That always stayed with me.


If you had to pick one stand out favourite garden over the entire series of Super Garden, what would it be?

Oh there are so many! I liked Ken Byrnes Container garden in 2011, that was pretty cool and last year’s winner Brian Burke had such a strong concept and really delivered for the family. I think Super Garden is so great because there is something for everyone – all tastes, all styles.

How would you describe your own garden and gardening style?

My background in Architecture and Garden Design really informs my designs and my gardens aim to blend structure and nature. I am fascinated by how architecture and planting create a whole new feel and  I think they work so elegantly and wonderfully together. My planting style  is blend of soft, subtle meadow style and modern clean lines too. It seems to seep in everywhere!


What’s your favourite aspect of your own garden?

I love the way my own garden changes through the seasons. The greens of the trees right now are amazingly zingy lime green and the plants coming up always surprise me even though I planted them. I also have many associated memories with many of the plants – I have Irises and Lupins from my Bloom garden in 2013 and the grasses, Achillea and Lavender from my garden in 2012. I also love my glazed pergola, it looks out over a lake and means I can sit out whatever the weather!

What are your favourite plants to see in a garden?

That’s so hard to answer…I am a designer so I’m always changing my mind! There are however staples that I do end up using in many designs simply because they are so stunning. I love Iris siberica, there’s nothing better than that striking blue against the sword like leaves! I also love grasses such as the Hakonechloa macra and Stipa tenuissima which bring softness and texture into a scheme and I adore Foxgloves!



Why do you think gardens are an important space?

Gardens are places where we can really relax and let go. They are spaces that connect us to the ‘real’ and basic side of life, organically growing, green and calm. They can therefore be spaces that really give our minds the space they need to rejuvenate and switch off, like meditation or doing Yoga, they can help us focus and feel at ease. I think that’s very important particularly in current times where many of us spend a lot of time indoors or at the computer.


Across the world, where are your favourite gardens to visit?

My absolute favourite garden is the Alhambra palace and Generalife gardens in Granada, Andalucia, Spain. The gardens are breathtaking and so incredibly sophisticated. The builders of the palaces were so talented it’s hard to understand, so intricate and simply stunning. I’ve been so many times and always want to go back.

Another one I love is the haven of Central Park in New York. When I first visited it I couldn’t believe that such a gem is smack bang in the middle of Manhattan.

I also love the annual garden festival of Chaumont sur Loire in the Loire valley in France which is a more experimental festival of gardens. Here there are also show gardens but not how we know them from Bloom or Chelsea but rather conceptual spaces echoing a common concept such as ‘Deadly sins’ or this year it is  “Gardens for the coming century”. It’s a fascinating display of creative ideas from cross collaborative teams of designers, architects artists and more set amid the grounds of the most incredible castle once owned by Catherine de Medicis. Heaven!

The Creativity Bug: Bluebellgray

In our work as Designers we come across so many talented and inspiring people. We believe that creativity is contageous, so in the interest of spreading the creative bug we feature inspiring design stories from some of the people who inspire us most.

Recently we collaborated with the vibrant, fun textile company Bluebellgray. We caught up with their founder Fi Douglas to discuss all things creative businesses and the Bluebellgray story. 


Fi, can you tell us the Bluebellgray story?

I have had a love of painting since I was very young and actually began my degree in the painting department at the Glasgow School of Art. During those first couple of years I had a best friend across the road in textiles and she kept saying to me, ‘Fi, you belong in textiles!’. She was absolutely right and when I switched to textiles I was able to bring my two loves, paint and design, together. I never looked back. After working in the industry for a couple of years I knew I really wanted to go out on my own – I had a real desire to create my own designs, to my own brief, and to keep that business in Scotland. In 2009 I set up bluebellgray, literally from my kitchen table, with a collection of just 6 cushions. I travelled on the train to London with my Mum for my first ever show and was lucky to get some great press from that show which was huge. Over the last 7 years, bluebellgray has grown into a design studio with a wonderful team of 14 and we now offer a full lifestyle collection including bedding, fabric, cushions, rugs, lampshades and tableware.


What inspires you or where do you source inspiration?

My inspiration mainly comes from nature, sometimes it’s hard to define it, it’s like a feeling I have inside, but when I see things like the beautiful cherry blossom trees around at the moment or a wood full of bluebells the colours just speak to my soul! I find lots of other things inspiring too and sometimes it’s little things, the decor in a great restaurant, traveling or a brilliant exhibition.


What is a typical day like in the Bluebellgray HQ?

Part of why I love my job so much is the variety, everyday is different! One day will be spent commenting on and approving samples, the next might involve planning our new season photo shoot, followed by a day of painting and drawing.


Who is on the Bluebellgray team?

I’m so lucky to have such a lovely team full of creative minds, coincidentally lots of them grew up in the highlands like me which is really nice. I have a design team who I work really closely with who develop my paintings in to products. We also have a PR and marketing team as well as an operations team who wrap and pack all customer and trade orders. Altogether we are a team of 14!


What is the process from concept to completion for your designs?

It always starts with the paint. I try not to spend too much time thinking about which product the final piece will sit on but just focus on the colour. I usually have a palette in mind for the season we are working towards and I just let that take over. From there I am lucky to have a really wonderful team who I work very closely with to manipulate the original painting and apply it to bedding, cushions, fabric and so on. It’s always an exciting day when those first samples arrive in the studio!



What have been your business highlights over the lifetime of Bluebellgray?

Being featured in Elle Decoration magazine back in the very early days was incredible and really helped get the brand name out there! More recently though on a trip to the states, it was a dream come true to see my designs available in Bloomingdales in New York city!


What advice would you give others who may be thinking about setting up a creative business?

Aside from working hard and all that is involved in the business side, what you really need above all is a passion for your design. There will always be some pressure to follow trends but when you stay true to your instincts you will always produce your most successful work.


How do you unwind and switch off from the demands of business life?

Spending time with my two young boys is often busy in itself so luckily it’s not too hard to switch off from business life when I’m with them, I especially love taking them up North, they absolutely love being outdoors! When I do have some spare time though I really enjoy reading Monocle and Kinfolk magazine for the beautiful imagery and design inspiration.



What’s ahead for Bluebellgray in 2016 and beyond?

I’m super excited to bring out a wallpaper collection in the very near future, it’s something I have always dreamed of and I can’t wait to decorate my home with the designs! I’d also love to do a kids collection, there’s just not enough gender neutral, interior bedroom options out there!



Connect with Bluebellgray:




Super Garden, Week 3


Team Interview: Agnieszka

ABOUT: Agnieszka Cieciora, age 26, I live in Co. Wicklow.

I am a graduate of The Academy of Fine Arts in Poznan (University of Arts Poznan now) with a degree in Interior Architecture with specialisation in Furniture Design. Prior to that I had studied a year long painting course.

What is your first memory of design?

My grandfather’s locksmith workshop established by my grandfather in Czestochowa 1968 who was head of jury in The Czestochowa National Guild of Master Craftsmen. He was an exceptionally skilled craftsman and the first Designer that I could observe at work. I observed him from a young age as he devised creative solutions to everyday design flaws and problems. I think that I inherited his interest for problem solving and creative thinking mixed with my extraordinary appreciation for arts and composition. This was why I wanted to study interior architecture and furniture design.

What attracted you to working in Design?

The fact that I can channel my creativity and use a limitless imagination, sharing it with people, finding out about their dreams and trying to bring them to life. And most of all the element of surprise that I can bring to my designs and observe people’s reactions.

Where do you find inspiration?

In observation and questioning the world. I always keep my eyes open to the things that surround me, I am interested in how every aspect of the world works. The beauty of nature and human creation in everything from art to technology can be very inspiring. But sometimes the best inspiration is in the challenge of things that don’t work. From this  there is the area for improvement which demands good design to source the best solution.

How would you describe your own personal style?

Experimental and all about unique detailing.

What attracted you to working with Kingston Lafferty Design?

When I first saw works by KLD I was impressed by their courage in breaking schemes, bold ideas, and extraordinary mood creation.

What is your favourite aspect of the job?

The challenge to always create something different and unique.

How do you like to switch off and unwind when you’re not working?

Good movies, especially those that focus on interesting analyses of human psychology. I also enjoy activities such as team sports, or events. I recently organised a non profit festival with my friends. I enjoy activities like this that bring people together to generate something good or valuable.




Thesis: This chair design formed the basis of my final year thesis. I wanted a design that was modern, elegant but would still possess a longevity and stand the test of time.

Cruella 3

Handbag Design: During my studies I took a seminar in scenography. Scenography is the art of creating performance environments; it can be composed of sound, light, clothing, performance, structure and space. This hand bag design was one of the practical projects I undertook as part of this study.


rysunek - Copy

LIFE: Life drawings are something my course focused heavily on. Detailing the emotions and demeanor of human faces and postures is as interesting as it is challenging.

AGA Mood Board

Inspiration: a collection of imagery and designers who inspire me in their limitless imagination and creativity.

Video interviews for masters project

Video Interview with Nikki

“Hi, my name is Nicky Dalladay, and at the age of 21 I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. At the time I didn’t really take this on board and what it meant, and I was only just starting my realtionship with my then partner and now husband, our life carried on as normal, we carried on pursuing our hobbies, we were both keen amateur dramatists, we loved appearing on stage, we loved singing, dancing, acting, playing hockey, all sports, just enjoying life, having a great life. David married me and too me on knowing what could possibly happen. I had my eyes firmly covered with rose coloured glasses and believed that nothing was ever going to happen to me because I thought I was going to be one of the lucky ones.

I was wrong. He married me, took me on and life continued for some years, we carried on pursuing our hobbies and our interests and travel; we both adored travelling so much….later on about the age of 35 I had a hockey injury, I broke a bone in my leg and had to have reconstruction surgery on my knee…..After that I found I couldn’t walk very well…I had to get a walking stick. I went on my journey to get a walking stick on my own, I was so afraid of what was happening to my body, and I would almost say that I was embarrassed at the age of 35 that I would have to use a walking stick…That was more for older people not younger people….I looked like a drunk with it, my gate was becoming a little dubious, I was wobbling….Then it became apparent that I would need to move on from a walking stick as it got harder so the hospital produced a pair of crutches…..It was just my lower half that was really affected….I moved onto the delights of the really old people and had a zimoframe. This was all becoming very frightening, unchartered territory that I and David were about to enter into.

The hospital saw me and said I was an accident waiting to happen so this now meant I would have to go into a wheelchair; and in my early 40’s I went into a wheelchair. And I felt that once I had gone down this route into a wheelchair, I was never going to go back to how I was with a walking stick. So emotionally and mentally this was a phenominally difficult time for me to get to grips and come to terms with what was happening to my body, which was so out of control. I couldn’t embrace being disabled in any way; it wasn’t something that I had ever factored in at all.

I’ve always been an independent woman and did everything for myself and shared my life with my husband. We lived as a couple…but my body was going to strip any form of independence away from me. It had decided how I was going to live my life; and that means having to live my life permanently in a wheelchair, David having to do everything for me, all of a personal nature- he’s the only one who sits me on the toilet, wipes my arse, deals with my period. We live our life as carer/cared for. The man and wife, intimate side of our relationship is gone; it’s had to , theres no way it could continue. Yes my head still works and my heart still works, but my body is pretty useless. I can’t write anymore, I have to drink through a straw, David cuts up my food for me and there are times when I can’t even raise the fork to my mouth.

This to me is not life, it’s not the way I had my life mapped out. Yes I’m prepared to put up woth a little inconvenience, yes I’ve become accustomed to the changes that have happened, because each time a part of my body stops functioning, i liken it to a grieving process. I have to grieve over that part of me that no longer works anymore. It’s a form of bereavement as far as I’m concerned….I have to try and pull myself out of it. But the question is; how long can I continue doing this for? At the moment it’s fine….But my mind wanders to when were older….there are lots of restrictions as to what I can do over the course of the day and to be honest life just gets boring when you cant do anything. You can get up and walk out of this room any time you want , I can’t, I have to just sit here until someone wheels me out of the room, I have no choice.

I have a very strong passion that I believe I should be entitled to live a dignified life as well as have a dignified death, but nobody hears me. Nobody, nobody will hear me, and that upsets me greatly. I don’t feel sorry for myself n any way….I just want what nobody will give me. Yes I would love to able to walk but thats not going to happen , yes I would love to revert back to life as it used to be but that’s not going to happen, is a dignified death an option at the moment? In this country, my birth country- no it’s not….I’m being denied everything…

All I want to do is live my life and die when I choose and it’s my choice. I’m not asking anyone else to make that choice for me. Lots of people are opposed to me talking like this but I would say that it’s because they don’t live with this condition or a condition like it…It’s not until you live with it that you truly know what it’s like. It’s all very well to witness something but until you step inside my body or anyone else’s body, you don’t know what they have to live with; and it’s not a great way to live. I don’t want to die at the moment, that’s a given, but at some point in the future I will and that’s when I want the choice available to me.”

Video interviews for masters project

Video Interview with Donagh

“I’ve been in a wheelchair since I was 14. I’ve lost every single control over every single muscle and every joint in my body. I cannot talk proper, I cannot think proper, I can’t even eat proper. And no-one else should have the right to decide whether I should live or die, except me, because I’m the only one in my situation, no-one else is. No able bodied person knows. The doctors tell you all the time they understand what it’s like, I never managed to understand how they could figure out what it’s like unless you are in the skin of the person you are talking to”.