Pieces of Me: Robert Trench, interior and furniture designer

Interior designer Robert Trench likes to blend international modern design with some traditional grandeur inspired by his grandmother’s Copenhagen home

"I took my first job so I could save up and buy a welder to create my own metal furniture,” says commercial interior and furniture designer Robert Trench. His Dalkey-based company Studio Trench has designed interiors for company headquarters which include BDO, Sony Entertainment and FPG Amentum.

Trench also works alongside residential designers creating commissions for custom pieces of furniture in unusual materials. “I studied furniture design many years ago and brass would be a signature material of mine, its current popularity in China and Japan is actually making it quite difficult to source the right grades of metal.”

His 20 years of experience in sourcing materials has seen his business expand to procurement. Trench has just completed a project with the Fitzwilliam Hotel in Belfast, where he was engaged to source all the soft furnishings at more competitive rates than the architects could. “It is essentially cutting out the middle man, I take the architects’ designs and have them made through my contacts around the globe, saving the client a considerable amount of time and money.”

Describe your interiors style?

My mother is Danish and my grandmother’s pre-war house in Copenhagen had rather grand interiors. I like to mix international modern with some traditional grandeur. In furniture design, I mix metals with wood and enjoy working with textured seagrass and woven vinyl, which can give stunning results.


For commercial interiors, the styles we use really depend on the client, for example our fit-out for Sony Entertainment was all about bold colours mixed with cool graphics, whereas our current work at FPG Amentum [the aviation finance company] is pared-back using black-framed oaks with a subtle Japanese undertone – as the company partnered with a Japanese firm and we wanted the result to reflect this.

Which room do you most enjoy and why?

I really enjoy our garden, which was designed by my brother-in-law Stephen Ryan. It is a restful sunny spot linking our home to my studio, overlooked by tall lollypop bay and olive trees.

What items do you love most and why?

My USM Haller shelving system started out as a bedside locker and I have added to it over the years, so it is now the largest piece of furniture in our house. I think it is one of the most beautiful designs in the world for its architectural proportions and grid format. The system is part of a permanent display at MoMA [Museum of Modern Art in New York] and has been an inspiration for much of my work.

I picked up a small ice bucket at a flea market in Copenhagen 20 years ago and love its simplicity. Also the Caccia cutlery, which was originally designed by the Castiglioni brothers in 1938 and re-issued by Italian designer Alessi in 1990.

Who is your favourite designer?

Andree Putman, who designed The Pagoda House in Tel Aviv and Blue Spa in Munich. She also designed a champagne bucket for Veuve Clicquot and her designs were a precursor to the blend of classic and industrial which is so popular today. I also admire Poltrona Frau for their craftsmanship and iconic designs.

Which artists do you most admire?

I have two paintings by Joby Hickey – the Dublin-based artist noted for his realism style.

The Boland's Mill painting, which I purchased after the birth of our daughter Alex six years ago, now holds a special significance as this pivotal landmark is in the midst of being demolished. I also have his work Helicopter, which though not a classic Hickey, is a very clever piece of pointillism brushwork.

What is your biggest interior turn-off?

What I term ‘show pony interiors’ – where rooms are designed to be visual rather than liveable. A good design must have connectivity to the people occupying the space.

I also cannot bear rooms with bare walls, art does not have to be expensive; simple prints can bring colour and character to a room and the beauty of art is you can always take it with you if you move.

Which travel destination stands out?

Two trips to Italy in particular. Caoilfinn, my wife, and I rented scooters in Rome in December and drove around taking in all the classical architecture, while I also had a wonderful break surrounded by the industrial feel of Milan.

If you had €100,000 to spend on your home what would you buy?

I’d love to commission myself to design furniture for our home as I am always busy with clients.

There is a big trend at the moment for cocktail cabinets (Trench has three commissions on the go) and I would also love to design a new multimedia cabinet. But first I would start with designing a new studio for myself.