My Career: I always had a flair for interiors

Maura Mackey of Maura Mackey Design tells us about her work in our weekly feature 'My Career' which is published in WoW! every Wednesday
My Career: I always had a flair for interiors

Maura Mackey Design

Name: Maura Mackey 

Age: 49 

Lives: Ballinhassig, Co. Cork.

Job title: Interior stylist for homes and business and also a home staging expert at Maura Mackey Design.

Salary bracket: Its early days yet!

Education background: I have a degree in Purchasing and Materials Management – IIPMM, Higher National Diploma in Interior Design (Rhodec) completed two masterclasses online in Interior design (Erin V) I completed a Retail Design & Display course ( College of Commerce) and a Home Staging Course.(HSA UK and IRL).

Hobbies: Living my best life. I have lived in the countryside all my life so I love living here with walks on my doorstep. I love spending time with with my husband and kids, socialising with genuine people including my own family. I love travelling and walks by the beach, especially all things interior and I love being part of the ‘Carry on Regardless’ variety group in Ballinhassig - every year we do various takes on musicals. Through this I got to meet people in the parish that I never knew existed. I also get to sing and dance with neighbours and friends and even with my own kids. We have a lot of fun and crack on the run up to our yearly show in March.

Describe your job in five words: Creative, challenging, social, passionate, inspiring.

Describe yourself in five words: Positive, ambitious outgoing, creative, caring.

Personality needed for this kind of work? You definitely need to be a creative person - what I might see as treasure someone else might not like at all, you need to be able to think outside the box. You need a get up and go attitude, ‘cannot do’ isn’t in my vocabulary - If Maura can’t do it I will find someone who can. In this job you meet a lot of different people with different needs when it comes to design and their homes.

You need to be a good listener - to know what the client wants from you from a practical and home point of view- your design must work for this person and family as they are the ones living in this space long after you have gone. I know everyone’s budget is different but I do believe everyone deserves a beautiful home regardless of their budget.

How long are you doing this job? I started learning about Interior Design over 20 years ago but I set up my own business officially last November.

How did you get this job? When I left school I wanted to do ‘Tourism’ in RTC (Now CIT) this is probably where my love of travel came from. I didn’t get a place on the course and I ended up working in Apple Computers, every cloud has a silver lining - that’s where I met my hubby, so happy days. Years on I got a job in the purchasing department and from there got my degree in Purchasing and Materials Management, then I continued on with education and received a Higher National Diploma in Interior Design (this came from having a new home and the desire to design it right). 

From there I left and moved to Alcon and worked in the purchasing department, during this time I started Maura Mackey Creations. I used to do jobs for friends and family. I then became a mum, loved this time, one of my proudest moments. I went back to work until I had my second child and then decided to give up, this was due to childcare and missing the kids. Then I started another journey with my husband to renovate our house. From the time I started this project to the end it took about 10 years, this might sound like a lot of time but believe me there were a lot of projects in there – front door to back door- the full house got a makeover including the outside, with a bit of heartache along the way too I might add as not every project went to plan.

I was lucky too I suppose we built our home and I was able to see first-hand what worked and didn’t work in our house.

I always had a flare for interiors, so I completed a few add on interior design courses along the way to keep my finger in the interiors pie so to speak! But after completing my own house to the style I have now, I knew Interior Design was where my heart was and the desire was building for me to to start my own business. 

I then decided to do a retail design and display course, then a home staging course and a start your own business course with South Cork Local Enterprise Office. Then Maura Mackey Design was born. The level of support I received from LEO was superior – I was encouraged every step of the way, especially to complete their mentor programme – that’s where I met my mentor Lucy O Donoghue (Consulting) who encouraged and helped me with all the business and marketing areas of Maura Mackey Design. Along with Lucy I also got help from Anna Healy, a Life and Business Coach in Courtmacsherry, I got my business up and running with the help of these two powerful ladies, from there I worked away and I was delighted to be working on Interior Design jobs and staging houses for resale, but then Covid-19 hit. 

My two mentors kept me on the right track and kept giving me accountability calls, for this I will be forever grateful. Another very positive step I took and one that gave me great help and confidence in myself was joining the Network Cork group last November. There I met other ladies who were on the same journey as myself or were in business already and were so eager to help or guide me where possible. We meet once a month and right through Covid-19 they ran webinars, Zoom calls and some fun nights. I also met a group of ladies through Anna Healy in the Network West Cork group on a weekly coffee morning where we discussed everything from Covid-19, how to set up a Zoom call on your own, how to pivot your business during lockdown. They were an inspiration and they kept the fighting spirit alive in me. We had a lot of laughs and fun learning new things. (we are now calling ourselves the Light hearted women’s group.)

During lockdown I was able to do virtual consultations through ‘WhatsApp’ and Skype, as well as keep up my relations with fellow designers and home stagers and suppliers as we were all trying to figure out the next step so to speak! I also used this time to do more online courses and learn more tech skills. I always feel like a kid in a candy shop when shopping for clients or myself so when the home décor shops opened again I felt like it was Christmas.

Do you need particular qualifications or experience? An interior Design qualification gives a more in-depth knowledge of the psychology of colours and design itself. To gain a retail design and home staging qualification, you must be creative and have a flair for everything interiors - such as colour, space, textures, light- getting the right balance is key to a great design. You must be passionate about interiors. You need to be able to work to a budget, work on your own initiative, work as part of a team, you need to be able to think outside the box. Delivering great design to all sorts of budgets takes time, creativity and commitment.

Describe a day at work: My job is so diverse, no two days are ever the same, as in some days I could be at home in the morning and other mornings I could be gone the same time as my family before 8 am.

Pre Covid-19 when my family had left the house for school and work, I would sit at my desk and check my emails from clients and suppliers, from there I create a to do list for that day and for the week. I do consultations Tuesdays and Wednesdays and try to work around my clients work schedules. I collect samples or go out shopping for clients on Thursdays.

I also do Home Staging so I may need to call to a house that is up for sale, I could get contacted by a homeowner or estate agent to stage a house for resale. For this I walk from the front door to the back door and I give a report to the client of the list of changes I think needs to happen to sell this particular property, sometimes a property needs a lot of TLC to make it ready for sale and then sometimes a house just needs a few small changes and its ready.

On any day I could also be designing mood boards, writing reports on on-site consults, colour consultation reports, looking on-line for furniture pieces to add to a certain colour scheme, more often than not I prefer to buy my pieces of furniture, tables, art, accessories from local suppliers.

I am always very conscious of the ‘support local’ incentive, keep the jobs in Cork as we have fabulous shops on our doorstep.

As an interior designer it is my job to create spaces, sell ideas and communicate a mood or a feeling that generally tells a story about a place or a time, that makes you feel a certain way. As a designer I need to create a design that my client likes and buys into. I always say unless you ‘LOVE, LOVE IT’ it’s not for you. Your client needs to see your vision. In the research process, when I am out and about searching for ideas, e.g. a kitchen/dining room/snug area, I am trying to capture a mood or a story that will communicate to the client both our visions, I need to take my clients brief into account always. Then I collect imagery/samples of interiors, lighting, fabric, stone, ceramic, timber, anything really that I come across that feels right to me, I will know when I see it. Then I put it all together on a mood board, you have to be passionate to do this, there are times you might come home with a tile or piece of flooring or even a piece of fabric and think it’s the right one and when you put all the items together it just doesn’t work, so back into town again, sometimes on my way to collect the kids from school, as I want to ensure the mood board is right for your client.

How many hours do you work a week? Normally 8am-4pm, 4 days a week.

What do you wear to work? I would dress business casual when going out to meet a client or if I am going shopping.

Is your industry male or female dominated? I would think female dominated, in Cork anyway.

Does this affect you in any particular way? Not at all I’m well used to working with men.

Is your job stressful? How? Rate it on a scale of 1-10: I have to say most days its fine but the stress levels do increase for example if items don’t turn up onsite or if something gets broken and I cannot replace it. This means I have to go back out and try and find a replacement so it’s a 7 then. Also another frustrating thing for me is when contractors don’t turn up to do a job, and other contractors are waiting on them to finish before they can start. This is a 10 then.

Do you work with others or on your own? I work on my own but my hubby Ken is always around to help if I need it (in the evenings now that is) he’s great, he’s like my wing man so to speak! Saying that I am always thankful to all the shops, contractors for all their help in helping me create my designs on a continuous basis.

When do you plan to retire or give up working? Well I feel that there’s a lot of life in me yet, as the song goes - I’ve only just begun…..

Best bits: The best bits for me is I’m doing what I love. Meeting new customers and working with them to create a design for their home or business. Every day is a new challenge and every new consultation or home staging brings new design ideas to my mind. On a lighter note all the work is worth-while when you put the design in front of a client and their eyes light up, I feel so happy when I see this, I say to myself you’ve nailed it Mackey! Not everyone gets to put a smile on their client’s face and give them a design that will enhance their home and family space.

Worst bits: It can be physically demanding sometimes if there is no muscle around to help you unload stuff from your car.

Advice to those who want your job? Follow your dreams, I always wanted to have my own business in interiors for years. If you dream it you can achieve it, never give up, be kind to people you meet along the way. If you are thinking about starting your own business then follow what I done, take the help that’s available in Cork from South Cork Local Enterprise Office and their mentors. They create opportunities and your mentors help you open the doors to success. Find your tribe, people you know that will support you and have your back. All your hard work putting a design together pays off when you know your customer is smiling.

Any other comments? If you are struggling with an area in your home and you need some help – then please don’t hesitate to contact me on 087-7699714 or follow me on Facebook or Instagram @Maura Mackey Design. My website is.

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