podcast | Apr 29, 2024 |
For Bryan O’ Sullivan, hospitality and good design go hand in hand

Growing up, when Bryan O’Sullivan wasn’t in school, he was working in the kitchen of his mother’s coffee shop and delicatessen in the Irish town of Kenmare. There, he learned the ins and outs of the service industry, but remained preoccupied by his real passion: architecture and design. In 2000, he became enthralled with the design of the new bar and restaurant his parents were opening, taking note of everything the interior designer was doing down to the teacup design. After a year studying hospitality management in college, he decided to follow his passion and enroll in the University of Greenwich’s school of architecture.

He drew distinct lessons from each job he held under a professional designer: From David Collins, O’Sullivan discovered that the interiors side of the industry was what he loved most; from Annabelle Selldorf, he began to home in on an aesthetic; and from Martin Brudnizki, he learned how to run his studio. “I think by working for several different people, you can create more of a language for yourself and decide what you like and what you’d respond to,” he tells host Dennis Scully on the latest episode of The Business of Home Podcast. He went out on his own in 2013 with one project, and grew his studio—which he runs with his husband, James—into an AD100 firm with offices in London and New York.

As the team has expanded, O’Sullivan maintains a positive work environment with an unlikely asset: his father. The former teacher and career guidance counselor periodically comes into the office to meet with each staff member to ensure that they are getting what they want out of the workplace. “He’s a nice medium between me, James and the management of the office,” says the designer. “If there are any issues that need to be ironed out, he’ll help us do that.”

Elsewhere in the episode, O’Sullivan talks about the differences between hospitality and residential work, as well as between European and American clients and retailers, and explains why he refuses to follow trends.

Crucial insight: Despite remote work still being a prevalent trend across offices everywhere, O’Sullivan pushes back against working from home. “It’s so much better for creativity, for learning, especially for the younger people in the studio,” he says of having his team in the office. “There’s so much you learn just by being in the environment—working from home, you’re missing out on all of that… Because we’re all working together to create these different designs, it just works a lot better having people in person.”

Key quote: “You can only scale if you keep the good people who work for you, and if they understand the aesthetic. There’s a magic, a sweet spot that you can’t go beyond because then you lose control over what you’re designing,” he says. “As soon as you start putting bad work out there, that defeats the whole purpose of everything. I think you’re only as good as your last project, so you just have to keep consistency and quality high.”

This episode is sponsored by Four Hands. Listen to the show below. If you like what you hear, subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

Thursday Show

BOH executive editor Fred Nicolaus and host Dennis Scully discuss the biggest news in the design industry, including the debut of a new source for designer fabric, the latest with Pirch and a look at why luxury home sellers are slashing prices. Later, design journalist Ian Volner joins the show to recap Milan Design Week.

This episode is sponsored by Loloi and Annie Selke. Listen to the show below. If you like what you hear, subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

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