Belfast design duo Oscar&Oscar have turned heads creating some of the most stylish restaurants in Northern Ireland by focusing on using reclaimed materials with a history behind them.
Orla Maguire and Martin Barrett – trained architects, and self-confessed furniture hoarders – have designed restaurants such as OX, Howard Street, Belfast bar Aether and Echo, and Harry’s Shack on the Strand beach in Portstewart.
The first project they undertook was Ballyhackamore Italian tapas restaurant Il Pirata, which opened in January 2012. Their most recent design was Newtownards coffee shop Haptik, which opened around three weeks ago.
Oscar&Oscar – so named because each partner owns a dog called Oscar – has now turned its attention to OX Cave, the Oxford Street restaurant extension to their current space.
The business started up after they realised they both had a talent for picking quality pieces of furniture.
Mr Barrett said: “Furniture came about because we always had a bit of an eye for it. We always collected bits and pieces, and it made sense to take advantage of that.”
There is no one thing that attracts them to a certain piece, but a combination of many factors. Ms Maguire said: “We both have a similar eye, and we look at something and know straight away we really like that. There’s an immediacy in the what you like about it. Whether it’s the form of it, the shape of it, whether it’s the production of it, it’s the whole combination.”
Ms Maguire said the most important thing they’ve learnt since they started the business was building the right contacts in the industry.
“The first year we started was spent trying to find the right people to go to and developing relationships with them.
“So now if we need timber, instead of going to some reclamation yard we can go straight to the guy who is going directly into the building site.
“For OX Cave we sourced an amazing parquet floor, which you couldn’t buy nowadays.
“There are ups and downs to that process in that you can never be too sure what you are going to have, but so far it has worked really well,” Ms Maguire added.
The pair are also starting to do design homes, something that Mr Barrett has a particular passion for.
Mr Barrett said: “It’s exciting to see if we can do what we’re doing with restaurants in the home.”