Irene Kyriacou is the owner of Oniroco, one of the interior-design brands that collaborated in the creation of David Higgs’ Marble Restaurant, on Johannesburg’s Keyes Art Mile. Kyriacou is polished, warm, and endearingly animated; one immediately gets the impression that the designer is a seasoned multitasker. For her, the magic of creating spaces such as Marble lies in curating the details, and this approach translates into her personal style, which Kyriacou describes as eclectic.
“I like to mix classic and contemporary styles,” she says. “I always find a happy balance between the two. For me, accessories are key to everything, and I think it goes with what I do: always adding a little layer. A great belt, earrings, rings — I love rings: I have a weakness for beautiful dress rings. But then, I tend to love black, shades of grey, and tan, and that came through with Marble.”
Kyriacou’s emphasis on supporting the best local artisans and designers, while envisioning her role in terms of a story-telling process, lends the spaces she puts together a marvellous combination of finesse and originality — Marble exudes a very modern, cosmopolitan aura of effortless hauteur. Now, having completed Marble’s butchery component, Kyriacou is participating in the assembly of a new Higgs enterprise, Saint, which is set to open in August.
How does your wardrobe reflect your design approach? It’s mixing old and new: that juxtaposition of styles. You can find something simple, like a plain T-shirt and jeans, and, just with the right accessories, you can make it either more organic or more sophisticated.
The first item of clothing you were excited to own? I must have been about 13 or 14 years old, and in those days, Scott’s was one of the stores I used to go to for trendy things in South Africa. It was a pair of red-and-white court shoes, and I fell in love with them. They had a kitten heel, and I wore them with a polka-dot skirt.
Do you have a signature fragrance? I have two. One is from Chloé, and then there’s a beautiful one I get from France: a Byredo fragrance called Old Rose.
The last item of clothing you were really excited to buy? I bought a mint-green blazer quite recently. For the upcoming summer all the sorbet colours are so trendy.
Which books or series do you find inspiring at the moment? On Netflix I’m watching Chef’s Table, and also Ugly Delicious, both food-inspired shows. I’ve recently finished an amazing book called The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons. It’s a love story set during the Second World War in Russia.
Your favourite city? My favourite city in the world is Paris. I love looking up, and when I see the top of those buildings, and the architecture — there’s something about that place. It’s magic.
Which local designers excite you? Interior-wise, we are really spoilt for choice. Laurie (Wiid) van Heerden from Wits is doing incredible things, and David Krynauw’s doing amazing things with furniture. With fashion, I’m quite a big fan of Gert Johan Coetzee. I love what he does and how he styles: it’s quite an international feel on a local platform. David Tlale also does amazing things, and they’re so different!