Rocking Interior Design with Roco

Editor Rachael Colton launches a free, Ireland-focused online magazine that's been garnering international attention

It is coincidental – we just wanted somewhere quiet - but oddly appropriate to be chatting to Rachael Colton, editor-in-chief of the new online magazine Roco, in the shadow of Robert Thierrien's giant table and chairs at the MAC. Roco is, after all, Ireland’s newest and only interior design magazine.

‘I’ve read design magazines from America and Australia, and there was one launched recently in the UK,’ Colton, who describes Roco as a ‘gentle hi’ to the interior design world, says. ‘But I couldn’t find any for Ireland. So I thought, why don’t I make a magazine? It all kind of snow-balled from there.’

That might sound a bit seat-of-the-pants, especially when delivered with Colton’s self-deprecating shrug, but it took eight months of investigation, market research and budgeting to get from concept to the first issue of Roco released June 2012.

Solely funded Colton – who sighs that she always seems to just miss funding deadlines – Roco is free to read online. The plan is for it to introduce great Irish designers, although it also features international bloggers and artists, to the rest of the world. So far, the rest of the world has welcomed the magazine with open arms.

‘We had 80,000 hits in our first week,’ Colton says happily. ‘Half of them from America, a few are from Australia and the rest from UK and Ireland. A lot of people are saying they love it.’

The appeal, Colton believes, lies in the fact she is introducing artists and art that haven’t already been reblogged around the Interior Design blogosphere. Interviews with artists such furniture designer Donna Bates from I Do Cartwheels and sneak glimpses into the Beleek cottage getaway of Kyron and Fleur (a musician and interior designer) are a breath of fresh, Irish air.

‘It was lovely to have Donna in our first issue,’ Colton enthuses. ‘She’s a designer based in Comber and does amazing bespoke furniture as well giving old furniture a modern twist. I really love that she gets all the fabric she uses hand-woven locally instead of out-sourcing it. It would be much cheaper, but she’s really into promoting what we do on the island.’

Pressed to name the dream-designer she’d love to appear in the magazine, Colton dodges the question as impossible. There are just too many great designers to pick from. She does admit a fondness for Ian Thompson, whose designs are both eclectic ('and I do love eclectic design') and timeless.

‘For me he’s one of the local designers who has ‘made it’ and created a brand that’s known outside Ireland.’Colton is obviously passionate about the subject, but more than that she’s knowledgeable. Although her background is a mixture of Fine Arts, PR and blogging, she started her career in textiles.

‘I studied textile design at University in Leeds, specialising in hand-woven material for interiors,’ she says. ‘Then I came home and realised the textile industry had shipped off to Sri Lanka.’

With Roco she hopes to be able to be able to offer young artists and designers who might be a similar position a sense of creative community. Whether that involves approaching up and coming designers to say, ‘I like what you’re doing, let’s put a feature in the magazine’ or offering internships to University of Ulster graduates.

‘I really want to work with the University of Ulster,’ Colton says. ‘Maybe pick out some key designers to watch at their Design Festival. It’s just fitting everything in.’

Colton is confident – as confident as anyone in publishing can be – that she’ll have time to put all her ideas into motion. After all, ‘there are so many great artists here – big names and ones that I am sure are going to become big names.’