Irish Design – Meet Ail + El

Ail + El is the creative brain child of best buds Aileen Balfe and Eleanor McCaughey. In a couple of short years Ail + El have a solid reputation in the Irish design sector. Their creations are all about form and function, with a contemporary edge. I love the use of an industrial material, softened with pretty colours and cool patterns.

Ail has taken the lead role recently, while El concentrates on her love of painting. The signature geometric designs of Ail + El feature across their range of of textiles, art and concrete creations.

I had a little chat to Aileen about being self-employed, her style and where she loves to shop.

What’s in a day at Ail + El?

Well it could be anything from mixing buckets of concrete, to spray painting patterns on concrete, planting succulents, to screen printing tea towels. At the moment I’m juggling being a full-time mam to my 9 month old little boy and running Ail+El so most Ail+El work gets done during naps or when Daddy is home!

What’s the best and not so great part of being self-employed?

The best things are being able to work the hours that suits you and putting all that time and energy into something you love doing. It’s great to be in charge and have the creative freedom to do whatever you like. Although I do miss having a regular paycheck to rely on at the end of every month!

Describe the style of Ail + El.

Ail+El’s style is definitely contemporary – our homeware combines the industrial qualities of concrete with geometric patterns. Although, I don’t really like the idea of boxing ourselves off into a specific style category, as I like to think our style will evolve over time.

What influences you and your work?

Ail+El’s work is mainly influenced by graffiti and street art. Living in Dublin I draw a lot of inspiration from the city and contemporary architecture. I’m also influenced and inspired by artists and designers from bygone eras – Especially Bauhaus and the Cubism movement, and the Art Deco period.

What are your favourite interior shops in Ireland?

I love the shop DUST – They had an amazing little shop off Camden street in Dublin up until recently but you can still find them online. The Irish Design Shop in Dublin have a great selection of Irish homeware. Their new Áras range is fab. Jam Art Factory also in Dublin have super cool Irish prints if you are looking for something to fill your walls. For Scandinavian Style Maven in Belfast and Nordic Makers in Dun Laoghaire are great. I also love Søstrene Grene for a bargain and who doesn’t love a bit of Ikea?!!!

What’s next for Ail + El?

Maybe more concrete – I’d like experiment a little more and develop more products.

I’d also like to work with other materials. For me it’s all about pattern and colour. So other homeware products with our Ail+El geometric patterns perhaps!

And in the name of fun, Aileen answered my ridiculous questions!

Dogs or Cats?

Cats! Cats! Cats! Meow!

Black & White or Colour?

Definitely colour!

Tea or Tipple?

Tea and bickies!

Pen or Pencil?

Pen – I love Muji pens!

Book or Movie?


Mario or Sonic?


City or Countryside?


Early bird or Night owl?

Definitely a night owl!

Sun or Snow?

Oh that’s a tough question. I do love snow but there’s nothing like a bit of sunshine!

Scrabble or Twister?

Love a bit of scrabble although I haven’t played in so long!

Thanks so much to Aileen for taking the time to answer all my questions. Especially the last list of questions! 😉 Ail + El are a star in the Irish design world. As another super example of a #GIRLBOSS I can’t wait to see what designs Aileen brings out next.

Ail + El is stocked all over Ireland and as far as Japan! Irish stockists include Dust, Jam Art Factory and Irish Design Shop. You can also get Ail + El on Etsy.



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