The studio founder reveals her unique blend of socially conscious and innovative design
Words by Laura Cherrie Beaney in Design & Architecture · May 29th, 2023
Victoria Cronin was motivated to make a difference in poverty-stricken communities, she earned a PhD from Cambridge University while collaborating with disadvantaged groups in Kenya and India. Through these experiences, she understood the profound impact that a safe and well-designed living environment has on individual well-being. This realisation resulted in the establishment of her eponymous design studio, a practice that actively supports social enterprises and women artisans in disadvantaged communities.
Based in Dubai, Victoria Cronin Studio offers a diverse range of services from interior design to illustration and furniture design. We speak to the brand founder to discover how her Studio has been uniquely shaped in dialogue with her global experiences.
Victoria: I’m Victoria Cronin, founder of the multi-disciplinary design studio, Victoria Cronin Studio. I trained in architecture in the UK, then, following my Masters in Sustainability and a year working in India, I was motivated to apply my building design skills to housing and infrastructure for poverty alleviation (slum upgrading). I earned a PhD from Cambridge University while working with disadvantaged communities in Kenya and India. These experiences taught me the importance of having a safe place to call ‘home’, and the impact that our home environment has on us psychologically and indeed all facets of our life. Various travel experiences working closely with people of different cultures have also exposed me to a broad range of design styles from a variety of ethnic settings.
I’m a curator of ethnic art and objects that I’ve collected on my travels. I particularly like to support artisanal and grassroots enterprises that often produce exquisite textiles or handicrafts.
I've also recently been teaching architecture at American University Dubai and particularly enjoyed the experience of working with young people at the start of their design journey. When I’m not designing, my hobbies include singing with the Dubai Singers Choir and painting. I have a menagerie of pets at my home in Green Community that include a bearded dragon, chickens, dogs, and a cat. I love to have nature around me and do not feel I could live anywhere else in the city apart from my green home surrounded by mango and banana trees.
As an architect, design is of course my passion. After moving to Dubai I took the opportunity to move into the aesthetic side of design, focusing on interiors. It was great to discover the number of skilled craftspeople and workshops in Dubai that are so accessible. This led me to design my own homeware product range.
My homeware designs originally focused on lighting but I extended my work to encompass small furniture items. I design products that I would use in my own home and often my designs offer a practical solution for my lifestyle which I hope will appeal to others too. My aesthetic is quite layered and eclectic - I like colour and patterns. I source artisanal textiles to apply to my product designs for homeware. My range of ikat lampshades is made from 100% silk, hand woven in Uzbekistan and I use Indian hand-block printed fabric I personally source from India.
I designed and manufactured the Bambusa rechargeable lamp so that it would take interchangeable customisable lampshades. It is a small portable rechargeable table lamp so it’s great for awkward spaces that don’t have power such as table centres, shelves, outdoors or anywhere really! Because the lampshades are interchangeable they can be swapped and changed to suit the setting. I custom make the lampshades so if a client wants a particular fabric/colour/pattern lampshade, I can make it for them.
The Bambusa lamp was inspired by the simplistic form of a Bamboo stem finished in a brushed antique gold colour. Bambusa is a very high-quality unique design unlike many of the simplistic flimsy mass-produced rechargeable table lamps available on the market which are not customisable and rather generic.
I’m currently working on some new rechargeable lamp designs and a new range of lampshades using more natural materials. If you already have one of my Bambusa lamp bases and fancy a change of lampshade, keep your eyes on my website for when the new collection launches, there will also be some new lamp base designs too.
My experiences in interior and homeware design led me to launch my own studio, Victoria Cronin Studio, a couple of years ago as a platform to provide interior design services and sell my designs.
My aesthetic draws from global influences, history, and contemporary design; often inspired by nature, particularly exotic flora and fauna. I adore Oriental and Asian art such as chinoiserie. I don't follow trends and design my products with the aim of being timeless.
I’m also a colour lover and feel that when used correctly, colour can be used to enhance and energise any space. I always design each object to be both beautiful and functional and always of the highest quality.
Some of my designs make a statement in a space, such as the Tiger X stool which uses a stunning velvet fabric in a bold pattern that cannot be missed. I also design lighting and accessories to complement a space with a more subtle and functional use.
Any product or design emanating from my studio will be a handcrafted piece of the utmost quality often using valuable fabric and components. Many of my designs are custom and unique to the client. I hope that my products are sustainable by being long-lasting and special enough to be handed down to future generations.
When designing spaces I like to work closely with clients to ensure their vision is brought to life, I recognise that every project is unique and highly personal. I like to blend elements from different styles and periods to create stylish, inspirational living spaces. I create sophisticated yet practical and comfortable spaces that provide an uplifting experience for everyday life.
The best piece of design advice that I can offer is to follow your heart (providing that it’s practical!), do what you want, don’t follow trends or try to fit into a cookie-cutter mould. Fashions come and go. You must create a home or space that reflects your personality and that brings you joy.