Designer Friday: Emma O’Donnell

You may not know Emma O’Donnell, the New York-based interior designer responsible for colorful, carefully decorated residences, but chances are you know her brand, Coolabah Designs, the force behind her inspired and accessible work. Founded in 2007, Coolabah is an urban-minded, environmentally conscious firm with a cost-effective mission to reimagine rooms through O’Donnell’s eye. Originally begun as a jewelry brand, Coolabah was grown from an idea of O’Donnell’s during her days studying jewelry making in England. Inspired by the artwork and creativity around her, she began crafting simple, yet remarkable handmade pieces in gold and silver. Later, her taste for aesthetics branched into interiors, where her straightforward and functional methodology translated well into small spaces. From Harlem to Chelsea, O’Donnell’s work gives New Yorkers well-curated escapes from bustling city life, with playful colors, an emphasis on the serene, and tasteful use of space. This week, Coolabah’s Emma O’Donnell gave us a glance at her own colorful life.


Andrew Joseph: What modern design trend makes you cringe?
Emma O’Donnell: Millennial pink, so over it.

Andrew: Vintage or new?
Emma: Vintage – how can you say ‘no’ to an original midcentury piece of furniture?

Speaking of vintage, a Sophia Loren portrait on the TV screen is a perfect addition of old glamour to a modern, orange-tinted Harlem studio.

Andrew: Style (or design) icon?
Emma: The two Franks, Frank Gehry and Frank Lloyd Wright.

Andrew: Most adventurous thing you’ve done in your life?
Emma: Moved to Japan and lived there for 5.5 yrs when I finished college.

Andrew: Favorite piece of clothing you own?
Emma: Akris grey alpaca short coat.

A Coolabah-designed apartment in the heart of Chelsea couldn’t be any dreamier after a long day in the city. Plenty of comfortable yet chic seating options and open space are rare for New York, but O’Donnell makes it happen.

Andrew: If you had one more hour in the day what would you do with it?
Emma: Read more novels.

Andrew: Best advice you’d give your teenage self?
Emma: Just follow your instinct.

Andrew: What would you like to be remembered for?
Emma: Warmth, friendship, passion.

Andrew: Best way to take a rest/decompress?
Emma: Taking a hot bath in a beautiful bathroom.

Andrew: Favorite place to view art?
Emma: Paris, no contest.

emma o'donnell designFor an apartment with windows as wide as these, it’s no wonder Coolabah ensured that this room with a view is as refreshing and exciting as its surroundings.

Andrew: Best gift you’ve ever given?
Emma: Handmade jewelry.

Andrew: You are stuck on an island, you can pick one food to eat forever without getting tired of it, what would you eat?
Emma: Fish tacos.

Andrew: A dessert you don’t like?
Emma: All of them.

Andrew: A skill you’re working on mastering?
Emma: Walking more slowly.

Andrew: Favorite scent?
Emma: Les Angeliques sous la Pluie, by Frederic Malle.

Andrew: Sweet or savory?
Emma: Savory.


emma o'donnell headshotAbout Emma O’Donnell | Emma O’Donnell completed her studies at the acclaimed KLC School of Design in London, UK. Originally started as a jewelry brand, Coolabah Designs has also evolved into interior design. She has completed projects large and small all over New York City as well as Dutchess County, the North Fork and London, UK.

Andrew Joseph is a regular contributing editor for ASPIRE DESIGN AND HOME magazine. See more of his work here

Like what you see? Get it first with a subscription to ASPIRE DESIGN AND HOME magazine.

Facebook Comments
No Comments Yet

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

ASPIRE DESIGN AND HOME is seeker and storyteller of the sublime in living. It is a global guide to in-depth and varied views of beauty and shelter that stirs imagination; that delights and inspires homeowners as well as art and design doyens. Collaborating with emergent and eminent architects, artisans, designers, developers and tastemakers, ASPIRE creates captivating content that savors the subjects and transports with stunning imagery and clever, thought-provoking writing. Through lush and unique visuals and a fresh editorial lens, ASPIRE explores what is new and undiscovered in art, interiors, design, culture, real estate, travel and more. ASPIRE DESIGN AND HOME is an international narrative and resource for all seeking the sublime.