The famous and talented Mark Rielly, Director of the ARRCC studio in South Africa, answers to our questions for our “Meeting with …”

ARRCC Mark Riley

Luxury, Architecture and you

How would define luxury?

For me luxury is not beautiful objects and things, but rather everyday experiences and the spaces in which we experience these. Luxury can be as simple as having the time to walk through a garden, or to explore an art gallery or enjoy a good cup of coffee on a Parisian sidewalk café – It is the pleasure and sensory experience that matters.

May you present ARRCC?

When ARRCC was founded as Antoni Associates in 1996, it was in answer to the need for a focused interior studio for the architecture firm SAOTA. Our portfolio of successful projects over the past decades has created a solid foundation for expanding the range of projects globally. We re-branded as ARRCC in 2015, the new name reflects the consolidation into a strong and independent brand. As a leading interior design firm in South Africa, ARRCC has expanded internationally and is working in many locations including London, Paris, Milan, Moscow, New York, Sydney, Dakar, Barcelona, Ibiza and Geneva. Jon Case, Michele Rhoda and I are the directors of ARRCC and head up the team of 50 designers.  The practice specialises in luxury residential interiors and the portfolio also includes hospitality and retail designs.

city villa ACCRR pool night

How did your story with ARRCC start?

After studying architecture and working at SAOTA for a number of years, I realized my true passion was interior architecture and design, where I could conceptualize and articulate interior spaces – creating rooms that are transformative adding a richly layered spatial experience.

Being involved on the interior side of our SAOTA architectural projects, it is here that I became involved in developing ARRCC. Initially only working on local South African projects, we now work in more than 20 countries across the globe, from our Cape Town studio.


Who are your competitors? What are the main differences between them and ARRCC?

All other interior designers. We have recently been selected as one of The Top 100 Interior Designers in the world by Boca do Lobo in partnership with US Coveted Magazine. To be recognised amongst our design peers including Kelly Wearstler, Jabu Pushelberg, India Mahdavi, Peter Marino and Kelly Hoppen, is a great achievement for us.

Working closely with our clients, we distil and transform their briefs to exceed original expectations – delivering a personal, one-to-one service. Although our design philosophy is true to ARRCC, we offer clients a flexible solution tailored to their individual preferences. We believe in the spirited crafting of unique interiors that captivate and move and that reflect both client and location.

villa Epique

What are your ambitions for the future?

ARRCC is currently working on several luxury residential projects in Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Zimbabwe, Angola, Australia, UAE, the Bahamas, Spain, Moscow, USA and South Africa that will be completed in 2017. The first of a hotel chain, Noom Hotel, has opened its doors in Conakry and 2 more hotels will be opening this year in other parts of Africa, with more to follow. We are very excited about the renewed interest in Africa as a continent and as a design studio located at the most Southern tip of Africa, our wish is to inspire global design with a contemporary African influence, showcasing symbolism, tradition and colour that is vibrant and energetic.

Hotel Conakry

As a Director, what makes you proud?

Having achieved a number of accolades and nominations is always rewarding however our greatest success has been our transition from a local South African interior design studio to a recognised brand in the international arena. I am most proud of our team and love working with them on a daily basis and am always amazed at the enthusiasm with which they approach each project.  Their energy and design skills are very motivating.

According to you, how Architecture will change in the future?

Good design right now is not about trend or style but about a design approach that fully analyses the context of a project and encompasses a design that optimises all aspects of the site, views, climate, brief, budget and lifestyle. There is an approach that is becoming more prevalent in recent architecture of using more tactile and natural elements. At ARRCC, this is also reflected in the raw elements and finishes being used in our interior designs. The increased awareness of healthy lifestyles has also increased the demand for sustainably designed homes, with continued expansion in open-plan living and inside/outside interaction.

Star Island ARRCC

What will the architecture profession will look like in the future?

The use of virtual reality and 3D goggles is a technology that is fast growing in the architectural and design world. At ARRCC, we are already utilizing these technologies to allow our clients to walk through their designs and experience their houses before they are even built. The use of VR transcends all limitations of cross-continental project and allows our clients to fully immerse themselves in a digital representation of their houses. VR allows designers to create more convincing scenes and allows them to tweak forms and add material finishes while walking around and viewing the design from all angles. In the future we will be working more and more in the virtual world creating innovative designs for the real world.


Your personality

Could you tell us more about your professional background?

I joined Stefan Antoni Architects as a Project Architect in 1997. During this period I was instrumental in setting up the in-house interior design studio, Antoni Associates. In 2004, I was made a partner in the firm and headed up Antoni Associates. Through this, Antoni Associates has gained a reputation of producing some of the most exclusive interiors both locally and internationally, including projects in London, New York, Paris, Moscow, Miami, Dubai, Ibiza, Geneva, Dakar, Sydney and Shenzhen. The international success and global reach of the design studio has culminated in re-branding the company to ARRCC. This year ARRCC have again been selected as a finalist in the Andrew Martin Interior Designer of the Year Award.

What motivated you to work in this industry? How did you get into the Architecture/design world?

From a young age I have always been interested in architecture and design and was always aware of my surroundings and drawn to how different spaces would make me feel. I was always drawing and dreaming about beautiful homes and interiors, coupled with an endless curiosity to travel, I ended studying architecture, which later led to me following my dreams of creating interior spaces.

ARRCC lion

What have been the biggest difficulties during your career?

Definitely not enough hours in the day.

What is your job like on a daily basis?

Every day brings new challenges so no two days are ever the same, however I do try and make sure that I do something that inspires me each day.  Generally most of my days are taken up working on new business concepts and design proposals, client meetings and presentations, team de-briefs, assisting the media team with publicity efforts, management reports and meetings, overseeing installations at projects and last minute packing for unplanned business trips, and …. then of course continuously looking for inspiration and finding new and exciting concepts and people to collaborate and work with.

According to you, what are the skills required to be a good Director? To be a good designer/ Architect?

As directors it is important that we remain inspired and that we inspire our teams, articulating our ARRCC vision. We are passionate about design and our mission. We welcome challenges and are open to new ideas.

What do you expect from the people who work with you?

As a creative environment, we seek dynamic individuals who have a shared goal to produce design excellence. We expect creativity, honesty, responsibility, hard work and team work.

Who inspires you in this world?

There are so many great designers out there whose work I really love, these include Kelly Wearstler, Christophe Delcourt, Charles Zana, Vincenzo De Cotiis, Joseph Dirand and Axel Vervoordt. Our interiors and designs draw on a rich architectural tradition of regional modernism; Oscar Niemeyer in Brazil, Luis Barragan inMexico. The Case Study Houses in California, Paul Rudolph and Gawie Fagan in Cape Town.  We are also very inspired by our sister company, SAOTA and the extraordinary architectural work which they are doing internationally. We draw on this inspiration to create life-enhancing spaces for our clients that stay true to ARRCC’s core design philosophy.

How can you describe your design style?

ARRCC has a global, contemporary style.  Our designs include raw minimalism, organic materials with shape and form, layered luxury using soft curves within rigid structures.  We play with flowing shapes using organic forms and design elements that float and slide. We create life-enhancing spaces.