Posts Tagged ‘tailored interiors advice’

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While I was thinking of ice cream colours on buildings and ‘icing’, I remembered the wedding cake-like summer houses that line the banks of the Bosphorus outside of Istanbul, on the way to the Black Sea. The architecture in Istanbul itself is just breathtaking, and these houses are a kind of juxtaposition to the enormity of the Aya Sofia and Blue Mosque. They are so pretty, some with little boats tied up outside. I daydreamed about living in one of them whilst sipping my çay on the ferry…

Istanbul Summer house 1Istanbul Summer House 2


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Further to my original post on the wonderful wild floral displays that I’ve been seeing (see bottom), as the strange weather this summer is continuing, even more roadside ‘meadows’ are appearing. I saw a bank full of marguerite daisies on the way to Bristol yesterday. It’s lovely to see but I’m wondering when the summer is going to return. It seems like July is now the UK’s monsoon season – I don’t think I’ve ever seen rain in this country like I saw today, even in the winter!

Be gone blustery showers!

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I’m considering how the tradition of UK interior design television programmes always contains the ‘element of surprise’. This is not surprise in the design sense, where a ‘je ne sais quoi’ is introduced to a scheme, but a surprise in the sense that the owners and inhabitants of a space have no input or idea about the work that the designer is carrying out in their beloved homes! In these programmes, people frequently return to homes that they were forced to evacuate and find that their familiar surroundings have been obliterated and replaced with the designers ideal, but in which they themselves have had no say or involvement. They mostly feign delight but do sometimes cry – it makes me sad!

I’m inclined to think that this makes good television but it does little to fly the flag for interior designers who genuinely want to hear and understand the needs of their clients and work the design scheme around a mutually agreed ideal. It is also lovely for the owner to then fill their homes with meaningful objects that they fall in love with over time. The problem with bringing in everything new for a client is that there is no room for anything else that they might come across in future, and where’s the fun in that?

My approach to design in my own lovely flat is just the same. I’ve lived here for three years and still the walls are bare of art work. Not for long though – I’m starting to put together a collection that gives me pleasure and tomorrow I’m going to pick up my newly framed painting of palm trees bought on the art walk at Santa Barbara and an illustration of Stag’s Leap vineyard from the wine tasting Napa Valley, both treasured mementoes of my recent California road trip!

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from http://mervynseal.com/MervynSeal/60%27s%20House%20design.html

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Mervyn Seal was something of a trailblazer of modern design in the otherwise sleepy fishing town of Brixham, Devon. His architecture must have been a real talking point at the time with, no doubt, much ‘opinion’ being voiced.

The façade of his Parkham Wood House conjures up thoughts of space travel and Futurism and the positioning of the windows and the light and dark behind them forms a geometric pattern that is also reminiscent of the work of Piet Mondrian.

Its location is awkward, perched on a cliff, and the cantilever engineering allows it to seem as if it is floating, almost like a tree house. Overcoming such difficulties and assimilating buildings with nature is a heavy nod to Frank Lloyd Wright – Fallingwater in particular. Seal has bravely taken on a location where more traditional home designs would not have been possible or appropriate, and injected a sense of modernist glamour.

The innovative use of materials and techniques, such as cantilevering, steel, concrete and plate glass, is very much like Wright, but also the work of John Lautner and Mies van der Rohe. The budget must have been, however, a fraction of what these renowned architects had to work with.  It does have an undeniable charm, nonetheless, and was and still is the only building of its kind in the town.

The shape of the roof slants from the left, creating good drainage and a pleasing ‘space butterfly’ shape. The building is entirely composed of long horizontal lines and makes good use of the split-level style, as well as the almost entirely glass frontage. The almost precarious balancing of the house on the cliff, among the trees, makes it all the more intriguing. It is reminiscent of a Bond villain’s cliff-top lair, and is a superb example of 1960s British architecture.

In the same way as Frank Lloyd Wright, Seal also worked on the interior design of this home, building in furniture and using stone cladding, again like Wright and Lautner. Inside, as outside, there is evidence of innovative design and techniques, the ‘fishbone’ steel staircase and the modern take on a chandelier – coloured glass tubes extending from the wood panelled ceiling – in particular. The split-level design makes maximum use of space and light and the sunken living area is as unashamedly 1960s as the exterior is modernist and futuristic.

The Twentieth Century Society was making a bid to have the Parkham Wood House listed. Another of Seal’s designs, the equally accomplished and grander scaled ‘Kaywana Hall’, Kingswear near Dartmouth (1961), has recently been demolished.

Pictures and details of his work can be seen on his website: Mervyn Seal – 60’s House Design

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Mmm, that title reminds me of the technicolour dream world that is ‘Oz’, and it’s not too far from what I’m thinking in regards to colour. I love a riot of colour, all kinds of colour and pattern clashing together. However, I find that I have ‘colour corners’ where the clash is concentrated. In my apartment these are in my kitchen where a mixture of interesting food packaging and label design lifts a small corner, in my studio where the ‘wonderwall’ above my desk is choc-full of inspiring and sometimes weird images and objects, and is also home to my beloved Cuban cockerel, and, last but not least, in my utility cupboard in which I house otherwise mundane objects and collections of nails in colourful jars and boxes. I also sprinkle colour around in smaller ways – red ribbons that were wrapped around Charbonnel et Walker champagne truffle boxes, Pimms spoons in glass jugs, colourful postcards on the fridge and small Chinese lion heads on display, all against a canvas of all-white walls. My ‘relaxation’ spaces are another story, however, where the bright colour makes way for watered down versions mixed with neutrals and monochrome pattern. I am passionate about colour, and do have a penchant for kitsch, but use it to fire me up with inspiration! When I tear myself away from my desk at night, the paler colours of my bedroom are a wonderful counterbalance as I sink in to my marshmallow soft bed…mmm, lovely sleep!

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This is classic design in its truest sense. Patented originally in 1932 by George Carwardine, whilst attempting to develop a new kind of spring in his spare time, the anglepoise lamp was then licensed to Herbert Terry and Sons of Redditch, the company that would continue to produce anglepoise lamps to this day. Carwardine had realised that the springs he had developed could be applied perfectly to a ‘limbed’ lamp which allowed for the user to position it in any direction and for it to remain in that position until moved again.

An automotive factory owner by trade, Carwardine had concluded that such an adaptable lamp would be of use not only to his employees but also to direct light onto his own desk and paperwork. The first lamp, version 1208, was produced by Herbert Terry and Sons in 1934. This was followed by the design that is more recognisable today, the 1227, with its more art-deco inspired lines, introduced by Charles Terry following the popularity of the original design. The 1227 was slightly adapted in 1938 and it is this more ‘finalised’ design that was produced and revered for the next thirty years until it was replaced by ‘model 75’ in 1969. Herbert Terry Ltd went on to produce the ‘Apex 90’, ‘Type 3’ and, most recently, ‘Type 75’ in 2004.

This classic anglepoise lamp is a piece of modern design that is accessible to everyone. It is understated; as happy to sit in the corner waiting to be used as being endlessly manipulated and standing proud to illuminate important papers. It is as comfortable in a home with grand décor as one with more minimalist tendencies. It looks as good chipped and world-weary as it does pristine and shiny new. It truly is a lamp for all seasons and is an absolute must in any design-conscious person’s home.

It has also enjoyed a presence in the mainstream media, such is its popularity and appeal across culture, class, age, background and, of course, time. The anglepoise lamp has most recently been used as part of the advertising campaign for the re-launch of the Fiat 500, ‘Everyday Masterpieces’, and the lamp’s design is also used as part of the Pixar logo, albeit a squat, cuter version.

A Carwardine/Herbert Terry lamp looks fabulous in a pared-down, modernist home. Nevertheless, it is a lamp that is found in all kinds of offices and homes the world over and is favoured for its function as much as its form. The lamps are so desirable that the 1227 still commands the same kind of price as a brand new Type 75. They are, however, an affordable classic, whether you choose to buy a vintage or a new lamp.

I have been slavering for years over the 1227 designs from the 1938-1969 period because of their pared-down, timeless appeal. The more world-weary the better and in any colour you like, so long as it’s cream…

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Chemosphere, John LautnerJohn Lautner’s Malin House or ‘Chemosphere’, Hollywood, 1960

Is this the coolest house ever built? Well, it is certainly one of the most inspired and inspiring…

John Lautner, born in Michigan in 1911, began his love of architecture and building at an early age, helping his father to build a log cabin at the age of twelve. He became an apprentice of Frank Lloyd Wright’s without formal architectural training, and worked at Taliesin, Wright’s home and studio, for six years. It may be that Wright’s ‘Falling Water’ was an inspiration for his own later work, in overcoming perceived obstacles to design, and working with and incorporating nature into his architecture. Lautner’s own approach was what he called ‘real architecture’, buildings that actually improved people’s lives.

He began his own practice in Los Angeles in 1940, recognising that this was a city that would welcome his designs. He worked prolifically in southern California, creating interesting and valuable architecture throughout the city and beyond. Other favourite work includes the Stevens Residence in Malibu, the Sheats Residence in Los Angeles and the Harpel Residence, Hollywood. Lautner attached enormous value to the ‘idea’ or ‘parti’ behind each brief, and, although his intrinsic style is present in all of his work – his fearless use of different/’new’ kinds of materials incorporating challenging engineering and technology, the linear nature of his designs, his embracing of nature, his forward-thinking, uncompromising approach – each of these three examples, and, it could be said, all of his work, represents a different parti, sensitive to the requirements of each client.

The design of the Chemosphere solved the problem of the steep land that Lautner was posed with. The single column allowed the landscape to remain untouched while also providing a residence that had breathtaking views from the Hollywood hills. It is around 30 feet above the ground and is reached by either an ‘inclinator’, a funicular cart from the garage area below, two hundred steps, or over a link bridge from the adjacent hillside. It is an octagonal shape, with eight steel braces supporting each side, which are in turn attached to the column. Lautner also designed the built-in furniture, as he did with other projects, and gave much consideration to the flow of air and possibility of vertigo. A piece written about the Chemosphere by Walt Lockley considers that Lautner’s design could be replicated on any hillside in any part of the world. It is such a strong solution to the problem of building on steep land that it is lamentable that Lautner’s model was not adopted as a common architectural method.

Despite this, the Chemosphere has had a high profile since its conception, and has appeared in two movies. It ‘starred’ in the 1984 film Body Double and the exterior was used in the Charlie’s Angels film of 2000 (the interior was a set). This is not surprising, given its unusual looks and the fact that it is perched on a single stilt. It conjures up ideas of Bond girls and glamour, perfectly capturing the zeitgeist of forward-thinking 1960s architecture and design while also possessing a futuristic quality that means it could have been built at any point in recent times or in years to come. It is a classic – it still does not look dated, its flying saucer appearing to want to take off at any time – and it deserves to be lovingly appreciated by a knowledgeable owner who will ensure that its legacy continues for future generations to enjoy it.

It is said, however, that Lautner did not receive the accolades he deserved for his architecture in his own lifetime, although he did have ardent followers. My own pilgrimage to the house was memorable and moving. I had first seen it in the Charlie’s Angels film, and although I didn’t know what it was then, the image of it stayed with me so that when I became seriously interested in design and architecture, I recalled it and resolved to find out more and to see it one day.

That dream came true a few weeks ago when I was on a road trip around California. I had only a few short days in LA, but seeing the Chemosphere was at the top of my list. I programmed 7776 Torreyson Drive in the satellite navigation and held my breath. When I first entered Torreyson Drive, I couldn’t think how the house was going to emerge from this narrow, leafy and windy road, and got to the end of the street, looking up at the sky the whole time (I wasn’t driving, don’t worry), disappointed that it perhaps was not going to be visible from street level. We turned the car around and drove back very slowly, I was just about to ask an old gentleman about it when there it was, its stilt hidden by trees, but the flying saucer very much in view. I got out of the car and marvelled at it for a while then took pictures for posterity. I didn’t want to get back into the car – I felt honoured and enlivened.

The Chemosphere is a completely unique building. There is nothing like it anywhere in the world and it is an outstanding achievement. It represents a way of living that has yet to be realised – even almost fifty years later, it is still the future of design. To me, it will always be the coolest house ever built.

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