covert house.

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Covert House has been much acclaimed in the architectural press of late. It offers a successful case study for good design despite difficult site demands – the house is mainly underground, restricted by a 3.5 meter height limit and huge boundary setbacks. But equally successful to my mind is the interior. There is too often an overwhelming gap between architecture and interior, with architects neglecting the interior for sake of the big architectural expression, and interior designers having little if any influence over the outside form. Here, the architect owners have embraced both.

Concrete is used outside and in in various forms – cast in situ, left raw, highly polished. In its unfinished state, it provides the perfect backdrop. The imperfections – discolouration and mottling – show the effort and craft involved in making the structure. Light abounds, via light wells and the white and light reflecting surfaces. The effect is elegant and light-handed and the resulting spaces appear calm and domiciliary. Furniture is mostly mid-century and there is a mix of timbers used in the furnishings, and a timber lined bathroom. The only soft surfaces appear to be the upholstery fabrics.

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For me, concrete has always been the ultimate building material (more concrete inspiration, here). It can work very successfully in commercial interiors. Here, it is equally successful in a residential setting. What do you think? Would you live here?

Covert House by DHDSA, via The Architects’ Journal. Photographs: Christoffer Rudquist via

Another successful concrete house, here.

apartment of shadow and light.

This apartment in Rome feels light and dark and shadowy, with its monochromatic palette and natural tones. The wonderfully sensual wall finish throughout is a mix of clay and aggregates – essentially refined earth – one of the beautiful, organic finishes of the Italian company Matteo Brioni.

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A dark grey terracotta floor, laid in herringbone pattern, adds a decorative element to the otherwise austere surfaces, as does the beamed ceiling. Raw materials are used to their best effect, the detailing bringing the refinement – a low, linear concrete ledge acts as fireplace and seat; fine metal shelves frame a library wall; a folded metal stair, with mesh panels forming the balustrade, serve their purpose without affectation.

The kitchen combines dark stone, sleek, brushed stainless steel and beautiful, metal framed ribbed glass doors, which work to soften and blur the hard working utility zone. Copper pendant lights lift the monochrome palette.

The choice of furnishings is simple – a mix of mid-century Alvar Aalto, Eames and others.

Villa Sciarra, Rome, by MORQ Architects, via Elle Decor Italia and Matteo Brioni. Photographs, Kasia Gatkowski. There are also some beautiful pictures of the apartment unfurnished, here

marvellous manet.

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Although there is only one Manet painting at the exhibition, it’s a beauty.

‘Portrait of Mademoiselle Claus’, 1868, is the polestar of the exhibition Homage to Manet, at the Norwich Castle Museum until Sunday April 19th. Read more, here.

More owl’s house london instagram, here.

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milanese home couture.

Design store Spotti Milano’s current showroom interiors are a collaboration with multidisciplinary design studio (and fellow Milanese), Studiopepe. Called Home Couture, these interiors or ‘setups’ are rather beautifully curated vignettes. At first appearing distinctively Italian, they beautifully mix Italian luxe with Scandinavian simplicity and French classic contemporary.

Wall surfaces range from silks to chevron patterned stone to classical mouldings in modern hues. Textures are rich and luxurious, colours are warm and subdued. Sofas, a dining table and chaise by Maxalto share floor space with classic Saarinen pieces – Tulip tables and conference chairs – and Carl Hansen CH25 lounge chairs. Light fittings range from a Jonathan Adler brass chandelier to the classic Serge Mouille floor lamp. images_studiopepe-spotti_ohl05Home-Couture-by-Studiopepe-for-Spotti-Milano_ohl.Home-Couture-by-Studiopepe-for-Spotti-Milano_ohl02Home-Couture-by-Studiopepe-for-Spotti-Milano_ohl03

Next up for Spotti Milano will be a spring collaboration with Raf Simons and Kvadrat. Just another reason I should be heading to Milan, along with Salone del Mobile in April and Expo 2015 in May…

Home Couture by Spotti Milano and Studiopepe, via
Photos: Silvia Rivoltella