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serpentine summer.

One of the highlights of summer in London for me is the annual launch of the Serpentine pavilion. Every year, an internationally renowned architect is invited by the Serpentine galleries to create their first built structure in the UK. My personal favourite of the pavilions over the years was the pavilion of Oscar Niemeyer, not least because I managed to score an invitation to the opening night party that year.

Bjarke Ingels’ 2016 pavilion is a beautifully sculpted mass of slender, fibreglass boxes, stacked to form a twisting, tent-like structure. But also this year, four Summer Houses have been added to the program. These architectural follies offer a contemporary interpretation of an adjacent, 18th century Neoclassical summerhouse, Queen Caroline’s Temple. They are on show until October 9th, after which they will be sold off and disassembled. They are for sale, here, with prices ranging from £95,000 to £125,000.

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The Summer House of Berlin studio Barkow Leibinger is designed ‘in the round’ and out of plywood, conceived as a series of structural bands. It’s fun to traverse and sit amongst, with its curving ribbon of wood hovering overhead and twisting back around forming places to rest.

Nigerian architect Kunlé Adeyemi’s summer house is the most literal interpretation of the neo-classical summer house, offering an inverse replica of the original temple in form and proportion. Using prefabricated building blocks of rough sandstone, the composition takes the basic elements of architecture – a room, a doorway and a window – and forms a simple, elegant shelter.

The summer house of Yona Friedman comprises a series of metal rings of differing diameters that can be disassembled and re-assembled to form various compositions. Some of the voids are filled with transparent polycarbonate, most are open. It’s not so much a shelter as a backdrop for display.

Asif Khan has designed his Summer House as a series of undulating vertical posts, whose forms appear to enclose and open up to reveal the view beyond as one passes through. The ground is conceived as a continuous gravel landscape, punctuated by stepping stones. The sound of the gravel offers another dimension to this summer house, which has a wonderful fluidity and to me is the most successful of the four. Though don’t expect it to offer any shelter from this country’s inclement weather.

Serpentine Summer Houses, Hyde Park, until October 9th, 2016.

All images, Iwan Baan, via The Modern House; feature image, owl’s house london Instagram.

 

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mvs at gallery valerie traan.

An exhibition of Muller van Severen’s latest skeletal, sculptural forms has just opened at the wonderful Valerie Traan gallery. I’ve previously written about this gallery, which is also home to the gallerist, here (and an interview here).

The gallery comprises a series of indoor and outdoor spaces featuring products by designers and artists, blurring the lines between the disciplines and the environment. The public and semi-private zones are separated by a glass partition and open kitchen, with plywood cabinets, stainless steel surfaces and concrete floor creating a visual transition between the contemporary gallery and the more rustic residence, with that beautiful, original brick herringbone floor.

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Studies for Office KGDVS Solo House, Muller van Severen, until June 25th, 2016
Gallery Valerie Traan, Reyndersstraat 12, 2000 Antwerp, Belgium

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fritz hansen objects, subjectively.

This spring, the Republic of Fritz Hansen declared sovereignty of good design with the launch of their first accessories line simply called Objects.

Creating a new line of home accessories is a bold move – there are already a lot of very good lines available (see: Skandium). As Ikea’s head of sustainability, Steve Howard, said in The Guardian, many consumers have reached ‘peak stuff’ (or maybe just a record low in their bank account?).  But with a history of making quality furniture for over 100 years, we know Fritz Hansen wouldn’t just churn out any random, charm-me-for-a-moment pieces. Fully aware that their design-educated customer base is not only interested in what a piece looks like, but also how it was created and what materials were used – we are, after all, all looking for meaning – a lot of thought went into how a design would or could be used.

Christoffer Back, director at Fritz Hansen Objects, who was present at a casual private view of the line at the Fritz Hansen store in Fitzrovia, London, said: ‘For instance, Jaime Hayón (who designed several pieces in the collection) wanted to create a vase that doesn’t just sit in the cupboard until use, but will be out at all times. Furthermore, Jaime gave the vase cedar wood base which gives off a subtle scent, adding to the ambiance.’

Of the 12 pieces in the line, eight pieces were designed from scratch, including a cashmere blanket, stackable trays and solid brass candleholders. Four items were created using the archives: an officially unreleased tray table from the late fifties, the dot stool by Arne Jacobsen plus an Arne Jacobsen pattern that was used on knitted cushions covers for a 3D effect. Finally, there are miniature 1:6 versions of the Egg and Swan chair, probably for those who have reached ‘peak 1:1 furniture’.

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Ikebana vase, design: Jaime Hayón
Stack trays, design: Wednesday Architecture
Mirror, design: Studio Roso. Cashmere throw, design: Republic of Fritz Hansen
High and Low vases, design: Jaime Hayón

An instant favourite – and a quite possibly a future classic – is the Ikebana vase by Jaime Hayón.  A simple, mouth blown, glass design is elevated with a brass insert. This insert has in turn several holes which hold individual stems in place. At £135/€185 it might not be an impulse buy, but will save the owner money in the long run: even the most unassuming, plucked-off-the-roadside flower will look good. In fact, this writer dares to predict the vase will be a surefire instagram hit in the years to come, since the variations of arranging flowers, grass, bamboo, reed, twigs, sticks and stones, or Danish liquorice strands for that matter, will be endless.

Another mesmerising piece is the mirror made by Studio Roso, a Danish husband and wife team operating from London. Amongst those in the know, the duo is better known for large, dramatic installations – check out the elastic cord christmas tree commissioned by the V&A Museum (here) – and they have stayed true to their style with this smaller piece. The mirror is manufactured from steel, and Studio Roso’s signature polishing technique not only gives it a softer (read: darn flattering) sheen, but also adds interest through a lightly rainbow-coloured effect, appealing to those in touch with their inner unicorn.

New Objects design will be added organically – ‘we don’t want to participate in that never ending new collection / new season cycle,’ said Back – and released when the moment is right. Few will object.

Blog post and all images, Päivi Kotro-Brenner (@mepaivi).

Feature Image:
Tray table, design: Willumsen & Engholm

 

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new meets contemporary at the nordic design event

The Finnish Design Shop rocked up at the residence of the Finnish ambassador –
currently Päivi Luostarinen – in London to showcase new and contemporary pieces of Nordic design.

On the catwalk – a long carpet in shades of blue by Woodnotes – were designs by Muuto, Nikari, Hay and Artek amongst others, which contrasted with the traditional surroundings of the ambassador residence. On display were also objects by &New, a furniture brand created by Jo Wilton and Mirka Grohn.  Their colourful and welded metal pieces are a departure from the more natural – whether in colour or material – designs often associated with Nordic furniture; that said, the duo label themselves as British.

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Gustavian furniture meets new at the Finnish Ambassador’s residence (images, @mepaivi)
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Some of the furniture pieces showcased clockwise: Hay Uchiwa Lounge Chair, Nikari Chair, Muuto’s Fiber chair, Mini Robot table by &New

With many guests having either an architectural or interior design background and, well, being Nordic, talk naturally turned to the subject of the seemingly unstoppable worldwide success of Nordic design.

Teemu Kiiski, CEO of Finnish Design Shop, said: ‘We have grown from a small 50sqm storage faciltity to a large warehouse shipping to almost everywhere in the world.’ When asked if there were ever handling problems due to the size of some pieces, Kaisa Kivelä, Finnish Design Shop, said: ‘No – UPS just turn up and ship it, all the way to Singapore or Kazakhstan if you want. It’s truly amazing’.

Brian Lindholm, Muuto’s UK contract representative, has also seen ongoing interest in Nordic design. ‘It’s perceived as the ultimate in cool and modern’, he said. ‘And companies want to be part of that. Interestingly, we have many requests from what you would call conservative companies, who want to update their image and attract a variety of employees with contemporary surroundings.’

Co-host Flow Festival Helsinki provided music via Finnish DJ Katerina – her decks overlooking a traditional British lawn made for another interesting contrast. The lively mood was further enhanced by cranberry gin & tonics (created with Helsinki Dry Gin) and delicious canapes such as salmon on rye bread or miniature Karelian pies made by the ambassador’s chefs. Everybody walked off with a goodie bag, and one lucky winner with tickets to the Flow Festival 2016.

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Genteel house music for those British summer nights (image, @KaterinaAndonov);

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The smallest Karelian pies ever, complete with egg butter, served on a wooden Alvar Aalto tray by IittalaFullSizeRender A history of Nordic furniture design in a bag (image, owl’s house london)

Blog post by Päivi Kotro-Brenner @mepaivi

Feature image: A splash of colour in a sea of neutral: side table by &New (image, @owl’s house london)
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a contemporary stable block in white.

Researching barn conversions for a current project led me to this reworked, nineteenth century stable block situated in a lovely bit of rural north Norfolk (and currently for sale, here). For me it’s a perfect example of a conversion that acknowledges its provenance without suffering for it.

The spaces are laid out along the length, each opening onto the tranquil landscape beyond. The long narrow footprint is divided simply into two – living and sleeping – the one open and light filled, the other enclosed and calm. In the living spaces, black floor to ceiling Crittal windows frame the view and maximise the light, opening up completely to create a flowing indoor/outdoor space. A fireplace wall book-ends one side, taking on the vaulted form of the structure.

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The materials used are simple and locally sourced, including concrete floor, beton brut walls, white painted brickwork, and externally, profiled metal roof and timber cladding. The detailing is refined and carefully crafted. With the materials expressed in their pure form or painted white, texture provides all the decoration that is needed.

Stable Acre, Norfolk by David Kohn Architects. Winner of the RIBA regional award in 2012.

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a perfect parisian pied a terre.

If the previous villa (‘Bohemian Beauty’, here) is my idea of the perfect vacation home, then this apartment in Paris and featured in the WSJ, may just be my perfect pied a terre. It hits just the right balance of minimal and relaxed, and proves that a minimal aesthetic doesn’t have to be uptight.

Walls throughout are lined with blond elm in a beautiful pale honey colour, floors are clad in neutral coverings. Materials are used simply and boldly – note the grey-veined marble in the bathroom used for the countertop, upstand, cabinetry and floor. I love this look.  A den is arranged in the centre of the space with wood-lined walls and warm-coloured, custom furniture; the master bedroom is lined too and can be closed off from the world with wooden shutters lining the windows. In the laundry, timber-lined cabinets add a richness to what is too often a sterile room of white cabinets. Artwork adds further warmth and personality.

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Detailing couldn’t be simpler – edges and nosings are square profile, ensuring surfaces have a solidity to them; handles are simple and square-profiled as well. There are no cornices and skirtings are kept plain. The furniture is classic Scandinavian – a white marble-topped Saarinen Tulip table in the dining room, elsewhere an AJ floor lamp by Arne Jacobsen and the Saarinen Womb chair. Accessories are neutral and bold of form, often cane or straw and beautifully simple. Heaven.

Apartment by A.P.C. Jean Touitou’s Parisian home via WSJ

Photos: Matthieu Salvaing

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bohemian beauty.

I love the undone quality of this villa. A holiday villa, it lacks pretension and exudes character – exactly how a holiday home should be.

Vernacular elements – white washed walls, shuttered windows and beamed ceilings – set the scene. Then inside, a charming mix of provincial, art deco and midcentury pieces and objet have been brought together. With the exception of the sofa and Bouroullec armchair and ottoman, everything has been sourced second hand. From the brocantes of Paris, to local flea markets and antique shops, an array of wonderful pieces cohabit – pieces by Charlotte Perriand, Pierre Guariche (chairs and lighting), and Eero Saarinen Tulip chairs and tables.

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I could happily spend my summer here; what about you?

La Villa Familiar via  Photographs: Gonzalo Machabo