Celebrating ‘life and all its myriad forms’, Antony Gormley’s Christmas Tree is a western red cedar with its trunk wrapped in a tapering column of light.
The Connaught Christmas Tree, Mount Street, London W1. Image by owl’s house london.
I uncovered the beautiful interior of this converted garage whilst researching materials for the transformation of an agricultural building into a residence.
As with all good design, inspiration comes from the context and fabric of the original building, in this case raw brick and blackened steel. A narrow site and desire for natural light has prompted a glass walled atrium to be cut through the three floors. The clever placement of dark mirrors throughout has created a striking effect; not light and bright but spacious and theatrical.
The beautifully considered material palette includes concrete used on vertical as well as horizontal planes, clean, white and grey terrazzo forming the kitchen island and bathroom fittings and walls, and super-wide Dinesen oak floorboards used three ways – as a floor, as a wall, and as a ceiling lining. The blackened steel is used as both perforated panels flanking the stair, and as a wall lining in the double-height kitchen.
Downstairs, furnishings and curtains are strong of form and bold of hue – deep purples, bright reds and vivid yellows show to great effect the form of such classic furniture as the Pierre Paulin Groovy chair and the Rietveld designed Utrecht armchair.
By contrast, the bedroom and study are softened with full height curtains, in a perfect shade of nude blush.
Peter’s House, Copenhagen by Studio David Thulstrup, via
Photographer: Peter Krasilnikoff
Maison et Objet is the prodigious design fair that occurs bi-annually in Paris as part of Paris Design Week, and I made it back there this September. Below are some favourite things and new discoveries.
Natural materials where strongly evident throughout the show. Netherlands based Ay illuminate produce lighting and accessories hand-woven from bamboo, sisal and other natural (waste) materials, working with artisans in Asia and Africa. The resulting designs are contemporary, organic and very desirable.
Sika-design have been producing wicker furniture since the ‘50s, and are perhaps best known for their fabulous Hanging Egg chair and simple classic, rattan poufs (which I am supposed to call ’ottoman’).
Italian ceramicist Nina Menardi showed a vast collection of elegantly shaped and coloured ceramics, all inspired by nature. My favourite pots were called Barro, made from black terracotta and designed by Sebastian Herkner, who was also the designer behind some fabulous, smoky glass table lamps called Boule, for German brand Pulpo.
Pulpo was a new discovery for me, with the same designer responsible for a glass ceramic side table made of 100% waste material from industrial glass production in shades of ocean blue, polar white and champagne brown. Pulpo also showed striking containers in tinted and silvered glass, giving way to an iridescent effect; a trend also evident at Tom Dixon.
Deep, rich hues of green, yellow and blue prevailed, either as a background colour or in the products themselves. I loved Swedish brand Linum’s Big and Bold collection with strong colours and abstract shapes.
Major Dutch brand Pols Potten have been around for 30 years, producing minimal, everyday products. More mainstream than a lot of Dutch design (which is characteristically quirky and playful – think Moooi and Droog); their products are commercial and always current. The French designer Charlotte Juillard showed a set of stunning bedroom pieces – daybed, side table and mirror – the lava stone bases giving a strength and elegance to the design.
Valerie Objects is an Antwerp based design label who work with designers, architects and artists. I always like the work of Muller van Severen (read previous blog posts, here and here), and was again drawn to the simple lines and clear colours of their products.
I’m always on the look-out for new and interesting lights. Nyta are a young and dynamic German brand with a small but strong capsule collection. Stalwart DCW Editions are always big on architectural style, and showed my all-time favourite lamp, the Mantis lamp, in all its guises – floor, wall and table. This lamp was originally created in 1951 in homage to Alexander Calder. They also showed the latest incarnation of the classic Gras lamp, the poetic Acrobates de GRAS (a suspended version), and another reedit, Bernard Balas’ Here Comes the Sun from 1970.
Another Parisian lighting brand, Henri Bursztyn, showed striking, bold forms. Forestier had a strong presence with their decorative fittings showing a definite 1920s and ’30s flavour. This era was also the influence behind Gubi’s latest collection, with the Danish brand’s stand referencing the architecture of the Schindler House (1921), with geometric lines, free-standing screens and lots of oriental fabrics, black chrome and coloured glass.
What do you think? Any favourites?
Maison et Objet, Paris, 2-6 September 2016. Next event, January 20-24, 2017.
All photographs, owl’s house london taken with iPhone 6.
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.
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.
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.
Studies for Office KGDVS Solo House, Muller van Severen, until June 25th, 2016
Gallery Valerie Traan, Reyndersstraat 12, 2000 Antwerp, Belgium
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’.
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).
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.
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.
Blog post by Päivi Kotro-Brenner @mepaivi