the tractor shed.

It’s been a good long while since I’ve been here, so I’m starting with a project we completed late last year. I’m very much looking forward to regular postings again.

The Tractor Shed involved the conversion of a dilapidated tractor shed in Hertfordshire into a 4-bedroom home for an artist, including two generous studio spaces.

Approaching the house from the north, the simple, bold openings of the elevation are evocative of the original building with its giant barn doors; the entry though is not here, but through a small porch recess to the side where a last glance of the landscape can be seen through a corner window before entering.

An unfolding sequence of spaces of different scales are tied together with unexpected glimpses between rooms and strong connections to the landscape. On entering the hall, light filters down through rough-sawn oak slats into the hallway below from a skylight at the apex. The dramatic scale of the barn is fully revealed in the main studio and open-plan kitchen. The lowered ceiling height in the adjoining dining area is intimate yet expansive, opening onto the garden and landscape beyond. Adjacent to this is a cosy snug room with deep heather-brown walls, a raised timber floor and wood burning stove. A traditionally proportioned living room with a large picture window to one side is centred around a wood-burning stove set into a herring-bone brick lined recess. Oak floor boards are used to line all surfaces of the the stairwell; this immersion  is interrupted by a glimpse through a cutout slot down to the seating nook below. Split landing levels at first floor allow generous raked ceilings in bedrooms to the south and two smaller scale bedrooms to the north. Eaves are utilised for the most intimate spaces; a dressing room with a slot window down to the main studio and a hidden mezzanine.

A restrained palette of materials is left as natural as possible and evoke the building’s industrial past – polished concrete floors to the living spaces downstairs, an oak-faced plywood kitchen, and solid oak floors upstairs. The  original precast concrete frame is left expressed rather than hidden, and is seen at different scales as one moves through the building. Timber used for the exterior cladding was cut from trees felled from the client’s own land, which he blackened using a blow-torch – after scouring YouTube videos for instruction – creating a soft, variegated effect. 

Tractor Shed by HeathWalker Studio.

Photographs: Adrien Fouéré (@weareurbananimals)



lubetkin’s house.

If you’re the architect of one of the best examples of modernist architecture in this country, then chances are your own apartment – in the same building – is going to be fabulous.

Berthold Lubetkin designed this penthouse as this own home, set atop Highpoint II (Highpoint I had been designed 3 years earlier in 1935) with its panoramic views across London and afar. I wrote about Highpoint I previously, here.

A striking entrance lobby sets the scene, with tiled floor, richly textured, timber-board cladding (a gib door leads to a cloakroom behind), and thick, vertical louvres of sand-blasted Norwegian pine. These striking finishes are bold, almost rustic, an unusual choice within the refined and elegant building. But they are contained, and as such are not allowed to dominate. The views beyond remain the scene-stealer.

The main space is rectilinear, open plan and 12 metres long. A barrel vaulted ceiling forms the double-height space, with lengths of fully retractable glazing extending along both walls. The rich, dark tiled floor contrasts with the white walls and window surrounds; then, more rough-hewn, wide boards of timber clad the walls vertically in the low-ceilinged snug at one end. A slab of creamy travertine beneath the windows on one side forms a continuous seat, the terrace beckoning beyond.

Elsewhere, walls are white and bare, and colour is used boldly but sparingly in tiles and feature walls.

The penthouse is for sale on The Modern house, here.

A Grade 1 listing means that the owner is unable to alter the apartment, but then, why would you want to?

The Lubetkin Penthouse, Highpoint II, London, N6. More, here.

a neapolitan modernist.

If our summer vacation involved a trip to the south of Italy, then this is where I would want to stay.

Built by Italian architect Michele Capobianco in 1964, the aptly named Villa Bianca is all geometric lines and elegance. Perfectly suited to the heat of its southern location, slim, double height columns elevate it high above its already lofty perch on the hills above Naples; the roof over-sailing the floors below, forming shady, travertine-lined terraces to sit and while. The garden too, is a sculptural, lush oasis of palms and grasses.

Inside, the entrance hall is a double volume, airy space, with artworks placed nonchalantly here and there. A stair to one side is flanked by a low wall which rises up to form a gallery at first floor level. All is white and cool. Dark wood adds warmth; tiled floors change pattern and tone depending on which room they inhabit. A secondary, circular stair spirals up, changing floor pattern as it arrives on each level. A beautiful fireplace niche, patterned with hand made brick, offers a place to sit and contemplate.

Simple, rectilinear furniture compliment the simple layout, the palette of dark wood and black leather bringing a sophistication to the mix.

Villa Bianca, Gulf of Naples, Italy, here.

I’ve also been seduced by this beautiful, contemporary farmhouse in Puglia. And I’m still looking forward to visiting this glamorous modernist in Portugal.

 

the wonderful world of peter d. cole.

Peter D. Cole is known for his wonderfully exuberant and playful works. I discovered him on Instagram, his works colour-bright set against their pure, white background.

His abstract, watercolour paintings and bold, minimal sculptures are firmly rooted in the landscape of his native Australia; a simple vocabulary of singular elements floating on a sea of colour. Forms are broken down to represent the most fundamental elements of sky, earth, sun and moon, picked out in primary reds, vivid yellows, intense blues and other clear, saturated hues.

Displaying the modernist language of his art school training in the mid 1960s, he cites Miro, Calder and González as influences, along with the Constructivists Moholy Nagy and El Lissitzky. Specific works too – Giacometti’s The Palace at 4am and Le Corbusier’s Ronchamp – have informed his sculptural pieces, styled out of powder-coated steel, aluminium, marble and brass.

Peter works from a purpose built studio adjoining his home in country Victoria, having designed both studio and house himself. Influenced by Japanese houses and the natural desire to capture the afternoon breeze, the main house sits on an elevated platform with a simple set of stairs leading to the entrance. The high ceilinged, white walled, light filled rooms offer perfect, gallery-style spaces in which to display his work.

The palette of materials is thus restrained, starting with floors of richly polished timber and walls of glass, creating an almost invisible boundary with the outdoors. Extraneous elements have been removed –  doors are recessed into wall thicknesses or simply framed in wood; junctions abut each other crisply. Elements of singular colour counterbalance the bold hues of Peter’s sculptures. Door handles and drawer pulls were designed and made by the artist, along with many of the light fittings. Furniture is a mix of antique and modern. Marc Newson’s idiosyncratic pieces are stand-outs, from the fabulous Wicker and Embryo chairs to the Super Guppy floor lamp, all of which sit comfortably amongst Peter’s bold, architectural forms.

More about the artist here, and his website, here

Photographs: Sean Fennessy via Peter D. Cole, with thanks.

 

a bauhaus vision in white.

Originally designed in 1934 by architect Nachman Kaplansky, Villa Kaplansky demonstrates the clean, geometric lines that were part of the Bauhaus movement’s influence. The exterior, with its linear, three bayed facade sitting on a raised plinth, uses the simple, functional language of the Modernists; the interior, recently remodelled, utilises these forms too, but with a contemporary take on ‘30s modern, adding an air of elegance.

Surfaces are kept pure and white, uninterrupted by skirtings or cornicing. Architraves align with wall planes. Thinly profiled jambs of black metal frame the outside through openings that are low and linear, or perfectly circular. The circle motif appears again and again, from deeply recessed skylights to the spiral stair wrapping itself ribbon-like through the double-height volume. Mirrors are round, as is a fabulous freestanding bathroom basin unit.

Contrast comes from the mid-brown timber joinery, in random width sections adding richness and texture, and mosaic tiles lining horizontal and vertical surfaces in wet areas. Beautiful marmoreal (or engineered marble here) forms the seamless kitchen island and floor surfaces, contrasted with the pale, creamy-pink fluted profile of the joinery units.

Loose furniture is bold with simple lines, from the ‘70s classic Ligne Roset Togo sofa in tan leather, to the Eames lounge chair and LCM dining chairs; to Muller van Severen’s modern classic recliner (more, here).

Beyond the main residence at the back of the garden is another building: a rectilinear, concrete pavilion with circular cutouts. It’s a beauty. (See more, here)

Villa Kaplansky, Antwerp, by B-architecten in collaboration with ByPerez.

Photographer: Frederik Vercruysse, with thanks.

 

abode.

These beautiful spaces belong to Abode, a waterside development in Greenwich, created by lifestyle magazine-of-the-moment, Cereal magazine.

Not your typical contemporary palette of white and wood, and not an Eames DSW chair in sight, this prototype offers a sophisticated alternative: contemporary and vintage furnishings sit against a backdrop of moody greys and dark-stained woods with granite, brass and poured concrete floors.

The soft, micro-fine wall surfaces have an ultra matt finish and seamless edges, flowing from floor to wall to ceiling, all in smudgy, earth tones. Polished concrete floors run through the open plan spaces, changing to ebony wood in the study. The black stained cupboards of the kitchen run along one wall, extending through the full-height glass and onto the terrace, a built-in BBQ at the far end. A pure white island unit prevents the overall palette from being too subdued, as does the lacquered brass splashback.

Classic pieces of furniture abound, including walnut Cherner dining chairs, Fritz Hansen marble-topped dining table, Charlotte Perriand stools, Bruno Mathsson daybed, and other vintage Scandinavian pieces. Marble plinths, Georg Jensen silverware and bold, modernist artwork complete the elegant, understated look. I’m moving in.

Abode by Cereal magazine and Conran and Partners, London SE10. More, here.

 

henrietta dubrey.

I first discovered the work of Henrietta Dubrey at the Affordable Art Fair in Hampstead last year, where one painting – an angular face with jet black hair and black-clad torso, set against a pale blue background – caught my attention. This year, I recognised her work immediately and determined to find out more.

Henrietta trained at the Wimbledon School of Art and then the Royal Academy Schools. Inspiration came from the Middle Generation St Ives painters who followed Barbara Hepworth and Ben Nicholson: Terry Frost, Roger Hilton, Peter Lanyon, Bryan Wynter and Patrick Heron, amongst others. Family holidays in St Ives as a child were a strong influence in this; as was the sea and surf and sandy beaches. She now lives in Cornwall.

Her body of work is both abstract and figurative, with a palette of subdued colour – earthy tones and sky blues. Her abstract paintings are at once calm and energetic, with the occasional jolt of bold colour. Figures are naive and deceptively simple, drawn wth a bold, confident hand and economy of line. I see so many influences, not only the St Ives painters, but international modernists too – Picasso, Miro and the Cubists. I love the simplicity, composition and strong forms.

Henrietta’s extensive body of work can be found on her website, here. She is represented by Edgar Modern, Bath and has an upcoming exhibition at Strover gallery, Cambridge. The Affordable Art Fair, Hampstead, finishes today.

Feature Image: Vocabulary 2017 58 x 156 cms

Early Afternoon 2017 130 x 105 cms
Go For It 2017 38 x 49 cms
Late Afternoon 2017 130 x 105 cms
Messenger 2017 45 x 33 cms
Abstract Woman 2017 79 x 65 cms
Chalky Down 2017 71 x 44 cms
Catalan Dream 2017 55 x 41 cms
Blow Me a Kiss 2017 25 x 13 cms

All images courtesy of the artist.