Author Archives: owls house london.

About owls house london.

architect, designer and general enthusiast of all good design.

a toulouse townhouse in grey.

Enhancing the original character of a house whilst creating a concordant, contemporary addition is a constant design challenge. Here, in a townhouse in Toulouse, it is achieved through beautiful, minimal detailing with seamless junctions, an interesting mix of decorative mouldings and plain, unadorned surfaces, and the use of flat, monotone hues.

The materials palette is restrained but varied – rich, walnut cabinetry in one room contrasts with natural birch veneer in another. But the palette overall is reined in using similar mid-tones – the grey oak parquet floor adjoins a pale grey, seamless resin floor; a brushed stainless steel kitchen island cube takes on the colour of the adjoining mid-grey walls. There are two aesthetics going on here, one minimal and one ornate, where the old meets the new. They come together beautifully with these sophisticated grey hues, all in a matt finish to add softness. Floor to ceiling windows with simple frames draw the eye to the beautiful landscape beyond.

Joinery is beautifully detailed: a niche within the kitchen cabinets is lined in pale birch veneer contrasting with the deep grey of the cupboard fronts; in the bedrooms, entire walls of storage are seamlessly integrated. Freestanding elements are simple and monolithic – a black glass shower cubicle, the kitchen island unit with its perfectly mitred edges.


Furniture comprises simple, bold classics such as the angular Jean Prouvé dining table and chairs, and the fabulous mid-century Charlotte Perriand bookcase.

How different it would look if it were finished in shades of white throughout, not just in the bathroom. I think the mid-tones give it a richness and sophistication and work effortlessly with the surrounding landscape. What do you think?

Townhouse renovation, Rue du Japon, Toulouse by RMGB architects. All images, RMGB.

Via Yellowtrace


objects for living, living for objects.

In a newly stripped out shop awaiting its fate, I discovered a quirky pop-up entitled Objects for Living, Living for Objects. With as much care as a beautifully curated art gallery, lamps were displayed on simple white plinths within the discarded shell. Crossing over between art and function, these lamps are made of discarded materials, transformed into objects to be used again. And one of my favourite things is the naming: each is named and dated in the manner of the most exquisite piece of art.

I find these pieces intriguing. I’m not normally drawn to an industrial aesthetic. But in this case, components with simple forms have been selected and carefully juxtaposed. I think they would work beautifully in a pared back, neutral environment.




They are designed and manufactured by Poppy Rott, a design duo living and working in North London. Their lamps derive from a wider art project, and a desire to make things from everyday objects and the waste we create at home: ’The title of this project, Objects for Living, Living for Objects, alludes to both the human desire to collect stuff / things / objects and our contemporary need for them. Once owned, they perform as a utility for the interior and an object for living alongside. They are, to many, totemic to the daily act of making a living.’

Their lamps are low impact, low energy and hand made and derived from experiment; the result of careful testing, chance, salvage, proportional and spatial pragmatics. More than that, they represent the almost outmoded discipline of crafting.

‘The craftsman lets us consider how we live with things and how we value them. Objects speak their own language. They are things you have to read. The craftsman unlocks the latent language of things and, here, the craftsman is a bricoleur, re-articulating objects with affection, positioning them in time and space.’
Caroline Stevenson, lecturer at London College of Fashion.

The pop-up has now ended (and everything was sold). But you can view new pieces and buy directly from the studio, here. Their next outing will be at the Car Boot Remade event at Kings Cross on the 16 & !7 April.

1. Transformational Object As Artwork, no.1. 2015
Decade resistance box, formica, oak floorboard
41 x 53 x 20 cm

2. Cascading Decades. 2015
Decade counter, formica, oak floorboard
28 x 58 x 22 cm

3. Culture Jam. 2015
Tripod, gas canister, Formica, oak floorboard.
18 x 58 x 18 cm

4. Joy Sticks. 2015
Control box, gas canister, formica, oak floorboard.
32 x 57 x 15 cm

5. To Arrive Where We Started And Know The Place For The First Time. 2015
Saucepan, tin can, plywood.
17 x 45 x 14 cm

revisiting a modernist in berlin.

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Revisiting this beautiful modernist – the use of texture, simple but sophisticated colour palette and clean lines is a look I revert to time and again.

Part of the 1957 building exhibition in Berlin’s Tiergarten park, this Modernist glass atrium house was designed by Eduard Ludwig, an architect who studied briefly at the Bauhaus, and whose passion lay in the design of bungalow-style houses. He studied under Mies van der Rohe and the influence of modernist masterpiece the Barcelona Pavillion is evident here.

The simple lineality of the building is echoed internally with the floating linear kitchen cabinets, built-in, low-level storage lining the living area, and bathroom vanity in palest stone suspended against a full wall of mirror. Textured surfaces abound and are enhanced with splashes of intense colour in the palette of dark orange, black and off-white. Simple, classic furniture pieces like the shaker style chair (Hay do a simlar one, here) and brass domed kitchen pendant hold their own and yet perfectly compliment the space.

Atrium-House-in-Berlin-by-bfs-design-102214_03 0012214_12 0012215_11 0012215_02 001

Atrium-House-in-Berlin-by-bfs-design-1Beautifully restored by architectural firm bfs-design: Atrium House by Eduard Ludwig via Daily Icon.

Photos: Annette Kisling

looking north for summer.


Image: 1

Instead of sipping some sad, hand-extracted cabbage juice, January should be spent rejoicing about all the good things to come and planning the summer ahead. Thus we look north to Finland: The Tapio Wirkkala Rut Bryk Foundation continues to celebrate the separate works of husband and wife Wirkkala and Bryk as part of their 2015/2016 centenary programme.

Internationally renowned designer and sculptor Wirkkala (1915-1985) may be the more recognisable name than Bryk (1916-1999), but Rut’s artistic work was just as powerful as her husband’s. Having studied Graphic Design, she joined Arabia  in 1942 and stayed with the company for over 50 years. As a highly skilled ceramics artist her early works depicted folkloric motifs. Her patterns would also at times emerge on tableware designed by Wirkkala for Rosenthal. In her later abstract works, she explored, as the V&A London noted, ‘in totally disciplined manner, opposing positive and negative forces and the contrasting effects of light and shade, surface and depth’, resulting in ceramic reliefs of intense beauty and startling impact.From May until September 2016, the Espoo Museum of Modern Art (EMMA), Finland,  will be celebrating Rut Bryk’s life and work with a dedicated exhibition. Owl’s House London’s Finnish correspondent will be sure to visit and report back.

Whilst most of the events celebrating Wirkkala’s centenary in 2015 have passed, in 2016, the STILL / LIFE – Tapio Wirkkala Retrospective will be touring through Lapland. This Northern part of Finland was Wirkkala’s spiritual home and refuge from ‘European abundance with all it’s side-effects and it’s sweaty smell of egoism and ambition’. The exhibition, curated by designer Harri Koskinen, consists of two parts: LIFE, concentrating on the work and life of Wirkkala and STILL, which explore Wirkkala’s identity as a sculptor and shows his exceptional handiwork skills – he had ‘thinking hands’. The exhibition can be seen at Sámi Museum Siida in Inari throughout the summer months and at the Kaustinen Folk Art Centre in the autumn of 2016, before moving on to EMMA in 2017.


1. Three Engraved Vases by Tapio Wirkkala for Iittala, 1950s
2. Glass Vase, 1948 by Tapio Wirkkala
3. Porcelain Paper Bag Vases, Tapio Wirkkala, 1979
4. Rosenthal Pollo Vases, Studio Line, Tapio Wirkkala,1970s
All, 1st Dibs

Post by Päivi Kotro-Brenner. Instagram @mepaivi

The Espoo Museum of Modern Art is a local bus ride away from Helsinki. Lapland, well, that’ll be a night train. Travel info:




White skies over the elegant Palm House, Kew gardens via Instagram. Happy new year!

season’s greetings.


Happy Christmas to all!

All images Owls House London Instagram. Follow me, here

a journey of delight : calder at tate modern.


‘There’s something totally joyous and unpretentious about the work which communicates to people,’ she added. ‘He’s one of the few artists who can sit in both camps: the public and the elite world.’ Farah Nayeri, NY Times

For those who have not lost their childish fascination with colours and shapes, movement and balance, Calder’s work remains a delight and inspiration. There is little darkness in his work, only a restless, fascinated mind, immersed in a journey of delight.

Calder plays it straight. Calder’s work is exactly what it appears to be. The strength of his work is this directness, without subtext; a refreshing lack of hidden meaning. We see Calder’s delicate mercury sculpture sitting with the vast canvas of Guernica in the background; Picasso’s dark genius and Calder’s lightness working brilliantly together. Picasso’s primary themes are those of humanity; Calder’s are of nature; he plays with lines, mass, force and momentum.

Calder emerged in an era when art was still catching up with the discoveries of 19th Century science and the technology of the 20th – not least the moving image. Calder’s work brings movement centre stage into art in a way that surpasses other artists often unsatisfactory attempts of that era to incorporate time (I’m thinking of cubism). Apart, of course, from the most successful new art form of the 20th Century, the movie itself.

Human visual aesthetics is derived from a highly developed appreciation of the body in both movement and poise. Calder’s unflinching preoccupation with mechanics; his exploration of the fine line between balance and movement, his testing of how far a rod or sinew can be stretched and still hold, resonates with what we naturally find beautiful and satisfying.

Calder does all this, and brings it into delicate and playful fusion with the rawness of his materials, the formal language of late Matisse and a touch of the surreality of Miro. I’m going back for more.




You can read Farah Nayeri’s article, here:

Alexander Calder: Performing Sculpture, Tate Modern, until 3 April, 2016

Guest post by Jeremy Walker, architect and cardboard sculptor (HeathWalker Studio). Photos: owl’s house london using iPhone 6.

simplicity – the ultimate sophistication: an apartment in rome.

This apartment in Rome starts with strong architectural features – an intricate parquet floor, high ceilings and elegantly arched windows, framing a view towards the dome of St Peters. Because that is enough, the rest is kept simple. The arches are echoed internally, but also countered, by unembellished, rectangular openings.

The palette is calm, with pale colours allowing  the light to bounce and play. Then come the details, which transform the apartment into a sophisticated, refined space. In the kitchen, an island bench in bronze contrasts with a grey-veined, white marble top; the materials mitred at the edges as if they were cast as one piece.

One of my favourite of stones, travertine, is used to clad the bathroom walls, with a mirror set flush with the surface, and washbasin formed out of stone. And the floor to ceiling joinery is adorned with nothing but linear, bronze inlay door handles.


Casa_Roma_022-1471x1080Casa_Roma_0252-749x1080casa-roma_ohlCasa_Roma_0122-749x1080I love the simplicity, what about you?
Apartment in Rome by Quincoces-Dragò & Partners. Photography, Alberto Strada

via est magazine


a kaleidoscope of colours, encased in glass.


Finnish glass, whether for everyday household use or artistic display, is amongst the most covetable and collectable in the world.

While there are few design-lovers today who are not familiar with Kaj Franck’s Kartio glass series for Iittala, pieces by Riihimäen Lasi — a glass factory that operated in Riihimäki, Finland, from 1910 to 1990 — are a little less well known. The factory started out as a producer for packing and window glass, but around 1937 moved into handblown design glass as well. The factory employed a range of designers who produced a large variety of shapes and design. The works of three of them are shown here (from the author’s unassuming collection): Aimo Okkolin, who joined in 1937, Tamara Aladin, who was taken on board in 1959, after she presented her designs for a more lightweight, feminine drinks glass and Erkkitapio Siiroinen, who came to the factory in 1968.

The depth of the colours and the clean lines of the vases satisfy the viewer over and over again, and the heaviness of the glass feels wonderful in the hand. The pieces are made by encasing one layer of coloured glass within the other.

Sadly, the production of blown glass was not commercially viable for Riihimäen Lasi and was ceased in 1976. For the would-be collector, the simpler vases are not impossible to track down. A great number were ‘Made for Export’, mainly to Germany, and can now be found there (try as well as in the UK, with simple pieces starting at £30.


Although a lot of thought and skill went into the making of the vases, one of Riihimäki’s best known designers, Nanny Still, quipped that often the beautiful colours were haphazard, a mere mix of Finnish pragmatism and frugality: the designers used whatever was left over at the factory that day. If you are currently fretting over the exact shade of minimalist greige for your living room wall, take a breather.

Guest post and photographs by Päivi Kotro-Brenner, a Finnish born copywriter and would-be artist living in London. Her living rooms walls are painted in Atkinson Grey by ECOS. 
The Finnish Glass Museum in Riihimäki can be visited year-round except in January. The museum holds a collection of glassworks dating back 4000 years and regularly has exhibitions on contemporary glass design. (‘I often go there’, said one contributor on a Finnish forum discussing Tamara Aladin, ‘Mainly to eat. Good food there’.)

bold, with modernist undertones.

I discovered Louis Reith through Instagram, his images all bold graphics and modernist undertones. Dutch born, Reith has a background in graphic design which is clearly evident in his work, along with his fascination with book design and printed matter.

Crossing media from ink drawing to collage to three-dimensional installations, all works are nevertheless strongly connected, with monochromatic palettes and bold forms. I love the modernist quality, the images and typography from an earlier era abstracted in a new, contemporary way. I can imagine them in a very modern context – big spaces and white walls, or set against a more traditional interior of wood panelling and intimate spaces.


Untitled, collage of found book pages, 20-5x28cm


Untitled 2015 soil on wooden panel, 122x183cm


Untitled 2015 soil on wooden panel, 66x122cm


Installation view, Archiv, at Nina Sagt Gallerie, Dusseldorf
Installation view, Soil on wood, 2014, 128x189cm

More Louis Reith, here.

Feature image: Untitled, collage of found book pages, 20-5x28cm.

All images courtesy of the artist.