Category Archives: wonderful spaces.

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.

 

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.

 

forest house.

Reminiscent of house of 150 trees, this beautiful forest house is situated in a rural region of Gent. Contemporary yet traditional, the Japanese aesthetic of wabi-sabi, which celebrates the imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete, is clearly evident here. Other influences include Frank Lloyd Wright, Carlo Scarpo and Andrea Branzi, who was a friend of the architect owners, Eddy Francois and Caroline de Wolf.

The house, as an extension of its environment, utilises natural, earthy materials. The vertical mullions of solid timber separating the floor to ceiling windows rise like tree trunks; the earth-toned, raw brick floor has the outdoor quality of a forest floor. Concrete soffits line some ceilings, others are wood with exposed beams continuing the line of the mullions. White plasterboard walls float beneath. Skinny brick walls with deeply recessed mortar joints to add texture, become the structure both inside and out.

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Forest House, Gent, by Eddy Francois and Caroline de Wolf.

Photographs 2,3, 6,7,8: Jean-Luc Laloux; image 1,5: Sarah Blee; all others, unknown.

intimate spaces, defined.

Bold, modernist spaces in and around European cities dominate the site of French photographer Romain Laprade. He seeks out the intimate places often forgotten or deemed unimportant – foyers and entry halls – transition spaces that are too often seen as a luxury. It is these spaces that in reality allow a building to breathe, provide a place for occupants to pause, a space to contemplate or to stop and chat before passing through.

Romain started working as a graphic designer, working at French Vogue for 4 years. Now 28, his obsession is photography. The places he has found and photographed – the ones I like the most – are the foyers of modernist buildings from the ‘60s and ‘70s, most often in Paris. These wonderful interiors are rich in colour and texture – black granite cladding inlaid with bronze, or rows of mosaic tiles in bold hues of orange or red; bold concrete forms standing like voluptuous, oversized chess pieces, and floors of verde green marble. All surfaces have been considered – fine, dark bricks laid obliquely adjoin a ceiling of glossy black and red tiles; a vertical screen of rich brown wood opposes perfectly proportioned piers of tiny, matt black mosaic.

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Images 1, 2 , 3,  Paris 15; image 4 and feature image, Av. Paul Doumer, 1960, Paris.
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Image 5, Carrer de Brusi, Barcelona; image 6, Le persicope, 1972, Paris; images 7, 8, Le Meridien, 1964, Paris.rl_crimee_ohl02rl_creteil_ohl01rl_beaugrenelle_ohl06
 Image 9, Crimée, 1968, Paris; image 10, Créteil; image 11, Beaugrenelle.

See more Romain Laprade imagery, including beautiful fashion photographs for John Galliano and Tomasini Paris, here.

All images, courtesy Romain Laprade.

peter’s house.

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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.

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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

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.