Living the rural dream can mean many things. My new book New Country (teNeues publishing) takes a tour round some of the most beautiful homes in the countryside, from grand chateaus to modern barn conversions; pared-back farmhouses to coastal retreats. Here is just an example of some of the modern rustic interiors within.
Flying in the face of simple Scandinavian and bare-room minimalism, my new book A Beautiful Mess: Celebrating the New Eclecticism (teNeues publishing) is a compendium of ornate, free-spirited and fabulous interiors where maximalism is the order of the day. Bye bye minimal. Say hello to homes that are full of life.
Here is a sneak preview of the London-based interior designer Sussy Cazalet's creative hub, followed by the striking French chateau of antique dealer Steiner Berg-Olsen.
My Times article on the home of British sculptor Daniel Chadwick and his wife, the wallpaper designer, Juliet. Once home to Dick Whittington, it now features Damian Hirst spot paintings alongside kinetic artworks by Daniel and his sculptor father Lynn Chadwick, from whom he inherited the place.
Things were very busy in the run up to Stockholm Design Week. I had the pleasure of working with Grand Relations PR on their Review volume #1. Old Scandi, new Scandi, Kasthall, Northern Lighting, Design House Stockholm... I'm feeling very well acquainted. To read Grand Relations Review in full, click here.
British landscape and garden designer Dan Pearson is known for his relaxed gardens, ancient forests and a bridge blooming on the River Thames in London. A fan of the naturalist approach, here is my interview with the green guru for Corriere della Sera's Living magazine.
My article in Corriere della Sera's LIVING magazine on the fashion stylist Sukeena Rao, who runs a luxury personal shopping business in London. When she revamped her Notting Hill home, making it look good wasn't enough - it had to feel good, too. Bringing in the help of interior designer Charles Mellersh, the pair worked together to create a a fashion-friendly, feel-good family space.
‘My approach to fashion styling is about choosing clothes that the client can throw on and feel amazing,’ says Sukeena Rao. ‘This is also the same for my home. I wanted a home that felt relaxing as soon as you walked through the door.’ As big decorating ideas go, that may not sound terribly exciting, but the end result – three-storeys of luxurious, yet comfortable living space personalized with meticulously sourced furniture and artworks – is a masterclass in stylish, practical living.
It took Sukeena two years, some structural rearrangements (Sukeena installed the Scandinavian-inspired Douglas Fir floor and moved the staircase from the middle of the building to maximize the space) and a cool, calming palette to get the backdrop of this leafy West London home right. Inspired by the British designer Ilse Crawford and the chic interiors of the Celine store and Matches Fashion, the scheme is full of energy, yet a calm and relaxing place to be. ‘There’s not one room that I’m not comfortable in,’ says Sukeena. ‘The overall effect is casual yet luxurious. It’s a place where I can shut the door and instantly relax.’
On the build side of things, Sukeena kept the original features of the property and aesthetically, the things that were important to her. ‘I knew I wanted big tall doors and Dinesen floors, along with a really nice playroom for my son next to the kitchen so we can all be together,’ says Sukeena. ‘There were lots of little cupboard rooms when we moved in, so we completely knocked all of this out.’
But it was sourcing the furniture that was the fun part for Sukeena. Thanks to her job, she has had the privilege of going into some amazing houses and by her own admission is always visually surfing for things. ‘I’m the first the person to ask: ‘where’s that chair from?’ She explains: ‘Before the days of Pinterest, I’ve always kept scrapbooks with tear sheets from magazines and will go to the end of the earth to track down a perfect candlestick or chair. But with this project, I felt I didn’t have the spatial awareness and was worried about making expensive mistakes.’ Bringing in the help of interior designer Charles Mellersh, the couple worked together to layer on furniture, art and textiles, investing in good, long-term pieces that could be moved around and were a little bit surprising, too.
To complement her beautifully renovated home, the rooms are now studded with works by the likes of super designers Michael Anastassiades and Muller Van Severen. ‘Charles validated all the things I had done,’ says Sukeena. ‘He totally understood my taste and made me feel comfortable in my choices. He gave me a massive education in what I liked and helped me to narrow things down. Like me, he is also happy to look at 1000 chairs to find just the right one.’
The sculptor Daniel Chadwick may dream of a Modernist glass house in California - but then what would he do without the fabulous ceiling heights in this modern medieval mansion from which to hang his designs? Here is his Gloucestershire home in Corriere della Sera's Living magazine.
Really delighted to see my feature on the Spanish advertising agency Contrapunto BBDO in the May/June 2016 Communication Arts magazine. There are many many things to love about Madrid - and BBDO is just one. Click here to read the article in full.
Big thanks to Norwegian design magazine NYTT ROM - New Scandinavian Rooms - for including one of my latest stories in their February issue - a new residential project by interior designer Charles Mellersh. It shows Charles's gift for combining style and comfort - not to mention his passion for eye-candy design.
Where the Mellor magic happens, this innovative Peak District family home is the industrial hub of David Mellor Design. With an appetite for good design as a way of life, it is through David's son, Corin, that the king of cutlery's legacy lives on. To read my article in The Telegraph Magazine, click here.
Acclaimed UK designer Theo Williams – formerly creative director of Habitat and head of design for John Lewis Home – has collaborated with manufacturer Qualita to launch his own furniture company Another Brand, the home of beautiful, no-nonsense pieces where quality is king. Expect smart function, streamlined forms and surprising pops of colour. My Q&A for DesignFizz shares the inspirations behind the range.
How did you get into the industry?
I started in graphics at Manchester University before switching to industrial design. There was a competition to design a radio, which I won. I used to live with a bunch of DJs so I took the idea of a wheel that spun through the stations from them. The next thing I was in Milan, needling people and designing products for studios such as Marco Zanuso, Prada and Alessi.
Describe your style in three words
Simple, honest, rational. I hate the phrase ‘form and function’ but it’s true. There should always be a reason for something being there. When I’m coming up with a new design, I start with a list of functions that the product must have before moving on to its finish and colour. That is what gives an object its design edge and transforms it into the thing of the moment. The shape doesn’t.
How did Another Brand come about?
After all these years working with lots of designers and big brands, I wanted to work directly with the manufacturer. We play to our strengths. They hold the stock and take care of distribution, while I come up with the designs. By partnering up with Qualita, we have created a new business for them and an opportunity for us. The idea is to work with a variety of manufacturers to create a cohesive collection of products.
What was the idea behind the new Tavolini designs, launched at London Design Festival 2015?
The premise was to have something that you can pick up and walk away with in a lovely box – an impulse buy; the prices also reflect this. All the tables are different. There are oak, glass, metal and fabric tops… We’re a one-stop-shop for small tables.
How are the products made?
When it comes to designing for Another Brand, we consider the manufacturer’s capabilities. It all works backwards from what they can or cannot do.
What’s coming up next?
There’s going to be more Tavolini and we’re moving into upholstery and lighting. Theo Williams Studio has also been commissioned to co-design a capsule of accessories for McLaren Honda Formula 1 team in 2016 until further notice.
What are your influences?
I quite like a grid. I’m drawn to things that are graphic-led and well thought out. I love proportions, posters and packaging books – things like that. A lot of my influences are from Italy. There was a certain formula to working there but it was liberating and instinctive. Also, back in the day there were no computers, so everything was drawn by hand.
You spent 15 years working in Milan and two years in Amsterdam before moving back to London. How do the cities compare?
Milan was the exception to the rule. Everything was possible back then. The creative energy was enormous. For my first job as design director at NAVA Design, I didn’t speak any Italian and they just said: ‘Invent, think, create and see what we can do.’ They trusted designers to make things better. I remember aesthetics, taste and style being relative. It wasn’t judged on seasons or trends just good ideas and solutions. It was the attention to detail and perfection the Italians taught me; they were simply perfectionists at design, printing and production. I remember them fondly. They were my second family.
In Amsterdam I began working with a corporate structure for a couple of years, which was creatively driven but without the instinctive nature of Italy. Nobody really owned anything. It was inspiring for the first year but I missed the spontaneity and instinctive nature of the Italians.
London for me seems to have all of the above and more. After 17 years away from the UK I can feel an undercurrent entrepreneurial spirit, which I think defines British creativity, with a bit of wit thrown in. There’s a natural impulse where people are just getting on with it and this creates an organic point of view and personality. There is a tradition in the UK where designers are interested in the processes, but we have moved away from traditional manufacturing towards innovative creative solutions. Reacting to the market is one thing but the depth and choice of the colleges and mixed nationalities studying here creates this entrepreneurial spirit; if only they had more opportunity to make and not just design. A few more workshops and manufacturers would be useful. The ideas are plentiful. It’s the making of them that’s hard.
Is there anything you wish you had designed?
I’ve always wanted to build a brand from the bottom up, which is what I’m doing now.
British duo Russell and Oona Pinch of Clapham furniture makers Pinch are mostly known for their slender, light-as-air wooden pieces. At the London Design Festival 2015, their monolithic 'Nim' coffee table at Shoreditch's Rochelle School was quite the head-turner. Here's my DesignFizz interview with Russell to find out more on how this radical new direction came about...
What was the idea behind the 'Nim' table?
With 'Nim' we wanted to mark the milestone of 11 years in business with an exciting creative project – a gift to ourselves. Instead of a party we decided to invest in a piece we would not ordinarily do, one that required a substantial set-up and explored new materials and tone.
What was it inspired by?
Mood. That particular feeling when things are super-charged and energetic but still appear calm and collected and smooth on the outside. It’s an exploration of texture and form, referencing lava strata, stone and weather. The table captures all the movement, power, potential and beauty of the natural world expressed as a new man-made object.
What is your favourite thing about it?
The transformation from a rough eroded textured side, flowing into a perfectly formed and smooth recessed top.
How does it reflect your style?
It is serene but feels strong at the same time. In the majority of our work we seek to pare back and back until only the absolutely necessary remains. In this case, we wanted to celebrate and enjoy the mass of the piece, so it’s the opposite of our normal mode, but is still recognisable as our style due to its mood.
What was the reason behind the choice of material?
Our concept led us to use Jesmonite, which has excellent casting properties and can replicate very fine details. Jesmonite is also lighter than stone or concrete, and less invasive to both user and the environment.
What do you consider when working on a new design?
We often set our design briefs by thinking about what we need in our real/imaginary home, alongside how the whole range hangs together. We want it to feel inviting and elegant, but also with a creative aspect and resonance – and always offering a relationship to the materials. Just as our 'Twig' seats and 'Anders' lights brought another tone and perspective to our pieces, with the 'Nim' table we wanted to add a new dimension to our collection. The contrast in material and shape drives its personality.
What part of the process do you like the most?
Experimentation and model making. It’s more like a sculpture workshop at this stage of the process, where we are turning pieces, whittling objects, playing with form, materiality and colour. It’s really like playing but don’t tell anyone.
If you weren't a designer, what might you have been?
A farmer or an economist (I know, don’t ask!).
Who or what is exciting you in design right now?
More experimentation. We have opened the floodgates with 'Nim'. Right now, we have more ideas than time and money to bring things to life, but maybe that’s the right way round.
Your biggest must-have in a home is… A great kitchen with appliances that allow for open flame cooking and good ventilation. Cooking and eating and all they entwine is life for me. It’s the beating heart of my home.
What are you due to work on next?
Another coffee table of equal impact, a new desk and we are just talking about working with a wonderful ceramics company.
What’s your social media of choice?
Ha – topical point, nothing until very recently. I think most of my old college friends must think I’ve died as I’m not personally on Facebook, however, Pinch has just starting on Instagram. How does anyone achieve anything though if you’re doing that all day?
For fans of George Nelson designs, here is my editor's pick for M&S.com's STYLE & LIVING magazine. Add retro flair to your home with this eye-catching design.
Mid-century-inspired homeware is a key trend for autumn and they don’t get more fabulous than this bright, graphic clock by M&S. Distinctly retro in feel, the cheerful colours give it the vibrant charm of Fifties style and make a refreshing alternative to conventional clocks. It looks vintage but has all the benefits of being new and is easy to mix and match in a modern scheme: hang one in the hallway or on a kitchen wall for maximum impact. Drawing the eye with its distinctive design, it adds character to a white interior and va-va-voom to black. Plus, the snazzy bobbles are sure to lift your spirits whenever you check the time.