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The Magic of Christmas

It’s that time of year again when we push aside everything else that is happening in the world, good or bad, and throw ourselves into the frenzy of Christmas.

Christmas is mostly a happy time in our home as preparation for it is almost more exciting than the day itself, and the Christmas tree decorating is a particularly important part of this.

The job of decorating the tree is one that my elder daughter and I enjoy very much. It seems our design backgrounds influence even this activity. So each year there is a colour scheme and for this year we chose teal and bronze/copper tones, which we can see everywhere this year, from fashion to interiors and product design.

We could have called it ‘foxy tree’ as we had no less than five different fox decorations. It could also have been a peacock tree since we used two or three peacock decorations as well. This years scheme was also partly a repeat of our woodland theme because we had so many forest animals in different shapes and guises. It could be said we’ve mixed some of our favourite schemes this year, which is very fitting since it is the end of an era in a way. My daughter is moving out of our family home and she will most likely be decorating her own Christmas tree next year. For this reason our little ritual, when we bond and joke, laugh and get terribly serious about the perfect balance of colour and lights on the tree, was even more enjoyable. And this is exactly what Christmas should be about. And if we create something visually pleasing at the same time that creates a great atmosphere in the home, even better.

Beautiful Things

Reading the August issue of the Wallpaper magazine, I came across this statement: “Part of wellbeing is to surround ourselves with beautiful things”. The most likely question after this statement is: “What is beautiful and how do you define it?”

While we all know that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, one thing is always true: when something is made with attention to detail and material and craftsmanship is of a high quality, it is considered beautiful. If we add to this great functionality, we have a good design.

This musing got my imagination going and thinking of beautiful objects I would like to surround myself with. Not by any means exhaustive, here is a list of ten:

1. Any piece of Vladimir Kagan furniture but this one is a real beauty:

 

Contour High Back Lounge Chair, Vladimir Kagan 1953

2. Frank Lloyd Wright’s Drawings

 

Frank Lloyd Wright, ‘Saguaro Forms and Cactus Flowers.’ Rug design, 1955.Adapted from a cover for Liberty magazine, 1927–1928. Presentation drawing. Pencil and color pencil on tracing paper. ©FLW Foundation

 

The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Archives (The Museum of Modern Art | Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, New York)

 

Frank Lloyd Wright is well known as probably the most influential architect in modern history, but despite his enormous worldwide recognition, the posters, brochures, typography, murals, book and magazine covers are all his less known contribution to design and are equally impressive.

3. 606 Universal Shelving System

 

Vitsoe.com. Designer: Dieter Rams, 1960

 

This shelving system is still in production at Vitsoe after nearly sixty years since it was designed, thanks to its timeless design, flexibility and function.

4. Lee Broom Chamber Chandelier

leebroom.com

 

The 3-piece installation is a modern take on the traditional chandelier. It accentuates the properties of marble, crystal glass and steel.

5. Bodo Sperlein Table and Bench

bodosperlein.com

 

This table and chair design is inspired by the Art Nouveau movement and made in the UK by hand. It takes about a week to produce each piece.

6. Hand Knotted Silk Rug

Jesenka Woodward with MM Design Textiles

 

The traditional silk rugs were coming from Persia or China and they were extremely fine, thin and tight. These days hand knotted rugs are usually made in Nepal, India and sometimes China and Turkey. I had the privilege of having one made in Nepal, based on my own design and it makes me very happy to look at it every day.

7. A Piece of Czech Art Glass from Ludvika Smrčková (1903-1991)

 

Conical vase, Bohemia, design by Ludvika Smrčková in 1948 for Cooperative work, RÜCKL glassworks, clear crystal glass with helical cutting, height 8 cm

 

Bohemian or Czech glass has a long history and is famous around the world. I love the work of this designer for its simplicity and purity and because most of her pieces are intended for practical use.

8. Striking Tableware

 

Michelangelo Plate, articture.com

 

Having a beautiful table setting makes food taste better! From high street to high end of retail, there are many companies and designers who turned their hand to tableware design.This online company caught my eye recently and their Michelangelo plate collection is current, interesting and made of fine porcelain.

9.  Archibald Knox Silver

Archibald Knox Cymric enamel silver cup, Pinterest

 

One of the most prominent designer of the late 19th century, Archibald Knox’s work amalgamated the Arts and Crafts Movement, Celtic Revival, Art Nouveau and Modernism. This beautiful and elegant silver cup tells you everything that these movements were about: great craftsmanship, quality material, attention to detail and functionality.

10. Japanese Laquerware

 

ancientpoint.com

 

I always liked the Japanese aesthetic and the principle that nothing is too small to be neglected and that everything deserves the attention of the artist and designer.The traditional tea caddy is just one example of this. Lacquer was used in Japan as early as 5000 BCE. The process takes several months. The sap of the lacquer tree, today bearing the technical description of “urushiol-based lacquer,” has traditionally been used in Japan. As the substance is poisonous to the touch until it dries, the creation of lacquerware has long been practiced only by skilled dedicated artisans.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Visit to the Tom Dixon’s new headquarters

There seems to be something about water and London’s canal systems that attracts creative people. After having his showroom and restaurant in West London, overlooking the canal between Harrow Road and Ladbroke Grove, Tom Dixon has moved to a brand new home. I was invited by Clippings to visit his new showroom at the Coal Office, between Regent’s Canal and Granary Square, part of the newly regenerated King’s Cross. This beautiful old building seems perfect for the next chapter in the designer’s career.

Tom Dixon himself gave a personal introduction at the beginning of the tour in which he explained how he was moving away from big commercial events and venues. He wants to explore how to keep in touch with his client base and production in a more personal way. Instead of investing in big marketing schemes, he would like to travel more, talk to people from all over the world and work with them, as that is, he says, what brings him a creative spark and new ideas. He talked about plans to apply his creative approach to not just lighting and furniture but accessories, tableware, eating (his restaurant is opening soon on the new premises), and ultimately, living.

He also highlighted the need to pay attention to crafts; how and where something is produced. This is something that resonates a lot with me (see my previous post about a holistic approach to design). It can be summed up as a move from large scale, commercial, and corporate to a more human scale in general, where people and their experience are the main focus, as opposed to profit. From farmers who are offering their products directly to the end users rather than supermarkets, to Google talking about a more human side of technology and trying to convince us that AI is not in fact scary (Google I/O 2018 presentation); there is a palpable shift in the way we want to live, use and consume everything from things to services.

It appears it is becoming increasingly clear to all of us now that technology has not only a good influence on our lives, but a bad one too. We’ve lost privacy, individuality, unique qualities of hand made product and personal contact between a client and a craftsman. However much technological advances make our life easier, this doesn’t always make us happy. At the same time, a personal touch, human interaction, and the exchange of skills and ideas do make us happy even when hard work and long hours are involved in the process.

On the day, I had a chance to take part in a workshop where several groups were working on putting together Tom Dixon’s Etch Light. It was great fun working together as a team and I truly enjoyed every minute of it. I look forward to hearing more about Tom Dixon’s future events and I can’t wait to visit the new restaurant.

I recently attended a talk at the RIBA in London. It was chaired by Marcus Fairs, Dezeen founder and editor and the panel members were Louise Tod, Dulux’s senior global colour designer, Mark Dytham MBE, architect, designer and co-founder of KDa and Dara Huang, architect, designer and co-founder of Design Haus Liberty.

The event was organised jointly by Dulux and Dezeen and the topic was Future Proofing Design.

As somebody who teaches design, I was interested to hear an industry view about the way to create long-lasting architecture and interior spaces for a fast-changing world.

It was clear from their discussion that accepting and adapting to constant change is crucial for any industry today and the creative industry is no exception.

There were two important questions laid out. Firstly, what timeless design is and secondly, if we should make things to last a long time or knock down and rebuild.

It was interesting to hear Mark Dytham talk about the culture and building tradition in Japan, where he is based, which differs vastly from the Western world tradition of preserving old buildings. Since Japan often suffers earthquakes and tsunamis, buildings are destroyed regularly. As they were traditionally built out of wood, they often disappeared in big fires as well. As such, buildings tend not to be valued as much as the land. The life expectancy of the buildings is around 20-30 years only. However, materials are all re-used and nothing goes to waste.

Sustainability and longevity were also mentioned by Louise Tod when she talked about paint that is both friendly to the environment and long-lasting. There is also more awareness of the need to re-use old paint and paint pots.

Dara Huang talked about changes in the corporate and financial world, particularly the growing awareness of the role of design and creative thinking in designing office spaces.

But is any of this really a new concept? I can think of architects and designers such as Dieter Rams or Frank Lloyd Wright who created timeless architecture and products that we still consider good design. The reason for this is that they achieved the perfect harmony of function and form, which is universally believed to be a definition of good design. The design we consider functional and aesthetically pleasing is timeless because it fulfils our basic human needs.

Thinking along these lines and reflecting on what the panellists were saying made me realise what is really new in approach to design today.

Firstly, it is the realisation that we should not have any division between creative and non-creative industries. Everything can be done in a creative way for the benefit of end users as well as investors in the projects as design creates value in so many ways. This becomes particularly apparent in office and school designs where productivity and success rates increase significantly when the design of the space is carefully considered.

Secondly, as change is constant quality of our environment, the future proofing doesn’t mean predicting what is going to be a trend in 5, 10, 20 years time. The big shift is moving from designing monuments that glorify certain styles, individuals or cultures, to designing in a more humanistic and holistic way, where people are the main focus. At present time we are talking about experiential spaces:

 “The existence and life of the environment is felt by the senses. Each aspect of the space influences the mind – the touch of the materials, the sound of the space, the smell of the air; all these work together to form an experience of space. “A real architectural experience is not simply a series of retinal images; a building is encountered – it is approached, confronted, encountered related to one’s body, moved about, utilized as a condition for things” (Pallasma 2006).[1]

 Thirdly, there is undeniable evidence that our planet’s resources are not limitless and that we have to use less and use it better. As Dieter Rams said in his interview for Kinfolk:

 Practical value and beauty are not mutually exclusive, even today, and they are unlikely to be so in the future either. For me, a restrained aesthetic and function that is as optimized as possible have always been important. These qualities lead to long utilization cycles: The objects do not become visually unbearable after a short time because they have not pushed themselves into the foreground. Certainly, these qualities also act as a constraint upon  innovation. We really should consider very carefully whether we constantly need new things. I have been arguing for a long time for less, but better things.”[2

Throughout human history, there were periods when architecture considered human scale more, and the pleasure of having precious objects of exquisite craftsmanship was a measure of personal success. The difference now is that attention is not so much centred on what we possess but how we use it. This relates to all aspects of our lives as we increasingly talk about quality of life and aiming to experience things rather than accumulate. Applying this way of thinking is probably the best way of all to future proof design.

[1] Alberto Perez-Gomez, Juhani Pallasmaa, and Steven Holl. 2006. Questions of Perception-Phenomenology of Architecture. William Stout Publishers, San Francisco, USA .

[2] Alex Anderson & Molly Mandell, Dieter Rams: As Little Design As Possible (website), Article from Kinfolk, Issue 23 https://kinfolk.com/dieter-rams-little-design-possible/ (accessed 27th February 2018)

REFERENCES

Shruti Gupta, “Phenomenon of Experiential Space” -Built environment, research, (web blog)http://www.morphogenesis.org/media/phenomenon-of-experiential-space/ (accessed 27th February 2018)

Alex Anderson & Molly Mandell, Dieter Rams: As Little Design As Possible (website), Article from Kinfolk, Issue 23 https://kinfolk.com/dieter-rams-little-design-possible/ (accessed 27th February 2018)

https://www.hustwit.com/rams/

 

Christmas Holidays

Decorating a Christmas tree is always an important part of making the home pretty in the lead up to Christmas. Every year we decide which colour scheme we are going to have. This time it is teal and pink as I absolutely love that colour combination in interiors, particularly in soft velvets and silks. Several peacock ornaments we have in the collection fitted perfectly with the colour scheme, including the impressive one for the top of the tree that my daughter bought in Harrods last year.

I hope you like the result as much as I do.

P.S. I’m very pleased that KLC-School of Design, where I teach Interior design, published on their blog my article: Interiors as a Part of Holistic Approach to Life. Here is the link:  https://www.klc.co.uk/blog/post/?b={6DBDBFA5-EF96-4497-80EB-72D9C4295F47}

Furniture Design

There are certain things that influence the way we approach our work in any particular time. At the moment, there are two things that influence my thinking. Firstly, the world around us is increasingly threatening and unsafe. Because of this we are looking for comfort in everything that surround us. And our home should be our sanctuary. This is the place to feel safe, relaxed and comfortable. Secondly, there is often a need while creating design scheme, to design bespoke pieces of furniture for aesthetic or functional reason. As a designer, one always think how things can be done in a better or just different way.

This was the reason to start thinking about a chair and a coffee table that would be extremely comfortable to use, tactile and aesthetically pleasing. The concept of  relax and retreat came to mind.

I  attempted to design the armchair according to Golden ratio as we consider anything based on this principle balanced and beautiful. To design a good chair is notoriously difficult task and I would need experience of  a furniture manufacturer and a prototype made to resolve all the details. The guiding idea was to feel snug sitting in it.

The coffee table design follows the same concept. Sitting comfortably with a drink and a favourite book or magazine means having everything within  reach , at the right height, without need to move.

I hope it won’t be too long before I can use these designs in one of my projects.

London Design Festival

Here we are again at the end of  one of the busiest months in a designer’s calendar. From  old regulars such as Decorex, Focus, 100% Design and Designjunction, to Somerset House, V&A and London Design Fair, the city was buzzing with creativity and innovation. Artistic installations and collaborations between shops and designers were everywhere, from Scandium and Heal’s to Aram and Roca. The department stores such as Harrods and John Lewis refused to be left behind. Harrods House of Design hosted an exhibition of twelve unique town houses and John Lewis, The Residence, created an apartment within each of their stores in Oxford Street, Cambridge and Liverpool, as a whole new experience of aspirational shopping. For the first time we had Darc Room, an exhibition dedicated exclusively to lighting, with over 40 brands  on hand to offer advice on the latest sustainable lighting technology as well as revealing their latest product launches.

What was noticeable this year was that all events were focused on visitors’ direct experience of what was on offer. This was achieved by having talks with designers throughout the events as well as different workshops and discussions. This added an additional dimension to all the venues where visitors had a very active role and could get desired information on the spot.

There was something for everyone during this month, from private buyers to industry professionals and all that is left now is to sort out all your business cards, brochures and samples, if you still have any energy left.

Heal’s Scandinavian-themed party at their flagship store on Tottenham Court Road.

Old crafts, new trends

Like with everything in life, the trends in interior design come full circle from time to time. At the moment we see surge in using old crafts such as embroidery, carving, hand painted patterns and everything hand made. Increasingly we recycle and re-use old furniture and anything that would otherwise go into the skip some years ago. This is not a surprise considering uncertainty and fear we are surrounded in everyday life at the moment as people are looking for warmth and security of childhood memories and hopefulness of past decades.

http://www.londonhandembroidery.com/hawthorne-heaney-on-interiors/

We also seem to be tired of luxury as we know it and starting to see luxury for what it really is: not only expensive and opulent materials but exquisite craftsmanship, unique design and attention to detail.

I was lucky to find these qualities recently in a relatively young furniture company on my trip to Bosnia and Herzegovina. Drawing from a long woodworking tradition of this country, the company combines craftsmanship with cutting-edge technology to produce solid wood pieces that are not only beautiful but with a high eco-credentials as well. Here are some of their award winning pieces.

 

MS&WOOD, Designer: Ado Avdagic

MS&WOOD, Designer: Natasha Perkovic

Decorating with Florals

When we talk about floral decoration we often think about traditional chintz and something belonging exclusively to country cottage interior.

But florals keep coming back with reassuring regularity, in interiors as well as in fashion since these creative areas increasingly overlap.

There are some basic rules when decorating with florals to make it successful and contemporary.

Do not mix print styles


                                           

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DON’T                                                                                                             DO

 

Do mix floral with geometric patterns

The bold floral pattern can mix well with geometric pattern such as checks and stripes, as long as rules of scale and balance are observed.

J.Woodward – Board done for Dragons of Walton Street, with their fabrics and furniture

Mixing florals and geometric patterns creates a sense of playfulness in this girl’s room, while keeping the colour palette calm by using pastel lilacs and pinks.

Colefax and Fowler Gentle Florals Collection

In spite of the large floral pattern used for the curtain and cushion fabric, sticking to a neutral colour palette has created a peaceful atmosphere for this room.

Keep it balanced

If you have a big surface in the room covered by floral pattern, such as full and heavy floor length curtains or wallpaper, be more restrained with the rest of the decoration.

Houzz.co.uk – April Force Pardoe Interiors, Home Office

Draperies often provide the initial inspiration for a room design and they serve as the attention-grabbing statement piece in this room with their large-scale floral pattern. Everything else is in plain or muted colours to balance it perfectly.

Houzz.co.uk – Incorporated

Everything is very plain and streamlined in this modern kitchen. The splash back of floral fabric laminated behind the glass creates a focal point.

Scale

Two different floral patterns can look harmonious if there are:

a) Different scales

Houzz.co.uk – Anthony Baratta LLC, Florida Classic

The differing scales of the floral on the wallpaper and the bed linen are united by colour to create a peaceful bedroom environment.

b) Against a neutral background

Houzz – Tamar Schechner/Nest Pretty Things Inc

A wide range of floral styles, colour palettes and scales against a plain white sofa creates a sophisticated and inviting look.

c) Repeated colour as the unifying element

Houzz – Kimball Starr Interior Design

The orange unites the different patterns and styles in this mixture of contemporary and Moroccan.

  1. Mix &Match                                                                                                                     

Offset a particularly flowery piece with something non-floral or textured fabric in a neutral colour. It is important to match the colour(s) in the floral pattern to the common accent colour in the room or, at least keep in mind complementary colour.

Houzz – http://www.clarke-clarke.co.uk/collection.php?hdnCollectionID=182

The strong floral on the wall and cushions is balanced by the plain coloured velvets of the sofa and the pink cushion.

Houzz – Kingsley Belcher Knauss, ASID

The harmonious look of this traditional bedroom is achieved by repeating similar shades of green to pull the different patterns together.

  1. Go Bold

One way to avoid the “old granny” look is to take a more graphic and bold route with florals. Choose florals in a bold, unexpected colour combination or black and white to make things stand out. Using large graphic prints makes a space look contemporary.

Houzz – Space Grace & Style, Newtown Home

Bold look created by contrasting a decorative floral against a bold stripe. It is all pulled together by limiting the colours to black, white and gold.

Houzz.co.uk – ceramicabardelli, Tuli-art

A large-scale pattern on ceramic tiles makes this contemporary bathroom outstanding.

Houzz.co.uk – Mia Karlsson Interior Design, Family Home – Hampstead

The large-scale digital flower print in restful shades creates a dramatic effect in this kitchen without being overpowering.

Don’t be afraid to be bold and go for a large-scale pattern or colour with florals. The right balance is key.

If you are still not a big fan, but don’t want your room to look cold and uninviting, keep florals limited to small surfaces such as cushion fabric.

 

Houzz – Camilla Molders Design

 

 

 

 

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