If you care, then repair – Design Anthology UK, Issue 15

There are a few moments in history to where you can trace the explosion of our single-use society. A New York industry event in 1950, when American clothing retailer B. Earl Puckett announced that “utility cannot be the foundation of a prosperous apparel industry. We must accelerate obsolescence.” Five years later, the cover of Life magazine depicted a family throwing plastic into the air with glee, under the headline “Throwaway Living”. And a comment that was made in 1956 that plastic’s future was “in the garbage can” (requoted in the 1997 book American Plastic: A Cultural History) – referring to the fact its profit lay not in the durability for which it was engineered, but in its disposability.

Today, fashion is fast, disposability is the norm and it is often easier to replace than repair. But we are starting to understand that this “take-make-waste” approach is not sustainable on a finite planet. We are running out of raw materials to take from the earth, generating too much carbon, making more and more stuff, and running out of space to safely dispose of our waste. We need to move towards a circular economy; one in which (as defined by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation) we design out waste and pollution, keep materials and objects in use, and regenerate natural systems. It is just possible that we are witnessing the moments in history at which that is starting to happen.

Venice’s Architecture Biennale in May was criticised by Zaha Hadid Architects principal Patrik Schumacher for not showing enough architecture. He drew particular attention to the German Pavilion, which he described as full of “piles of construction material”. But
perhaps he missed the point. The event, curated by Lesley Lokko, was lauded by other visitors for being the first major design and architecture event to take on some of the world’s biggest problems. And the German Pavilion? A material bank for Venice repair projects to “keep materials and objects in use”.

It’s not only architects who are putting repair at the heart of their thinking. British lighting company Anglepoise now offers a lifetime guarantee on new lamps and a repair service for vintage models. “We have for many years been sold products that are designed to fail at some point, while also being sold the ridiculous notion that something is better replaced in its entirety than repaired,” says chairman Simon Terry. “The design industry is distracting itself by moving the conversation towards recyclable or recycled materials but, of course, that isn’t enough. It needs to broaden its scope and stop churning out new things for the sake of it.”

Danish furniture company Takt is doing just that. Its first sofa, Spoke – launched in June – is designed to be repaired at home. “I hope we are part of a repair movement,” says Takt’s founder and CEO Henrik Taudorf Lorensen. “Besides the environmental benefits of extending the lifespan of products, our customers have become emotionally attached to the furniture that they have repaired.”

When people repair their own objects, whether it’s a sofa, a lamp or the knee of a child’s trouser leg, they don’t only increase the functional and emotional durability of that object, they also reclaim their own power. They start to ask questions about a system that has such little respect for the finite materials we have taken out of the earth and the labour that has shaped them into the objects we use every day.

Lebanese-British artist Aya Haidar creates installations that highlight the hidden labour of care and repair. “The personal agency that comes with repair goes against consumerism and represents a challenge to a broken system,” she says. “If there’s going to be any sustainable long-term change, everyone needs to take into account this responsibility and negotiate a bit of personal agency for themselves.” Perhaps that’s why repair is really important. It represents not only one practical solution to the environmental crisis, but a shift in mindset, a growing desire to challenge the systems that make fashion fast, disposability the norm and a broken object easier to replace than repair. I really hope we will look back on moments like the German Pavilion at the Venice Biennale as more than “piles of construction material” but as a physical marker of the moment when the circular economy really started to gather pace.

Image credit: Yeshen Venema Photography

This article was written for Design Anthology UK, Issue 15 published in September 2023.

Viewpoint Colour – The Healing Issue

Turbulent times continue to exact a heavy toll on both people and planet, as the world attempts to tackle the climate emergency, the ongoing collapse in biodiversity, social unrest and war, and economic crises. Faced with this unprecedented combination, how do we heal the Earth? The place to start is by healing ourselves and our communities.

‘Self-care’ is starting to gain traction as an act of resistance and collective kindness, informed by changing belief systems. People are looking for reassurance in something bigger than themselves, turning to ancestral practices, albeit often delivered digitally. This is leading to a deeper appreciation for the ways in which mind and body and the natural world are connected – and better conversations about all humans, not just the privileged few, being part of the natural world, rather than above or outside it. This reconnection to nature also challenges accepted norms within ecological thinking. Understanding our own biological cycles and nature’s rhythms is bringing about a shift from ‘sustainability’ to ‘regeneration’ and a desire for a ‘flourishing’ planet.  

Self-care is starting to gain traction as an act of resistance and collective kindness, informed by changing belief systems. People are seeking reassurance in concepts bigger than themselves, turning to ancestral practices and ancient wisdom. This is leading to a deeper appreciation of the ways in which mind and body and the natural world are connected – and better conversations about all humans, not just the privileged few, being part of the natural world, rather than above or outside it. We explore this further in our Industry Insight feature, which introduces pioneers who are starting to make mental wellness available to all.

This reconnection to nature also challenges accepted norms within ecological thinking. Understanding our own biological cycles
and nature’s rhythms is helping us understand that aiming at sustainability is no longer enough: we need to turn to practices that
enable regeneration and a planet that can flourish and re-grow.

In the Mind, Body, and Soul issue, we explore the roles of art, design, technology, and creativity in cultivating nurturing, regenerative,
and nourishing environments that heal souls, minds, bodies, communities – and, moving outwards from our innermost selves to our wider surroundings, ultimately heal the planet.

Soul

“I incorporate spiritual practices into my work-life, using a tarot deck to help decision-making, casting spells for success, and calling on deities to guide me,” says Annie Ridout, the author of upcoming book Raise your SQ.

She is not alone.

SQ refers to spiritual intelligence, and Ridout believes spirituality, magic, and what Generation Z refers to as “woo” are becoming more mainstream as we search for “more connection and magic in our lives.” Platforms such as New Mystic, popular with Gen Zers, combine magic with technology, bringing folklore, Indigenous knowledge, plant healing, and psychedelics together with non-human intelligence and artificial intelligence, curated by artists, and delivered digitally. Kate Northrup, the author of Do Less, advises
businesswomen to plan around menstrual cycles or moon phases – and millions check astrologer Chani Nicholas’s eponymous app daily.

Witchcraft or wiccecrœft once simply meant rituals of natural cure, herbal remedy, and spiritual wellbeing, usually performed by women. They clashed with Christian, patriarchal and capitalist belief systems, and were othered and subjugated, in a long
history traced by archaeologist and medieval historian Alexander Langlands in his book Cræft – An Inquiry Into the Origins and True Meaning of Traditional Crafts. Their resurgence can be seen as a feminist reclamation. “To be a witch is to embody defiance
and rebellion against the injustice that masculine systems have created,” Tina Gong, the developer behind tarot app Golden Thread, told Dazed Digital.

As the role of these “masculine systems” – and the resulting marginalisation of Indigenous knowledge – is recognised in the biodiversity crisis, Western environmentalists are looking towards older ways of connecting with nature.

“The word animism refers to something so commonplace … in Indigenous cultures, that most don’t even have a word for it,” says author and mystic Toko-pa Turner in her book Belonging. “It is the foundational belief that … all things are imbued with a soul.” And
it is harder to exploit something with a soul. Spiritual ecology is an emerging field that recognises this spiritual facet to conservation. Online communities such as the Spiritual Ecology Study Club offer teachings on the subject with the aim of “reuniting people, the living world and the sacred.

Mind 

Research has long shown that nature is good for our mental health, and new evidence suggests that the quality of our relationship to nature is important – “connectedness” is what we’re aiming for, according to a 2021 report by the UK Mental Health Foundation. “Setting aside one minute a day to pay attention to your breath and remember that we give plants carbon dioxide with each exhale and in return they give us oxygen helps us remember that we are children of Earth’s ecosystem,” says somatic coach Tamu Thomas

The Mental Health Foundation report also found that for women, people of colour, and those with disabilities, “nature spaces may feel inaccessible or less enjoyable because they are not safe.” Apps such as Spoke democratise access to mindfulness support, while The Breathing App and Open similarly offer meditation at the touch of a button – accessible technology, as well as nature, can help people find peace.

Others are turning to the judicious use of microdosing. While psilocybin remains illegal in many countries, various research papers have found it effective in reducing anxiety and depression – and improving mood and focus for some users. Those seeking to experiment are turning to psychoactives such as those offered by Gwella, which draws on mushroom-derived psychedelics, or PLANT, a dispensary whose name is an acronym for Peace, Love and Natural Things. And for 100% legal alternatives, there are digital offerings that promise similar effects; for example, The Dream Machine, by Collective Act, uses music and light to mimic hallucinogens – participants each “see” something different behind their own closed eyes.

Body 

Today’s self-care practices encompass natural ingredients once considered “alternative” and comprise a more holistic, ritualised experience for body and mind. Inspired by traditional Chinese medicine, Herbar has released a mushroom based face oil for “skinimalists”, and skincare and fragrance brand Haeckels packages seaweed to bathe with. Biomaterial specialist Rosie Broadhead’s undergarments promise the bioactive therapeutic effects of seaweed, as people pay more attention to what is absorbed into the biggest organ of their body – their skin. Our Wearable Wellbeing feature explores Broadhead’s work, alongside that of other innovators
delivering wellbeing benefits via the skin

The exclusion of historically marginalised groups extends to bodily healing too. Youth practitioner Ebinehita Iyere, the founder of Milk Honey Bees, a healing and empowerment space for Black girls, told Dazed Digital: “We have to hone in to inclusive wellness practices that celebrate us.” Such products include Liha Beauty’s Oju Omi Cleansing Mud and the brand’s Gold Shea Butter. Shea butter is called women’s gold in west Africa, co-founder Liha Okunniwa told Planet Woo, “because you can use it for absolutely everything and it’s helped so many women in cooperatives achieve financial independence.”  

Movement is also a key part of caring for our bodies; while sports provide physical fitness, practices such as contemporary dance therapy and yoga offer an emotional workout too, particularly when fully explored. Of the eight limbs of yoga, most white Westerners practice just a few – asana (the postures) and perhaps pranayama (breathing) and dhyana (meditation), unaware of its moral and spiritual dimensions, and there have been conversations around cultural appropriation of yoga. In our Industry Insight piece, we profile yoga teacher Nadia Gilani, who champions access to all.

Community 

Writer Alicia A. Wallace argues that we can’t fully meet the needs of our souls, minds, or bodies on our own, and that caring for one another creates a much-needed sense of belonging. “It reminds us that we weren’t meant to walk these paths alone, but to learn
from and care for one another as we find better ways to live together,” she writes on Healthline.com.

Coming together outdoors is one of the ways we can do just that. Wild Awake runs outdoor camps and experiences such as stargazing, seaweed foraging, and forest bathing, centred on care for the environment and each other. “Wild Awake is all about developing a deeper relationship with the Earth, because that not only motivates one to fight for it and to care for it, but it also gives one that sense of belonging, which is deeply and radically healing,” says Shasha Du, the San Francisco nonprofit’s co-founder and creative director.

Community cohesion doesn’t have to be that adventurous; it can be cultivated closer to home. In São Paulo, home gardeners created the Horta das Corujas (Garden of Owls) to democratise public spaces and overcome barriers to social integration. Derek Haynes from North Carolina, whose Instagram handle is The Chocolate Botanist, told the Guardian: “Black folks gardening is … a radical act. We are returning to a connection to the land that was snatched away from us by hatred and racism.” In many southern states of the United States, public access to unfenced land – and therefore foraging – has been illegal since the mid 19th century, when enslaved people were emancipated, so the rise of community gardens and foraging among their descendants is a form of activism.

Supporting young people is a key part of bringing communities together. Amsterdam-based Comfy Community describes itself a “nomadic community centre” that works with creative young adults to provide events, workshops, and “uplifting content”. Self-discovery coach Calypso Barnum-Bobb focuses on “helping people to discover and express their personal power so they can create lives filled with freedom, fulfilment and abundance.” DJ and broadcaster Vanessa Maria, as well as sharing her love for underground UK music, hosts a music and mental health related podcast and documentary series, Don’t Keep Hush, sparking discussion around music and mental health. 

Planet 

As humans and communities, if we understand that we must do more than simply survive, we need to thrive, then surely sustainability” is not enough for the planet either. Even initiatives such as Earth Overshoot Day – the date each year when humanity exhausts the resources that Earth can regenerate during a year – position the planet as a resource, rather than a living ecosystem that deserves to thrive. “Regeneration goes beyond sustainability and mitigating harm, to actively restoring and nurturing, creating conditions where ecosystems, economies, and people can flourish,” as the Regeneration Rising report by brand consultancy Wunderman Thompson points out. “Flourish” is the operative word. Speaking at the September 2022 Zero Waste Conference in Vancouver, Michael Pawlyn, expert in regenerative design and biomimicry, and co-author of a book by the same name, called for humans to “co-evolve with nature, while recognising our role in the partnership.”

How does that role look? Environmentalist Paul Hawken assessed a multitude of climate solutions as part of Project Drawdown and told National Geographic that regenerative agriculture practices are “by far the single greatest solution to the climate crisis.” In his book English Pastoral, farmer James Rebanks, who offers regenerative farming courses, says that what he calls “benign inefficiency or good stewardship” means that “farms can allow a great many wild things to live in and around them.” The Wildfarmed project in the UK and France works with farmers to help them embrace regenerative practices that improve wheat quality, soil quality, and ecosystems.

In the Brazilian Amazon region, the lab.sonora residency, mediated by curators, ecologists, and Indigenous leaders, offers an artistic immersion in communities and environmental reserves. Its parent organisation, Labverde, aims to foster new ways of existence and interaction with the environment, and new approaches to maintaining fragile ecosystems; lab.sonora focuses on building a new soundscape for the Amazon. And the Krater collective in Ljubljana, Slovenia, hosts a thriving and diverse community of eco-social practitioners – read more about Krater in this edition’s Talent profiles.

If young people – from farmers to designers – are leading the charge, what does this mean for bigger brands and businesses? Is it enough for them to sell the outcomes of regenerative practices, or does the capitalist model itself need a regenerative rethink?

Having founded 1% for the Planet – an initiative in which companies donate 1% of their turnover to environmental causes – founder of Patagonia, Yvon Chouinard, recently announced that (almost) 100% of his company’s shares will be invested in fighting the climate crisis – a move company chair Charles Conn called ‘the future of business.’ Publicly listed companies are legally obliged to serve shareholder’s ‘best interests’ – often interpreted as profit. B Corp is trying to change this. Certification requires creates a legal obligation for directors to consider the interests of all stakeholders, not just shareholders, in their decisions – to consider people and planet alongside profit. And the Boardroom 2030 model calls for those stakeholders to be represented at the highest level, whether
they are young people, employees, representatives from marginalised groups, members of the local community or even advocates for the more-than-human world.

If we’re going to co-create a flourishing planet, we need business models that enable souls, minds, bodies and communities to thrive.

A STITCH IN TIME (Hole & Corner)

Repair skills used to be passed down from hand to hand through the generations, until they weren’t. Before mending becomes little more than memory, a rising culture of craft is celebrating the lost art of repair – and the stories to be found in the stitches. Katie Treggiden considers three women who are turning the tide.

Ask people about mending and, chances are, they will talk about family: the grandmother who darned their socks or the mother who patched the knees on their jeans – and they do tend to be women. Family stories are intertwined with repaired objects, either embodied in the damage and repair itself or captured in the cross-generational conversations that take place while the mend is carried out.

Today, repair skills have all too often been lost in the sands of time. Of course, they can be learned from books or even YouTube videos, but more commonly hand skills such as mending and sewing were passed, almost literally, from hand to hand – from mother to daughter. When the next generation wants to disassociate itself from the past or from traditionally female skills, when they become cash rich and time poor, or simply surrounded by increasingly disposable consumer products, the motivation to learn just isn’t there – and both the skills and the stories are lost. In fact, in 2008, design historian Hazel Clark declared that ‘mending has died out’.

But since then, mending has been undergoing something of a renaissance and a search on Instagram for ‘#visiblemending’ returns more than 117,000 images. Contemporary mending is driven by a desire to honour the labour of garment workers, by environmental concerns, and sometimes by poverty. But it is also driven by a desire – in our increasingly screen-based, perfectionism-obsessed culture – to embrace the flawed realities of a life well lived and the storied patina of repair. London-based artists Celia Pym, Aya Haidar and Ekta Kaul have very different stories, but ask them about mending, and they will all tell you about family.

Celia Pym

Celia Pym describes herself as someone who is more interested in damage and the conversations it sparks than the act of mending itself, but even so, she has been exploring repair as a textile artist since 2007. Her fascination started with a rather odd gift from her father.

Her Great Uncle had recently passed away and her dad had found a ragged jumper while clearing out his house. ‘Knowing that I like things that are a bit wonky and a bit lopsided and damaged and wrong, he gave it to me thinking I might be interested in it’ says Pym. ‘And he was right, I was – in fact I was really quite taken with it.’ The jumper had been hand-knit from a cream-coloured yarn and was full of holes in the forearms. Remembering that her great uncle used to sit in an armchair with a wooden board across its arms and draw, she quickly worked out what had caused the holes. ‘My great uncle was an artist all his life, but as he got older, he would lean forward in this armchair and draw all day,’ she says. ‘So, when I saw these holes, I was really struck by how instantly I could see him sitting in that chair – how the damage could evoke the very particular and specific movements of his body.’ (She confesses that she is equally thrilled by the leg-shapes left in a pair of tights at the end of the day.)

Pym became curious about what she found so moving about this jumper and, as she looked more closely, she noticed that similar holes had been darned before. Her great uncle’s sister had undertaken a series of pragmatic and unsentimental mends over many years, using whatever yarn was to hand, but she had died a decade before he had. ‘Seeing her repairs next to this fresh damage, I couldn’t help feeling that we had somehow neglected him in these intervening years,’ says Pym. ‘And of course, he hadn’t been neglected. He was safe and well and had everything he needed, and yet, there were these fresh holes that nobody had been tending to.’

Determined to rectify that, and having missed the chance to learn from her great aunt, Pym took herself off to the library, looked up darning in a book, and started to repair her great uncle’s sweater. The rest, as they say, is history. She has trained as both a teacher and a nurse, but has always returned to her artistic practice which is grounded in repair. She was shortlisted for the Women’s Hour Craft Prize with two darned garments in 2017 and her work has been exhibited all over the world – and all because her dad thought she might appreciate a tattered old jumper that had belonged to his uncle.

Aya Haidar

As a self-described ‘mother, artist, and humanitarian,’ Aya Haidar’s creative practice focuses on found and recycled objects, through which she explores themes of loss, migration and memory, but it all started with a very special sewing machine. ‘Every day after school, I would go to my grandmother’s house,’ she says. ‘I would sit across the table from her while she sewed and mended things on a Singer sewing machine – and she would tell me stories from her childhood.’

Haidar’s grandmother and her parents are Lebanese. From 1975 to 1990, there was a civil war in Lebanon and so in 1982 they left. They came to England, via Jordan and Saudi Arabia, leaving almost everything behind – apart from that Singer sewing machine. At the age of six, Haidar’s grandmother had been invited to a tea party. She took a sweet from a bowl and popped it in her bag to eat later. When she opened it, while savouring its sugary goodness she noticed something on the inside of the wrapper. She had a won a sewing machine. It was duly shipped to Lebanon for her and from the age of six, this was the machine she used; mending and remaking the family’s clothes until her death at the age of 99. ‘To be brought up with someone like my grandmother as a principal figure in my life, I definitely credit her for that influence.’

For Haidar, mending today is a metaphor – a way of telling and retelling her family’s stories. For her Recollections series, she photographed sites around Beirut, printed them on to linen, and ‘repaired’ the cracks and bullet holes in the buildings with what Glenn Adamson describes in his book The Invention of Craft as ‘coloured bandages’. ‘It was about filling these voids with colour,’ she says. ‘It was a way of embellishing, but also highlighting, something that my family find ugly, not just ascetically, but in the sense that it reminds them of something horrific – but something that absolutely needs to be remembered.’

She continues to work with refugees arriving in the UK, running embroidery workshops as well as creating artworks that tell their stories. ‘I see my work as layering a story on top of a material that already tells a story itself,’ she says. Her Soleless Series comprises shoes that were worn by refugees across borders and are beyond functional repair, but now embroidered with images of their owners’ journeys. ‘Instead of throwing them away, I felt like they needed another layer, because they physically carried these people across countries,’ she says. ‘For me to embroider an image of that journey onto their soles tells that story so powerfully.’

Her education has taken in Chelsea College of Art and Design, the Slade School of Art, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and a master’s in non-governmental organisations and development at the London School of Economics. Her career as an artist includes international solo and group shows in London, Berlin, Jeddah, Paris, Dubai and Turkey. And her humanitarian work makes a difference to thousands of women and children every year. But it is ‘mother’ that comes first in her description of herself, and talking to her, you get the distinct impression that her grandmother’s wisdom is being passed on to the next generation of women too.

Ekta Kaul

Textile artist Ekta Kaul sees mending is a matter of respect. She grew up in India where mending was part of family life, a reflection of its deep roots in the wider culture, where everything from ceramics, jewellery and textiles to electronic gadgets is routinely repaired. ‘I always felt very connected to the land and the resources it provides,’ she says. ‘My ancestors were farmers, so my dad would always explain to us that somebody had worked really hard to get the food to our table – there was always this notion of respecting the land and the labour that had gone into it – any leftovers were reinvented into something else the next day.’

And it wasn’t only food that her family saved and repurposed. Kaul describes her mother as extraordinarily creative. ‘Apart from being a brilliant scientist, my mother was also a prolific needle woman,’ says Kaul. ‘When we outgrew out jumpers, she would unravel them, steam the wool so it was nice and fluffy again, and then reknit them into new patterns she had learnt. She embroidered, knit and playfully reinvented textiles constantly. I absorbed this throughout my childhood.’

Similarly, at the start of each winter, Kaul would see beautiful quilts laid out on the side of the streets, soaking in the sun before being used again for the next season. The quilts would be unstitched, the wadding taken out and beaten, aired in the sunshine, and sewn back together – often using the same thread. ‘I’ve often wondered if the idea of rebirth and the circularity of life, which is so entrenched in Indian culture, manifests in our culture of recycling as well,’ she says. ‘Mending was and still is very much a way of life.’

It was quilts that provided Kaul’s entry point into textiles. ‘My grandmother had this huge bag – it was blue with embroidered flowers on it – and she would tuck into it any scraps of fabric, or parts of saris, that she wanted to save,’ says Kaul. ‘Once it was full, we would start making quilts.’ Kaul would layer up the pieces of fabric, so her grandmother could secure them together with long rows of running stitch into the resultant quilt. Stitching layers of discarded fabric together into quilts – commonly known as Kantha in the west – is a tradition practiced in several parts of India, each with its own regionally specific name. So, what Kaul and her grandmother were practising in was ‘gudri’.

Having studied at National Institute of Design in India, Kaul had come to the UK to do a master’s and was surprised to discover that a culture of mending and respect for materials was no longer part of the culture here. ‘There seemed to be this disconnect, where traditional knowledge – once passed down through generations – had been lost in the post-industrial era,’ she says. She soon found herself drawing on her upbringing within her artistic practice. Using techniques inspired by gudri, she now creates embroidered maps which explore places, history and belonging through stitch. She has appeared on BBC Radio 4’s Front Row, won the Cockpit Arts Textile Prize and has work in the collections of the Crafts Council, Liberty London, the Gunnersbury Museum and private collectors. Having lived in diverse, vibrant cities like Edinburgh, Bath, Ahmedabad, Delhi and London, she describes her work as “rooted in the non-binary” and imbued with a plurality of perspectives and cultural influences – not least those of her family.

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GOING FOR GOLD (Crafts Magazine)

After the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics incorporated electronic waste into their medals and as London’s Design Museum showcases an installation by artist Ibrahim Mahama made from electronic waste for its exhibition Waste Age: What Can Design Do?, Katie Treggiden, author of Wasted: When Trash Becomes Treasure, explores the concept of ‘urban mining’ and talks to the craftspeople using e-waste in their work.

Most of us remember learning the periodic table at school. Neat rows of boxes filled with mystifying combinations of letters and numbers, each representing one of the 90 elements that are the building blocks of everything on Earth. Sitting on those science lab stools, none of us imagined they might run out but, today, some are already in short supply. In fact, the European Chemical Society has released a new periodic table, putting 12 elements on an ‘endangered’ list. Gone are the ordered lines that appeared in our chemistry books. In their place, amorphous shapes depict the comparative availability of each element, and a colour-coding system highlights which elements are most at risk and those that come from minerals mined in conflict zones. Thirty-one of the elements carry a smartphone symbol, spotlighting that they are used in every one of the 1.56 billion smart phones we make annually. Five of these are already coded red – their availability under ‘serious threat in the next 100 years’.

Precious metals such as gold, copper and silver are among those becoming scarce, while antimony (used in batteries) and lead both look set to dry up in the next decade. Their availability is hampered not by limited existence – there is as much gold on the planet as ever – but there are few effective recycling processes, which means that the decreasing supplies underground and their location in conflict zones . Approximately 10% of gold produced annually and a third of silver is used to produce electronic goods, and yet less than a fifth of e-waste is recycled – even during recycling, most rare earth metals are lost. Increasingly, the elements we need are not in the ground, but in landfill. According to one estimate, so-called ‘e-waste mountains’ hold precious metals such as gold in concentrations 40–50 times higher than can be mined underground.

The Ghanaian artist Ibrahim Mahama highlights the scale of the problem with a mountain-like installation made from e-waste at the heart of the exhibition Waste Age: What Can Design Do? currently at London’s Design Museum. It features alongside a film by design studio Formafantasma showing research from its three-year investigation into the recycling of electronic waste. Another output from Ore Streams – its multimedia project first commissioned by NGV Australia and Triennale Milano – is office furniture made from iron and aluminium extracted from computer cases and components. ’  says co-founder Simone Farresin. ‘The future of electronic waste is not in recycling, but in reusing components.

If the problem is being highlighted at London’s Design Museum, a potential solution took centre stage in Tokyo this summer, where medals at the Summer Olympics and Paralympics were made of recycled electrical devices. Approximately 78,985 tons of discarded devices were collected, classified, dismantled, and melted down before being turned into bronze, silver, and gold medals.

Designers and craftspeople are already thinking along similar lines. In 2015, the designer Jorien Wiltenburg put forward a ‘future design scenario’ as part of her graduate project at the Willem de Kooning Academy in Rotterdam – her Micro Urban Mining project proposed that copper harvested from electronic cables could be used to weave and knit baskets and fabrics. ‘Restoring the connection between the creation and the use of an object gives us the strange but exciting feeling of having brought back to life something that was considered obsolete,’ she said at the time. It was entirely conceptual, but now pioneering makers and designers such as Sandra Wilson, Studio Plastique and Marta Torrent Boix are making such ideas a reality.

Dr Sandra Wilson. Photo David Cheskin.

Modern-day alchemist, Sandra Wilson

Sandra Wilson is a silversmith, jeweller, researcher and educator at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design in Dundee, Scotland. She is interested in what she calls the ‘edges of things’. Her research exists in the spaces between jewellery and metal design and other fields – biology, psychology, anthropology and, recently, chemistry. For her Urban Gold Rush project, she collaborated with the Love Chemistry Laboratory at Edinburgh University to recover copper and gold from old computer circuit boards she sourced on eBay, using a technique called hydrometallurgy. ‘The process works with aqueous solutions using acids to recover precious metals,’ she explains. She used hydrochloric acid to recover all the metals from the circuit boards , and then employed chemical compounds or ligands (molecules or atoms which bind reversibly to a protein) to separate them. ‘I spend a lot of time shaking flasks with different solutions and filtering chemicals,’ she says. ‘I feel like a modern-day alchemist.’

Using traditional hand-raising techniques to create sterling silver vessels, Wilson paints the surfaces with her recovered metals in solution, allowing the water to evaporate and the metals to react with the silver, creating distinctive patinas. She has discovered that the process, known as electro-chemical displacement plating, was once used by pre-Hispanic Andean metalworkers. ‘We can learn a lot from historical processes that will enable us to address sustainability,’ she says. ‘Craft values that emphasise materials, where they come from, and how we work with them are incredibly important – and craft practitioners, alongside other disciplines, are central to addressing the big cultural issues of our time.’

Wilson is now collaborating with the National Institute for Design (NID) in Ahmedabad to create a new value chain for female jewellers in India. Such artisans are often charged more for raw materials and paid poorly for their finished products. ‘This project aims to connect female jewellers to e-waste recyclers and create a new “chain of custody” mark for their finished products, so they can charge a premium,’ she says. The project has been hampered by funding cuts and COVID-19, but she is hopeful for its impact. ‘It feels like we are only now getting going,’ she says.

Sand savers: Studio Plastique

Brussels-based Studio Plastique mines electronic waste for glass, rather than precious metals. Silicon (Si) is still categorised as in ‘plentiful supply’ on the European Chemical Society’s new periodic table, but sand (SiO2) is scarce, driven by an exponential increase in demand for concrete – China has used more in the last 11 years than the USA used in the 20th century. The problem is that desert sand – eroded by wind – is too smooth to lock together and form materials such as concrete and glass, so it is the angular, water-eroded sand that is used – and it’s running out.

But there is plenty of glass in landfill. The ‘odd material out’ in electronic waste, the glass windows found in washing machines, kettles and microwaves is often difficult for facilities to recycle, despite being eminently suitable. Theresa Bastek and Archibald Godts, co-founders of Studio Plastique, spotted an opportunity. ‘It is downright stupid to neglect those materials. It is common sense to find applications for them,’ says Bastek. Common Sands – a play on ‘common sense’ – is their collection of vessels, tableware and home accessories made from glass recovered from electronic waste. The colours and textures of each piece are a result of the metal oxides and coatings used within common household appliances, and each piece is marked with the origin of the glass from which is it made, in an attempt to restore the relationships between resource, producer and user.

The first prototypes were made using traditional and the pair is now investigating semi-industrial processes to enable them to scale up. ‘Our generation is facing the consequences of poor resource management and poor design,’ says Bastek. ‘There is too much nonsense in the way we harvest, produce, and consume – long-established, yet illogical cycles that are harmful to nature. There is no way around designing with waste in the future. What once seemed utopian will become obvious. But it has to be done right, it has to be done beautifully.’

Urban miner: Marta Torrent Boix

Spanish product designer and maker Marta Torrent Boix started working with electronic waste by chance. She wanted to explore pottery and, without access to a wheel, she set about making one. Realising that she would need an electric motor if she didn’t want to power the wheel by foot, she called a mechanic friend to see whether he might have one to spare. He didn’t, but offered her a broken washing machine instead. ‘I only ever intended to use its motor, but when I started disassembling it, I realised that inside this “white box,” there were hundreds of useable parts,’ she says. ‘I ended up making the whole wheel from washing machine parts.’ She has been making machines from electronic waste ever since.

For her Urban Mines – her final project for her Material Futures MA at Central Saint Martins this year – she collected dumped electronic goods from the streets of London and repurposed them into both a table and a clay extruder to add to her potter’s wheel. She now uses these machines to make ceramic tableware. ‘Urban Mines highlights the contrast between the intangible and mechanical parts of e-waste and the tactile part of ceramics,’ she says. ‘Through this project, I am combining old craft techniques with new and wasted technology to create unique ceramic pieces.’ The pottery forms have their own distinctive style. Relatively straight-sided and oversized terracotta bowls and mugs feature chunky extruded handles that bear the marks of her machines.

Although Boix is making use of electronic waste, she’s not convinced that what she’s doing is the solution. ‘The problem starts in the way these products are produced,’ she says. ‘Complex artefacts like electronic devices have to be designed, not just for assembly and use, but for disassembly. If there as a simple way to separate and classify the integrated materials, they would be easier to recycle.’


Formafantasm

Of course, these problems call for legislative intervention, and rules that go beyond the recently enacted ‘right to repair bill’ in the UK, but in answer to the question posed by the Design Museum, ‘what can design do?’ Formafantasma’s Simone Farresin agrees with Boix; it starts long before the end of a product’s life. ‘When you open an electronic product up, there’s no clear colour coding or labelling that tells you what is hazardous, because you’re not supposed to open it,’ he says. ‘A simple, universal colour coding system would not only increase the rare earth materials that can be salvaged, but also protect workers in the global South. Designers need to be involved because they can spot where things can be improved.’

From designers at the beginning of the process to craftspeople at the end, re-channelling the electronic waste stream is going require imagination and expertise at every stage. Luckily, it’s clear from the work of Wilson, Boix, Studio Plastique, Wiltenburg and Formafantasma that both already exist; it’s simply a matter of making the connections – a little ‘thinking around the edges’, as Wilson might put it.

The Poetics of Persuasion (The Peninsulist)

The recent publication of the IPCC Sixth Assessment has been labelled a ‘code red’ warning on the climate crisis. What could craft possibly have to offer in the face of such a huge and ‘wicked’ problem? Katie Treggiden makes the case for craft as a harbinger of hope.

Craft as a tool in the fight against the climate crisis? Really?! I know what you’re thinking. Either you associate craft with Tom Daley’s poolside crochet, in which case you’re probably more than a little bemused, or you’ve seen independent designer-makers coming up with some pretty cool ideas, but you’re not convinced they’re scalable. Either way, craft is small; craft is marginal; craft is gentle. It hasn’t got the scope or seriousness to tackle the problems the planet is now facing, and certainly not at the scale we now need. ‘Independent designers with the greatest of intentions and the greatest of ingenuity are still the merest rounding errors of the real problem,’ says craft historian Glenn Adamson. ‘The real problem is of such hugeness that it requires a radical rethinking of our production and consumption patterns as a species.’ And he’s right. But what if craft – small, marginal and gentle as it might be – could help to prompt some of that radical rethinking?

Co-founder of Studio Swine Alexander Groves describes the Sea Chair that he and his partner Azusa Murakami designed as a ‘flight of fancy.’ Inspired by the crafts practised by seafarers for generations, it was conceived to provide potential solutions to both the plastics crisis and declining incomes from fishing, by providing fisherman with an open-source design they could make from ocean plastic while out at sea. However, he admits that they didn’t actually expect to solve either problem. So why design the chair at all? ‘Transforming the undesirable into something desirable makes you do a double-take and re-assess your perception of the world,’ he explains. ‘We wanted to bring [ocean plastic] to the public’s attention and introduce some poetry which we felt was lacking in sustainable design at the time. We wanted to engage people with the issue and demand change in the way we use plastics.’

With director Juriaan Booij, Studio Swine made a film depicting a day boat heading out to sea in the romantic light of dawn. It shows fishermen catching both fish and plastic, turning the latter into Sea Chairs as they gut and prepare the fish. ‘The film was as important an outcome from the project as the chair itself,’ says Groves. It went on to be awarded at Cannes and viewed by millions of people.

For Groves and Murakami then, craft is not necessarily about solving the planet’s problems, but about raising awareness of them with enough poetry to challenge perceptions and perhaps even spur the radical rethink that we need.

The argument often put forward in defence of such flights of fancy is that they serve as independent research projects, generating original ideas that, once proven, can be scaled up in collaboration with bigger companies – and sometimes this is the case. But what if this isn’t craft’s only role? ‘In the arena of poetics and persuasion, the designer is not necessarily coming up with the solution that will be scaled up and operationalised but rather using craft as a form of soft power – a way of getting people to attend to the problem of climate change and think in a more optimistic and hopeful way about potential solutions,’ says Adamson.

Now the evidence that climate change is not only real, but caused by human activity and taking us on a path towards our own extinction, is unequivocal, the communications task facing environmentalists is less driven by facts and more by emotions. The danger of reports such as the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment is that the facts engender feelings of despair and hopelessness. If we are to reverse, halt, or even slow climate change, the task ahead of us is vast and can seem insurmountably complex. And it is intersected with issues ranging from biodiversity to social justice. It is all too easy to feel overwhelmed, to bury our heads and to do nothing, but the crisis calls, more than anything, for action.

Craft offers an opportunity to create talismans of hope. ‘Iconic, attention-grabbing, beautiful, charismatic objects can serve as handles on a possible future – a future that is more functional, a future that actually works,’ says Adamson. ‘Maybe the soft power of craft is most important because it gets right to our human understanding of the situation itself.’ If craft can create hope, it can inspire action.

London-based designer Yinka Ilori agrees. ‘Storytelling is such a huge part of design; without a narrative, design is pointless,’ he says. ‘It’s got to make me feel something.’ Ilori’s If Chairs Could Talk project comprises five chairs, each made from the discarded pieces of others, which he uses to explore issues of both sustainability and social justice, by telling the stories of five of his childhood friends. ‘I suddenly saw chairs, not just as seats, but as objects that could explore power in society and, viewed in a gallery setting, perhaps even change perspectives,’ he says.

Similarly, designer Simon Ballan tackles both the colonialisation of his native Colombia and the waste and pollution generated by gold mining in his Suelo Orfebre (‘Golden Soil’) collection. The vessels are handblown using recycled glass and ‘jagua’ – the crushed ore left over after gold mining. ‘I wanted to use design as a narrative medium that must stop striving to ‘mirror’ the coloniser, but instead to foster practices that make use of our own local realities, to create objects and tools for discourse and empowerment,’ he says. He worked with the local community to develop the collection and in doing so demonstrated the value of something that was, until then, dumped into rivers at a rate of 100 tonnes a day, creating pollution downstream. ‘The people of the local community reacted with surprise to the transformation of the jagua,’ he says. ‘They perceived it differently after the transformation. It was no longer a waste product, but a material that could be transformed into something valuable. In the future I would like to think that, metaphorically at least, every waste stream could be transformed into gold.’

‘Artistic endeavour and wild leaps of creativity can sometimes lead to massive transformations in the way the material world operates and is understood,’ says Adamson. Massive transformations are exactly what we’re looking for. Perhaps we’ve just been looking in all the wrong places – and the poetics of persuasion are rooted in the small, marginal and gentle after all.

 

 

Back for good: the fine art of repairing broken things (The Observer)

(Header image Aya Haidar – credit Roo Lewis)

New legislation coming into force this summer gives UK consumers the ‘right to repair.’ The last time we were encouraged to ‘make do and mend’ was during World War Two – this time the imperative is environmental. Podcaster Katie Treggiden explores what a return to a culture of repair means for five artists and designers already making and mending.

When Aldous Huxley wrote his dystopian novel Brave New World in 1932, he imagined a society in which the importance of discarding old clothes was whispered into children’s ears while they slept (‘Ending is better than mending. The more stitches, the less riches’) – so vital was the imperative to drive consumption of the new. He set his novel 600 years into the future, but in the foreword to the 1946 edition, suggested that its ‘horror may be upon us within a single century’. He wasn’t far off. Just 63 years later, in 2008, design historian Hazel Clark declared that ‘mending has died out’.

Another 13 years on, it has, and it hasn’t. Product lifespans are getting shorter – in fact one UK-based fashion company advises buyers to work to quality standards that assume a dress will stay in its owner’s wardrobe for less than five weeks. And it’s not just clothes that we no longer mend. Household appliances can be cheaper to replace than repair, with spare parts often available only if harvested from retired machines. Something as simple as a depleted battery frequently spells the end for today’s hermetically sealed electronic devices, and simply attempting a repair can render warranties invalid.

This summer Ecodesign and Energy Labelling Regulations, dubbed the ‘right to repair bill,’ come into force, requiring that manufactures make spare parts and maintenance information available for their products. The intention is to overcome built-in obsolescence, enable repairs and extend lifespans. The government now expects white goods to last for up to a decade, rather than the seven-year average reported by the Whitegoods Trade Association.

But ‘right to repair’ campaigners such as the co-founder of The Restart Project, Janet Gunter, argue that the measures don’t go far enough. ‘This has been widely reported as “problem solved”, but in fact, the rules only apply to lighting, washing machines, dishwashers and fridges – and they only give spare parts and repair documentation to professionals,’ she says. ‘We have to keep fighting for all the other things in your house – we want to see ecodesign legislation applied to other hard-to-repair tech products, such as laptops and smartphones – and offer the right to repair to everyone, including people who want to repair their own machines at home.’ Philip Dunne MP, chair of the Environmental Audit Committee agrees. ‘There should be no contest: consumers should have every right to fix items they own,’ he says. ‘Making spare parts available is the first step in creating a circular economy where we use, reuse and recycle products. We must stop using and disposing quite so much: we must take action if we are to protect the environment for generations to come.’

Assuming things go their way, we are likely to see a move away from throw-away culture and a return to repair. Not since Make Do and Mend during the Second World War has there been such an imperative to fix the things we own, but now the motivation is environmental. The second tenet of the circular economy, as defined by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, is to ‘keep materials and objects in use’ and repair is one of the simplest ways to achieve this. Today, artists and designers are leading the way in exploring what mending really means. They might not be offering to fix your broken toaster, but through exploring the practice of repair, they are laying the groundwork for new ways of thinking about the objects we surround ourselves with. Perhaps by following their lead, we can move away from the veneration of newness that is exemplified by the trend for unboxing videos on YouYube and ‘box-fresh’ trainers, and instead learn to celebrate the storied patina that comes with care and repair.

Aya Haidar 

For self-described mother, artist and humanitarian Aya Haidar, mending is a metaphor. Her Recollections series comprises photographs of war-damaged buildings in Beirut into which she stitches multicoloured embroidery thread ‘repairing’ the bullet holes. ‘It was about filling in these voids – these holes that are scars, remnants and traces of something that is dark, ugly and traumatising, and filling it with something colourful and joyful,’ she says. Her Lebanese family fled the war in 1982, moving first to Saudi Araba and then London. ‘For my family, those damaged buildings are ugly, not just aesthetically, but because they remind them of something terrifying, but something that does need to be remembered.’ By embellishing and filling the cracks with beautiful, colourful threads, she emphasises them, so the war that caused them is not forgotten. Haidar’s work focuses on found and recycled objects and explores themes such as loss, migration and memory. In the Soleless Series, she embroidered images of migrants’ journeys onto the soles of their worn-out shoes. ‘The shoes physically carried refugees across borders and across lands,’ she says. ‘They were so worn and torn that they were not fit for purpose, but instead of throwing them away, I embroidered images of their journeys onto their soles, adding another layer of meaning. I couldn’t return the function to those shoes, but I could tell their story and show their value.’ Haidar runs youth workshops for refugees from countries experiencing conflict, such as Syria and Somalia, and uses craft as a way to help them process traumatic experiences. ‘The physical act of mending works towards an emotional repair,’ she says. ‘Because craft is a durational process, because it is slow, considered, repetitive and thoughtful, the women who take part in my workshops are left with their own thoughts and the time to process them in the flow of making. It is a solitary process, but also a collective experience. The conversations that come out of the workshops are very real, very honest, very raw – there are a lot of exchanges about personal experiences while we’re crafting. There is a beautiful sense of healing that starts to happen.’

Jay Blades

For Jay Blades, presenter of the BBC’s Repair Shop, mending is about community. Described by the BBC as ‘a heart-warming antidote to throwaway culture,’ the  programme sees members of the public bring broken objects to a barn in the grounds of the Weald and Downland Living Museum, get them fixed, and take them away again. ‘On paper, it doesn’t sound that interesting,’ laughs Blades. And yet some 7 million people tune in to every episode. The secret of its unlikely success can perhaps be found in its origin story. Katy Thorogood, creative director of production company Ricochet, took a chair that had belonged to her late mother to be reupholstered. When she got it back, she fell in love with it all over again, but that wasn’t the magic moment. The magic happened when the upholsterer handed her a framed sample of the original fabric as a keepsake. She simultaneously burst into tears and had the idea for her next hit TV show. ‘The upholsterer didn’t need to do that, but he did it simply because it was a kind thing to do,’ says Blades. ‘What makes the Repair Shop so special is its community – its love. It’s about doing something kind for someone that you don’t know.’ And that’s a theme that runs through Blades own story. He established Out of the Dark with his then wife Jade in High Wycombe in 2000 to enable disadvantaged young people to learn practical skills from the last generation of furniture makers in the area. ‘It was about turning furniture that someone had written off into something desirable and trying to explain to the young people that there is a direct connection between that and giving them the skills they needed to go into a job interview with their heads held high.’ When that project came to an end due to the perfect storm of cashflow problems and the end of his marriage, it was again the community that stepped in. He had been living in his car for a week when a friend came to find him and offered him a job and a place to stay – and he’s been living with that friend’s family ever since. Having got back on his feet, he was already running Jay & Co, his own furniture-restoration business, when the BBC came calling. He can now count Mary Berry among his fans – she requested him specifically as a guest on her Christmas special, Mary Berry Saves Christmas and told Blades she and her husband watch every episode. ‘Of course, The Repair Shop is a celebration of craft skills, but at its heart, it’s about caring for people by repairing the things that matter to them,’ says Blades.


Image credit Matt Jessop

Chris Miller

For Chris Miller, restoration is a direct response to the climate crisis. Skinflint, the vintage lighting website he co-founded, specialises in sourcing lighting from the 1920s to the 1970s, usually from non-residential settings such as hospitals, churches, and factories. The company has already saved 50,000 lights from landfill. The lights are made safe and functional and then get what Miller calls a ‘light touch’ restoration, maintaining the patina of their age, before being sold to architects, interior designers and house-proud consumers the world over. The decision to source mainly industrial lights is about availability and volume, and his chosen era is bookended by the advent of mainstream electric lighting in the 1920s and the introduction of plastics in the 1970s. ‘Buildings such as churches were the first to be electrified and we still salvage 1920s church lights, because they have had quite an easy life – they’re only used once a week and they tend to be quite high up,’ he explains. ‘After the 1970s, you start to see the language of planned obsolescence and failure engineering coming into the documentation and the effects of engineers handling a material they didn’t yet fully understand.’ So far, so pragmatic, but it was actually a tragic personal experience that motivated the decision to set up an environmentally driven business. Miller was in Sri Lanka when the tsunami hit the country’s eastern and southern shores on 26th December 2004. ‘Ordinarily, we make travel up as we go along, but on this occasion, we had booked various places in advance – and that’s what saved our lives,’ he says. On 24th December, he and his wife reluctantly left the waterside hut they’d been staying in and moved inland to a pre-booked jungle lodge for Christmas Day. Just 48 hours later, the tsunami destroyed those waterside huts, taking the lives of many of the people they’d been sharing drinks with just days before. It was a wake-up call. ‘We all experience signpost moments every day,’ he says. ‘Most we miss, some we see but don’t act upon, and some just hit us smack in the face. We left our jobs in London and moved to Cornwall with a three-month-old baby. Skinflint was officially launched two years later.’ For Miller, running a restoration business is a response to an event made more likely and more severe by climate change. ‘We simply can’t go on in the way we have been for the last 100 years,’ he says. ‘The resources are just not there. You can layer provenance and storytelling on top… but the key driver for our business is the environment.’

Bridget Harvey

Former artist-in-residence at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, Bridget Harvey might actually offer to fix your toaster – alongside her artistic practice, she is the co-organiser of Hackney Fixers, a community group modelled on the Dutch Repair Café initiative that pairs the owners of broken things with volunteers in order to find a solution. But her work as an artist is concerned with what we make, how we make it, and why that matters. ‘What I’m interested in is the human condition – the human psyche,’ she says. ‘How we move through the world, how we interact with objects, and whether their repair is embraced, rejected, or something in between – it is all a really interesting window into how we think, how society operates and how objects define us.’ Her work spans clothing, ceramics, and hybrid objects that embrace both. ‘Blue Jumper 2012–2019’ is about to join V&A’s permanent collection as part of their reconfigured fashion galleries curated around garment lifecycles, but it began life as a second-hand woollen jumper in Harvey’s own wardrobe. When it got damaged by moths, she carried on wearing it, darning the holes in contrasting colours. When the moths got it again, she simply kept darning, and kept wearing it, describing herself as the ‘disobedient owner of a disobedient garment’. Her Mend More jumper is a more direct statement – made as a placard for a climate march, the navy-blue sweater is emblazoned with the words ‘Mend More Bin Less’ on one side and ‘Mend More Buy Less’ on the other, which she appliquéd on, making each letter from yellow fabric scraps left over from other projects. ‘Kintsuglue Plate 2019’ is a commentary on the increasing popularity of the deliberately visible Japanese repair technique Kintsugi among Western repair practitioners. Instead of using the traditional urushi lacquer and gold powder, she has used a Kintsuglue – a copycat product emulating Sugru, a mouldable ‘glue’ that can be manipulated like plasticine for 30 minutes until it sets into a water-proof silicone. With these layers of influences, and not having designed or fabricated the plate nor the Kintsuglue herself, Harvey is exploring notions of authorship within repaired objects. In other pieces, she has patched a blanket with tin cans, and bridged the gap between two halves of a broken bowl with a beadwork section, rendering it repaired but useless. She is playing at the fringes of repair, asking us to question when something is truly broken and when it is really mended.

Hans Tan R is for Repair

Image credit Khoo Guo Jie

Singapore-based designer, educator and curator Hans Tan wants to champion the role of repair in contemporary design. ‘In most Asian cultures, mending is seen as something you do only when you can’t afford to replace something,’ he says. ‘Buying something new, for a festive occasion such Chinese New Year, is important as a symbol of prosperity – and mending is not seen as a profession. I want to reposition repair as an aspirational activity that can generate inspirational outcomes.’ He has started to do that through R is for Repair, an exhibition at the National Design Centre, Singapore earlier this year. Commissioned by DesignSingapore Council, the exhibition proposed that one way to reduce the 0.74 kg of waste the World Bank estimates we each generate every day, is through extending the lives of objects we might otherwise throw away. Tan invited 10 members of the public to submit broken objects and paired them with 10 contemporary designers. Tan gave Tiffany Loy – a Singaporean artist trained in industrial design and textile-weaving – a Calvin Klein tote bag that Arnold Goh bought with his first pay cheque. Once his pride and joy, it had developed holes, and been relegated to use as a grocery bag. She flipped the bag inside out, taking advantage of the undamaged lining, and added a cord mesh – both to strengthen it and to form a handy external pocket. Hunn Wai and Francesca Lanzavecchia, co-founders of Lanzavecchia + Wai, were given a $15 watch with a broken strap that its owner had owned since high school. It had already been replaced with a like-for-like replacement but held sentimental value. ‘We are both quite romantic designers – we seek to re-humanise situations and objects and bring about new behaviours, so we were really happy to be given a timepiece to work on,’ says Wai. ‘A watch is a powerful object – it’s got a lot of narratives and unwittingly becomes part of your identity over a period of time. Even though this was a cheap watch, it was well made and still working.’ They encased the mass-produced timepiece in a bespoke walnut case with brass fixings aligned to the quarter-hour, turning it into a precious clock. ‘Commonly, we perceive sustainable practice as something that comes with inconvenience, cost or sacrifice,’ says Tan. ‘But sustainability can be articulated and practised in an attractive, purposeful way – and as designers we are uniquely placed to reposition repair as aspirational. In each case, we wanted to end up with something that was incrementally, if not fundamentally, better than the original, so that people might see repair, not as an inconvenience, but as something they love to do.’

Read the original article at its source here.

 

 

Radically pragmatic, pragmatically radical

Flat lay of burgundy magazine called The New Era

Most designers start their creative process by asking questions, but few go to quite the lengths that Andrea Trimarchi and Simone Farresin do to understand the social, economic, territorial and geopolitical forces shaping every project they take on.

In their Milan- and Rotterdam-based design studio, Formafantasma, a rigorous research phase is combined with seemingly endless questioning of everything around them. ‘We’re not just here to make things pretty – it’s our role to ask questions,’ says Farresin. And yet somehow, for all their knowledge and expertise – particularly in sustainability, they resist the urge to be judgemental of the answers, preferring instead to investigate each project before deciding which levers they can pull to bring about positive change. ‘You can’t change the whole system with every project,’ he adds. ‘But you can keep asking the same questions – you’ll get different answers every time, but the important thing is to keep asking.’

Farresin talks to craft, design and sustainability writer, Katie Treggiden, about how they keep both the radical and the pragmatic sides of their business in check.

You’ve said “When we create something, it will have an impact. We don’t have a solution, but we question all the time.” What kind of what questions motivate you?

We always ask: ‘What role does design play in this context?’ ‘What is the ecological impact of what we do?’ We can’t always afford to think about the answers – we are a commercial studio and sometimes just try to execute something well within the constraints of the brief. But at other times, we have the freedom to question the impact that designers have – or don’t have. We love to get involved in conversations about what design can do.

So, what interests you about objects? What is your relationship with collecting and owning things?

We like beautiful things, and we care about the things we own, but we don’t fetishize objects. When you look at an object, you can talk about the people who produced it, economics, theology, anthropology, politics… Those are the things that excite us about objects.

Your work often involves rigorous research. How does that impact the sort of work that you make?

Not as much as we would like! We work on three types of projects – research-based projects such as the Cambio exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery in London, more commercial projects where we work more as a traditional design studio, and education through our role at Design Academy Eindhoven. This is our own balance. This is not the rule, but it is our way of making peace with being designers. Because of projects such as Cambio, people often see our work as closer to art, but these projects simply show our approach. We could apply the same approach to working with a company on a more holistic level – and our ambition is to find more opportunities to apply our more radical and investigative approach. I would love a furniture company to give us an open brief and full access. Then we could come up with some really interesting ideas. And if they don’t, the next generation of designers will get those opportunities and that’s fine too. Our thinking is more radical than what we do. At the moment, we are only able to apply the full extent of that thinking to projects such as Cambio, and we are okay with that. It means that we have to make compromises, but compromises that keep us rooted in the reality of what we are criticizing and that in itself is extremely useful. After our Ore Streams project – which investigated electronic waste – we took on projects with electronics companies and tried to start conversations about privacy, repairability… but they weren’t really interested. It was frustrating, but extremely useful for us to see up close how the design process is too fragmented to allow holistic thinking and therefore innovation. So for us, that was extremely beautiful. Did we achieve what we wanted? Not really. But still…

What role could designers have in tackling electronic waste?

The first step is repair. The second step is the reuse of components, which is different from recycling – and the future for electronic waste is not recycling, but reusing components. And then there is recycling, which means shredding stuff to obtain materials, but fragmentation of responsibility and knowledge is a big problem within recycling systems, and this needs to be addressed with both micro- and macro-governance. Even there, design can play a role – designers can understand production processes and come up with solutions – such as a simple colour coding system that would tell you which elements are hazardous.

There’s an expression I came across when I was studying for my master’s, which is that ‘no research is ever wasted’…

Absolutely, and that’s also why we ended up also being involved with education, curating the geo-design master’s degree at Design Academy Eindhoven, because what we’re doing is not only about building a business, it is also about building knowledge and awareness. Being involved in education is a way of expanding this in a non-commercial realm of design – and that’s extremely fulfilling.

Let’s talk about the Cambio Exhibition – what made you decide to investigate the global timber industry?

I have plenty of answers for this question! The first is a simple one. We realized that it was going to be difficult to develop our Ore Streams project further, because it proved so difficult to engage anyone who was making electronics. So, we went back to our roots. We started our careers in Italy, making furniture, using wood. The second reason is that we wanted to address the complexity and ethical questions of working with living creatures – trees. The third reason is that Serpentine Gallery is in Hyde Park surrounded by trees, so it made sense. And finally, there was The Great Exhibition, which took place in Hyde Park in 1851. The Great Exhibition glorified the shift from design as an artisanal practice to working for industry and making with machines. And it showcased materials extracted outside of Europe, so there was a clear link with colonialism. All in giant green house that was being used, for not for survival of living creatures, trees, but to glorify products. I cannot think of anything more emblematic of the complexity and the problematic elements of design. And so, we went back to those marginalized trees…

And what is the role of a designer in investigating the global timber industry? You’ve talked about a shift in the role of designers away from human needs…

When a designer is called in to do something, the thinking tends to begin with the human in front of them. The designer is thinking about what the needs or desires of the ‘target audience’ or ‘end user’. But if you want to think about the impact of design at an ecological level, you need to think about what happens before that moment – where are the materials coming from; which politics are they supporting? We cannot resolve ecological problems at a product level – simply by making materials biodegradable for example – without considering the lifecycle of the material. Ecology is also related to social justice, and there’s a lot of injustice in the way things are executed in the way timber fields. Instead of designers thinking ‘What can I do with this material?’ we should be thinking, ‘What can I do from and for the forest?’ If we extract value from the forest, we should also look at the needs of the forest and the other services the forest provides, such as sequestering carbon, providing a habitat for creatures, holding the earth together so that it’s not blown away by the wind…. Everybody talks about the quality of execution, the quality of comfort for the person using the product, but what about the comfort of the trees and the forest? We’ve got to stop centring humans.

As you conducted this investigation, what did you learn?

The biggest learning was that fragmented responsibility and knowledge is not working. Just to give you one example, the tools that designers use to make renderings enable us to render furniture using endangered species. This is a really powerful example of how the design discipline is shaped around the needs of humans, not the rest of the planet. There is a lot of conversation about trees as a solution in climate mitigation. If this is the reality, we have to change the way we use wood. Wood absorbs CO2 – it is 40-45% CO2 – but if you dispose of it and it is incinerated, that carbon is released. So how can we apply it to disposable products? Or even buildings that are renovated or demolished after decades? You are not making something ‘sustainable’ just by making it out of FSC-certified wood. We need to challenge the business models that rely on short lifespans – we need to talk about the economy. As designers, we can at least be aware of these systemic issues and start considering how we might apply this kind of thinking.

Tell me about your tile collection for Dzek, which is glazed in volcanic ash…

Inspired by De Natura Fossilium, a project we did for Gallery Libby Sellers, the concept is that many minerals used for glazing are extracted from underground. We were fascinated by the idea of volcanos excavating these materials for us, so we wanted to see what we could do with a non-extractive material. What is really interesting is how the chemists we worked with kept asking us what aesthetic we wanted and we kept saying “We don’t know, because it depends what comes out.” For us, it wasn’t about dictating the aesthetic, but reflecting the materials. The development of products is not about reflecting reality anymore – it is about fulfilling desires.

Tell me about your upcoming project for Hem…

It’s probably the most industrial product that we have done to date – it’s a shelving system made with extruded aluminium and it is all about maximizing efficiencies of effort and materials. It’s made of a highly renewable, entirely recyclable, single material and made with a very efficient technology – two extrusions create the entire shelving system. It is the opposite of what we do with our research-based projects, where we are trying to sort out things on the more macro level. It’s beautifully old fashioned in its attempt to resolve things, as much as possible, on a product level.

Because sometimes you’ve just got solve one problem at a time?

Yes, and also at different scales. Our practice is full of contradictions, but if you remove the contradictions, you need to remove yourself from the mud in which we’re living – and that’s not what we’re interested in. We are gloriously engaged, and we make compromises. We could be more radical, I’m sure, but this is where we stand, this is what we have decided, and these are the compromises we are willing to make within our own code of ethics.

Yes, and the danger is, if you can’t contradict yourself, it’s the radical stuff you can’t do. The only way you can never contradict yourself is to never try…

Honestly, you need to work on an academic level to only do the radical work. And even then, there are compromises. Or there are the people who seem very radical, but don’t sign the work they do to make a living. So, they can they afford to seem radical, because they do horrible works behind the scenes. We would rather be honest about the compromises we make and be proud of everything we do, at whatever level we can bring about change.

How else can designers contribute to a better use of resources?

It’s about making better choices driven by an understanding of the whole system, so it’s about sourcing, production, repair, distribution, and so on. Designers need to think about these same categories and reapply them to every brief – what can you do in each context? Maybe you cannot address these issues on a material level this time, but there’s something you can do on a distribution level. I have a lot of respect for everybody in this discipline – and you cannot afford to be ideological when you’re a designer. Otherwise, you need to quit being a designer. We’ve even had conversations with companies who clearly only want to get involved with ecology as a trend, but we might still do something with them and then maybe they will start to understand. Maybe that trend will sink in and start to become a culture. And that is starting to happen. It’s happening.

To find out more about Formafantasma here.

Faded Glory (ViewPoint Colour)

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Photo credit:
Marc Hibbert 

Although many designers are seeking slower collaborators in the natural world rather than turning to man or machine, few exercise the same degree of patience that Jiyong Kim’s approach to colour demands. Katie Treggiden meets the designer waiting months for the sun to fade his menswear collection.

While Jiyong Kim’s colleagues at Central Saint Martin’s were busying themselves experimenting with dyes and colourants for their graduate menswear collections, he was patiently waiting for parcels from his mother in South Korea. Having made the decision not to use any chemicals in the processing of his fabrics, Kim started his collection a year early, allowing him to utilise the very slow process of natural fading at the hands of his unlikely collaborators – the sun, the wind, the rain – and, of course, his mother, who oversaw the process in her back garden, sending him photographic updates and shipping pieces to London via DHL once he deemed the process complete. ‘I was very stubborn as I tried to be faithful to the concept of natural fading,’ he says. ‘Instead of using dyes, I experimented with putting fabrics out in a field where they would be exposed to all of nature’s conditions – sun, moon, wind and even rain. It was fascinating to watch the colours change. The result looks as if the fabrics are printed – but actually they were all faded, using a method of pleating and knotting, that creates shapes of its own.’

Motivated by the waste and pollution caused at every stage of fashion design, Kim not only ruled out working with chemical dyes, but also new fabric, sourcing instead antique materials from flea markets and vintage shops in Paris. ‘I have collected vintage clothing for most of my life,’ he says. ‘In fact, the inspiration for this collection came from different fading patterns caused by storage or display.’ Exploring the effect of the sun even further, he researched the ways in which people in hot countries use fabric to prevent sunburn and, inspired by Indian saris, used draping techniques without unnecessary seams to create natural silhouettes that emphasised the natural fading, while also reducing waste.

By drawing our attention to the potential for beauty in what many consider damage, Kim is questioning the cycles of waste to which so many of us unconsciously contribute. ‘I aimed to make a menswear collection that might nudge the fashion industry closer to sustainability,’ he says. His is a new idea, but a simple one. Perhaps fashion can avoid burning out, if it can only perfect the art of fading gracefully.

Find out more about ViewPoint Magazine here.

Read more about Jiyong Kim here.

I’m dreaming of a waste-free Christmas (Crafts Magazine)

Waste-Free-Christmas

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Some 114,000 tonnes of plastic packaging will be thrown away and not recycled this Christmas, along with four million portions of turkey dinner, eight million Christmas trees and, according to Defra, enough paper to gift-wrap the entire island of Guernsey. If all those stats have got your tinsel in a twist, fear not – there are plenty of ways to embrace the festive season without compromising your eco-ethics.

Waste-Free-Christmas

Christmas trees are traditionally cut down, used for just a few weeks and then dumped, emitting harmful greenhouse gases as they decompose. Some local garden centres offer replanting services for rooted trees and Giles Miller Studio is launching the Goodness Tree on Kickstarter (kickstarter.com, £65). Made from corrugated cardboard, it is expected to last at least five years and can be fully recycled. For added feel-good factor, the trees are assembled by those without work, providing vital income when it is needed most. Any profits will be donated to homelessness charity Shelter.

Waste-Free-Christmas
Photo: Caro Weiss

When it comes to wrapping, take a tip from the Japanese and embrace the art of furoshiki – or cloth wrapping. The practice dates back thousands of years in Japan and is now gaining worldwide popularity as an eco-friendly alternative to wrapping papers, with shiny, glittery coatings that make them almost impossible to recycle. Laura Spring’s Fabric Wraps (lauraspring.co.uk, from £9.50) are designed for just this purpose – or use a silk scarf or a screen-printed tea-towel that can double up as an extra gift.

Waste-Free-Christmas

At least half of us will receive an unwanted gift this Christmas, so avoid yours being regifted, donated, or worse still, joining the 5% of Christmas gifts that go straight into the bin, and choose wisely. Think about an experience, such as an embroidery masterclass with textile artist Ekta Kaul – offered virtually or in-person in her London studio (ektakaul.com, from £70) – or a throwing course at The Leach Pottery in Cornwall’s St Ives (leachpottery.com, from £335 for three days).

Waste-Free-Christmas
Photo: Camilla Greenwell

Or go fully circular and buy a gift made from waste. Aimee Bollu combines the ‘detritus of the urban landscape’ with slip-cast or hand-turned vessels, elevating street litter to objet d’art (aimeebollu.com, from £150 for a set of three).

Waste-Free-Christmas

Bethan Gray’s Exploring Eden collection, created in collaboration with Nature Squared, includes the Pearl Shell Paper Weight (bethangray.com, £660) hand-crafted from the mother-of-pearl shell threads leftover from river pearl cultivation. Netherlands-based Studio Lindey Cafsia and Studio Carbon have designed a series of five cubical objects called Morphs (adorno.design, from £79), which can be used as anything from candle holders to key trays – they are made from a bio-composite, the main ingredient of which is cow dung, but don’t worry, they are odour-free. And because they are unglazed, they can be broken down and composted or remade at the end of their lives.

Waste-Free-Christmas

For more ideas, those in London can pop into The Home of Sustainable Things (thehost.store) in Islington, where they will find Studio Blast’s Myceliated Vase (£125), made from take-away cups that have been digested using mycelium – the thread-like feeding network of a fungus. Try one of the zero waste shops popping up all over the UK – from Earth Food Love in Totnes to the Zero Green Shop in Bristol and Store Brighton on the south coast – where you can often find locally-made gifts alongside their mainstay of dried goods. Or explore German online platform Eyes Wide (eyeswi.de) where you can filter products by ethical concern.

Shop mindfully, wrap with care, and rethink your tree – and there’s every chance you can enjoy a waste-free Christmas this year. Just make sure you eat all that leftover turkey.

You can buy Issue 285 of Crafts Magazine here.

 Or click here to subscribe to Crafts Magazine.

Do Something Good (Hole & Corner Magazine)

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Photo: Studio Plastique (above)

It started with a throwaway line in my first business plan: ‘Do something good.’ A 12-year career in advertising had reached its natural conclusion when I found out I was being made redundant via a Post-it note. I wanted to do more than help big companies sell more cars / lip balm / gym memberships. I wanted to be a writer, and specifically I wanted to write about design. I’d seen Modernism: Design for a Modern World at the V&A in 2006 and was intoxicated with the notion that design and making could change the world for the better. I hit on the idea of writing about new designers. They were as idealistic as I was and often got missed by mainstream media for want of a press release or proper photography. Through my blog, confessions of a design geek, I awarded a bursary worth £10,000 in kind each year to help get their purpose-driven products to market. I travelled to the world’s design fairs, and launched an independent magazine, Fiera, to cover the world-changing ideas I discovered. But somewhere along the way, I lost my fire. Having tracked these designers for a few years, I realised that many of them abandoned the lofty ambitions of their graduate projects the moment a big design firm handed them a contract. Many others simply didn’t leave university with the tools or resources to make good on their intentions. And if they weren’t changing the world, neither was I.

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By this point my writing career had taken off. Alongside the blog and the magazine, I had written four books and was contributing to titles such as The Guardian and Elle Decoration. I had a growing roster of copywriting clients for whom I could combine the skills of my two careers. I had achieved everything I had set out to and more. And yet that line in my business plan niggled at me – ‘do something good’. Was I doing enough? Or was I just helping big companies sell more chairs / sofas / cabinets? I needed to refocus, to find my North Star again. I took a deep breath and applied for a place on a part-time Master’s programme in History of Design at the University of Oxford – the only place that offers design history part time.

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Photo: Super Local

I closed confessions of a design geek and Fiera to focus on my studies and allowed myself the first year to explore the multitude of subjects that a course covering multidisciplinary design from 1851–1951 offers. I studied plastics, ceramics (the subject of my third book) and textiles (my fourth). I researched feminism, craftivism and the circular economy. I had almost decided to dedicate the rest of my career to uncovering the forgotten female potters of the 20th century when we broke for summer. Another chance to refocus. I reflected on those first heady days of design writing when I believed that making could change the world for the better and I wondered if it really could. With four of the nine planetary boundaries that define a ‘safe operating space for humanity’ already crossed and a UN report described by scientists as a ‘screaming warning signal’ that we may have just five years to reverse climate change before it is too late, there was little doubt in my mind about the change the world needed. ‘Can craft save the world?’ That question set the course for my second year at Oxford. I wrote papers on bio-facture, plastic waste and repair, explored every aspect of the circular economy, and laid the groundwork for my latest book Wasted: When Trash Becomes Treasure, and a new podcast, Circular with Katie Treggiden. Most importantly, I found my focus. That question has inspired an emerging body of work and I hope it will continue to do so for at least the next five years. Can craft save the world? I don’t know, but I sure as hell intend to find out.

You can buy Issue 20 of Hole & Corner here.

 

The Age of Waste: five designers modelling a ‘circular economy’ (The Observer)

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We name epochs of history for the materials that define them, from the Stone, Bronze and Iron Ages to the hundred years that straddle the turn of the 20th and 21st centuries, known as ‘the Plastics Age’. As the finite resources of our planet become ever scarcer, enterprising designers are turning to rubbish as an increasingly abundant raw material. Katie Treggiden, author of Wasted: When Trash Becomes Treasure, considers whether our next era might be defined by waste.

Two-thirds of the resources we take from the earth are discarded. We are throwing away, burning and burying the same valuable materials we have gone to such great lengths to excavate to the extent that copper can now be found in higher concentrations in the ash leftover from the incineration of rubbish than in traditionally mined ore. In the UK, we each produce 2.37 pounds of rubbish every day (it’s almost double that in America) and for every sack we generate, another 70 sacks are created in the processes that bring about its contents. 47% of the virgin materials used by the fashion industry don’t even make it into the clothes on the high street. Approximately one-third of all food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted, while we cut down rainforests to make space to grow more. And by 2050, it is estimated that the ocean will contain more plastic than fish – that’s calculated by weight and most plastic is pretty light. A gyre of waste in the Pacific Ocean is already three times the size of France.

But it’s not all bad news. Ever since the Industrial Revolution, we have been accelerating a linear take-make-waste model that assumes an infinite supply of resources. Now, a new circular economy proposes something more sustainable. One of its key tenets is the notion of keeping materials in use. In a linear model, waste is the end point. In a circular model, it can represent the beginning of something new. Of course, we must reduce, if not eliminate, waste in new products and processes, but we also have an opportunity to take the legacy of 200 years of linear production and turn it into the starting point for meaningful, long-lasting products – and that’s exactly what a new generation of innovative designers is doing. It would be a stretch to suggest that their products might save the planet, but perhaps they can offer inspiration for a different perspective. If we can reframe our own ideas about waste as they have, we will have taken another step in the journey towards a thriving circular economy – one that can meet the needs of the present, while leaving the planet in a state that allows future generations to meet their needs too.

Post Adidas

Photo: Ronald Smits

When Adidas approached the Rotterdam-based designer Simone Post to recreate her graduate project (a collaboration with Dutch wax print company Vlisco to create rugs from their misprinted fabric), she encouraged them to look instead at their own waste streams. They wanted hardwearing rugs for the interiors of their shops. The difficulty was, whereas Vlisco manufacture in Holland and therefore generate waste in Holland, Adidas’ supply chain is global – or ‘big, far away and difficult to see,’ as Post puts it. She hit upon the idea of using post-consumer waste instead, calling the project Post Adidas. The brand made 409 million pairs of trainers between 2008 and 2018, so she didn’t have to look very far. ‘Sports shoes are made from multiple materials glued together – textiles, metal, soft plastics, hard plastics – and that needs to change because it makes them very difficult to recycle, she says. ‘But as a designer, you work with what you’ve got.’ She collaborated with I:CO, a German company, specialising in the collection, reuse and recycling of used clothing and shoes, that had already developed a method of shredding shoes. Post decided to sort the fragments into two colourways, light and dark. More complex separation is beyond the scope of current technologies, but this simple move enabled her to create complex graphic patterns – the melange of different colours is only discernible on closer inspection. The rugs are pressed, with a binding agent, into geometric shapes. ‘I never stop being amazed by the fresh, perfect-looking thing that emerges from what was considered waste,’ she says. She hopes to eventually use the process to make sports shoes for a fully circular product. Having been told at art school that ‘fashion is inherently unsustainable, so you don’t have to bother,’ Post believes things are starting to shift. ‘My generation and the generation after us really want to bring about change,’ she says. ‘There is so much leftover material that we cannot really ignore it anymore – and there are now so many initiatives that using waste to improve the system is almost becoming the obvious choice.’

Plastic Baroque

Photo: Rory Mulvey

Even recycling generates waste. London-based designer James Shaw’s collection of furniture is made from the sweepings that are left on a plastic recycling facility’s floor after the processing of high-density polyethylene (HDPE) milk bottles and other food packaging. With an extrusion gun of his own design, Shaw melts down the plastic pellets and squirts the melted plastic out into Play-Doh-like strands. With these, he ‘paints in three dimensions’ to create each piece. ‘I don’t really believe in waste – it shouldn’t exist,’ he says. ‘For my generation of designers, this kind of thinking is just implicit. We have so many high-quality waste products and materials that we are currently doing silly things with, like burying them in the ground or letting them escape into the oceans. It just seems logical to use them.’ The collection is named Plastic Baroque – by combining the word ‘plastic’, suggestive of cheapness, disposability and ubiquity, with the word ‘baroque’, evocative of luxury, opulence and excess, Shaw is attempting to challenge perceptions, elevate plastic’s value and inspire positive solutions to the environmental crisis. But it’s not to everyone’s taste and Shaw admits he is courting mixed responses. ‘I am up for things being provocative or disruptive, but at the same time I am chasing beauty,’ he says. ‘Some people really get it, and can see the beauty in it, but some people find it very ugly.’ Despite the negative reactions, Shaw believes attitudes are starting to change: ‘Whatever happens, waste will become much more widely used as a raw material,’ he argues. ‘Whether you are predicting “climate Armageddon” or business as usual, resources are becoming more scarce and we cannot keep relying on extraction for the materials we use in everyday life.’

Remember me

Photo: Saint James

As its name suggests, the Rememberme chair, by Tobias Juretzek, wasn’t inspired by a desire to use fashion waste, but out of an interest in the nature and value of our personal relationships with the objects we own. Describing each piece as a ‘time capsule of living history,’ he says: ‘Characteristics like details, colours and craftsmanship remain visible and create a vibrant product language. Clothes can encapsulate moments and adventures. My furniture transports these memories and gives them a new expression.’ However, that’s not to say the Berlin-based designer isn’t motivated by the environmental imperative – he has been making things out of the things other people throw away all his life. ‘As a child, I never considered waste as only waste,’ he says. ‘I often experienced the magic of turning discarded objects into something new.’ Today he works with an Italian recycling company to source unwanted clothes and with Italian furniture manufacturer Casamania & Horn to saturate them with a binding agent and compress them into chair-shaped moulds. It is still a very hands-on, and therefore small-scale, process, but he has big plans. He would like to scale up and utilise the pre-consumer waste streams of the fashion industry. ‘With its unconventional appearance, the chair serves as an ambassador for the value of discarded or unused materials,’ he says. ‘Even though sustainability is such a hot topic these days, a decrease in consumption is not noticeable. In order to create a more sustainable and progressive world, everybody needs to be involved. The Rememberme Chair challenges people to think differently.’

Exploring Eden

Photo: Rory Mulvey

Bethan Gray’s Exploring Eden collection of furniture and accessories – created in collaboration with sustainable surface specialist Nature Squared – uses shells and feathers that are discarded in food production. ‘As long as people are eating shellfish and poultry, this waste is being created,’ she says. ‘It just makes sense to find a use for it.’ Bright pink scallop shells are embedded into black eco-resin to showcase their zig-zag cross-section in a striking desk. ‘The bold, graphic pattern is amazing,’ says Gray. ‘Just like something I would have designed, but completely natural.’ Nature Squared were already using the brown part of the pen shell but hadn’t yet found a use for its iridescent nib. ‘It’s a black rainbow,’ enthuses Gray. ‘We just had to use it.’ And use it they did, creating a fluted coffee table, a lounge chair and a paperweight. The project is part of a wider environmental stewardship programme, so the additional income fishermen make from selling these shells is invested into replacing plastic nets with more ecological ones. In her London studio, Gray has always designed high-quality, long-lasting furniture and ensured her materials are ethically sourced, but this project was a catalyst for working in a more circular way. ‘In some ways I’m quite late to the party,’ she admits. ‘But working with these materials has changed the way I think about everything. Once your eyes are open, you rethink everything – this project has made me think differently. More consciously. Less wastefully.’

If Chairs Could Talk

Photo: Rory Mulvey

Growing up in a working-class family on a council estate in North London, designer Yinka Ilori was used to a ‘make do and mend’ approach to clothes and distinctly remembers arriving at school in a uniform two sizes too big that his mum assured him he would ‘grow into’. However, it was on his first trip to Nigeria – where his parents were born and raised – that he really became aware of reuse and recycling. ‘People were using old concrete blocks or tyres as seating or previously worn fabrics for upholstery,’ he says. ‘It was fascinating to see them using the everyday objects around them as part of designed objects.’ He studied furniture design at London Metropolitan University, where a brief to combine two discarded chairs into one reignited his passion for reuse. ‘Seeing two chairs from two different worlds come together to create a new narrative blew my mind,’ he says. ‘I suddenly saw chairs, not just as seats, but as objects that could have power and depth in society and perhaps even change perspectives.’ For Ilori, the use of waste in his work is also about more than just the environmental impact – it is about storytelling. Inspired by the Nigerian parable, ‘no matter how long the neck of a giraffe is, it still can’t see the future,’ his breakthrough project ‘If Chairs Could Talk’ told the stories of five childhood friends. ‘I grew up in a society where people are pre-judged,’ he says. ‘Of those five friends, some are famous actors, some are lawyers, and some are stuck inside a criminal justice system they’ve lost all faith in. I wanted to tell their stories.’ Ilori is now working on larger scale architectural projects, but is still concerned with reuse – his Colour Palace for Dulwich Picture Gallery was dismantled and repurposed into planter kits for school children and he now has a commitment to legacy written into his contracts, arguing that there is little point in using recycled materials if they can’t go back into the circular economy afterwards. ‘For the first time ever, I am really hopeful,’ he says. ‘The conversations I am having now are positive, empowering and fair. I am excited for the future.’

To read the article at its source click here.

 

A New Standard of Colour (ViewPoint Colour)

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As the slow process of natural dyeing provides an alternative to fast fashion for many emerging designers, Audrey Louise Reynolds might be joining their commitment to all-natural ingredients and non-toxic processes, but she’s not playing by their rules. Katie Treggiden meets the mutineer hoping to start a revolution in colour.

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With phrases such as ‘ban plastic bags’, ‘eat less meat’ and ‘fuck Trump’ emblazoned down the arms of her SS2020 ‘Environmental’ collection, Audrey Louise Reynolds is no stranger to wearing her politics on her sleeve. ‘I live and breathe my approach,’ she says. ‘It’s all an extension of me – I’ve woken up every morning and fought for the same thing for as long as I remember.’ Dubbed ‘the fashion world’s artisanal dyer’ by The New York Times, the Brooklyn-based natural dye advocate spends her days creating fabric and fashion for private clients, designers such as Rogan, Loomstate and Wendy Nichol, and her own collections, fighting for ‘a new standard of colour’ in the process. ‘It isn’t hard to save avocado stones in the freezer until you have enough to dye something pink,’ she says, arguing that such practices should be scaled up to provide solutions to everything from global food waste to an increasingly toxic fashion industry. ‘If you wouldn’t put it in your body, you shouldn’t put it on your body,’ she says. ‘People use organic lotions, eat organic food, and yet wear toxic exercise fabrics to sweat into and dermally absorb crazy chemicals. My approach needs to become the new normal.’

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While her contemporaries are using botanical dyes to create rustic, earthly colours, Reynolds is the rebel in their midst, focusing instead on a neon palette that appeals to her youthful audience. ‘The hippie hues of soft yellows, mushroomy browns, and onion-skin greens, though beautiful, have cast a stigma that this is all that can be achieved,’ she says. ‘My goal has always been to harmlessly achieve the brightest shades possible.’ Designed in collaboration with a group of friends to combat the winter blues, her AW19 collection mashes up references from early 1990s rave culture to ‘kindergarten vibe’ hand-cut fringes. It is contradictory and confrontational, and yet represents a dynamic and inclusive approach to sustainability.

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These clothes are not worthy; they’re fun, celebratory and positive. Several pieces feature the letters ‘PMA’ – ‘positive mental attitude’ – and perhaps that is exactly what these uncertain times call for. ‘Every day, I collect plants or earth and draw with them while I have my coffee,’ says Reynolds. ‘This reminds me to be creative, playful and thankful that I get to go to work every day, fight for something I believe in, and know that I’m making a difference.’ If that’s not a manifesto for the future, I don’t know what is.

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Find out more about ViewPoint Magazine here.

Thinking outside The Box (Crafts Magazine)

All copy as provided to the publication.
Photo credits: The Box

Making It | The Box, Plymouth

From 29 September 2020 | Reviewed by Katie Treggiden

I went to school just up the road from what is now the Box. On a bad day, I would sneak out at lunch time and climb the stairs to what was then the City Museum and Art Gallery, slip between its imposing doors and sit in a hushed gallery in front of one particular painting: a rendition in oil of a stormy sea, hanging in a gilded frame. It provided a sort of balm.

Stepping through the sliding glass doors of the Box more than 20 years later could not feel more different, and not just because the redeveloped building is now home to 2 million objects, from archival records, film and photography to furniture, texts and paintings from multiple collections and institutions, as well as the artworks and natural history I grew up with. Surrounded by the echoes of noisy children, 13 monumental ship figureheads depicting men and women from cultures all over the world hang defiantly in the atrium, speaking of Plymouth’s maritime history and global connections. ‘King Billy’ – a 13ft tall, two-tonne figure of William IV carved in 1833 – stands proudly above the welcome desk, his toe poking through a specially created hole in the glass balustrade. Each one of these figureheads has been painstakingly restored, returning them to their 18th- and 19th-century glory. With as much as 90% of some pieces suffering from wood rot, it’s no wonder the project won a Museums + Heritage Award, celebrating both the traditional craft skills and the cutting-edge technologies, such as sonic tomography, used in their repair.

But the figureheads speak about more than simply craft or even traditional views of their histories. ‘They start conversations about Britain’s colonial history, about how gender and race are represented, and about all the histories that are becoming part of contemporary discourse,’ says curator Terah Walkup. ‘They are a magnificent way to cue people up for what their experience here is going to be like.’

In another bold statement of what’s to come, Eva Grubinger’s Fender is a ‘ready-made’ sculpture that forms part of a multi-site exhibition entitled Making It. Craft historians often cite the appearance of ready-mades in the art world (specifically Duchamp’s ‘Fountain’ – a mass produced urinal signed by the artist) as the moment that art and craft parted ways. But here, the giant fender in black vulcanised rubber – once used to prevent ships in the dockyard from bumping up against one another – celebrates Plymouth’s history as a city of seafaring makers. By taking it out of context and dropping it onto a polished concrete floor – where children hurtling past cause it to gently rock back and forth revealing its surprising light weight – the Austrian artist is opening Plymothians’ eyes to something they see every day. ‘Ships navigate the world’s seas and their first contact with Plymouth is one of protection,’ says Walkup. ‘Objects made for use can also connect with contemporary dialogues about politics, people, our relationships with each other and the world around us.’

Much of Making It is off-site. Antony Gormley’s 22-block cast iron figure, Look II, overlooks the point on West Hoe Pier where Sir Francis Chichester landed in 1967 as the first and fastest person to sail single-handed around the world by the clipper route. Leonor Antunes’ fused glass window is permanently installed over the road at St Luke’s – a deconsecrated church and former library and bookbindery (Crafts, September/October 2020). Ship of Fools, Nigerian-American contemporary artist Kehinde Wiley’s film portraying of a group of young Black men at sea, struggling to reach the land, asks questions about what it means – and what it takes – to ‘make it’ throughout centuries of systemic racism. This installation is at the Levinsky Gallery within the University of Plymouth and the split location approach seems a shame, because it makes it difficult to take the exhibition in as a whole, but it does enable the artworks to connect with people who might not otherwise venture into an art gallery.

Back inside the Box, Brazilian artist Alexandre da Cunha’s Figurehead II is another ready-made sculpture. A stack of four sewer pipes in prefabricated concrete, standing almost 20ft tall, references the much-maligned post-war architecture of the city, while drawing attention to the building itself. The diameter of the structure fits perfectly within a decorative circle in the original floor tiling and the holes punched into its sides offer new vistas of the Edwardian interior. ‘I like seeing people do what I call the “museum dance,” as they bend backwards to look up into this space,’ says Walkup – children climbing in and out of the sculpture’s openings as she speaks.

The Box has taken Plymouth’s City Museum and Art Gallery, Central Library and St Luke’s Church and turned them inside out. What was once the trade entrance on a back alley is now a glorious glass-fronted atrium, opening onto a pedestrianised street. Chronological placement of traditional artworks has been replaced with bold curatorial decisions, such as arranging a series of landscapes of Plymouth geographically, putting Beryl Cook right alongside the Old Masters. The single narrative of old has been replaced by a cacophony of voices, each vying for its rightful place in history. And the stories being told put Plymouth proudly at their heart – taking credit for the good and responsibility for the bad – but never understating the role that this maritime city has played in global history. I am keenly aware of the privilege that enabled me to walk up those austere stairs, slip in through those imposing doors and find solace in a hushed gallery at just 17 years old. I hope a broader segment of society will come into this noisy space, filled with its diversity of stories about craft and making in Plymouth, and find more than just solace. In the same way that Eva Grubinger’s Fender encourages visitors to see something utterly familiar and really look at it for the first time, I hope the Box encourages people to reassess Plymouth’s history, its place in the world, and all those who made it happen.

You can buy Issue 286 of Crafts Magazine here.

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HOLDING PATTERN (SELVEDGE MAGAZINE)

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The classic Scandi aesthetic is muted and minimalist, so why is Nordic pattern design so exuberant? Katie Treggiden explores.

Think of Scandinavian furniture design and you will almost certainly picture pale wood, restrained colours and understated, curvilinear forms. Yet call to mind Nordic pattern design and suddenly Marimekko’s bold, colourful poppies burst into view – or perhaps the confident botanical motifs Josef Frank designed for iconic Swedish interior design store Svenskt Tenn. So how did Finland, a nation of introverts, give rise to one of the loudest fashion brands in the world? And how did Austrian-born Frank convince generations of minimalist Swedes to embrace colour and pattern?

Already a renowned architect and interior designer, Frank left his home country of Austria for Sweden in 1933, fleeing antisemitism, and rejecting the cold, rational ‘machine for living in’ approach to modernism proposed by the likes of French architect Le Corbusier. When Estrid Ericson, founder of Svenskt Tenn, offered him a safe haven in which to live and work in 1934, he was finally able to flourish. ‘Frank had a more middle-European approach to colours and design – and Ericson accepted everything he did in his bold and colourful way,’ says Svenskt Tenn’s creative director, Thommy Bindefeld. ‘His style was questioned at the time, but he gave Sweden a new way of looking at design.’

It was new, but not unprecedented – the 19th-century Swedish artist Carl Larsson painted domestic scenes depicting the Arts and Crafts style popularised by William Morris in the UK and co-opted by the Nordic nations. ‘Larsson’s paintings, with their motifs of everyday life, played a huge part in capturing and “selling” the essence of Nordic style – the pale wood, simple shapes and abundance of natural light,’ explains Swedish textile designer and co-founder of Butler/Lindgård, Karin Olu Lindgård. ‘But they also featured the bold textiles designed by his wife Carin. Ever since, those bold textiles have been a natural part of the Nordic style.’ And in fact, confident Nordic pattern can trace its roots even further back to rosemåling (‘rose-painting’), popular in Norway and rural Sweden in the 18th century. This decorative folk art featuring floral motifs in primary and secondary colours had fallen out of favour by the 20th century. ‘The minimalism and functionalism that came from Europe with the Bauhaus movement said that everything should have a reason, or function, and that gave no argument for colourful patterns,’ says Kiki Plesner-Löfroth, founder of Norwegian surface pattern design studio Plesner Patterns, explaining its decline.

Fast forward to the 1930s, and Frank and Ericson transformed sober European functionalism into something warmer, more colourful and more embracing – finding a way for colour and pattern to sit alongside understated interiors. ‘The simplicity of the room – the richness of details,’ was Ericson’s mantra. By the time Marimekko was founded in 1951 and Maija Isola conceived the iconic Unikko (poppy) print pattern in 1964 – to this day Marimekko’s most iconic design – the stage had been set for colourful, self-assured, nature-inspired pattern, even among a conservative Nordic population.

Both Marimekko and Svenskt Tenn continue to excite a new generation of contemporary Nordic pattern designers. ‘The works of Maija Isola and Joseph Frank have been a huge inspiration for us, artistically as well as technically,’ says Lindgård. ‘You could argue that we’re working in the tradition of those bold Nordic surface pattern designers – and we wouldn’t disagree.’ Plesner-Löfroth echoes this sentiment, saying, ‘Theirs is the classic boldness I aspire to.’

Yet contemporary Nordic pattern designers are doing more than simply replicating the work of their heroes – even within Marimekko itself. Giving its designers the flexibility to work from their personal studios and within the natural environment surrounding Helsinki, together with a unique in-house colour system, ensures its latest patterns are as fresh and vibrant today as those poppies were in the 1960s. Aino-Maija Metsola’s Sääpäiväkirja (‘weather diary’) collection was inspired by the changes to Finnish weather patterns after the heat of the summer. ‘Kuuskajaskari sighs with autumn winds and takes its colour palette from the same season,’ says Metsola. A collaboration with Spinnova, whose innovative fabrics are made from post-consumer, biodegradable wood-pulp and use 99% less water than cotton, is paving the way for a textile industry that sits more comfortably within its environment too.

Plesner-Löfroth works very directly with the natural environment in her native Norway. ‘I design my patterns with analogue methods initially, using ink, moss, wax, eggshell etc,’ she says. ‘I like “art by accident” – the small distortions that emerge outside of my control make more lively and genuine patterns.’ Working with everything from wet paper and ink to potato prints for a recent collaboration with running brand Löplabbet, her work is uniquely Norwegian and yet has global resonance. Supporting local weavers, using recycled and GOTS-certified fabrics, and digitally printing to minimise waste, Plesner-Löfroth also respects the natural environment that gives her so many ideas.

Photo: Ulrika Kestere

Lindgård and her Butler/Lindgård co-founder Hanna Butler cite both the Northern hemisphere’s light and the effect it has on colour perception in Sweden, as well as the very Nordic practice of spending time together in a sauna, and what they describe as the ‘fearless’ creative community within which they work as key influences on their design practice. But their current inspiration comes directly from the human form. ‘Lately we’ve been experimenting with direct body representation in surface design,’ says Lindgård. ‘Since we’re women in textile design, feminist issues are really important to us. We are interested in the connection between choreography and the repeated movements that lead to repeated imprints on a surface.’ They sketch on a shared sheet of paper, often finishing each other’s ideas, cover their own bodies in paint to create imprinted patterns, and screen print together passing the squeegee in one seamless motion from one pair of hands to the other – a choreographed creative process in itself.

Photo: Joen Bergenrud

Although it’s difficult to imagine Josef Frank or Maija Isola covered in paint, what the likes of Frank and Isola bestowed upon those who follow in their footsteps is a sense of freedom. The freedom to stand on the shoulders of giants and yet create something new; to be inspired by, and yet not restricted to, their local surroundings and national heritage; to explore the full spectrum of colour from natural dyes to pops of neon; and, most importantly, to find a path that is entirely their own. Scandi style might be quiet and understated, Nordic pattern is anything but.

Fran Hickman on Designing Spaces That Feel Like Home (Sixtysix Magazine)

All copy as submitted to publication.

Sitting with a bunch of new friends in the new Soho House in New York’s Meatpacking District in 2004, a young Fran Hickman felt at home for the first time since she’d left the UK. The realization that the design of a space could have such a profound impact on our emotions and behavior prompted her to give up photography, a career she’d been pursuing since her teens, in favor of interior design. Today Fran’s London-based interior and architectural design studio, founded in 2014, handles projects all over the world and has a clutch of awards to its name. But what motivates Hickman remains the same—creating spaces that shape how we feel and act.

Working closely with clients to weave narratives from their backstories combined with a deep-dive research process that encompasses books, symbolism, mythology, exhibitions, and photography, she has worked on everything from Goop’s European brick-and-mortar store to a members-only workspace and social club in Dubai. In every project, color and light play a starring role in sparking joy and making interiors feel like home.

Tell me a little bit about your background.

My father—a property developer—built barns, made furniture, collected art and antiques, and loved classic cars. He has always been demonstrably creative, so my interest in design comes from him. My mother had six children (I am number five) and has always been very bookish with a real appreciation for words. My love of storytelling comes from her.

When did you first know you wanted to become a designer?

I thought I wanted to be a photographer and studied photography at school, but my mother encouraged me to broaden my focus at university, so I took media and cultural studies at London College of Communications. We learned about art, politics, philosophy, and global history. It was fascinating. Then I went to study photography at Parsons in New York and met an eclectic group of people who used to gather at Soho House. It became a sort of communal living room, a second home, at a time when I felt quite homesick. Creating spaces where people could come together like that struck me as something really powerful.

How you get into design then?

I studied interior and spatial design at Chelsea College of Art, which was very conceptual, and at KLC (School of Design), which was more practical. I worked for design firms like the Soho House Group and Colefax and Fowler before setting up on my own in 2014.

How would you describe your aesthetic?

When I was growing up there were incredibly successful interior designers like Kelly Hoppen with a very specific aesthetic that they rolled out globally. I have huge respect for that, but what makes this job interesting to me is that each space is different in terms of geography, history, client, and objectives. In each case there is a different problem that requires a different solution. I try to tell stories through my work. I use materials, color, and furniture to bring the story of the brand or homeowner to life in a three-dimensional space.

How much of being a great designer is creative brain versus business brain?

I have brilliant creative friends who don’t run businesses because that’s not their strength and equally brilliant friends who run businesses and are not creative. When you want to run a design business you either have to do both or recognize your limitations and plug the gaps by hiring people who are better than you. Teamwork is so important.

What’s your team like?

There are eight of us and I’m really happy with that size. We have been bigger, and there are industries where scale makes sense, but what we do is so bespoke that we need to stay relatively small to deliver the attention to detail that’s required. Everyone comes from a design background of some sort; two of our junior designers came straight out of KLC School of Design, but we also have former management consultants and an art dealer. We have people from France, Belgium, Spain, America, and India, so we’re a pretty diverse bunch and speak a few languages between us.

Who does what? How do you divide and conquer?

I oversee every project, but I focus my energies on the concept and setting direction at the beginning. I have four designers and an architect, and I have people to run the business—the accounts and marketing. It works really well and it’s a lovely team. We have a kitchen and take turns making lunch. We eat together every day.

Was there ever a time when you had a particularly difficult client or project?

Residential spaces can be quite emotional. Whereas commercial interior design is part of a business strategy, in residential projects we are pinning ideas to the relationships between the people who use the space, and that can be complicated. You often find yourself playing therapist to couples or negotiating families’ differing memories of a childhood home. In the end all we can do is help clients keep it all in perspective and deliver on our promises.

Where does emotion fit into your interpretation of good design?

A chair is a good example. It’s a piece of furniture you have a very intimate relationship with; it comes into close proximity with your body and physically supports you. Comfort is an incredibly important part of emotion, as well as proportion and clarity. Simpler things are easier to process—emotionally, mentally, and physically. Good design is something you can rely on. It’s dependable, but it also sparks joy and has a little humor.

Do you have a design “routine” when approaching a project? You talk about collaborating with your clients to tell stories; how does that work?

I start in research mode—that might be diving into the client’s archives or researching around a subject or theme. I have a book on symbolism I often dip into; I’m really interested in the meanings behind words, images, and objects. My research is very visual. I probably have about 60,000 photographs on my phone, which is absurd but very helpful. I involve the client to get their input and then it’s about pulling the most interesting strands together to tell a coherent and engaging story.

You say this approach takes courage on behalf of the clients. Why?

Because it’s quite introspective. In order for it to be really good, it should be personal. That involves quite a lot of deep thought and reflection—even on commercial projects, where we often ask probing questions about the vision or purpose of a business. That can be difficult. It’s also a significant investment, so it’s a big commitment to something that isn’t always very tangible from the outset.

Run through a typical day for you.

I spend about a week out of the office in any given month. I might be onsite in New York, on the East Coast, in the Middle East, or in Tokyo, depending on the project. If I’m in the office I tend to get in at about 9.30, which is a civilized start to the day. I usually begin with business-related matters and then move through each project in turn addressing anything that needs my attention. I group my external meetings so I can commit to being in the studio at least three days a week.

How many days off have you taken in the past year?

If we’re talking about a proper day off where I haven’t even checked emails probably only between Christmas and the New Year. That’s the only time I can afford to switch off. Other than that I need to be available to my clients.

Tell me about how you used light in the Farfetch dressing suite.

I’m a big fan of Japanese design and architecture, especially the calm, simplicity of traditional Japanese ryokans. I had just read In Praise of Shadows by Junichirō Tanizaki, and he writes about the power of light and shadows. Light is considered in Japanese design in a way it isn’t in the West; in every ryokan room, not only do the paper screens diffuse the light beautifully, but there is always an area kept empty just for shadows. We used a limited palette of materials and incredible dichroic glass that changes color depending on light and where you’re standing.

What’s next for you?

We’re working on a lot of residential projects. I don’t want to jinx anything we’ve pitched on, but there are a few in the pipeline. In a broader sense, I’m looking forward to Britain finding its way out of its funk and getting its mojo back. Interior design asks you to put down roots and that requires confidence in where you are; we’re going through a really tricky time right now, but I’m optimistic.

This article originally appeared in the Spring/Summer 2020 issue of Sixtysix with the headline “Fran Hickman” and was subsequently published online. To read the article at its source click here, or find out more about Fran Hickman here.

Creative Conversion (25 Beautiful Homes)

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A collaborative approach helped one couple transform a 1980s bungalow into their dream home – on time and on budget.

There’s an old adage that you can’t have a self-build that comes in on time, on budget, with a high-quality finish – one of those things always has to give. Well, Mark Sewell and Eunice Locher might just have proven that wrong, converting their Scandia Hus bungalow into a detached house in less than a year for just £375,000, and all to an incredibly high standard.

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Returning to the UK after living in Australia and Portugal, Mark, CIO for a recruitment company, and Eunice, founder of The Clay Studio, were looking for a plot that would enable them to build an ‘open-plan, inside-outside’ home, like those they had enjoyed overseas. The first thing the estate agent showed them was a Scandia Hus bungalow that had been built by its now-deceased owner in the 1980s. ‘I stood at the gate and said, “Not in a million years”,’ laughs Eunice. ‘I was horrified. It was overgrown and neglected – and the thought of a bungalow at our age was just too much, so I kept looking.’ Ten months later, she came back and, this time, made it past the gate. ‘It was a lightbulb moment,’ she says. ‘It was very run down, but it was south-facing, on a lovely road, and right on the edge of the Ashdown Forest – I suddenly realised it was a winner.’

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Having secured the plot, the couple hired local architect Adam Penton whose work reflected the contemporary style they were looking for, but their brief was more a list of things they didn’t want, than things they did. Having lived in the bungalow, they had come to hate the sauna-style pine cladding used throughout, the low light levels, the clipped views of the surrounding landscape, and the boxy layout. ‘Our brief to Adam was simply to transform it,’ says Eunice. ‘We wanted something modern that was easy to live in, but beyond that, we left it up to him.’ Adam’s scheme takes advantage of the bungalow’s L-shaped floorplan by connecting the two wings with a triangular open-plan living area, that opens onto the south-westerly garden, and includes a first-floor master suite. ‘I liked the idea of this quirky triangle thing,’ says Eunice. At a pre-application meeting with the local planning department, Adam presented an ambitious plan that included everything they might ever want to do. Not surprisingly, the council raised concerns, but with a few tweaks, the plan sailed through – its first-floor addition having been carefully considered with a low roofline that didn’t overlook the neighbours. Planning approved, Mark and Eunice moved into Mark’s garden office, which enabled them to stay on-site throughout the build.

Working with Nick Weller as the main contractor, Adam oversaw the extension, which used the same stick timber frame as the original construction, clad with Siberian Larch as a foil to the original brick. The master-suite is timber-framed too, but uses steel in its roof and super-structure and is clad in zinc. This cantilevered section provides not only an architectural feature that modernises the exterior of the house, but also a balcony where Mark and Eunice can enjoy their morning coffee. Details such as the triangular windows tucked into the eaves add character.

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The original bungalow was triple-glazed and Adam continued this throughout the new parts of the building, reinsulating, sound-proofing and reskimming all the walls. ‘The bungalow did have some clever details, but it took Adam pointing out how cool things like the windows were for me to realise that,’ laughs Eunice. ‘I wanted to replace the windows, but I’m glad Adam talked me around.’ The addition of a separate annex tucked away at the far end of the house provides somewhere for their grown-up children to stay.

When it came to furnishings, it was a case of less is more. ‘We were really keen that this house had no clutter,’ explains Eunice. ‘We now just have the pieces that really mean something to us. It sounds terrible, but we even pared back family photographs. We just had so much stuff – slimming it down felt like a weight off our shoulders.’ Those items the couple have kept are carefully chosen and perfectly placed – a bespoke dining table made by friends of their son, an enviable collection of mid-century furniture supplied by Mark’s brother-in-law, cushions by their daughter and art by their friends. Eunice’s much-reduced pottery collection is now artfully displayed. ‘I love ceramics and this is the perfect place to dot my collection around, I am constantly changing them and always thinking about how lovely they look – that means everything to me.’

Its quality is in no doubt, so just how did they bring it in on time and on budget? ‘Start with reasonable expectations, find a good team and live on site. The secret is not to try to screw anyone over – everyone has to make a profit, so finding a win-win situation for everyone is what makes it a success,’ advises Mark. ‘We also made a point of giving positive feedback to the whole team at the end of every week,’ smiles Eunice. ‘That, and bringing them treats.’

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Photography by Bruce Hemming. Originally published under the headline ‘Winning Combination’ in Grand Designs Magazine in January 2019, this story was bought as a Second Rights package by 25 Beautiful Homes. Copy as originally provided to Grand Designs Magazine.

‘We embraced colour in our mid-century kitchen’ – Jen Taylor (Ideal Home)

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Photography: Bruce Hemming

Jen Taylor and Hari Phillips reconfigured their ground-floor to create a colourful and yet sophisticated family kitchen, perfect for their 1960s Dulwich home.

What it cost
Appliances: £3,500
Lighting: £2,025
Kitchen and storage units: £24,000
Tiles: £1,150
Windows and doors: £7,500
Labour: (incl. decoration & services) £42,000
Underfloor heating: £4,000
Flooring: £3,350
Total: £87,525

Who lives here
Jen Taylor, a designer, her husband Hari Phillips, an architect [married September 2005] and their sons, Dylan, 11 [DOB: 29.07.08] and Teddy, three. [DOB: 05.10.16].

What they did
Reconfigured their ground floor, turning an internal garage, bedroom, WC and corridor into a utility room,shower room and open-plan kitchen diner with access to the garden.

The look
A warm, playful take on mid-century modern with grown-up luxe details.

Lessons learned
“Be brave. I bottled it in our previous flat and it all ended up very monochromatic. I was determined to embrace colour and pattern this time.”
“Buy well and buy once. Having compromised before, we invested in good quality units, custom joinery and bespoke finishes, which has made all the difference.”

The layout
Jen and Hari removed all the internal walls and opened up the staircase to create one large, open-plan kitchen-diner with access to the garden. The garage door had to remain due to restrictions from the Dulwich Estate Scheme of Management, so they boxed this in with storage and added a shower room and a utility room, lining the kitchen-facing wall with floor-to-ceiling cupboards.

When designer Jen Taylor and husband Hari Phillips bought this three-storey property in South London, they were seduced by its mid-century charm, but knew that the ground floor wouldn’t work. “When you came in, you couldn’t see any light at all,” explains Jen. “A long, dark corridor ran from the front door, alongside a garage, to a bedroom, through which was the only access to the garden.”

Dulwich Estate heritage rules protect the garage door, but say nothing about the garage itself, so Jen had that removed, along with the other internal walls and a false ceiling, creating one open space. By knocking out the back wall and replacing it with two single glass doors and a huge pivoting window, and painting the newly exposed ceiling and beams white, she transformed the space, filling it with natural light.

Stealing back part of the space the garage had previously occupied for a utility room and a shower room – and cladding the outside of the new walls with floor-to-ceiling storage – enabled Jen to keep the rest of the space clean and open. She chose a colourful mid-century colour palette, complete with playful touches such as Barber Osgerby’s Puzzle tiles and the Alphabeta pendants by Luca Nichetto for Hem, and grown-up luxe details such as the brass door handles and sink. A bright yellow shower room brightens the only remaining dark corner of the space. Jen surrounded her existing dining table with chairs, a bench and a window seat to create a more sociable version of the typical kitchen island. “This space is perfect for us now,” she says. “It is always filled with food, friends and family – all my favourite things. And it has even made a gardener out of me.”

HOW WE DID IT

“As soon as we saw the house, we knew we would move the kitchen. Hari is an architect and I used to be, so we did the drawings and hired a contractor. We ripped out the walls and ceiling – carefully because they had asbestos. We knocked out the back wall and moved the drainage. Then the shower room and utility room walls went in, and we had the kitchen, shower room and underfloor heating fitted. We had hoped to be in by Christmas, but the windows were delayed, so by mid-December, we had a beautiful kitchen, but a gaping hole out into the garden! And then it snowed, so it was February by the time we finished. But it was worth it, and honestly, I enjoyed every minute.”

Having stuck to muted greys and blues in their previous home, Jen was determined to inject more colour into this space. “We knew we wanted a mid-century colour palette,” she says. “We loved the wood tone of our existing sideboard, and I wanted some gold, so that was the starting point.” Jen initially thought the yellow floor would be a hard sell, and this proved to be the case with friends, but Hari surprised her by agreeing to go all in. Finding the perfect shade wasn’t easy, but ‘Noraplan Uni’ rubber flooring, £36 per m2, Forbo Flooring, ticked all the boxes – its warm and sunny hue is backed up with impressive eco-credentials as it is made from natural and recycled materials.

Continuing the playful theme, Barber Osgerby’s Puzzle tiles in the Murano colourway, £142.50 per m2, Tile Expert, provided a punchy design with a soft take on a mid-century colour scheme. The Alphabeta Pendant Trio by Luca Nichetto, £1,136, hem.com comes in 1024 combinations comprising different shapes and colours, and Jen’s selection looks as if it was made for this kitchen. She wanted a dining table rather than an island to provide somewhere for the whole family to congregate for everything from her famed Chinese meals to homework and a simple supper. The Habitat dining table and bench came from their last home (for similar, try the Hopkins Table, £450, Habitat, and the Hopkins Dining Bench, £195, Habitat), and they found the Danish-style dining chairs, £150 each, on eBay.

The 1950s Mackintosh sideboard, £250, eBay, was one of the inspirations for the scheme and Jen has placed a few carefully selected pieces on top. “We found out the artist Reuben Powell had been hired to document the demolition of the Heygate Estate in Elephant and Castle,” she explains. “This was actually an offprint and should have been black and white. It came from our last flat, but we realized the tones were perfect for in here”. Atop the sideboard is the New Old Table Lamp by Kimu, £359, Darklightdesign.com and gold plant pot to add some ‘bling’ and complement the gold accents in the kitchen. For similar, try the Beaumont Plant Pot, £14, Made.com.

To create a high-end finish on a budget, Jen and Hari chose Howdens for a good quality kitchen carcasses (from £125 for a 60cm unit, Howdens) and then commissioned HUX London to make bespoke cabinet and drawer fronts in a warm yet contemporary cherry-veneered MDF (£250 per unit front, HUX London), finished off with brass Skyscraper T-Bar handles, £13.99, Dowsing and Reynolds. Top cabinets, which conceal an extractor hood above the oven, were factory spray-painted and colour-matched to Farrow & Balls’ Pink Ground, £69 per 2.5l, diy.com to complement the tiles.

The brass Alveus Monarch Quadrix sink, £875.22, and Insinkerator 3-in-1 mixer tap, £999, both olif.co.uk, tie in with the brass handles, while the clever Zova Dish Drainer, £46.99, Amazon.co.uk, protects the work surfaces.

The subtle colour of the Fenix work surfaces, £350 per linear metre, HUX London, complements the mid-century palette and works beautifully with the SkyScraper T Bar cupboard door handles, £13.99, Dowsing and Reynolds.

Jen clad her floor-to-ceiling storage in the same cherry veneer as the kitchen doors to create a sense of continuity and used clever fixtures to optimise the storage space inside. The first, which Jen calls her ‘drinks and spice’ cabinet, houses all of this keen cook’s herbs, spices and cocktail ingredients… handy to have within arms’ reach when she is cooking up a storm at the multi burner Rangemaster cooker.

Bucking the trend for ubiquitous bi-fold doors, Jen and Hari instead opted for a huge pivoting window above a long storage-filled window seat and a glazed door either side. “I hate bi-folds with a vengeance – they are just so ugly,” laughs Jen. “This solution was challenging to get right, but absolutely worth it in the end. Having separate doors as well as a window to open the kitchen right up to the garden is much more flexible, the window seat makes this space so sociable, and it’s just so lovely to sit here with a cup of tea or a glass of wine and bathe in the sunlight all year round.” Try Maxlight Pivot Doors, £12,000 for a window and two doors, Maxlight, for similar.

The Rangemaster was Jen’s must-have item – she loves cooking traditional Chinese meals for her family and friends, for which multiple gas hobs are vital. “I can’t imagine cooking without it now,” she says. “In Chinese, there is a saying that wok air is created by using gas for cooking, so I just had to have one.” For similar, try the Rangemaster Classic 100cm Duel Fuel in Cream, £1,814.95, Stovesareus.co.uk.

A clever ‘backflip’ socket, £118.64, Evoline provides power to Jens’ Kitchen Aid in Majestic Yellow, £499, Kitchenaid.co.uk ­­– a fortieth birthday present from her closest friends. A sugar bowl from Jen’s own English Breakfast collection, £45 for the tea set, hokolo.com, a ceramic storage jar in sunny yellow (try Kahala, £12, Habitat for similar) and colourful plastic measuring spoons (try KitchenCraft Colourworks 5-Piece Measuring Spoon Set, £3.55, amazon.co.uk for similar) add a touch of kitsch.

Opening up the original staircase and positioning a mirror (for similar try Stockholm, £75, IKEA) at right angles to a window next to the front door bounces natural light into the new open plan space. To make the most of the space underneath the stairs, Jen installed a clever fold-down wall-mounted desk, TWOFOLD wall desk by Michael Hilgers, £350, Müller Möbelwerkstätten and paired it with a white Eames DSW Chair, £375, Heal’s. Also tucked in here is a mid-century Ercol telephone seat, £99, eBay, which Jen had sprayed white to tone in with the desk, chair and stairs.

Storage is crucial in an open-plan space, and Jen opted for cleverly concealed storage in the hallway opposite the staircase to remove all the usual clutter such as coats, bags and shoes. Continuing the cherry veneer from the kitchen cupboards ensures a seamless look and feel.

Heritage planning restrictions on the Dulwich Estate meant the external garage door had to be kept, despite removing the garage. Jen and Hari bricked it up from the inside and lined it with floor-to-ceiling storage within a handy utility room and adjoining shower room. Again, they turned to Howdens for the storage solutions, Greenwich Super Matt, £215 per 60cm unit. Yellow grouting and a playful ‘Hello’ coat hook (try Hello Coat Rack, £38, Block Design for similar) echo the floor colour, which continues into the shower room.

Hari’s boldness with colour surprised Jen again when it came to the shower room. “I was originally only planning one yellow wall and the rest was going to be white, but Hari wanted all yellow,” she says. “I was quite shocked, but colour blocking is a strong trend at the moment and Hari felt there was no point doing little bits in an already small space. I think it really works.” For similar tiles, try Marvel Lemon Zest and White wall tiles, £22.95 per m2, wallsandfloors.co.uk. Choosing a contemporary sink and vanity by Kartell for Laufen, £561.17, Banyo, Jen again turned to Olif to find the perfect tap – the Mimo sink mixer by Palazzani was £187.

This three-storey family home is perfect for Jen and Hari’s growing family – all it needed was a clever reconfiguration, a little colour and some mid-century character.

To visit Jen’s online shop Hokolo, please click here.

Nothing To See Here (KX Quarterly)

A nightclub has opened in London Design Festival’s newest district, but you won’t want to stay for long. Martino Gamper’s site-specific installation in Coal Drops Yard questions the permanence of design and the transience of the festival itself.

There’s a queue – that’s a good sign, right? You can hear the bass and can just make out the lights strobing inside. The bouncer looks like a jobsworth: arms folded, scowl on his face. You check your shoes – trainers, but smart trainers; you should be okay. You’ve put in a good day at the new King’s Cross Design District, explored all Coal Drops Yard has to offer, and now you’re ready to let your hair down. You spot someone you know at the front of the queue and cut in. The music is banging. You take in the club’s frontage. The bouncer lets in the couple ahead of you. It reminds you of the wooden shingles they use in the Alps, but it seems to be made of mismatched offcuts. You’re next. Maybe they’re upcycled. The bouncer stamps something illegible on the back of your hand and you step through the door into… nothing.

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Disco Carbonara, if the name weren’t enough to give it away, is nothing more than a façade, London-based Italian furniture designer Martino Gamper’s take on a ‘Potemkin village’, created especially for Coal Drops Yard. ‘I wanted to explore the temporary nature of design festivals,’ he says. ‘The inspiration came from the 1984 Olympic Games, which were held in Los Angeles. They used film sets and scaffolding to create a temporary effect, rather than building structures just to tear them down afterwards. A lot of these design events are similar, things are here for two weeks then taken down again. It seemed wasteful to build something, so I thought: why not embrace that idea and create a fake façade?’

The 1984 Summer Olympics in LA are generally regarded as the most financially successful Olympic Games in modern times and host cities have used them as a benchmark ever since, but they were far from the first attempt to use temporary structures to create the illusion of something more permanent. The term ‘Potemkin village’ comes from a mobile village Grigory Potemkin is reported to have built on the banks of the Dnieper River in the 18th century to impress his lover, Catherine the Great. The Crimea region, of which he was governor, had been decimated by war, and he had been given the task of rebuilding it. To give the impression of progress, Potemkin had his men dress as peasants to populate his fake village as Catherine passed in a barge, and then take it apart and reassemble it further upstream so she would pass it again and think it was yet another successfully restored settlement. The tale may be more myth than history, but the approach has inspired everything from Olympic villages and film sets to training grounds for driverless cars and urban warfare.

‘The brief was to make something big, visible and fun,’ says Gamper. ‘This area used to be known for its nightclubs and I liked the idea of playing with the anticipation of something before you realise it’s fake. It is clad with my take on traditional Alpine cladding – a sort of vertical parquet floor made from composite veneer offcuts, which are real wood as fake wood. They come from a tree but have been subverted and changed into something else. The offcuts have a texture to them and they’re quite colourful – and it was important to me not to create a lot of waste.’

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Gamper has a reputation for reusing and repurposing objects. His 100 Chairs in 100 Days in its 100 Ways project saw him create new seats from discarded chairs found on the streets of London. His revival of the Victorian tradition of stacking chairs into giant archways saw 120 Ercol chairs form two 10-foot high arches in the garden of the Victoria and Albert Museum. More recently, he designed a bench made of recycled plastic for Fiskars Village in Helsinki. ‘I have always liked to fix things.’ he says. ‘Trying to mend something is adding to it in a way. We live in such a fast world and don’t seem to have time to fix things or seek new value in old objects.’ In the midst of Milan Design Week in 2014, the heart of all things new and shiny, he set up shop as In A State of Repair in the windows of department store La Rinascente and asked members of the public to bring in broken objects, highlighting the skills that go into mending, not just conceiving and making. ‘With a bit more care and creativity, we don’t have to constantly reinvent the world,’ he explains. While Disco Carbonara’s entire frontage is made from waste composite veneer from the third-generation Italian Alpi factory, the panels at the back are sustainably sourced and can be re-used. ‘There are plenty of materials that can be re-used and given another cycle,’ he says. ‘By using waste wood, you get more creative licence, because the material is already un-precious. The expectations that come with precious materials can be quite limiting, whereas if you use an offcut or waste product, you have to push harder, but the return is a lot more interesting.’

Pushing harder is a recurring theme in Gamper’s diverse output, a selection of which – from, products and furniture to video–art pieces – will be showcased in the UK for the first time at nearby Samsung KX. Gamper is also the designer behind the Arnold Circus Stool, created as part of the regeneration of the UK’s first social housing project in 2006; Screenshot, a conceptual photography project in collaboration with artist Brigitte Niedermair and Italian textile house Dedar, which synthesised 500 years of the colour blue in figurative art; and No Ordinary Love which saw Gamper and peers such as Max Lamb, Bethan Laura Wood and Silo Studio populate SEE••DS Gallery with a collection of bronze candle sticks priced according to their weight. All of these raise more questions that they answer, a habit Gamper acquired from Ron Arad during his time at the Royal College of Art.

 Disco Carbonara, a London Design Festival commission by Martino Gamper, installed in Coal Drops Yard at King's Cross

‘Ron taught us to really question everything,’ says Gamper. ‘He was always controversial. He would ask very valid questions, and at the same time encourage us to find our own way, to be individuals and not just follow in the footsteps of others or tick boxes. For 12 years, he created the most diverse selection of designers that I can think of. We are all out there, doing our own things, finding new ways, new methods, new techniques…and thinking outside the box.’ Established in 1837, the RCA’s mission is to take innovation to industry and engage with real-world issues, and if Arad’s emphasis during his tenure as Professor of Design Products (1998–2009) was on the former, Gamper, who taught there from 2003 until 2017, put his focus on the latter. ‘I tried to bring students out of college to do as many live projects as possible – we went to India and Africa, we opened restaurants and shops, we visited factories. It was important that the students understood that it’s not just about what you design, it’s about where it lives in the world.’ But Gamper admits it’s a constantly changing world. He came of age in the wake of post–modernism, when designers and architects such as Ettore Sottsass, Andrea Branzi and Alessandro Mendini broke free from the shackles of modernism. ‘Sotsass, especially, killed the idea that ‘form follows function’ and started to develop a new language, borrowing elements from the Greeks and the Romans,’ explains Gamper. ‘He was trying to create a new style, a new aesthetic, new surfaces – and he was having fun. People post-rationalise it into this deadly serious, intellectual movement now, but they just wanted to do something new.’

Now, after the minimalist reaction against post-modernism, Gamper thinks it is again time for something new. ‘Material has become important; narrative has become important; the environment and sustainability have become important. Before now, design groups have always said, “This is the future, forget about the rest”. But now things are happening in parallel. Maybe we can create something new from all of those ingredients rather than separating them into smaller things. Maybe things can be a little more mixed, a little more inclusive.’

As you step through the doors of Disco Carbonara, instead of feeling disappointed about the lack of night club, perhaps imagine instead that you’ve stepped into a parallel universe – one where mending is taken as seriously as making, where waste is a precious resource, where you have the freedom to question everything, where everything happens in parallel and everybody is welcome. Whether your name is on the list or not – step inside.

Find Martino Gamper’s site-specific installation for Coal Drops Yard, alongside exhibitions, events, workshops and performances at the London Design Festival’s newest design district, Kings Cross, from 14th to 22nd September 2019.

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Photograpy: @studiostagg

Raising the Roof (25 Beautiful Homes)

Designer Emma Carlow and husband Graham completely renovated their Victorian end-of-terrace property, from replacing the roof to extending the kitchen, in just six weeks.

Emma, a wallpaper designer, husband Graham and son Finn were living in a rented house when they spotted their current home on the same street, so they knew exactly what to expect. ‘This house was almost exactly the mirror image of the one we were living in four doors down,’ says Emma. ‘So I thought we would know exactly what to do.’ In the end, the couple lived in the house for a year before starting renovations and found that one change led to another. ‘Replacing the main staircase meant reconfiguring the bathroom, masses of extra insulation in the roof meant we had to have paddle stairs up to the top floor…’ she says. ‘In the end, we didn’t do anything we had planned to!’

Despite not sticking to their original plans, it was a pretty efficient renovation. The family moved out for six weeks while a team of builders from Derbyshire headed up by Emma’s Dad – a retired builder himself – moved in. Emma and her Dad project-managed and in six weeks the team fitted a new staircase, replaced the roof – fitting a dormer to create space for an en-suite bathroom for Finn, built extensive bespoke storage for Graham’s photography equipment in the spare room, replaced the family bathroom, and extended the kitchen into the side-return.

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The first job was the main staircase. ‘We wanted new stairs, because the original ones were just too steep,’ says Emma. But altering the staircase meant re-planning the family bathroom to create the necessary space. They took the opportunity to replace everything and create a light, bright family bathroom.

A dormer in the roof created enough space for an en suite bathroom for Finn’s bedroom. ‘We let Finn have that room, so when he has friends over he takes them up there and we’ve still got the rest of the house,’ she laughs. Emma’s Dad advised them to add insulation not only to the roof but also to every external wall – being a Victorian house; the property doesn’t have cavity walls. This meant losing three inches around the edge of every room, and compromising on paddle stairs up to Finn’s room, but Emma says it was worth it: ‘We hardly ever have to heat the upstairs of the house because it is just so warm,’ she says.

Once the top floor was done, the builders moved downstairs to the spare room on the first floor. ‘We call it the Mother Cupboard,’ laughs Emma. ‘Partly because it’s where my mother stays when she visits, but mostly because it is one mother of a cupboard! There is as much storage as you could possibly fit in there – it’s basically a garage in spare room form.’ Graham and Emma both planned to work from home and while Emma now has an office with friends in Lewes, Graham stores all of his photography equipment in this room.

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The final project in this speedy renovation was the kitchen. ‘We had inherited a 1980s kitchen which was tiny, dangerous and horrible,’ says Emma. ‘You could stand in the middle and touch two opposite walls at the same time.’ By extending the kitchen to fill the side return and using extensive glazing, they created a spacious, light-filled, family kitchen. ‘It has made a massive difference – we doubled the size of the kitchen,’ she says. ‘And the glass extension means that the whole of the downstairs is so much lighter.’

From start to finish, the whole project took just six weeks. Graham was working in New York for five of the six weeks, and Emma stayed in a local holiday cottage with Finn, so she was able to keep an eye on progress by visiting every day. ‘It honestly wasn’t that stressful,’ she insists. ‘I loved seeing everything stripped totally bare, so you could see the shell of the house, but my favourite moment was Graham’s reaction when he got back from New York – I think he was quite impressed!’ She does admit there was one tense situation when a neighbour got stuck behind the concrete lorry on their cul-de-sac. ‘The glass extension was being put up at the back and the concrete was arriving for the floor all on the same day, so it was already quite a stressful day,’ she says. ‘Then we trapped a neighbour, who needed to collect her son from school, on the wrong side of the concrete lorry and couldn’t move it. Luckily my car was the right side of the lorry, so we found a solution.’

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Inspired by a love of colour and mid-century design, the interior came together quite naturally – with a little help from Pinterest. ‘I think this was when I first fell in love with Pinterest – I put together a ‘house’ mood board and immediately started to see patterns, such as certain colours, emerging,’ says Emma. ‘Graham and I have always been quite flamboyant with colour. We both went to art school, so perhaps we’ve been inspired by the artists we admire. I am a massive Alexander Calder fan and he uses a lot of primary colours – and I also love Alexander Girard and of course Charles and Ray Eames.’ The vision for the space was Emma’s but Graham did have some input, such as choosing the yellow for the stairs and the mango orange for the kitchen cupboards. ‘I let him choose two colours,’ she laughs, ‘but I’ve got to hand it to him – they are pretty good colours.’

Predominantly white walls provide a backdrop for mid-century furniture and a colourful collection of art and personal objects that are displayed throughout the house. The couple’s existing dining table provided a starting point, soon enhanced by the 1960s teak display unit – a lucky find on eBay at just £400 that turned out to be the Danish PS System. ‘The whole scheme was designed around our dining room table, because we are a family that sits at the table rather than in the lounge,’ explains Emma. ‘That is where we entertain, where we work, where I host a craft night once a week – it’s a cliché, but it really is the heart of our home.’

Emma bought basic kitchen cabinets and commissioned a local carpenter to make the doors, which she painted bright orange. ‘The kitchen floor stayed concrete for ages, because we didn’t know what to do with it,’ says Emma. ‘But luckily, we live next door to the principle of the Inchbald School of Design and he said, “You’ve got to go with teal!” so teal lino it was!’

Now that the whirlwind renovation is complete, what does the family make of their colourful home? ‘What I love about our house is it is incredibly welcoming,’ says Emma. ‘Nothing is hidden ­– it’s all very open. Everybody knows where everything is, so they just help themselves. It’s a really welcoming friendly house.’ Not bad for six weeks’ work.

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This story was originally commission by Period Living and has since been republished in 25 Beautiful Homes. All photography: Bruce Hemming.

Store Store: A Piece of the Future (Viewpoint Magazine)

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Peering in through the window of STORE Store in London’s newest retail development, Coal Drops Yard, you’d be forgiven for wondering what on earth is going on inside. Having meandered through a predictable mix of too-cool-for-school high-end stores such as Tom Dixon, Aesop and Cos, you might be suddenly confronted with an array of oozy extruded plastic candlesticks or a bunch of 15–18-year-olds taking a crash course in glassmaking.

As arts education is squeezed from the syllabus at every level and young people from economically disadvantaged backgrounds are demonstrably less likely to take creative subjects even where they are offered, STORE is promoting access, openness and inclusivity in creative education. ‘There are many arguments supporting this, from the fact that the creative industries are a major contributor to the UK economy, to the impact the arts have on wider culture,’ says James Shaw, one of the designers behind STORE. ‘But one of the main things we are keen to work on is making sure that creative education is open to all, bringing in a diverse range of voices.’

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The project evolved from an opportunity offered to some young artists, architects and designers in 2011. ‘We were asked to take over Store Street for the Bloomsbury Festival and decided to create 20 installations to retell the story of Icarus,’ explains founding member Kevin Green. ‘We invited more than 40 architects and artists to work together on each installation and subsequently, we were given an old warehouse on Alfred Place for two years. We held lectures, workshops and readings, as well as a residency programme, an architectural summer school, and a large Arts Council-funded art show.’

Over the eight years that followed, the loose association of artists, architects and designers that coalesced around Alfred Place and subsequent venues across London, formalised into community-interest company STORE. It now comprises three core elements: an educational programme of art and architecture courses; a wide-ranging programme of public events and exhibitions; and a socially engaged design practice. All of these are driven by a passion for encouraging London-based students from low-income backgrounds to think about pursuing creative subjects at higher-education level. ‘I was lucky enough to have an amazing art school education, which was extremely nourishing, mind-opening and really formed the basis for my entire practice today,’ says Shaw. ‘But I came in at the tail-end of university being affordable. In each of my courses – foundation, degree and then masters – my year group was the last not to be paying large fees. I got the last taste of the freedom to follow my choices without having to worry about debt. Today’s young people not only have to weigh up the monetary value of an education that shouldn’t be valued in monetary terms, but also face the fact that arts courses are being massively squeezed in schools across the UK.’

 STORE Store Casting Softies workshop, Coal Drops Yard, King's Cross

STORE’s efforts to address this situation include exhibitions, one-day workshops, after-school clubs for local state schools – and summer schools in London, Warsaw, Hong Kong and Athens. These collaborative design and construction projects enable young people to actively engage with the dynamics of lively urban sites – testing ideas through drawing, modelling, prototyping and performance, before creating ambitious public installations and events.

And then there is STORE Store. Described by The Guardian’s Rowan Moore as an ‘Instagrammable visual hit… [designed] to soak up some of the surplus value sloshing around the credit-card accounts of the modern well-heeled urbanite,’ Coal Drops Yard isn’t the obvious place to house a design shop populated with objects designed and made by after-school-club students with royalties donated to good causes. But the venture is underwritten by property developer Argent and making space for such initiatives was always part of the plan: ‘Part of the original vision for Coal Drops Yard was that it be a place where things are made as well as sold,’ says Argent’s Vickie Hayward. ‘I saw a stool James Shaw had made with some of the STORE students and it was one of those moments when I knew immediately that we would be working together. STORE’s designers are using processes that are pushing material and making forward, and it is an amazing privilege for Coal Drops Yard to provide a home for that. It’s like having a tiny piece of the future onsite.’

 STORE Store making a saddle cover workshop, Coal Drops Yard, King's Cross

There are now 29 artists, designers and architects involved in running STORE and the challenges of co-ordinating such a large group of people – and such a wide range of activities – are surmounted at a monthly dinner. ‘It’s not easy,’ laughs Green. ‘We have always done everything in our spare time; we spend our weekends running the various programmes and spend most evenings in the workshop making and prototyping things. Different people take ownership of different projects, and over the years, we have slowly found – and are still finding – a way to organise such a large group so everyone can have their autonomy, but with moments where we all move forward together.’

And moving forward they are. Not satisfied with their already impressive achievements, the artists, designers and architects behind STORE – like so many of their generation – want to bring about positive social change and have big plans for more ways they can leverage the platform they have developed to do so. ‘We are ambitious about what the organisation can do,’ says Shaw. ‘We strongly believe in promoting arts education to all and promoting skills in art and design and we would love to continue our engagement in the public realm. We have lots of big ideas, from setting up a permanent school, to building a rural centre for the teaching of making skills.’ Right now, STORE might only represent a tiny piece of the future, but if things continue at this pace, it’s a piece that is only going to grow.

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Photography: Alexander Coggin for Viewpoint Magazine.

The Shape of the Spirit (Viewpoint Magazine)

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Has a decline in religion led people to find solace in craft, or is making inherently spiritual? Psychotherapist Andrew Samuels argues that holiness is not something found or discovered, but something we make with our hands, through building churches and performing rituals. Archbishop Rowan Williams describes even prehistoric craft as the ‘deeply religious impulse [of] human beings trying to enter fully into the flow of life around them’. That term, ‘flow,’ was coined by psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi to describe our happiest state – that of ‘being completely involved in an activity for its own sake’ – which is almost exactly the definition philosopher Richard Sennett gives to craft. Today, materials and techniques connect contemporary makers to ancient wisdom and the objects they make take on the status of artefacts laden with moral values such as ‘honesty’ and ‘authenticity’. Katie Treggiden speaks to six makers each with a different take on the notion of spiritual craft.

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Joel Parkes

Describing any creative person’s output as ‘the shape of their spirit’, public artist Joel Parkes works with wood from dead trees, stressing it to breaking point and highlighting its ‘flaws’ with metallic flourishes. ‘The monolithic stillness and stoicism of trees represents a concentrated version of how we could live: quietly, in accordance with one another,’ he says. ‘Wood tells its life story through its flesh – the ravages of time; the abrupt schisms which change its shape forever. Trees thrive because of their breaks; they gain a character and form. We humans are very similar; the scars of stresses make us more beautiful – stronger against the storms that seek to knock us down.’

Dawn Benedick
‘All making is an act of play and a reflection of self,’ says artist and designer Dawn Benedick. Her work uses cast dichroic glass that changes colour in reaction to different light sources to draw our attention to the passage of time. ‘People are more sensitive to the changing colour temperature of natural light throughout the day than they realise,’ she says. ‘My work is about tapping into our peripheral senses and heightening awareness of changes in the seasons, atmospheric light and weather. Working with light lends itself to magical experiences, which become a space for viewers to think about their relationship with time in a different way.

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Soojin Kang

>Central Saint Martins graduate Soojin Kang creates woven sculptures inspired by ancient artisanship and emotional sustainability. ‘Weaving is a generative process associated with life force,’ she says. ‘Craftsmanship offers emotional contact between maker and materials. Weaving is slow and thoughtful, which means I can truly engage – carefully giving attention to my work. I like to find beautiful moments in ugliness and recognise that without unhappiness there is no happiness; without the bad there is no good. Life is about balancing elements, and my work is a mirror to the ugliness, prompting moments of beauty. The most important thing I seek is honesty.’

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Dongchun Lee

Korean artist Dongchun Lee’s Flourish Wither is an exploration in wood of the passing of time, birth, death, decay and rebirth. ‘Wood has strong religious and cultural meanings, especially in Asia, as a medium of spiritual communication, and yet at the same time has become an important basis for human life in a very practical way,’ he says. Likening art to religion, Lee suggests the artist’s aim is ‘to express something that cannot be expressed’ and sees pieces of jewellery as tiny works of art that carry meaning, symbolism and identity for both the wearer and the maker.

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Ewe Studio

EWE Studio’s Sacred Ritual Objects collection, handmade by local artisans from marble, volcanic stone and bronze, reflects the religious and cultural influences that shaped pre-Hispanic Mexican craft heritage. Simultaneously an act of remembrance for a culture in danger for being forgotten and an innovative reimagination of an enduring skillset, the decorative and functional objects take their cues from ceremonial artefacts and religious icons. ‘With a desire to reflect tradition as part of the natural flow of design, we celebrate diverse techniques, blend primitive roughness with pristine surfaces, and use natural empathic materials that appeal to the senses,’ says co-founder Age Salajoe. ‘Mexican history is our inspiration for forging new ideas that have substance and meaning.’

Adam Ross

Ceramicist Adam Ross uses both throwing and hand-building to create life-like and yet abstract sculptures. ‘My work is about capturing the tiniest detail of somebody’s mannerisms – just enough to make a piece recognisable, without giving it human form.’ There is something alchemistic about his ability to capture movement, and the very essence of a single human being, in such an ancient, elemental material. ‘Clay is very malleable until it is fired and then becomes brittle, so capturing that energy in something that can no longer move is my daily challenge.’ Echoing the beliefs of Csíkszentmihályi and Sennett, Ross sees his work as something very private that he does simply for the joy of making, often losing himself in it completely. ‘When it’s all going well, it’s absolutely meditative,’ he says. ‘It is the one thing in life I couldn’t do without.’

UNFOLD THE HISTORY OF PAPER (ELLE DECORATION)

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People have been folding paper for as long as there has been paper to fold. In China, where the practice is known as ‘zhe zhi’, it emerged alongside the invention of paper around 105 AD. It arrived in Japan 400 years later, brought across the sea by Buddhist monks, and gradually made its way to Europe through silk-trading routes, bearing a name from the Japanese words ‘ori’ (‘to fold’) and ‘kami’ (‘paper’).

The high price of paper meant that origami was initially reserved for religious and ceremonial purposes, but even as it became more widespread as the cost of paper fell, belief in its mystical properties remained. The writer Akisato Ritowas the first to create written instructions for paper folding in his 1797 book of origami designs, woodcuts and poetry ‘Hiden Senbazuru Orikata’ (‘The Secret to Folding 1,000 Cranes’),’ which described how to make the archetypal origami crane – and Japanese legend holds that anyone who can fold 1,000of these auspicious birds will have whatever their heart desires.

Contemporary artists still connect to this sense of ritual, often referring to the power of repetitive paper folding. ‘My dad died while I was researching my first paper project and origami became my therapy,’ says paper artist Angela Fung. ‘I folded metres and metres of paper without really realising what I was doing.’ Scottish designer Kyla McCallum echoes this notion. ‘I like the fact that you have to make everything by hand with paper – it is a very meditative material,’ she says. ‘You are doing something with your hands that you don’t have to actively think about, but it is just enough to stop your mind from racing.’

Although that might explain why designers are increasingly working in this ancient material, it doesn’t quite explain why we want it in our homes, but it comes close. In living memory, we touched paper all day long from the diary or calendar that told us our plans for the day to the book we curled up with in bed at night. Now that so many of our daily interactions are digital, perhaps we are craving the tactility of paper once again, and so it is finding its way into our interiors. ‘Paper has been with us for aeons,’ explains visual artist Kubo Novak. ‘There is a natural affinity between humans and paper. I love it for its delicacy, its fragility and its almost infinite creative possibilities.’ As our surroundings become increasingly slick, shiny and screen-based, we yearn for the imperfections of natural materials. ‘People are drawn to the colour, the finish, and the warmth of paper,’ adds Liam Hopkins. ‘We are more and more conscious of the natural environment and we feel a connection to that through paper.’ You might not have the time to fold 1,000 paper cranes, but perhaps a little more paper in your life is all your heart desires.

Photography: Foldability / Kubonovak / Tedzukuri Atelier /Foldability

Tomorrow’s World Today (Simple Things)

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In the early 20th century, the future felt imminent. The aftermath of the First World War left people wanting to forget the past and look forward, and increasing industrialisation meant leaving behind old ways of life for new urban jobs and suburban homes. After World War Two, mid-century homes became testing grounds for new ideas about how we might live in a future that seemed just around the corner. As the Design Museum’s Home Futures exhibition explores ‘today’s home through the prism of yesterday’s imagination,’ Katie Treggiden investigates whether its big ideas have stood the test of time.

1 . The fitted kitchen

Designed in 1926 by Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky for a social housing project in Germany, the ‘Frankfurt kitchen’ was such a hit that it became the blueprint for apartment kitchens across Europe. ‘Firstly, life is work, and secondly, it is relaxing, company, pleasures,’ said Schütte-Lihotzky, dividing the home accordingly, with the kitchen reserved for the former. As women who had worked during wartime were encouraged back into the home, scientific management pioneers Christine Frederick and Lillian M Gilbreth’s sought to professionalise the role of the housewife, reimagining the kitchen as her workplace. Inspired by this idea, Schütte-Lihotzky carried out time and motion studies to create a kitchen that optimised efficiency, workflow and hygiene. For the first time, kitchens came complete with stoves and built-in storage – and even fold-down ironing boards. Aluminium drawers provided space for dried goods and pulled out for easy pouring. Kitchens might have changed – they are now family spaces for ‘relaxing, company and pleasures’ too, but we still take many of Schütte-Lihotzky’s ideas for granted. Our fitted kitchens are ergonomically designed around the tasks we use them for – and who doesn’t dream of labelled containers for everything from rice to sugar?

2 . The automated house

‘Welcome to this wonderful new world of push-button cooking, cleaning and homemaking… In this kitchen you can bake a cake in three minutes … the dishes are scraped, washed and dried electronically, [and] even put themselves away,’ so claimed a 1957 promotional film for the RCA-Whirlpool Miracle Kitchen – promising to liberate women from domestic chores ‘with a mere wave of her hand’. Of course, this was a Heath Robinson-esque fantasy – the appliances in the film were operated by remote control from behind a two-way mirror. Today, we might still have to put our dishes away ourselves, but we can outsource many of our chores to a series of interconnected digital devices that use data they collect on our behaviour to predict our every need, from ‘smart fridges’ that order more milk when we run low to systems that adjust the heating and lighting in anticipation of our return home. However, for all our technological advances, housework still seems to be gendered – Amazon’s Alexa might be able to order our groceries online, but ‘she’ does so with a biddable female persona.

3 . Small space living

The kitchen was not the only room expected to shrink. With the urbanisation of populations and the post-war housing crisis, 20th-century designers became obsessed with clever ways to fit life into ever decreasing spaces. None more so than Joe Colombo, whose 1969 Total Furnishing Unit compressed the entire home into a single mobile box measuring just 28 square metres. The yellow and white ‘pod’ contained kitchen appliances, bookshelves, a television, a bathroom, a wardrobe and fold-down twin beds – all you had to do was plug it in. Commissioned by New York’s Museum of Modern Art, it still sounds pretty crazy until you consider that MINI Living, the architecture arm of the automotive firm, showcased a similar prototype at Milan Design Week in 2018 and plans to open its first apartment block in Shanghai this year. Given that the United Nations predicts that two thirds of us will be living in cities by 2050 and ‘megacities’ such as London, New York and Tokyo already house more than 10 million people, Colombo’s far-fetched idea might not be as improbable as it once seemed.

4 . Living on the move

Home Futures explores notions of nomadic living from Archigram’s 1970s Walking City – the vision of an entire metropolis contained within a giant, four-legged, walking robot that could move to find resources and other communities – to the story of a Danish man who sold his house to buy Airbnb rental apartments and now sleeps in a different hotel every night. Although we are not living in walking robotic cities and few of us actively relish the idea of moving every day, we are increasingly nomadic. Empowered by digital technology, and temporary co-working and co-living spaces that are starting to make ownership seem outdated, we can increasingly move from place to place with (almost) everything we need in a smart-phone and a carry-on suitcase. Perhaps the house of tomorrow is no house at all.

Immerse Yourself in Design (Oryx Magazine)

Milan might be famous for fashion, but it’s also the heart of Italy’s furniture industry and home to the most significant fair in the design calendar – think Paris Fashion Week, but for product and furniture design and with the Gothic drama of the Duomo di Milano as its backdrop. Milan Design Week runs from 08 – 14 April and although many exhibitions are aimed at the trade, most are open to the public for at least part of the week.

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Start your explorations at Salone del Mobile to see the latest trends and newest collections from some of the biggest brands in design, as well as the show’s biannual focus on lighting and workspaces. Salone Satellite features work from universities and emerging designers to give you a sense of what’s to come. Don’t miss ‘The art of Italian design before and after Leonardo’, a special installation created by DE-SIGNO in celebration of the city’s adopted son, Leonardo da Vinci, on the 100th anniversary of his death. salonemilano.it/en

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Next, get into the city and discover the design districts that comprise the fringe festival known as ‘Fuorisalone’, such as Brera, Zona Tortona, Zona Centrale, Sant’Ambrogio, 5vie, Loreto, Isola and Porta Venezia. Look out for signs outside participating shops and showrooms don’t miss the ‘3D-printed pathway’ designed by London-based architect Arthur Mamou-Mani for Cos. The bioplastic walkway will transport you through the 16th-century courtyard of Palazzo Isimbardi and into the surrounding gardens. cosstores.com/Salone

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Exhibitions not to be missed

ZONA TORTONA
JOIN by Norwegian Presence
Design and Architecture Norway (DOGA), Klubben and Norwegian Crafts present an exhibition championing collaboration and connection for a sustainable future. norwegianpresence.no

LORETO & ISOLA
Alcova
Taking over a former panettone factory and a cashmere mill frozen in time since the 1930s, Alcova hosts performances, exhibitions, talks, screenings and installations. alcova.xyz 

ZONA TORTONA
Ventura Future 
Positioning designers as story-tellers, Ventura Future takes on some of world’s biggest challenges from migration to bio-design with a series of multi-sensory experiences. venturaprojects.com

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Weaves for the Wall (Elle Decoration)

Expect to see blankets migrating from beds and sofas to the walls of your home this year. As our homes become more digitalised and music, books, and photo albums follow cameras, calendars, and computers into the tiny technology in our smartphones and tablets, the question of what to fill our homes with becomes less driven by function and more about emotion. With less need for stuff, we can become more selective about the objects we choose to display in our homes and what they say about us. ‘We are surrounded by fabric from the cradle to the grave and yet it still has the power to inspire, stimulate and challenge us,’ says textile artist and designer Ekta Kaul. ‘The colour, texture, patterns and symbols of textiles all convey narratives and define identities.’

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Quilts, blankets and embroidered textiles have a rich history of storytelling and have been used to mark special occasions such as births and weddings for thousands of years – and in more recent times have also been used for everything from therapy to protest. ‘Textile artforms are amazing carriers of meaning and expression,’ says Forest and Found’s Abigail Booth. ‘More and more artists and crafts practitioners are turning to textiles as a way to explore ideas through making – people connect more deeply to such a familiar language.’

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Traditionally wrapped around our shoulders, or tucked over our beds, there is a warmth and immediacy to blankets that provokes an emotional response to art in this medium. ‘As well as being visually stimulating, textiles have a domestic quality that means people can relate to them in a way they don’t relate to formal art forms behind glass,’ explains printmaker Mark Hearld. ‘They can be used to soften the severity of architectural spaces and bring texture, richness, depth and often a sense of playfulness to contemporary interior design schemes – in times of uncertainty, people need their homes to feel like a sanctuary and textiles offer that warmth and comfort.’

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In our ever more harried lives, they also argue for a slower pace. ‘There is a palpable sense of time in textiles-based art,’ says artist and maker Maxine Sutton. ‘The time spent making – the slowness of the textile processes – can be seen in the final piece and enjoyed by its owners, encouraging them to slow down too.’ Invest in a piece of blanket art you love and we’re sure it will be cherished for generations to come, just like the heirloom quilts of the past.

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Woven Works (Elle Decoration)

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Expect to see weavings alongside paintings, photography and illustrations on the walls of homes and galleries alike this year. It’s no secret that craft is enjoying a bit of a renaissance, at least partly driven by a disillusionment with mass-produced perfection and the instant gratification of the internet. ‘Hand weaving is a very slow process, done with simple tools and mostly natural materials,’ says weaver Genevieve Griffiths. ‘Woven artworks are imbued with a very human sense of time and effort, which is rare and magical.’

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Our love of the handmade seems unabated, and weaving, in particular, is being put into the spotlight by next year’s centenary of the Bauhaus – a reminder of the women artists of the weaving workshop at the influential German art school. A recent Tate Modern retrospective of Anni Albers showed how her woven works transcended the boundaries between art, architecture and utility, and almost 100 years later those boundaries are being challenged again. ‘Elevating textiles from the everyday objects we wear and live with at home to artworks shifts our perception of what fabric is for and what is involved in its creation,’ says designer and maker Jo Elbourne. ‘There’s something really exciting about that.’

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One of mankind’s oldest crafts, weaving involves interlacing two sets of threads (the warp and the weft) at right angles to one another to create fabric – a seemingly simple process, and yet one that yields endless possibilities. ‘I use bold geometric forms as a vehicle for exploring colour, proportion and perspective,’ says woven textile designer Margo Selby. ‘I like the crisp precision I get by weaving with fine yarns to get sharp lines and accurate measurements.’

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In contrast, textile artist Judit Just’s fat, noodle-like yarns and ribbons create a riot of texture that cries out to be touched. And it’s the tactility of this art form that really makes it stand out from other disciplines. ‘Textile art can be enjoyed tactically as well as visually,’ says Just. ‘People don’t just respond with their eyes, but with their hands too.’ Elborne agrees: ‘Even when I show framed work in a gallery setting, people want to touch it and even try to manipulate the surface in a way that they just wouldn’t with a painting,’ she says. ‘There is a three-dimensional quality to textile art which comes from the inherent “over-under” of weaving.’ As pleasing to touch as it is to look at, we’re certain this art form will be gracing the walls of your home soon.

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Traditional as Radical (Viewpoint Magazine)

The eponymous founder and co-director of Sebastian Cox Ltd stands in the midst of his bustling furniture workshop – filled with people making everything from one-off commissions to a complete interior for a high-street retailer – looking up the stern portrait of William Morris that watches over the scene. ‘I often ask myself,’ he says, ‘What would William Morris think if he turned up here today?’ He pauses for a moment. ‘I hope he would think we were on the right track.’

As well as his oft-quoted, ‘Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful,’ Morris campaigned for craft skills, ‘art for all,’ honest construction, better working conditions, and the use of nature in all things – his most famous wallpaper designs depict birds, plants and flowers, which he hoped would create calming atmospheres in people’s homes.

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Sebastian and his wife and co-director Brogan are taking these ideas a step further. Their strapline ‘traditional as radical’ is taken from the title of Sebastian’s master’s thesis (he studied sustainable design at the University of Lincoln) and references the couple’s belief that the answers to some of the 21st century’s biggest problems can be found in the past. The pair use a palette of materials that would be familiar to Morris and even to the medieval craftsmen he was inspired by. ‘If you were going to invent the perfect material of the future, you would want something strong, light and renewable that could be made anywhere on the planet’ says Sebastian. ‘If you were being really ambitious, you might even ask it to absorb carbon dioxide and emit oxygen. It sounds like a tall order, but it already exists – it’s wood.’ If their material palette of British woods is medieval, so too are the colours they use. ‘Our work is mostly brown,’ laughs Sebastian. ‘Colour poses a problem for sustainability – it dates more quickly than anything else, which is why we haven’t really used it yet.’ But Brogan’s green Barker table, launched at Decorex, signals a change – working with natural oils and dyes, she is developing a colour palette to suit their materials. ‘In the medieval era, colour was special and rare, and that’s how we will use it,’ says Sebastian. ‘Colours from nature are the only ones that never really go out of fashion.’

But Sebastian Cox Ltd is about more than making furniture that William Morris would approve of. Brogan’s marketing background at GOOD Agency and her time at the American Hardwood Export Council laid the ground for the co-director role she stepped into full-time in 2017, having previously been involved behind the scenes. ‘When I grilled Sebastian about the company’s vision, it quickly became apparent that this was about something much bigger than furniture,’ she says. ‘I remember saying, “You are aware that what you really want to do is change the world, aren’t you?”’ Although Sebastian will only nod sheepishly in agreement, this aspiration is in evidence across the business.

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Following the ethos of Morris & Co, furniture made by Sebastian Cox Ltd is economical in its design and made using only natural materials. This means that you can see how it is made – and therefore how to repair it – but it also adds longevity in other ways. ‘In his book Sustainable by Design, Stuart Walker says that if you can ‘read’ an object, you will form an emotional connection with it,’ explains Sebastian. There is no division of labour, and the team – the majority of whom are currently female – are all paid the London Living Wage. New production techniques, combined with clever design, even enable some collections to be priced in line with (high-end) high-street retailers, making them accessible to ordinary people – something the Arts and Crafts movement aspired to, but never really achieved.

But where Sebastian and Brogan are really taking Arts and Crafts thinking further than its original exponents is in their relationship with nature. Whereas Morris and his followers appropriated the aesthetics of nature, projects such as Hewn and Mycelium + Timber feel more like symbiotic collaborations with the great outdoors. Hewn features coppiced hazel branches left ‘in the round’ with their bark intact. ‘Designers need our own version of the Hippocratic oath – we should be extracting materials from the natural environment in a way that benefits that environment,’ says Sebastian. ‘There are few examples where man’s intervention with nature is constructive, but coppicing is one of them.’ Coppicing, something Sebastian has been familiar with since watching charcoal burners work his family’s 300-year-old coppice aged 11, involves cutting one-fourteenth of a woodland’s trees back to their stumps every 14 years. The felled sections regrow, resulting in a biodiverse ecosystem in which flowers, insects and birds thrive. British woodlands have been managed in this way for thousands of years – and new research suggests that the process echoes the way in which large mammals would have once knocked over trees foraging for food. However, a decline in woodland management, owing to the falling value of timber, has seen a parallel decline in biodiversity. ‘I want to put the value back into woodlands, by making objects from coppiced wood that people want to buy,’ says Sebastian.

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Mycelium + Timber takes the idea of collaborating with nature further, using natural processes not only to source materials, but also to construct products. Inspired by some hazel that Sebastian found in the woodland fused together with fungus, the collection of lighting, created in collaboration with Ninela Ivanova, is ‘grown’ in moulds from the vegetative part of the Fomes fomentarius fungus and scrap willow wood. Once dried, the suede-like mycelium is entirely stable, and Sebastian predicts lifespans akin to wooden products. Lead times are in line with the high street, and once scaled, prices will be too. Far from the ‘mere machines’ that Morris feared workers would become, this process effectively turns them into chefs or gardeners. At the end of their lives, the lights can be rendered compostable with the simple addition of water. ‘Because they have come from the earth, they can be returned to the earth,’ says Brogan, acknowledging the circularity required for true sustainability that many designers – appalled by the idea of their products being disposed of at all – cannot bear to think about.

In answer to the question Sebastian posed under that stern portrait: if William Morris were here, there is no doubt that would be very impressed indeed – to see his legacy not only continued, but built upon and enriched with such thoughtfulness and vision.

Photography: Kat Green and Petr Krejci

RINGING THE CHANGES (25 BEAUTIFUL HOMES)

Cover story. .

After a long-running house renovation that has meant Christmases with family and friends, marketing director Estelle Derouet and her company director husband Jon Savage are determined to host for once and make the big day special for their ten-year-old son Louis now that the house is complete. ‘Louis was only three when we moved in, so it’s about making a bit more effort now,’ she says. ‘I think we’ll really enjoy it this year.’ Regardless of where they spend the big day, it starts early. ‘I am a morning person, so I’m awake from 6am. The family begins with presents and a breakfast of smoked salmon and champagne for the adults and chocolate pancakes for the children. The lunch menu varies. ‘If we’re with Jon’s family, it’s turkey. I’m a terrible cook, so I follow Jamie Oliver’s recipe to the letter and that seems to work. My family are French and a little more adventurous – my mum does goose with all the trimmings.’ There are of course long-running family traditions either way. ‘There is the annual Christmas jumper competition,’ explains Estelle, ‘And then a few years ago, Jon found the most ludicrous hats on eBay. There is everything from a chimney stack with Santa’s feet coming out of the top to a Christmas pudding – and the more you drink the more ridiculous everyone looks.’

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The thought of the festivities finally all happening in her own home means that this Christmas, Estelle is going to town. ‘Every year I buy something new, and this year, my three big boxes of decorations have finally come down from the attic,’ she says. ‘No doubt, I will be up until 1am on Christmas eve getting the table just right.’ With an antique napkin, a feather and a name-card in a tiny frame for each place setting – that’s no surprise, but Estelle has a couple of tricks up her sleeve too. Plastic plates sit on top of china ones, real foliage is intertwined with faux, and she has also made the controversial move of investing in a fake tree this year. ‘I have hung pine-scented icicle decorations on it and no-one believes me when I confess,’ she says.

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But all of that is just the icing on the cake of finally being able to spend Christmas in her own home – a property the couple bought in 2011 knowing it would need a total overhaul. ‘We were looking for a project, so we knew what we were letting ourselves in for,’ she laughs. They began by replacing the roof, removing the pebbledash exterior and refurbishing all the sash windows. ‘It wasn’t the most exciting part of the project, but we needed to get the big stuff out of the way,’ says Estelle. Upstairs, they knocked two rooms together to create a large family bathroom, sacrificed a small bedroom for a home office, and turned a kitchen (part of a former self-contained flat) into a guest bathroom. A ground-floor extension created a large eat-in kitchen and they reinstated period features throughout. ‘We sourced everything from vintage radiators and fireplaces to reclaimed floorboards and bathroom fittings from eBay and reclamation yards to bring it all in on budget.’

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When it came to the decorating, Estelle’s ‘side hustle’ as an interior design blogger and stylist (see @savageinteriors on Instagram) paid dividends. ‘Good interior design is about having confidence in your vision,’ she says. It’s a style she describes as ‘modern Victorian with a hint of Savage,’ inspired by her childhood. ‘Watching my mother renovate a 400-year-old farm house is definitely where my love of old buildings and antiques comes from,’ she says. ‘I am also very lucky to travel for work and so a lot of my research is done in boutique hotels.’ And whether it is the house as a whole or the dining table on Christmas morning, it’s a passion that’s worth staying up until the early hours for: ‘I just get so much joy out of it,’ she says.

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Photography by Bruce Hemming

Postmodernism is dead, Long live postmodernism (Monocle Magazine)

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When I started a Master’s in design history last year, I was a Modernist – out and proud. Despite my protestations to the contrary, a wise friend believed my studies would change my mind – ‘you’ll like Postmodernism,’ she said. ‘It’s where the women come in.’

Thursday 18 September saw the passing of Robert Venturi, the architect behind Postmodernism’s first building – Vanna Venturi House (1961) in Philadelphia. Historic England’s recent listing of 17 Postmodern buildings suggests the architecture Venturi pioneered is finally being accepted into the canon. Those buildings include the Gough Building (1988), with CZWG’s giant screw-shaped columns referencing the craft, design and technology taught within; and John Outram’s colourful, patterned Judge Business School (1995) inserted behind a 19th-century façade. To my eye, none of them are as beautiful as Fallingwater, Villa Savoye or New York’s Guggenheim Museum, but that’s not the point. ‘Postmodern architecture brought fun and colour to our streets,’ says Historic England’s chief executive Duncan Wilson, and he’s right – the movement rejected Modernism’s austere concrete boxes, proposing a more human approach, but I’m not sure that’s the point either.

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Modernist ideals were noble. In the aftermath of two world wars, a loose collection of (largely white, male, middle-class) architects formed a utopian vision for a better world in the belief that, with new technology, new materials and new machines, they could create it. They rejected ‘dishonest’ ornamentation and argued that in ‘less is more,’ ‘truth to materials’ and ‘machines for living in’ lay the answers to society’s problems – answers that would work for all people, for all time.

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Robert Venturi questioned all of that. In his seminal text Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture (1966), he wrote about an approach ‘based on the richness and ambiguity of modern experience’ saying, ‘I like elements which are hybrid rather than “pure”, compromising rather than “clean”, … accommodating rather than excluding … I prefer “both-and” to “either-or”.’ He argued that architecture must ‘embody the difficult unity of inclusion rather than the easy unity of exclusion.’ Whether you love or hate the way Postmodern buildings look, in today’s troubled climate, characterised by division, polarisation and exclusion, Venturi’s is the kind of thinking we need. Thinking that embodies not only the white, male, middle-classes, but all people – even women. My friend was right, I have come to love Postmodernism and everything it stands for.

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BACK TO SCHOOL (PERIOD LIVING)

All copy as supplied to publication.

Geotechnical engineer Katy Green and her arborist husband David bought an old school that had been converted into offices, at auction, without planning permission, having sold their previous house without anything to move into. They spotted their current home in the local newspaper, went to have a look, and headed to the auction. ‘David was wearing a bobble hat and nodding as he bid so the bobble was just nodding away!’ laughs Katy. ‘It was “going once, going twice” at £112,000, and we thought we had it. Then a new bidder chipped in, so it ended up going for £150,000 “to the man in the bobble hat!”’ An immediate deposit was required, and a few frantic calls to the bank secured a loan and the house.

But what they bought was a far cry from either the original school or the home they now live in. Outside, there were three prefabricated huts spanning 100 feet, 12 telephone lines and a 22-space car park. Inside, the space had been carved up with stud walls and false ceilings, hiding the original architecture. Despite all that, Katy immediately saw its potential. ‘It had an institutional feel, which I actually really liked, and I liked its weird scale too – from the front it’s this cute little house, but once you get inside it reveals its full size.’ They secured planning permission, but because it was a ‘change of use’ they couldn’t get building regulations sign-off – or a mortgage – until the end of the project. A bridging loan from family saved the day.

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Once funds were in place, they ripped everything out – right back to the original stone walls. ‘Anything we could do ourselves we did,’ says Katy, whose hands-on approach extended to living in those prefabricated huts on-site throughout the 18-month build – without a shower and only camping stoves to cook on. They commissioned a timber-frame inside the external walls, insulating between the two. Today, the whole house can be kept warm just with the Aga, even in winter. They had all the windows replaced and the joists at the back of the building cut, raising the floor level to add height to two new bedrooms in the basement. Downstairs, a damp-course membrane and concrete floor were added, while masons punched windows into the stone walls of the basement, adding granite lintels to match those used elsewhere. ‘It was a big scary job,’ admits Katy. At the same time, they were re-roofing – replacing the modern cement tile with traditional slate, and reclaimed ridged tiles Katy sourced for the top. ‘I enjoy hunting things down, but finding a 12-metre run of reclaimed ridged tiles is really hard,’ she laughs. They sandblasted and repointed all the stonework, replaced the fascias and removed a contemporary door from the front of the storm porch.

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Inside they lowered the ceilings in the lounge and master bedroom, but kept the full 14-foot height in the main living space. ‘I love a big living-dining space, so I really wanted to keep it,’ says Katy. A bedroom and bathroom up a few stairs, and the two bedrooms tucked into the basement, complete the space. They sanded the original floors in the bedrooms and lounge, pulling out staples one by one. ‘It was a labour of love,’ says Katy, who opted for herringbone parquet in the main space. They had just finished plastering when disaster struck. ‘The ceiling suddenly cracked,’ says Katy. ‘We had to take the whole lot down. I did have a little cry at that moment.’ The light at the end of the tunnel soon appeared though. ‘The kitchen was one of the last things to go in, and the day they fitted the Aga just felt really lovely,’ she says. Having scoured the country’s reclamation yards, online auction sites and car boot sales throughout the build to find furniture and accessories to suit her industrial midcentury style, elements of the internal architecture were built around her finds. ‘I bought a school bench shoe rack for the entrance hall and that dictated the width of the book case on the other side,’ she says. ‘And the door frames were made to fit the second-hand doors I found. I love those little details.’ Most of the interior came together instinctively as she collected things she liked, taking care to keep the overall look simple. ‘We limited the colour palate to white and wood, with the odd accent of grey or red,’ she explains.

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Once the interior was complete, the couple’s thoughts turned to the garden. ‘We had spent 18 months renovating the house, surrounded by a sea of tarmac, so we couldn’t wait to get rid of it,’ says Katy. ‘A JCB-driver friend dug up the car park, but that just meant we were surrounded by a sea of mud, which was slightly soul-destroying.’ The slow evolution of the garden, which now includes a sun terrace, raised vegetable beds and a family of chickens, is what finally makes the project feel complete: ‘Each year things are growing and that makes it feel like home,’ says Katy. Now that it’s done, was it worth all the risk and hard work? ‘Had I known then what I know now, I might have been a bit less gung-ho,’ she laughs. ‘But I’m glad we did it. It is a really warm space where we can get a whole bunch of friends together. We’re really happy here.’

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Photography by Bruce Hemming

PARKS AND RECREATION (B INSPIRED)

. ‘I just wanted to drop you an email to thank you for your excellent work on the NY piece – I really enjoyed it,’ said Vicky Lane, editor of b.inspired by Brussels Airlines. ‘I look forward to working together again soon.’ The story was chosen for the cover feature.

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If you spend time with New Yorkers – or want to live like a local when you visit – you can’t avoid the city’s parks. From T’ai Chi classes at sun-up to free concerts in the evenings, in New York, park life is a way of life. Katie Treggiden reports on the innovative green spaces shaping the city.

Fireflies fill the air as picnickers throw open their blankets and unpack their food to the sound of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra tuning up in Central Park. Cyclists and joggers circumnavigate the gathering crowds as the sun sets and the temperature drops. ‘I’m so happy to live in New York, just for this experience,’ says Koray Duman, principal of local architecture firm Büro Koray Duman, pushing his own bicycle as he speaks. Parks are the antidote to the chaos of the city that makes living here worthwhile. ‘You can step into Central Park and forget that you’re in one of the biggest cities in the world,’ says New York-based designer Brad Ascalon. ‘It is an 843-acre masterpiece.’ But although Central Park is the city’s most well-known green space, pioneering new developments like the High Line and Domino Park are jostling for top spot in the city’s park scene.

The High Line (opened in 2009 after local residents Joshua David and Robert Hammond met at a neighbourhood community meeting to discuss the future of the elevated railway) begins with a dramatic balcony overlooking Manhattan’s Meatpacking District and the recently relocated Whitney Museum. It meanders through the dappled shade of young trees and the 14th Street Passage to the sundeck, where adults relax on sliding sun loungers while children run barefoot, squealing with delight, through a stream just a few millimetres deep. A short stroll further is Chelsea Market Passage, which offers the rare opportunity to combine ice-cream sandwiches with the perusal of some serious works of art – the Friends of the High Line commission new installations every six months. Only the 10th Avenue Square and Overlook – an amphitheatre-like space with views up 10th Avenue to the north and over the Hudson River to the Statue of Liberty to the south – remind you that you are in one of the biggest cities in the world.

It’s an amazing feat when you realise that David and Hammond’s only aim in establishing the Friends of the High Line was to prevent it from being demolished. After a competition that received entries as disparate as a lane-swimming pool and a rollercoaster, landscape architect James Corner, architecture firm Diller Scofiluo + Renfeld and planting designer Piet Oudolf came up with plans for the linear park that now measures 1.45 miles and attracts over five million visitors a year. It took $187 million and three years to build, but thanks to property taxes from the accompanying surge in local development, the High Line is predicted to generate $1billion for the city over the next 20 years.

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However, despite its popularity, its sizeable return on investment and the copycats appearing worldwide (the Seoullo 7017 in Seoul; Tokyo’s Log Road Daikanyama; and the Goods Line in Sydney, to name but a few), the High Line has come in for criticism. ‘The local community just didn’t come here,’ explains Duman. ‘When asked why, they said that they didn’t see other people who looked like them.’ Almost a third of local residents are people of colour, yet a City University of New York study found that visitors were ‘overwhelmingly white’ and tourists rather than locals. ‘We were from the community. We wanted to do it for the neighbourhood,’ said Robert Hammond in a 2017 interview with City Lab. ‘Ultimately, we failed.’ In their defence, Hammond and David totally underestimated the appeal of their venture, expecting no more than 300,000 visitors a year – and they are addressing the feedback with a much more diverse programme of more than 450 public activities a year. It’s working. The Tuesday morning T’ai Chi classes are popular with tourists and locals from all walks of life – all moving in slow, concentrated unison as the morning sun warms their faces. Landscape architect James Corner of Field Operations is applying the lessons learned to subsequent undertakings – such as Domino Park.

‘The treacle is coming,’ warns a wild-eyed child as he hurtles past at meteoric speed before crawling up a nearby tube slide. Artist Mark Reigelman’s playground at Domino Park casts children in the role of sugar, enabling them to propel themselves through series of constructions taken from the factory’s original layout and even painted in the same sugary colour palette. The riverside park is arranged along a similarly linear plot to the High Line, and as well as the playground, offers visitors a dog run, volley-ball and bocce ball courts, a lawn, a taco-bar and – judging from the wet clothes – a pretty unpredictable fountain courtyard.

‘We hired Field Operations because they did the High Line,’ says Dave Lombino, managing director of Two Trees – the development firm behind the regeneration of the six-acre Domino Sugar Refinery site. ‘From the outset, we wanted to do something that was representative of the community, where everyone would feel welcome, so we met with Rob Hammond, we listened, and we took note.’ Having acquired a site that spans a quarter of a mile of the East River bank in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg from another developer, they tore up the approved plans and asked what community really wanted. The result combines residential and commercial development in such a way as to preserve the original factory façade. ‘That mix brings a whole new energy,’ explains Lombino.

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New plans also made the park more accessible by removing a steep slope and adding a public road alongside it, but Reigelman thinks the most important factor in its success is the sense of play. ‘My work has always been about improving public spaces,’ he explains. ‘But having seen the impact of this project, I might have to become a professional playground designer.’ He’s only half joking. On a sunny Wednesday afternoon, the results speak for themselves – the playground is teeming with children and, looking on from the side-lines, their parents and carers sit side by side. ‘Tourists, Dominican and Puerto Rican groups, the Hasidic Jewish community and white Americans all hang out together here,’ says Reigelman. ‘There are very few places in New York where that happens. And the grown-ups are just as willing to be playful here as the kids.’

The same fun-focused approach is being applied elsewhere as formerly industrial piers are turned into water-front leisure spaces for city-dwellers right around the edge of Manhattan – and then linked up with green spaces in between. Listed in Time Out New York Kids’ ‘25 Best Playgrounds in New York City,’ Pier 51 at Hudson River Park takes inspiration from its history too – the jungle gym references the White Fort once located nearby – but more importantly, children can soak themselves and each other with giant water gushers and buckets. ‘Don’t forget the towels,’ warns Time Out. Ironically, this development is part of a wider programme to turn the whole perimeter of Manhattan into one contiguous park as part of an improved flood defence scheme conceived in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. $335 million of public money has already been allocated to the ‘Big U’ – a flood barrier ‘disguised as a park’ extending 10 miles around the tip of Manhattan island. Soon, you really won’t be able to avoid New York’s green spaces, but with parks this good, why would you want to?

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You can read this article online here. Image courtesy of B Inspired 

Daisy Chubb Kitchen Make-Over (Ideal Home)

‘We created a space that works for our family.’ Daisy and Jeremy Chubb’s open-plan kitchen opens out onto the garden and is perfect for family life.

The property

A three-bedroom Edwardian terrace, near Guildford in Surrey, bought in October 2013.

Who lives here

Daisy Chubb, an interior designer, husband Jeremy and their daughter Florence, 7.

What they did

Removed a partial wall, faux beams and brickwork, altered the position of the window and added bi-fold doors, blocked up the fireplace, but retained the chimney breast, and replaced everything apart from the oven, which had been newly installed when they bought the house.

The look

Country kitchen meets Victorian apothecary in a light-filled, open-plan space, packed with storage and designed to meet the needs of busy family life.

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The story

When Daisy Chubb and her husband first saw the house they now call home, its kitchen sported fake beams, exposed brickwork and 1980s wallpaper. ‘The previous owner was a bachelor, and I think it was inspired by old mens’ pubs,’ laughs Daisy. But, as an interior designer, she immediately spotted its potential. ‘It was such a great space,’ she says.

The whole house needed renovating, but having fitted a wood-burning stove in the room next door, the kitchen was first on the list. The irregular shape of the garden made an extension difficult, so they decided to optimise the space they had, removing the wall that divided the kitchen and dining area and ripping out the faux finishes.

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Having moved from a house with exceptionally good storage and realising there wasn’t enough space for their beloved Welsh dresser, storage quickly became their top priority. ‘I liked the idea of a library or an apothecary with floor-to-ceiling storage and sliding ladders,’ says Daisy. ‘We combined that idea with something appropriate to the age and location of the cottage.’ A country-style kitchen provided the full height solution Daisy was looking for and glass-fronted cupboards added the apothecary aesthetic. Wallpaper featuring a tree motif connects the kitchen to its wooded surroundings.

Next, it was a matter of making the space work for their family. They had planned another wood-burning stove, but realised that space would be too tight for the dining table, so they bricked up the fireplace, keeping the chimney breast as a feature. Adding bi-fold doors opened the room to the garden, which now seamlessly connects with the inside to create the perfect family space.

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What it cost

Kitchen units £3,250
Work tops £340
Sink and tap £409
Flooring £1,195
Appliances £1,650
Lighting £490
Paint £118
Wallpaper £234
Window £1,000
Bi-fold doors £3,000
Labour £5,520

Total £17,206

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Photography by Bruce Hemming

TOY STORIES (OBSERVER MAGAZINE)

. ‘You’ve done a really great job on this, with a lovely light touch that captures the sense of fun of the owners and their home,’ said homes editor Joanne O’Connor. ‘Thank you so much for turning it around so quickly.’

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Ask graphic designer Eduardo Lima and costume designer Mauricio Carneiro to tell you why they moved to their two-bedroomed 1970s flat in north London and they’ll probably tell you about Eduardo’s Goddaughter who lives nearby, or how much they liked the green spaces of the communal gardens and nearby Parkland Walk, but that’s only half the story. Press a little harder, and you’ll find out that the truth has more to do with a small plastic toy created by Hans Beck in 1974. ‘We have a collection of over 2,000 Playmobil figures, kept from our childhoods and added to ever since,’ confesses Eduardo. ‘One of the best things about moving into this apartment was unpacking them all. We’ve never had the space to display them before – and they make me smile every time I walk past them. I sometimes imagine them having little parties while we’re out.’

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The pair met at a fashion show in Brazil and bumped into each other again at a bar a week later. When Eduardo told Mauricio that he was returning to London, Mauricio’s reply was simple, but momentous: ‘May I come with you?’ 18 years later, the rest is history – they’ve been together ever since and a wedding in 2007 made it official. ‘He is my soulmate – my everything,’ says Eduardo, who co-runs MinaLima, the graphic design agency behind all the props for the Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts films as well as the wider ‘Wizarding World’ franchise. Luckily a 20-minute conversation about colour – orange and green in particular – on that fateful first date and a shared love of Playmobil meant that they were on the same page when it came to decorating the apartment they bought in 2004.

They started by creating a white backdrop for their colourful collections. ‘The previous owner had painted everything mustard yellow – even the ceilings,’ says Eduardo. ‘We almost wrote it off as too small and too yellow, so I’m glad we saw its potential – even if it did take three coats of paint.’ Once they’d finished decorating, they set about unpacking the Playmobil figures, displaying them by type in a vintage glass-fronted cabinet. ‘They are arranged in groups – policemen with policemen, pirates with pirates – to stop it from feeling too cluttered,’ explains Eduardo. ‘There is an element of curation, but not too much.’ As well as Playmobil, the pair also collects vintage typographic letters ‘E’ and ‘M’ – an assemblage which started with the light-up green ‘E’ perched on the arm of the sofa that Mauricio bought for Eduardo. ‘Now he gets really upset that there just seem to be more ‘E’s in the world than ‘M’s’, laughs Eduardo.

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Other collections include the religious iconography typical of Brazil displayed against a bright green (Eduardo’s favourite colour) wall in the hall, the Disney merchandise in the master bedroom, the tin toys that line the dining room mirror, and books – lots of books. ‘The main thing we collect is books – we just have so many,’ says Eduardo. ‘There’s an amazing Oxfam book shop local to us, and we seem to come home with another five or 10 every weekend.’ The couple invested in the 606 Universal Shelving System by Vitsœ for their library when they moved into this flat. ‘Vitsœ is life-changing. It hasn’t moved a millimetre since we had it installed. They used little envelopes to catch the dust when they installed it – and if we ever relocate, they’ll take it down and reassemble it for us in the new place.’

Collections taken care of, they waited a little longer for furniture, sitting on folded duvets and cushions Mauricio made from typical Brazilian fabric for almost two years before settling on the Bo Concept sofa that fits so perfectly into their lounge area, alongside a collection of house plants that create a link with their cherished greenery outside. ‘Brazilians do love their plants,’ laughs Eduardo. The flat is arranged around an open living-dining area, with a small kitchen, two bedrooms and a bathroom off the L-shaped corridor that connects it to the front door. The 1960s teak dining table and Formica chairs are exact replicas of the ones both Eduardo and Mauricio grew up with. ‘My Mum hated them so much, she eventually threw hers away,’ laughs Eduardo. ‘They’re really expensive now – we managed to find ours about six years ago, but they’re almost impossible to get hold of.’ The wallpaper behind the table is Orla Kiely for Habitat and the Eames RAR rocking chair was a wedding gift. The mid-century aesthetic, the Brazilian-inspired cacophony of colour and pattern, and the nostalgic collections are all part of creating a home from home. ‘I’ve been in London for over 20 years, so I feel very comfortable here,’ says Eduardo. ‘I miss the people and the food more than the country itself, but I think that’s because we’ve created a little corner of Brazil in our apartment. It’s the same if you visit any of our Brazilian friends, it’s like walking into an apartment in Rio.’

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You can read this article online here. Photography by Bruce Hemming

MASTERS OF TACTILITY (VIEWPOINT MAGAZINE)

All copy as provided to the publication.

‘The hands want to see, the eyes want to caress.’ – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

Despite skin being our oldest and most sensitive organ and touch being called the ‘mother of the senses’, the idea of sight as our predominant sense has been around since the ancient Greeks. ‘The eyes are more exact witnesses than the ears,’ wrote Heraclitus; Plato thought vision was ‘humanity’s greatest gift’; while Aristotle claimed that sight ‘approximates the intellect most closely’. By the Renaissance, when the senses were categorised into a strict hierarchy, not only was sight at the top, but touch had been relegated to the bottom. In his seminal text, The Eyes of the Skin, Pallasmaa argues that the digital revolution has only made matters worse, describing the perception of touch, taste and smell as ‘archaic sensory remnants, with a merely private function’ and expressing particular concern over the role of technology in design education: ‘Computer imaging tends to flatten our magnificent, multi-sensory, simultaneous and synchronic capacities of imagination.’ Some 20 years after The Eyes of the Skin, it seems the industry is finally paying attention. In 2012, trend forecaster Li Edelkort predicted that ‘super technology is going to ask for super tactility’. In 2015, Design Academy Eindhoven creative director Thomas Widdershoven described tactility as ‘a political statement, a social statement, a human statement’ at the launch of the school’s graduate exhibition and followed up with a show at Milan Design Week entirely dedicated to the theme. The subsequent surge in tactility in hand-crafted products – from Linus Ersson’s fingerprint-indented ceramic bowls to Daniel Schofield’s Tarnish collection, which develops a patina as it is touched – is finally making its way into the mainstream. Katie Treggiden spoke to the Masters of Tactility leading the way, placing real-world tactility at the core of their businesses, and embracing the sense of touch in a screen-based world.

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Imprimerie du Marais – The Communications Enhancers

Dating back to Charles Przedborski’s 1954 print workshop at 16 Rue Chapon in Paris, Imprimerie du Marais now comprises 28 people working across seven workshops using skills and techniques, from hot foiling to chiselled gilding, that have been passed down through generations – combined with the latest innovations in print. The workshops elevate communications beyond the functional for clients from Miami Design District and Longchamp to young couples planning weddings. ‘People react better to well-conceived tactile communication,’ explains Mélody Maby. ‘In Japan, relationships are encoded and words controlled, so a lot of what is spoken is through sensation rather than words – and paper plays a big role. Our screen-addicted lives are bringing the same needs to the West’ Craft and attention to detail have as much to say as the words on the page. ‘Today the oldest techniques have the highest value,’ says Maby. ‘Finishes like raised foil and engraving are code for luxury and heritage. Intriguing materials are another way to express high creative values.’ The tactility of the printed materials that Imprimerie du Marais produces elevate everyday interactions, at the same time as preserving traditional techniques. ‘Our team is a mix of old-hands with experience and craft skills and young art-school graduates with passion and the freedom to experiment,’ says Maby. ‘This combination is valued by our clients, who are looking for both perfection and creativity. The future of print is in this blend of experimental art mixed with precision engineering.’

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Yves Behar – The Tech Humaniser

Fuseprojects embraces the positive potential of technology using a tactile design language, acute sense of empathy and consideration for the user experience. Founder Yves Behar’s approach starts with removing screens. ‘Some people have this idea that technology has to be this science-fiction dystopia, with an aesthetic to match,’ he says. ‘I want to create distinct identities, focusing on how people live with products and experiences.’ The SNOO – a robotic bassinet designed to soothe crying babies – exemplifies this approach. It uses cutting-edge technology and yet fits harmoniously into the home environment. ‘The technology is changing lives – parents are getting more sleep and seeing a dramatic reduction in post-partum depression,’ says Behar. ‘And yet designing SNOO in a way that felt domestic, safe and comfortable, using soft knitted materials, was integral to its success.’ Superflex – powered clothing with embedded robotics and AI to help older adults with mobility issues – is another example of tactile technology delivering real benefits. ‘Superflex recognises when a user is trying to sit or stand and amplifies their muscle strength,’ says Behar. ‘Designed for a less tech-savvy audience, the tactile experience was really important.’ So far so futuristic, but Behar thinks this is just the start. ‘We are at the beginning of understanding how technology is going to be assimilated into our lives,’ he says. ‘Touch is key to the human experience, so in order to seamlessly integrate technology so it feels completely natural, tactility will continue to play a big role.’

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Formafantasma – The Material Translators

Amsterdam-based design studio Formafantasma, comprising Italian designers Andrea Trimarchi and Simone Farresin, sees its role as bridging craft, industry, objects and users. The result is narrative-driven work characterised by experimental material combinations that foreground tactility. The pair credit the rise of digital technology with the current revival of the sense of touch, but argue that it is a more complex and subliminal phenomenon then we might realise. Their approach to materiality is driven by the sense of covert messages. ‘Materials evoke feelings in the user which are subliminal,’ says Trimarchi. ‘We are interested in working with this intuitive relationship with materiality.’ Ore Streams – commissioned by the National Gallery of Victoria as an investigation into electronic waste – uses objects, video documentation and animation to demonstrate the value of discarded precious materials and explore design as an agent for change. ‘Our interest in materials is not based only on functional proprieties, but also on the symbolic or even political connotation of materials.’ Likewise, De Natura Fossilium – a collection of objects for Gallery Libby Sellers made from materials ‘excavated’ by the 2013 eruption of Mount Etna – enabled the studio to create ‘a new relationship with a specific locality’ in this case, Sicily. ‘We follow a process of investigation over a long period of time,’ says Farresin. ‘We know where we start, but we never where we are going to end. This process-based way of working is more intuitive and allows the raw and the improvised to be part of the final result.’

Dimore Studio – The Layering Alchemists

Emiliano Salci and Britt Moran established Dimore Studio in 2003 and have since developed a design language ‘built from the set of emotional alchemy made of mistakes, recoveries, inventions, enhancement of prints, lights, lacquering and oxidation.’ They indulge in unapologetic tactility, pairing old and new and combining colour and texture, with seemingly instinctive ability. ‘The use of materials, different finishes and surfaces adds preciousness and richness to an interior,’ says Britt. ‘By juxtaposing and layering, we create contrasts and contradictions –– an expected twist, a slight pinch of “wrongness” – from furnishings from various time periods and design movements to colours, materials, and even ways of lighting the spaces.’ They reference Diane Vreeland’s idea of ‘the eye must travel’ to explain their inclusive, generous approach that encompasses past and future. ‘We are creating spaces that must be explored and discovered, allowing the visitor to experience something new every time,’ says Emiliano. ‘Gleaning from historical movements allows us to immediately create a link between something that is reminiscent but at the same time new. We have an innate passion for mixing and matching colours, fabrics and especially furnishings and lighting.’ As for the future, this isn’t an approach they see changing. ‘Experiential, tactile work is ingrained in our design approach and will continue to be so, for the space and atmosphere it creates.’

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Visual Editions – The Three-Dimensional Storytellers

Visual Editions is a London-based book publisher, launched in 2010 by Anna Gerber and Britt Iversen. When Jonathan Safran Foer decided to ‘write’ Tree of Codes by cutting into and out of his favourite book, Bruno Schulz’s The Street of Crocodiles, the pair realised the only way to publish it was to create a different die-cut on every page. After being told that ‘the book you want just cannot be made,’ by every printer they approached, they finally found Die Keure. ‘We were all living in what was then a new Kindle landscape so the idea of pushing the material limits of a book as object to its extreme felt very important,’ says Gerber. But despite creating something so absolutely analogue, the pair argue that the digital and the real world are far from binary. ‘Everything we do, experience, live and breathe exists on a spectrum, so it’s more about how we create uniquely magical experiences that could exist as beautiful objects that we choose to touch and feel and surround ourselves with; as delightful digital experiences that we engage with; or – and this is space we’re exploring at the moment – how we can bring physical experiences together with screen-based ones,’ says Iversen. ‘You can have all the technology in the world, or the most covetable objects on the planet, but what’s most important is the emotion and human connection when we encounter these moments that bring joy and delight.’

You can also read this article online here.

NEW STARTS AND CRAFTS (THE SUNDAY TIMES)

All copy as provided to the publication.

Like many London-based couples, Cath and Jeremy Brown swore they’d never leave, until they did. The birth of their son, Milo, now two, made them realise how polluted London’s air was and before long they were plotting a move to the countryside. ‘Everything smelt of fumes and we were very conscious of his little lungs,’ explains Cath, holding the latest addition to the family, Beatrix, who is just six weeks old and fast asleep. At the time they were living in a tiny flat in Hackney and looking for a larger apartment nearby, when Jeremy wondered what would happen if he put the same budget into house-hunting app Zoopla, but changed the location to Devon. ‘Suddenly there were all these rambling farmhouses and woodlands – and my dream centre started working overtime,’ says Jeremy. ‘I came home and said to Cath “Why don’t we move to Devon instead?” and she just said “OK”. Within three months they had both resigned from their jobs and moved into rented accommodation in the middle of Dartmoor National Park. In London, Cath had been working as an architectural designer, while Jeremy worked for the UN helping luxury fashion brands to build ethical supply chains, and travelled up to 25 days a month, once visiting Africa, Tokyo and Australia in a fortnight. ‘I was burnt out,’ he says. ‘And Cath was on unpaid maternity leave, so we decided to take six months off.’

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They moved to Devon with no more detailed plans than to spend time with Milo and recuperate a little. They started gardening and making things as a way to relax. Then the lease came to an end on their first property, just as the house where they live now became available, so they jumped at the chance to move in. At the far end of a bumpy lane on the outskirts of a village North of Dartmoor (‘No-one comes here by accident,’ laughs Jeremy), the four-bedroom house is partly thatched, dating from the late 15th century, and the ‘new’ part is 19th-century. The higgledy-piggledy construction means that there are eight ways in, but no front door. ‘It really confuses couriers, but luckily we have Bernie to let us know when someone’s here,’ Cath says of the family dog, a pointer-cross. The ground floor comprises a double-height kitchen filled with natural light and views of an oak tree that’s as old as the house, a playroom, a living room with inglenook fireplace, a loo and a boot room – and in the thatched part, the pottery and woodshed. Upstairs, there are two bedrooms and a bathroom in the new part and two bedrooms in the eaves of the thatched part.

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‘Suddenly, we had this big house with nothing in it and we wanted both our families here for Christmas,’ says Jeremy. They set about making the things they needed – a dining table, a stool, and all the tableware. ‘I used to work as a boat builder in my holidays from university and I did pottery at school,’ says Jeremy, with a characteristic lack of concern about the task he was undertaking. Having hosted Christmas dinner for 20, their confidence boosted, they set about making everything else the house needed, acquiring a potters’ wheel and building a woodworking studio in the garden in the process. But as much fun as it was, their six months – and their savings – were starting to run out.

Cath found a job in a local architecture firm and Jeremy decided to set up as a consultant, but as their return to work drew closer, they both began to have doubts. ‘The architecture firm was on the South Coast, which meant Cath being out of the house for 12 hours, and if I went back to the same sort of work, I would be away all the time too,’ says Jeremy. ‘We just hadn’t thought it through.’ But looking around their home – by now filled with beautiful objects they’d either made or bought as research for new projects – they were struck by an idea. ‘We had always talked about starting our own design studio,’ says Jeremy. ‘We’re both quite opinionated about design and were always findings products we could have done better, so we decided it was about time we got on with it.’

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Their first product was a coffee cup – inspired by the wobbly walls of the house. ‘There isn’t a straight line in this house. In the old cobbled part, the walls have dimples,’ says Cath. After experimenting with earthenware and stoneware, they settled on bone china. ‘We wanted to do something that had the hand involved but wasn’t… ‘crafty,’ adds Jeremy, hesitating over the word. ‘We wanted… handmade elegance.’ Designed to fit in your hand, the wall-inspired dimples perfectly align with your fingers, the fine walls make drinking a pleasure, and the handles are painted in either blue in homage to traditional blue and white tableware or gold ‘to add a bit of bling.’ They were an immediate success and spurred the couple on. Unable to find a butter dish they liked, that was the next addition to the collection, with the same blue or gold handles – and soon they were selling everything from blankets to homemade soap and candles through the likes of the Conran Shop and Fortnum & Mason. They make all their products themselves or work with local craftsmen. ‘The biggest compromise we have made, is that the matches that come with our candles come from Europe not the UK,’ says Jeremy of the pair’s unwavering commitment to ethics and quality. Even their packaging is made locally. ‘One of the reasons we started Feldspar was so that we wouldn’t have to compromise,’ explains Cath. ‘In our previous jobs, we both worked with people with good intentions, but things always got watered down, so now we control the whole process, from design and manufacturing to distribution.’

The other thing they haven’t compromised on is their quality of life. As fans of BBC Radio Four’s Desert Island Discs, they noticed a commonality amongst the interviewee’s regrets: ‘Everyone says they didn’t spend enough time with their children when they were growing up,’ says Jeremy. ‘So we wanted to focus on what was important.’ Today their days are spent as a family, and largely dictated by the weather. On rainy days, products get packed up for dispatch, and when the sun shines, they work outside. And they’ve got the time and energy for side projects like Jeremy’s Heath Robinson-inspired treehouse for Milo. Cath shakes her head quietly with an indulgent smile while he excitedly describes the intricate details of the light winching device, the copper rain-water collection system and the miniature replica treehouse for owls he’s got planned, but one thing is clear – this growing family is high on fresh air and has never been happier.

You can read this article online here.

Photography by Emma Lewis. 

THE DEATH OF MODERNISM (ENKI MAGAZINE)

All copy as provided to the publication.

Will Modernist domestic architecture still be relevant in fifty years?

Modernism was never intended to be a style, but a movement – after the horrors of war, architects rejected the past in favour of a utopian vision of humanity’s problems solved by design. Embracing new materials, new technologies, and the ‘machine’, they rejected ornament and preached ‘truth to materials.’ Unfair as it may be to blame Modernist architects for the flawed social housing projects they inspired, the reality of living in estates like the recently demolished Robin Hood Gardens (completed in the 1970s, but along Modernist principles), proved far from utopian. The question is not whether Modernist project failed, but whether the domestic architecture it left behind is even relevant today. ‘One of the most important fundamentals of Modernism is the dogma that the past is irrelevant to the future,’ says Dutch designer Marcel Wanders. Almost a century on from the early days of Modernism, he raises an interesting point. Now that it’s in the past, has Modernism become irrelevant?

Modernist architects were looking for solutions to the post-war housing crisis – today we face a crisis of our own: one in four people worldwide is either homeless or living in slums or substandard housing – a problem that is only going to be exacerbated with 70% of the world’s population predicted to be living in cities by 2050 (versus 30% in 1950). With a different set of challenges, do we look to Modernist architecture for solutions, or find our own?

ON THE EDGE OF CHAOS (ORYX MAGAZINE)

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He has been kicked out of one the world’s best art schools, designed iconic interiors from the Andaz Amsterdam Prinsengracht to Bonn’s Kameha Grand Hotel and been dubbed the ‘Lady Gaga of the design world’ by the New York Times – now he is in Doha. Meet Marcel Wanders, the man behind the first Mondrian hotel in the Middle East.

Expelled from Design Academy Eindhoven before graduating with the highest honours from ArtEZ University of the Arts in 1988, Marcel Wanders has gone on to become a designer of international repute: establishing his eponymous interior design studio in Amsterdam; co-founding furniture and lighting brand Moooi; and creating products for the likes of Alessi, Swarovski and Puma. His Knotted Chair is in MOMA’s permanent collection, BusinessWeek called him ‘Europe’s hottest designer’, and Amsterdam’s Stedelijk Museum held a major retrospective of his work.

His latest project is the Mondrian Doha, the first Middle Eastern hotel from American hospitality giant SBE. With 270 rooms and suites, the largest ESPA Spa in the world and seven restaurants – together with a brief that asked for something that was ‘authentically Doha’ and yet international, and part of the Mondrian family and yet reflective of Wanders’ distinctive style, he had his work cut out. ‘That is a lot of things that just don’t fit together,’ he laughs. ‘And that is the quest we had – in the chaos of the final design all those aspects had to find their own place in the guests’ experience.’

 

ARCHITECTURE: NOW IN GLORIOUS TECHNICOLOR (ENKI MAGAZINE)

Photography by Luke Hayes

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Ever wondered why our cities are so grey? Design journalist Katie Treggiden explores the lack of colour in architecture and talks to the chromophiles pioneering brighter buildings.

The architectural ‘whitewash’ that started after World War Two was a response to the dirt and rubble of war as new materials enabled clean, hygienic spaces, but the seed of ‘truth to materials’ was planted by the arts and crafts movement and then embraced as a central tenet of Modernism. However, our suspicion of colour dates back centuries. ‘It goes back a long way, via Adolf Loos in the early 20th century and neo-classicism in the 19th century, and all the way back to Plato and Aristotle,’ says David Batchelor, author of Chromophobia. ‘There’s a long Western tradition that equates colour with falsity, seduction and dishonesty. Modern architects are just its latest incarnation.’ Batchelor’s book references an ‘aggressively white’ interior – in which there is ‘no possibility of lying’. And yet, as Bachelor points out, even white is a lie. ‘Le Corbusier fetishized white,’ he says. ‘And most of his buildings were painted’ So if the pioneer of ‘truth to materials’ was hiding them under white paint, and if even he said: ‘polychromy is as powerful an architectural tool as the plan and section’, perhaps it is time for architects to embrace colour.

Some of them already are. Maggie’s Centres are domestic buildings in the grounds of hospitals offering support to people with cancer. Designed by the UK’s best architects, they are often very colourful. ‘The green we chose for Maggie’s Nottingham was in deliberate contrast to the red brick of the existing hospital buildings, so it would be seen as spiritually separate.’ says Piers Gough of CZWG Architects LLP. Similarly, Ivan Harbour of Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners chose a striking orange for Maggie’s West London. ‘We wanted to create an environment that felt warm, homely and welcoming,’ he says.

 

2018 Bathroom Trends (Grand Designs)

All copy as provided to the publication.

Wall-to-wall pink tiles, a contemporary bath suite and clever storage have created a high-impact bathroom that works for two very different bathers.

  • Location: Forest Hill, London
  • Style of property: Victorian terraced-house
  • Length of project: 6 weeks
  • What they did: Ripped out and replaced the entire bathroom
  • Size: 6 sqm
  • Cost: £10,000

When interior designers and co-founders of [*]2LG Studio [2lgstudio.com] Jordan Cluroe and Russell Whitehead bought their house in Forest Hill they knew the bathroom would need a complete overhaul. ‘It was just so hideous,’ laughs Russell of a room that included a brown bath panel and white tiles with floral transfers, but no shower. ‘It was the first room we redesigned, but we couldn’t afford to make the changes straight away, so I spend two years crouching under a rubber shower hose attached to the taps. Jordan is a bath person, so he was fine!’

Installing recycled plastics in a bathroom

  • General cutting: Most saws can be used to cut panels but fine teeth are better, and we recommend using a wavy set or skip tooth to minimise friction. Circular saws and table saws are effective in giving you clean straight lines, and milling or routing with sharp tools can also be effective.
  • Tiles: Make sure that the surfaces you are applying plastic tiles to are completely clean, flat and dry. Rough up the gluing face with sand paper then use an epoxy or grab/mastic adhesive that is compatible with plastics to bond the pieces to the wall. You will need to seal the tiles’ edges with a caulk to prevent the water from getting behind the tiles.
  • Wall panels, bath panels and splash-backs: Plastic panels are an excellent alternative to tiles in bath and shower enclosures and much quicker to install. Drilling holes in the panel can be achieved with sharp drills compatible with plastics, withdrawing the drill regularly to ensure the plastic is not melting! The drilled panel can then be screwed directly onto the wall.
  • Flooring: Plastic can become slippery when wet, so we would not recommend it as a shower tray or bathroom flooring. If plastic flooring is essential for your design, consider applying slip resistant coatings or routing treads into the surface of the material to enhance grip.
  • Forming: Some bathroom designs will require curvature in the panel and plastic sheets can be heat-formed using basic moulding processes. Thinner panels are easier to mould – just ensure the temperature is consistent across the section to be bent. Lower temperatures applied over a longer period are most effective.

Rosalie McMillan, co-founder of Smile Plastics

THINK PINK (VIEWPOINT COLOUR)

Photography by Oliver Schwarzwald, commissioned by FranklinTill for Viewpoint.

“When I grew up, there were girls who liked pink and I wasn’t one of them.” So said Elle Decoration’s founding editor, Ilse Crawford in 2012. There are few colours that could elicit such deliberate distancing. In fact so loaded is pink, that it has been variously associated with femininity, homosexuality, prosperity, subversion and, of course, millennials. What is it about this rosy hue that has endowed it with such complex semiotics?

Light blue and light yellow exist as variations of the colour they derive from – and yet add white to red and you get a whole new colour. Despite red being one of the earliest colours to be named in most languages, ‘pink’ only appeared in the Oxford English Dictionary in the 1840s. Its feminisation came later – starting with children. For most of the 19th century, young children were seen as ‘sexless cherubs’ and wore white dresses or shades matched to eye colour, complexion or season. At the turn of the 20th century colours became gendered, but inconsistently: “Amy put a blue ribbon on the boy and a pink on the girl” in Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women of 1869; yet an 1893 article in the New York Times advised, “you should always give pink to a boy and blue to a girl.” By the 1920s, pink’s strongest association was with ‘new money’. When Tom says of Gatsby in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, “An Oxford man! Like hell he is. He wears a pink suit,” he is not calling him effeminate – he is questioning his social status. It took until the 1940s for the gender ‘rules’ to be settled, and author of Pink and Blue: Telling The Boys From The Girls in America, Jo Paoletti, says it could have gone either way.

Generation Y are not just shunning ‘pink for girls and blue for boys’, they are rejecting the concept of binary gender altogether. According to 2015 US survey, half of 18–34 year olds see gender on a spectrum. Institutions are responding by providing a third gender option: a ‘Mx’ alongside ‘Mr’, ‘Miss’ and ‘Mrs’, and even Oxford University’s sub fusc (clothes worn under the gown for formal events) rules now enable students of either gender to choose trousers or skirts. “Everyone, really, is non-binary,” confirms The Guardian’s Hadley Freeman. “No one’s a wholly pink butterfly or blue car onesie.” Pink has never been so popular. What started as a brave choice (see J C Penney’s ‘tough guys wear pink’ t-shirt) has become the default for those born between 1982 and 2002 – Barbara Ellen calls it “hen-party heroin for the masses”.

So much so, that the backlash has already begun. Coining the term ‘pink-washing’, Danielle Pender calls out brands for jumping on the feminism bandwagon, and says: “Surely it’s time to stop making things pretty and palatable…to stop making everything Insta-friendly, generic as fuck, boring and predictable…Let’s take a stand…Feminism is about choice.”

While it might be some time before pink becomes nothing more than pale red, as it starts to lose its gender connotations, it will evolve, enabling more wide-ranging applications – particularly in combination with other colours. The addition of brass gives it a grown-up, sophisticated edge; while alongside Pantone’s Colour of The Year 2017 ‘greenery’ (reflecting another millennial trend for houseplants and succulents), it is fresh and youthful. As it becomes more chameleon-like, pink will start to throw off the shackles of its former associations, free to take on new meanings. The only question that remains is what these might be.

Viewpoint Colour is compiled, edited and designed by Franklin Till Studio.

THE NEW MAXIMALISM (OAK: THE NORDIC JOURNAL)

All copy as provided to the publication.

“Katie’s natural curiosity and enthusiasm for design is infectious. She’s a pleasure to work with – always friendly, open to ideas, and reliable. I know that when I commission her, the result will be thorough and insightful.” – Anna Winston, Design Editor, Oak

Does the Italian-led trend for big, bold and busy spell an end for the international dominance of Scandi Style?

Every April, the design industry makes its annual pilgrimage to Milan to find out what’s hot and what’s not. This year saw the demise of the muted tones, organic forms and understated restraint that have been so overwhelmingly dominant for the last decade and a half. In their place: clashing colours, unlikely shapes and overstatement by the bucketload. Milan-based Dimorestudio showed their new collection against a mash-up of historical styles and colours and Corian’s Cabana Club presented “a multicultural and emotional journey into the world of maximalism.” It seems that the Italian love of colour and excess has swung back into favour, toppling the minimalist Scandinavian aesthetic. Or has it?

Contemporary designers like Luca Nichetto – originally from Italy and now running offices in Venice and Stockholm – travel more than their predecessors, and draw ideas from all over the world. The design industry is both global and local. “After I opened my Stockholm studio, my mindset changed,” says Nichetto. “In a new country, I experienced different things and of course this influenced me as a designer.” His aesthetic now combines the bold Italian colours of his upbringing with simple Swedish shapes.

The return of maximalism – or at least the new approach to maximalism – is not simply a case of one trend giving way to another, or one nation’s design identity asserting its dominance. The reality of design today is a messy, multifaceted spread of interlacing influences and ideas – and what could be more maximalist than that?

LET’S GUT IT AND START AGAIN (EVENING STANDARD)

Photography by Paul Massey, interior design by Harriet Paterson.

All copy as provided to the publication.

Running a public relations agency in the design industry means Katherine Sandford-Anderson is surrounded by home make-overs, and yet a year-long project to covert her own family home gave her a new respect for her colleagues and clients.

The usual solution when you run out of space in London is to head for the Home Counties – the commuter belt is full of city-based professionals who put up with crowded trains in exchange for an extra bedroom and a bit of green space. Katherine Sandford-Anderson (44) and her corporate investigator husband Mark (44) were a bit more canny – instead of upping sticks, they reconfigured their West London home into a space that works for their growing family – daughters Amelia, 13, Alice, 10 and newest addition, Coco the dog.

 

EDMOND BYRNE IS BLOWN AWAY BY GLASS (CRAFTS MAGAZINE)

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Glass artist Edmond Byrne finds inspiration in the endless versatility of his material – on both sides of the classroom. Katie Treggiden discovers how the cycle of teaching, learning and experimentation shapes his craft.

Watching a glassmaker stretch a piece of molten glass into a string the width of a hair and the length of a room was the moment Edmond Byrne knew he had found his calling. “I was hooked from that instant,” he says. “My perception of glass had been of transparent cut crystal – very precise, very controlled. And yet this was so malleable – it was like toffee. Glass is a tremendously diverse material and I was attracted to its spontaneity.” Byrne was undertaking a BA in Design in Craft at Dublin’s National College of Art and Design at the time, but he was studying graphic design. The demonstration was part of his core year (the equivalent of the foundation year in the UK) and resulted in both an immediate switch to a glass specialism, and an appreciation for the power of education that has seen him combine the two ever since.

Photography by Ester Segarra. 
Photography by Ester Segarra

Listed chronologically, his qualifications alternate between glass and teaching – as well as his BA, he has an MA in glass and two postgraduate qualifications in education, the most recent of which was earned at the University for the Creative Arts (UCA) where he remains as a technical tutor to this day. He believes this combination of teaching and learning – of being both student and mentor – is crucial: “The two things feed each other. The more you develop your practice, the more you learn and the more you have to teach. It’s a tacit knowledge that can’t be learned from books. I’m always researching and experimenting to discover interesting ways of working with glass to use in my demonstrations to students, and my own practice in the wider glass community brings real-life experience and relevance to my teaching.”

When he is making his own work, he rents ‘hot shops’ – the part of the workshop where glass is blown, as opposed to the ‘cold shop’ where glass is polished – but his day-to-day base is within the industrial-looking glass workshops at UCA, surrounded by towering shelves of supplies. The art school comprises a series of low-slung modern buildings on the outskirts of Farnham – a market town in Surrey designated England’s ‘craft town’ as of 2013. The university boasts its own museum, often curated by students, and state-of-the art facilities built for function not form – a hot-shop, kiln room, and cold working facilities are about to be enhanced with a £100,000 investment in new glass blowing facilities. “UCA is a vibrant and creative environment,” he says. “Being surrounded by people who are as enthusiastic about learning and as excited about glass as you are is really inspiring.”

In the future, Byrne has ambitions to create a massive ‘emotion landscape’ of glass. “Something like the Tate Modern’s Turbine Gallery where the work could completely envelop you, filling your peripheral vision,” he suggests. “I am a huge Rothko fan, so I’d love to work at a scale where your vision is filled – and experiment with how your eyes react. When you look at those Rothko paintings and you get retinal fatigue so they dissolve into a single tone of burgundy, it’s magical.” But for now, his proudest accomplishment is twofold and, unsurprisingly, it includes both learning and teaching. “Getting through the RCA was a pretty big achievement,” he says. “And being able to pass that knowledge on to the next generation is a wonderful thing too.”

You can buy Issue 268 of Crafts Magazine here.

Lin Cheung (Crafts Magazine)

By the age of 10, Lin Cheung, had made cushions, curtains and bed linen for her own bedroom, using sewing skills inherited from her mother, but didn’t see craft as something you might make a living from. “My mum was very talented, but in our family craft skills were for fulfilling practical needs.” The third daughter of Chinese parents from Hong Kong, Cheung was born in the UK and grew up in Wiltshire, where her father ran a Chinese take-away. It would take a BTEC National Diploma at the University of Southampton for her to realise that craft could be a career. “Visiting my metalwork teacher’s studio opened my eyes to a completely different way of life,” she says. “I knew from that moment that I wanted to make things for a living.”

A book called The New Jewellery by Peter Dormer and Ralph Turner, discovered during her BA in Wood, Metal, Ceramics and Plastics at the University of Brighton, focused that ambition into a desire to make jewellery. “Opening that book for the first time was profound,” she explains. “The images were powerful and the work was technically incredible, but crucially, it was unlike any jewellery I had ever even imagined. It blew my mind.” Brighton was also where Cheung developed her ideas-led approach. “When you talk to people about jewellery, they launch into memories and emotion before they talk about form or materials,” she says. “It is deep in human nature to imbue objects with meaning.” An MA in Goldsmithing, Silversmithing, Metalwork and Jewellery at the Royal College followed and visiting lecturer Onno Boekhoudt opened her eyes to the potential scope of a jewellery artist. “It was like finding a spiritual home for my thinking and making,” she says.

Photography by Lin Cheung, apart from portrait by Nick Clements.
Photo: Lin Cheung

Today Cheung’s making process is very direct – and despite the advice she gives her students (she is a senior lecturer on the Jewellery and Textiles Programme at Central Saint Martins), she rarely sketches. “I just feel around, often working on a few ideas at a time, until a finished piece pops out,” she says. It’s clearly a process that works – she has won an Arts Foundation Award (2001) and a Jerwood Contemporary Makers Award (2008) among many others, exhibited all over the world, and designed the London 2012 Paralympic Games medal.

And now she’s been shortlisted for the Women’s Hour Craft Prize with Delayed Reactions, a series of politically motivated brooches exploring gemstone carving. The first piece was Confused, a pin badge made from blue lapis lazuli inlaid with gold stars depicting a bemused face. “I am not overtly political,” she says. “But following the EU referendum, I wanted to put all of my thoughts and feelings into a piece, just for me.” Other brooches include more interpretations of the EU flag as well as the US flag, and explorations of what pin badges say about the people who wear them. She describes being shortlisted for the prize as the highlight of her career, but as for winning, she says, “I couldn’t even imagine that.” Having been supported by the Crafts Council throughout her career, she does concede that it would be an endorsement of their investment. “It would be a lovely way to acknowledge that – ­I simply wouldn’t have got this far without their support.”

You can buy Issue 268 of Crafts Magazine here.

IN CELEBRATION OF SPIRITS (SIMPLE THINGS)

All copy as provided to the publication.

In Sweden, instead of celebrating All Hallow’s Eve they commemorate Alla Helgons Dag – All Saint’s Day – and it is an altogether more gentle affair.

Halloween evolved out of Samhain, a Celtic festival during which people would light fires to ward off evil spirits. In 731AD, Pope Gregory III declared 01 November a day of remembrance for all the saints without official days of their own. From the 11th century, the day commemorated all dead and became All Souls’ Day. The night before, All Hallows’ Eve, took on some of the ideas from Samhain as a cleansing ritual before the day ahead. Over time it has evolved into Halloween – a secular event in which children dress up and knock on doors calling “trick or treat” – the threat of practical jokes unless they are bribed with sweets. The increasingly commercialised celebrations embraced by much of the Western world have largely been imported from America, where elaborate costumes bear less and less relation to the origins of the festival. The Swedes, however, have a different approach.

Sweden experiences extreme winters with only a few hours daylight, so Swedes take the changing of the seasons very seriously. Alla Helgons Dag (which now falls on the first Saturday of November) coincides with the first day of winter, and so, with a more positive focus than the preceding evening, is also about celebrating light as the nights draw in.

If you can’t visit Sweden to take part in Alla Helgons Dag yourself, why not celebrate at home with one of these three ideas:

1.    If you’re not comfortable walking through a cemetery at night, take a walk through your nearest graveyard before it gets dark and contemplate the people you’ve lost as well as those you still have around you. Come home to a cosy fire and light a candle in honour of each person you want to remember.

2.    Create a miniature shrine to your lost loved ones including a photograph, a candle and perhaps a couple of mementoes. Use the evening as an opportunity to share happy memories about that person.

3.    Share a candle-lit meal with the loved ones you still have around you – Swedish meatballs, mashed potatoes and lingonberry jam would be perfect. Raise a glass to those you’ve loved and lost.

The fun of the fair (Clerkenwell Post)

All copy as provided to the publication.

As Clerkenwell Design Week embraces the concept of play with two installations designed to appeal to the visitor’s inner child, Katie Treggiden investigates the role of playfulness in design.

“I would only ask you not to forget to play,” said Finnish architect Alvar Aalto, and it seems 2017’s CDW Presents installation programme has taken his advice to heart. Two structures – the Beacon and Buzzijungle have a sense of play at their heart.

“Playfulness is universal,” says show director William Knight. “Playing is exploring and imagining – it lets the shackles off and provides a certain type of freedom that is important for innovation and design. The use of spaces for Clerkenwell Design Week is important – done well, and using ‘play,’ we can draw all of EC1’s community together for the festival.”

The use of play in design is nothing new. Playful experimentation has always been an important part of the design process, but perhaps most notably in the Modernism movement. Often seen as austere and functional, it did in fact have a playful side. “Alexander Girard gave back to design what orthodox modernism had rejected: vibrant colours, graphic patterns, opulent interiors,” explains the curator of a retrospective of his work at the Vitra Design Museum, Jochen Eisenbrand. His wooden Vitra dolls are a case in point.

At the Bauhaus, arguably the twentieth century’s most influential art school, costumes, parties and plays were as important at lessons and workshops. When the school was forced to close by pressure from the Nazis, many of its protagonists fled to American, taking the principles of Modernism – and playfulness – with them.

American designers Charles and Ray Eames, pioneers of American Modernism, were famously playful in their approach. “They saw play as a form of learning – for themselves, for their studio team and for the end users of their projects – and as an experience that everyone can benefit from,” explains Kirsty Thomas of Tom Pigeon, the design brand behind the Play Collection, a range of products created for the Barbican’s retrospective on the couple. “Their studio was full of the paraphernalia of modern culture – toys, circus props, posters, signs, masks, film footage, photos, colour and pattern – all of which inspired their beautifully diverse portfolio of work.”

So play in design has some heritage and it’s this that the CDW Presents structures draw upon. The Beacon is a 7.5 metre-high viewing platform, made from brightly-coloured oversized Perspex triangles, which will be located at the entrance to Spa Fields for the duration of the festival, drawing the eye from medieval Clerkenwell up to Spa Fields and through to Northampton Road. “From that point you’ll be able to see pretty much every typology of architecture in London,” says Knight. The internal staircase and multi-coloured outlooks add a sense of fun to these new vistas.

Meanwhile Clerkenwell-based Buzzispace will launch Buzzijungle – which can only be described as a climbing frame for grown-ups. “Various elements within the structure provide an opportunity for different interactions,” explains designer Jonas Van Put. “Playing is everything, both from a designer and from a user perspective. Design shouldn’t be taken too seriously – certain designs only come to life by realising a playful dream image.”

So if you’re visiting Clerkenwell Design Week this year, explore, learn and network by all means, but also make sure Alvar Aalto’s advice is ringing in your ears, and don’t forget to play.

#SLOW MILAN (THE MILAN REPORT)

All copy as provided to the publication.

Slow Milan

Perhaps inspired by the slow food movement, and with slow fashion gaining ground, Milan Design Week is applying the brakes too. Now that every product launch is disseminated worldwide within minutes thanks to the power of the Internet, the focus of Salone del Mobile, the city’s annual celebration of design, is shifting. People seem less inclined to race around design districts collecting images and information; instead, they want to slow down and enjoy a richer, more personal experience of design – first hand. From Cos x Studio Swine’s mesmerising bubble-blowing tree to Lee Broom’s cool carousel, design brands are responding with installations that stop visitors in their tracks and encourage them to pause, take a breath and enjoy the moment. Here are five installations that made this year’s design pilgrims do just that…

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Stone Age Folk

Without doubt the most Instagrammed installation of the week, Stone Age Folk by Jaime Hayon was worth seeing in the flesh. Despite the incessant vinyls encouraging selfies, hashtags and ‘joining the conversation’ that may have gone some way to explaining its online ubiquity, it was undeniably a thing of beauty. Combining Caesarstone quartz with metal and stained glass, Hayon created a pavilion that played with light, colour, movement and shadow in a spectacular fashion – the word “kaleidoscopic” might have been overused in the press materials, but there is no more fitting term.

Housed in the Palazzo Serbelloni, Hayon’s installation was inspired by ‘flora, fauna and folklore’ with references to the 1851 Great Exhibition’s Crystal Palace. “There is a strong element of surprise in the visible contrast between the Napoleonic, marble-made palace and this beautiful pavilion, made with 21st-century Caesarstone’s quartz,” says Hayon. “I hope, with this very graphic and folkloric installation, to put a smile on people’s faces and compel them to think that they are in Milan for the furniture fair, but they have just seen a ‘funtastico’ world.” While we may have serious doubts about theword ‘funtastico,’ Hayon is definitely onto something with this playful approach to visitor engagement.

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Sé Ensemble

Taking design off the plinth and putting it in situ was a popular move at this year’s fair, with Studiopepe furnishing an early 19th-century apartment in Brera, and Dimorestudio creating a series of 20th-century room sets to showcase their latest collections. But none were more successful at slowing the pace than Sé Ensemble, a four-room apartment within Galleria Rossana Orlandi, itself arranged around a sun-dappled courtyard that practically demanded a leisurely lunch stop.

Described by Sé co-founder Pavle Schtakleff as a “wonderful opportunity to share our philosophy for living,” the space comprised a lounge, dining room, dressing room and salon, showcasing three Sé collections alongside rugs from French producer La Manufacture Cogolin and wallpapers by Brooklyn-based Calico Wallpaper. The cool temperature, gentle music and mesmerising hand-made brass Mobile Sculpture by French artist Christel Sadde conspired to make this a place to linger, no matter how tight your schedule.

Armour Mon Amour

Swedish-French design duo Fredrick Färg and Emma Marga Blanche took the idea of design in situ one step further and as well as presenting a solo exhibition in Teatro Arsenale, they hosted nightly dinners throughout Milan Design Week during which guests sat on their chairs, ate and drank from their tableware and were entertained with experimental Swedish music played on their furniture. A three-course meal served over three hours gave visitors the time to really immerse themselves in the exhibition, which ‘questioned the relationship between hard and soft,’ showcasing existing work alongsidemore than 10 new objects from the pair.

Inspired by a three-month residency in Japan and in particular by the armour worn by Samurai warriors, the latest Färg&Blanche furniture collection comprises sewn metal – quite a leap even for two designers best known for their experimental tailoring of wood. “We were fascinated by the mix of hard and soft material, and how they attach to each other,” says Blanche. “The different pieces create a shell when combined together, a protection in three-dimensional form. We were also intrigued by the fact that this armour conveyed a strong sense of the personality of these warriors.”

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Le Refuge

After a childhood spent in Rome, an early career in the Italian car industry, and a studio in Paris, designer and Bloom Room founder Marc Ange says he finally found peace in Los Angeles, where he has recently opened a second office. He likens the feeling to the sanctuary of the imaginary rainforests he played in as a child. He created Le Refuge or ‘The Imaginary World of Marc Ange’ to recreate that feeling for Milan Design Week visitors.

“Le Refuge is a place where one finds comfort and peace,” he explains. “It is the projection of a childhood memory. Its large leaves form a shelter under the sun, away from reality, just like those of the imaginary jungle that grows in the room of a child who seeks escape.”

A concrete base, foam and fabric cushions and perforated metal palm leaves created a welcome moment of pink peace in the calming gardens of the Mediateca di Santa Teresa as part of Wallpaper* Handmade.

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Passeggiata: An Airbnb Experience of Milan

Built in the 15th century and a private home to this day, Casa degli Atellani played host to Leonardo da Vinci while he painted The Last Supper at the nearby Dominican convent, and once held parties that were the envy of the city. For Milan Design Week, it was the starting point for a series of designer-led city tours, inspired by Airbnb’s new Trips platform, that took in local destinations not usually on the iSalone trail, such as JJ Martin’s fashion boutique La Double J, Fabrica’s creative director Sam Baron’s favourite dried-fruit shop Noberasco 1908, and of course that Dominican convent.

Inside, a treasure trove of the work and personal collections of contemporary designers, curated by Martina Mondadori Sartogo, was nestled into the original interiors of Casa degli Atellani – ranging from Matteo Thun’s watercolours to Faye Toogood’s collection of stones and rocks. All while prosecco and canapés circulated among the beautiful people in the garden to the sounds of a performance by the Ensemble Scaligero from Milan’s Filarmonica della Scala orchestra.

Tom Raffield works up a head of steam (Crafts Magazine)

Photography by Alan Callander.

All copy as provided to the publication.

Cornwall-based furniture designer and maker Tom Raffield is pushing the boundaries of steam bent wood to create a sustainable business on his own terms.

In 19th-century Germany, frustrated with the painstaking process involved in hand-carving furniture, Michael Thonet discovered a new way to shape wood – by immersing solid rods of beech in steam, he realised he could push the material beyond what anybody thought it was capable of, creating previously impossible forms and curves. In 1842 he relocated to Vienna and was granted a patent ‘for manufacturing chairs and table legs of bent wood, the curvature of which is effected through the agency of steam or boiling liquids’. Thonet’s Model No.14 chair, a staple in cafés the world over, became the most popular design manufactured in the 19th century, and steam-bending techniques barely changed for over 150 years. That is, until Tom Raffield came along.

In 2003, in his second year of a 3D Design for Sustainability degree at Falmouth College of Art (now University College Falmouth), Raffield started experimenting with steam bending. He was instantly smitten. ‘There is something absolutely magical about using nothing but steam to bend something as solid as wood,’ he says. ‘The honesty and simplicity of that process was addictive and I’ve been steam bending ever since.’ But like Thonet, eventually Raffield became frustrated with the limitations of a traditional craft handed down to him from generations gone by. ‘When you take the wood out of the steamer, you have about 30 seconds to bend it before it cools, so there’s only so much you can do with each length of timber,’ he explains. ‘I loved steam bending, but I wanted to do so much more with it.’ Inspired by techniques used in the local boat-building industry, Raffield developed a new method of localised steam bending using a bag instead of a fixed chamber. This allowed him to bend the wood around a bespoke free-standing jig system while still immersed in steam, section by section. ‘I wanted to create really wild three-dimensional shapes with bends in multiple planes to mimic the drawings and models I had made,’ he says. His graduate project, a chair made entirely from one continuous length of wood, achieved exactly that.

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Fast forward 14 years and not only does Raffield’s eponymous company sell almost 70 different steam bent products, both direct and through retailers such as John Lewis and Heal’s, but he and wife Danielle have just built a steam-bent house, featured on Channel 4’s Grand Designs in October 2016. ‘This place has the potential to be Tom’s masterpiece; the summation of his life’s work,’ said Kevin McCloud in the programme, but given how hardworking, creative and entrepreneurial Raffield is, it’s more likely to be just the beginning.

Raffield grew up on Devon’s Exmoor and jokingly describes his childhood as ‘feral’. ‘We lived a very outdoor life. We were next to the River Exe and surrounded by moorland. There were more animals than people, and I grew up thinking that was all quite normal.’ Struggling with academia due to severe dyslexia, he excelled at art, metalwork and sport. ‘Everybody else seemed to understand things I didn’t,’ he says. ‘But then I could see things in a different way. Dyslexia just means you process things differently and, creatively speaking, that often puts you in a stronger position. You only have to look at people like Richard Branson, Eddie Izzard and Jamie Oliver, all of whom are dyslexic, to see that.’ After a year working in European removals followed by a BTEC in 3D Design, he finally found a learning institution that enabled him to thrive. ‘I just fell in love with Falmouth Art College,’ he says. ‘It felt so creative – and the tutors there made me believe I could do or make absolutely anything.’ A materials- and process-led approach embedded in sustainability encouraged students to find their own way of working. Many students embraced computer-aided design and made their way towards careers in industrial design, but Raffield found ‘learning through making’ suited his learning style and he flourished. ‘They had a massive workshop filled with brand new tools and I was like a kid in a sweet shop,’ he says. ‘I just wanted to try everything, so I had a really fascinating time playing in there. And because I was so interested, the technicians loved me – they used to spend evenings teaching me new techniques.’

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The products that came out of that workshop earned the fledgling design firm a Lighting Design Award, as well as the accolades of being named one of Kevin McCloud’s Green Heroes and one of Walpole’s Brands of Tomorrow. But the impact of those things on the business pale into insignificance in comparison with the ‘Grand Designs effect.’ Having outgrown the cottage when baby number two, Bearwyn, now three, came along, the couple decided to build a home for their growing family that would also demonstrate the potential of steam bending. ‘I have always wanted to do things that push the boundaries of process, technique and material to show people what steam bent wood can do,’ says Raffield. They hired contractors to put up the building’s frame, but did the rest themselves, with help from friends and family. ‘As soon as we started bending wood around the frame it looked like nothing we’d ever seen before – it was just beautiful,’ says Raffield. When the programme finally aired in October 2016 after a gruelling two-year build, the couple (Danielle by now heavily pregnant their third child, Lamorna) invited the whole team down to the house to watch it. ‘Someone had a laptop open as we were watching and the response was incredible,’ says Raffield. ‘We had thousands of email enquiries and our social media feeds went crazy, but the best thing was people saying they were inspired by the possibilities of steam bending to think sustainably, to take on a project, or to build their own house. That was really lovely.’

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The team, now numbering 30, has barely stopped work since that evening. They have built room sets and installations for John Lewis and Peter Jones, created a new collection due to launch during the London Design Festival in September, and are about to start work on a twisting 12-metre bench for a skyscraper in London. Inspired by Tom and Danielle’s new house, they are finding new uses for sawmill waste to create interior cladding and have recently launched steam bent exterior cladding made from English oak. While all that’s going on, they are putting the finishing touches to a lighting installation set to appear at both London Craft Week and the Chelsea Flower Show in May – 80 Scots Lights, Skipper Pendants and Butterfly Lights hanging from trees will light up Orange Square just off the Pimlico Road and the Artisan Retreat at the flower show, where they will also be showcasing their new steam bent summerhouse concept. With all that going on, it’s no surprise that Raffield is looking for another Cornish woodland he can sustainably manage to provide raw material – and move production into. ‘We’ve got a lot going on, but it’s really fun,’ he grins. ‘I bent my first piece of wood almost 15 years ago and I am still as excited about it as I was back then – the possibilities of what bent wood can do are unlimited.’ The same could be said for Mr Raffield.

You can buy Issue No. 266 of Crafts Magazine here.

After Industry (Dundee Design Festival)

Katie Treggiden was commissioned by the organisers of Dundee Design Festival to write the foreword for the festival brochure – an essay about the role of design in the city of Dundee. “Katie, this made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. It is a brilliant, well thought-through, and concise piece of writing.” – Siôn Parkinson, Dundee Design Festival. All copy as provided to the publication.

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From Dundee’s first fireproof mill to the Beano’s print works; and then from Dundee Design Festival venue to one of the largest cultural centres in the UK – the evolution of West Ward Works tells the story of how a city once famous for ‘jute, jam and journalism’ is using the power of design to reinvent itself for the post-industrial age.

Modern design was invented by industry. The advent of mass manufacturing separated the design process from making. When the objects we needed were created by hand, they were made locally, often to bespoke specifications. Design and making happened simultaneously with craftspeople making decisions and adjustments throughout the process; managing what designer David Pye called the ‘workmanship of risk’. Making by machine requires a different approach – the economics of tooling demand high volumes of identical objects, the form of which must to be fully resolved before production can begin. Industrial making is dependent on the ‘workmanship of certainty,’ and to fulfil this need, design has become a distinct function in its own right.

So if designisa result of industry, what becomes of design in a post-industrial society? And what becomes of the cities built on the back of its success? Can design help cities once entirely reliant on industry – from Dundee and Detroit – to thrive again?

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In 1973, Daniel Bell forecast The Coming of the Post-Industrial Society in his book of the same name. He predicted a shift away from dependence on the ‘economics of goods’ towards the ‘economics of information’ arguing that we should expect “new premises and new powers, new constraints and new questions — with the difference that these are now on a scale that had never been previously imagined in world history.” He wasn’t wrong – when Detroit lost the car industry to China and Japan, and Dundee lost jute production to India, the effect on both economies was devastating. “Weak market cities across Europe and America, or ‘core cities’ as they were in their heyday, went from being industrial giants dominating their national, and eventually the global, economy, to being devastation zones,” says Anne Power in her book Phoenix cities: The fall and rise of great industrial cities. “In a single generation three-quarters of all manufacturing jobs disappeared, leaving dislocated, impoverished communities, run-down city centres, and a massive population exodus.” The fact is that manufacturing simply stopped driving growth in the western world.

But just as the Industrial Revolution and its after effects shaped the 19th and 20th centuries, so the digital revolution will shape the 21st century. At its heart, whether it is through the workmanship of risk or of certainly, design is about solving problems, and the problems raised by post-industrialisation have been reframed as opportunities in what Chris Anderson has dubbed “the new industrial revolution.”

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According to Karl Marx, “power belongs to those who control the means of production.” In the industrial era, the scale and cost of machinery meant that big companies controlled factories. Now the digital revolution is redefining the factory (a word that comes from ‘manufactory’, and therefore means anywhere that things are made) and creating new factory floors. As Cory Doctorow says in his prescient sci-fi novel, Makers, “the days of companies with names like ‘General Electric,’ and ‘General Mills’ and ‘General Motors’ are over. The money on the table is like krill: a billion little entrepreneurial opportunities that can be discovered and exploited by smart, creative people.” Some 2,500 maker spaces, hacker spaces and fab labs (fabrication laboratories) worldwide now offer access to digitally-controlled machines such as CNC-routers and 3D printers, alongside more traditional tools and machines, that might previously have been out of the individual maker’s reach. And as costs fall, its increasingly likely that serious makers can own these tools themselves.

Anne Power attributes the speed at which European cities such as Dundee are recovering from the effects of a post-industrial society, (compared with the slower recoveries of American cities such as Detroit), to “innovative enterprises, new-style city leadership, special neighbourhood programmes, and skills development,” – all things in which design is playing a key part.

Now that we’ve reached ‘peak stuff’ (according to IKEA CEO Steve Howard, of all people), young designers no longer aspire to design the next ‘it chair’, but instead want to apply the skills and methodology of design to some of the hardest problems facing humanity. Design thinking takes the process of solving a problem, and asks, ‘What if the solution isn’t an object?’ Making something isn’t always the answer; sometimes it’s about creating systems, programmes and models. Take a problem like an empty 19th-century jute mill in the heart of your city. Design thinking might suggest a pop-up festival to demonstrate its value. That festival might attract the right audience and the right investment to convert it into something more permanent. That investment might result in a cultural centre that can engage, educate and inspire another generation of design thinkers – and equip them with the skills to solve the problems of the 21st century. In Dundee, that’s exactly what it has done. After the Dundee Design Festival finishes, West Ward Works will be converted into one the largest cultural centres in the UK – a testament to the power of design to evolve its way around problems, and a living reminder that it will continue to do so for centuries to come.

Women Who Make: Amy Isles Freeman (Cornwall Life)

All copy as provided to the publication.

Falmouth-based artist Amy Isles Freeman combines woodworking and fine art to create hand-turned wooden bowls decorated with scenes inspired by nature and the female form. She tells Katie Treggiden about finding her voice in Cornwall.

The future’s bright (Guardian Magazine)

Photography by Suki Dhanda

All copy as provided to the publication. Copy for Yinka Ilori and Laura Spring written by Emma Love.

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Bethan Laura Wood

From the laminated marquetry of her Moon Rock tables to the rainbow of chaos that characterises her daily outfits, colour is the driving force behind the work of Bethan Laura Wood, one of a new wave of designers bringing the postmodern Memphis style of the 1980s back into fashion.

“I like colour,” says London-based Bethan Laura Wood, 33 – a glorious understatement, considering that she’s sporting blue and pink blusher, pink and yellow eyebrows and blue hair. But there is more than a love of colour to this new designer and recent recipient of British Land’s Swarovksi Emerging Talent Medal.

Born in Shropshire, she has been making things, ranging from papier-mâché hats to balsawood vans, for as long as she can remember. Diagnosed with dyslexia at sixth form college, she found she could understand the world around her through colour more easily than through words. “Of course I read, but I engage with things through colour,” she says.

Watching a BBC documentary about London’s Royal College of Art (RCA) at the age of 16, she immediately knew she wanted to study there and every decision from then on was geared towards realising that ambition. At school she was drawn to the art room and craft, design and technology (CDT) workshops, but her dedication marked her out as different. She took art A-Level a year early and spent her lunchtimes painting Degas-inspired nudes. “I had a great CDT teacher who gave me free rein of the workshops, but I certainly wasn’t in the cool gang,” says Wood. “In fact I wasn’t even accepted by the outcast group.” She went on to a foundation course at Kingston University, followedby a BA in three-dimensional design at Brighton University, knowing that the RCA prefer students who study away from home. She took a year out to work on self-initiated projects – something else the RCA favour – funded by work in cafés and bars, and eventually in 2007, landed a place at the venerated art school she’d first seen on television all those years ago.

“Of course, I completely freaked out. I would cry in every tutorial because I was completely overwhelmed.” It’s not an uncommon experience, and her tutors, Dutch designer Jurgen Bey and the Italian Martino Gamper, guided her through it, ultimately giving her the confidence to find her own path. “The way they create is very different, but they celebrate each other, so that helped me to understand that I didn’t need to be a mini-Martino, or a mini-Jurgen,” she says. “They encouraged me to push myself and find my own voice.” Since graduating in 2009, she has stayed in touch with both, recently taking part in No Ordinary Love, an exhibition at London’s SEEDS Gallery with Gamper.

Perhaps surprisingly, it’s only relatively recently that her now-signature use of explosive colour has found its way into her designs. “My marquetry work was the first timeI unashamedly allowed my love of colour and pattern to have a voice in my design work. I wasn’t always comfortable with the way I look being associated with what I do.” A residency in Mexico City in 2014, part of the Designer of the Future Award, resulted in her Guadalupe Daybed and Guadalupe Vases for Bitesso Ceramiche, and cemented the role of colour and pattern in her work, finally allowing her love of postmodern and Memphis design to really shine through.

Since then, Wood has created windows for Hermès, currently lectures at top Swiss art school ECAL, and next year will be the artist in residence at ‘Room On The Roof,’ for de Bijenkorf and the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. But what she’s most proud of is simply surviving: “All of those things make me proud. But what I’m most proud of is that I’m still here. I’m able to do what I love, engage creatively with other people and build my life around that. I don’t think I’d be happy if I was doing anything else.”

Bethan Laura Wood’s Guadalupe Vases for Bitossi Ceramiche are available from the Design Museum Shop from £390.

Raw Edges

From dip-dyed wooden furniture and gravity-defying stacks of drawers to dizzyingly vibrant floors for Stella McCartney, London design studio Raw Edges leaves a trail of colour and pattern wherever it goes.

Walk into Raw Edges’ North London studio and the first thing you notice is a neat row of containers, suspended at 45 degrees, filled with brightly coloured dye. Look up and you’ll see dye-soaked wood, piled high and arranged by hue into a vertical rainbow. These are the building blocks of the Herringbones and Endgrain collections – two of the projects that have established the Israeli-born co-founders of Raw Edges, Yael Mer and Shay Alkalay, both 39, as rising stars of design. Their Herringbones furniture is made from planks of pine and jelutong dipped into those angled vats to create overlapping areas of colour, whereas Endgrain comprises blocks of wood that have been fully saturated in hot dye and arranged with their ‘end grain’ visible, like a traditional butcher’s block. The pair has applied this concept to everything from simple shelving to their three-dimensional floor with furniture ‘growing’ out of it at Chatsworth House. Their work forms part of an industry-wide move towards brighter colours after a long dalliance with the typically understated hues of Scandi style. The large studio it all happens in gives them space to think. “It means we don’t have to be polite – we can experiment,” says Mer.

It’s all a very long way from Jerusalem, where the two aspiring designers met on their first day at art school in 1998. Both had shown creative promise from a young age. “I was cutting things up with scissors before I could walk,” laughs Mer. “And I remember making houses from Lego,” adds Alkalay, “but I would use the Lego to make moulds and cast plaster into them.” So it was perhaps inevitable that they would both end up studying industrial design at Jerusalem’s Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design. But it was far from a foregone conclusion that they would end up living and working together. “Shay sat next to me on the first day – it was a fascinating lecture with a real feminist agenda,” says Mer, “and he just wasn’t into it. I couldn’t believe how lucky I was to be there, and yet how unlucky I was to have this really annoying person next to me – and then my heart sank when I realised he was in my class too.” Now married with a child, they claim to have been irritating each other ever since.

It’s a relationship dynamic that clearly works, because on graduating from Bezalel in 2001, they both applied to London’s Royal College of Art (RCA). Without having decided what they would do if only one of them was accepted, they opened each other’s letters and to their relief, discovered that they had both been offered a place. They studied under fellow Israeli Ron Arad and give him a lot of credit for their success. “Ron really encouraged us to explore,” says Alkalay. “He pushed us to find our own voice, to keep discovering and to make things happen for ourselves.”

They’ve clearly taken his advice. Like many of the emerging design generation, Alkalay and Mer are entrepreneurial self-starters, carving out a distinct and inventive niche. Their career-defining projects include the self-initiated Endgrain and Herringbones, and commissions ranging from multi-coloured floors for fashion designer Stella McCartney’s retail empire, to Stack – towering piles of mismatched lacquered wooden drawers – for high-end British furniture brand Established & Sons.

Their approach remains hands-on, experimental and above all, colourful. “Colour makes me happy,” says Alkalay. “Yellow makes me smile just like certain songs can.” And Arad’s advice continues to ring in their ears. “We are always changing things – we even try to force mistakes, just to see what happens. It means we’re on a constant learning curve,” says Alkalay. “People tend to take the things around them for granted, but we like the idea that you can still be surprised,” adds Mer. “All our projects try to bring back a childlike sense of wonder – even if just for a moment.”

Stack by Raw Edges is available from chaplins.co.uk, £3,000.50.

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Laura Spring

You can read this article online here.

Lighting Guide (Elle Decoration)

All copy as provided to the publication

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Lighting made easy

Lighting is one of the most effective ways to create atmosphere, but one of the hardest to get right. Follow our step-by-step guide to creating the perfect scheme.

1. Make a plan

Plan lighting at ‘first fix’ stage – at the same time as plumbing – to minimise disruption. Think about the layout of the room and position lights where they will have most impact, avoiding grid arrangements. ‘When it comes to downlights, less is more,’ says Georgina Wood, Design Director at David Collins. ‘They need to be discrete and have a purpose.’

2. Start with natural light

Natural light changes throughout the day, so think about when you use the space. Optimise light with additional windows (if feasible), high-gloss ceiling paints and mirrors.

3. Compensate with ambient light

Use ambient light to mimic daylight, using pendants or downlights. Light the room for after dark, but also balance areas that are less bright during the day. ‘Make as many things dimmable as possible, to give maximum flexibility,’ advises Tessuto founder and BIID president Susie Rumbold.

4. Add task lighting for specific activities

Will the spare room double up as an office? Will your children do their homework in the kitchen? Match task lighting – ranging from desk lamps to integrated LEDs – to these activities, and to the people doing them: a 60-year-old needs 15 times as much light as a 10-year-old. ‘Use adjustable spotlights to direct light exactly where you need it,’ says interior designer Lisa Adams.

5. Use accent lighting to highlight features

‘What is the first thing your eye is drawn to when you enter the space?’ asks Susie. ‘That’s often a good thing to highlight.’ Use halogen spots, traditional picture lights, or hidden architectural lighting.

6. Think about ‘kinetic lighting’

Moving light – think candles, open fires or even lava lamps – creates a cosy atmosphere. Flickering flames have comforted humans for millennia and shouldn’t be forgotten in the rush for the latest gadget.

7. Choose your fittings

Light sources can be included architecturally or as a decorative lighting. ‘Architectural lighting is discrete and seamless, allowing decorative lights to act as jewellery in an interior,’ says Georgina. Check compatibility between light fittings and switches in terms of circuit loading, and find out what kind of power source your LEDs need.

8. Decide on circuits and controls

Think about combinations of lights you want on shared circuits so they can be switched on and off together – using anything from a simple switch to the latest smartphone-controlled system.

9. Installation

Anything involving electricity is best left to the professionals. You’ll need an NIC-approved electrician – and a self-certifying one can approve his or her own work to ensure it complies with Building Regulations too.

How to light your outdoor space

‘Good exterior lighting has the power to transform your home and should be considered carefully to maximise your outdoor space,’ says Peter Bowles, MD of Davey Lighting. Follow our top tips to make the most of your garden.

Welcome home

  • Porches can be lit with a pendant above the door or a pair of ‘up-and-down’ lights either side. Either will look half their size from 50 metres away, so go big – a quarter the height of your door as a rule of thumb.
  • ‘If there are stepped areas, consider mounting linear LEDs under each step,’ says Richard Strange of Darklight Design.
  • Use a PIR (passive infrared sensor) and photocells so that lights are triggered by movement after dark.

Room with a view

  • Large windows are black holes at night. ‘You can increase the perception of space by making your garden visible at night,’ says Peter.
  • Use up-lights to highlight favourite trees or sculptures.
  • ‘Use exterior floor lamps to really bring the indoors out,’ adds Richard.

Let’s go outside

  • Weather-proof festoon lights bring a party atmosphere to outdoor dining.
  • Kinetic lighting such as a fire pit or chiminea will also keep you warm.
  • Don’t forget task lighting for outdoor food-preparation areas.

Whatever the weather

  • All outdoor lighting needs to be IP-rated for ingress protection.
  • ‘Natural materials with interesting patinas such as weathered bronze, copper and brass are the best choices as they’re low maintenance and age beautifully,’ advises Peter.

How to use architectural lighting

Architectural lighting is fitted into the fabric of your building or furniture, making it a little more complicated than a lamp, but the effects it can create are worth the effort.

LEDs

  • Shadow gaps between walls and floors can be lit using linear LED strips installed into the plasterboard, making the walls appear to float.
  • LED strips underneath stair treads or behind handrails can aid navigation. ‘Alternatively, LED ribbon in a cabinetry detail such as a bookshelf is a great way to add atmosphere,’ says Bruce Weil of The Lighting Design Studio.
  • LEDs once produced a cold light that distorted colour, but they’ve improved. ‘Choose 2700K, which is at the warmer end of the scale and a Colour Rendering Index (CRI) of 90 or above,’ says Bruce.

Wall lights

  • Indirect light is softer than direct light, so use wall lights to bounce light around and create a flattering effect.
  • Wall lights can also be positioned either side of a feature to add drama.

Spotlights

  • Your plasterer can skim trimless downlights into the ceiling. ‘They create the effect that light is coming from apertures in the ceiling,’ says Richard Strange of Darklight Design. Try Whitegoods for plaster-in fittings.
  • Spotlights can also be installed under wall-mounted kitchen cabinets to light worktops, inside wardrobes, or inside alcoves to highlight favourite objects.
  • Surface-mounted spots can be used to pick out features in a room, or to bounce light off walls or ceilings. The Minos collection by John Cullen is a contemporary option.

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Lighting Trends

Hot on the heels of wrong.london’s Sebastian Wrong calling 2016 a ‘very exciting moment in lighting,’ here are our top tips for the latest trends.

  • LEDs are coming of age. ‘LED lighting is becoming much better quality at much lower cost, so there’s no reason not to use it in your home,’ says Bruce Weil of The Lighting Design Studio. ‘What’s available now is tried and tested so we can confidently design lighting with integrated LEDs,’ adds Sebastian.
  • OLEDs, or organic LEDs, are a relatively new technology providing a uniform area of light, rather than single light points. They produce very little heat, and with low glare and shadow, can reduce eye fatigue.
  • Lightbulbs are having a moment. Pioneers of beautifully-designed, energy-efficient lightbulbs, Plumen have just launched the Plumen 003; the URI collection from Hong Kong’s Nap is a laser-etched acrylic LED bulb that casts spectacular shadows; and vintage-style filament bulbs are enjoying a revival.
  • Research shows that light can affect everything from sleep to productivity. New products promote healthy living by adjusting the brightness, colour and temperature of artificial light to mimic natural light as it changes throughout the day.
  • Lighting controls are becoming increasingly sophisticated. Alongside wireless smartphone- and tablet-controlled systems, lighting will soon be intelligently managed in the same way that adaptive thermostats such as Nest learn your behaviour to adjust room temperature.

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Work of Art (Stylist)

All copy as provided to the publication.

More than 1.52 million of us now work from home, up by 19% from a decade ago. It can’t be a coincidence that more women than ever before are in employment – the flexibility that home working affords us, and the hours reclaimed from the daily commute surely contribute to the fact that 69.2% are now in employment – the highest level since records began in 1971. Although men still account for the majority of home-workers (912,000 regularly work from home compared to 609,000 women), it’s women who are driving the growth in the trend, with 35% more women working from home in 2015 than in 2005. And despite the fears of some employers, we’re not sitting around in our PJs – in fact Stanford economics professor Nicholas Bloom has found that homeworkers are 13% more productive than those who travel into offices every day. And it’s not just existing businesses that benefit. “70 per cent of new businesses in the UK start at home,” says Emma Jones, founder of Enterprise Nation, which has got to be a good thing for the economy. But let’s be honest, we’re not eschewing the rush hour, cubicle desks and office politics for the sake of our employers or the economy – working from home works for us, and having the freedom to design our own space is a crucial part of that. “Having control over your workspace can improve comfort and your ability to get work done, and reduce stress,” says a report by office chair manufacturer Herman Miller. “This, in turn, can lead to greater productivity and better health.” So it’s no surprise that many people are turning to increasingly popular interiors blogs and image-sharing sites such Pinterest and Instagram for inspiration to make their spaces their own. We’ve gathered up the best of the web – and asked industry experts to spill the beans on the coolest interiors trendsfor your home office.

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Getting in the mood

Mood boards can be an incredibly powerful way to visualise anything from a project you’re working on, to your goals for the year. We asked interior stylist, designer and TV presenter, Sophie Robinson (sophierobinson.co.uk) to share her top five tips on creating a mood board wall in your home office.

I can’t tell you how powerful having images displayed in your space can be for inspiration and motivation. Here are my five tips for making a great display:

1.    In my job, mood boards are essential. I wouldn’t dream of tackling a room design without fleshing it out on a mood board first, starting with conceptual, inspirational images from fashion and colour to architecture and patterns and then moving to paint chips, fabric samples and images of furniture, light fittings and accessories as the design develops. This way I am confident the room look cohesive before I make any purchases.

2.    If you don’t have a creative job, you might be wondering how mood boards can work for you. I’m a massive fan of ‘vision boards’. These comprise images that inspire or motivate you. Stick up pictures of your dream house, your holiday wish list, the perfect yoga pose, or anything you’d like to work towards in your life. The uncanny secret is, they actually work!

3.    Mood boards should be fluid so you can add and subtract images at will. I use washi tape, in lots of different designs and patterns, to quickly pull together each one. Trim your pictures, so you can overlap them.

4.    Use a strong painted wall as a background, so the images really pop. Use a scrub-able matt emulsion or vinyl silk, so your mood board won’t ruin the paintwork.

5.    Narrow-width picture shelves are a great way to make an ever-changing display. You can rest framed pictures, a selection of mood boards mounted on foam board, or even small three-dimensional objects on the shelves. Or curate a gallery wall of framed pictures, mixing different frames with an eclectic selection of images linked by a theme or colour. I use picture-hanging strips to avoid too many nails in the wall, and so I can move them around.

Green fingers

Plants in office spaces have been shown to increase not only productivity, but also happiness1 – something both Sheffield-based photographers Magnus and India Hobson (haarkon.co.uk), and founders of The Future Kept (thefuturekept.com), Jeska and Dean Hearne, can attest to.

“Plants bring an element of life to our desk and provide us with a sense of companionship,” says India Hobson. ‘We can watch them grow and change daily – they bring something to our tables that an inanimate object just couldn’t.” Jeska echoes the importance of botanicals in a working environment. “It is vital to take short inspiration breaks throughout your working day, surrounded by nature and the beauty of the natural world,” she says. “Creating an indoor work space filled with plants allows us to soak up all the positive energy they create, creating a sense of calm and leaving us feeling ready for whatever the rest of the day might bring.” Luckily you don’t have to be particularly green-fingered to make this trend work for your home office – just subscribe to Geo Fleur’s (geo-fleur.com) Plant Post Club and they’ll send you a plant or plant-related accessory in the post every month. Geo Fleur founder Sophie Lee shares her top tips for incorporating some greenery into your space:

1.    Choose air-purifying plants, such as a peace lily or Boston fern, and place them next to computers and other electronic equipment to remove toxins from the air.

2.    Choose low maintenance plants that can withstand neglect if you have a busy job that’s likely to take priority over looking after them. Sanseviera is a great plant as it’s so hardy. Cacti thrive on being ignored too – just water them with a mister once a fortnight and place them near bright light.

3.    Most houseplants should be misted weekly – set a calendar reminder so you don’t forget. The biggest killer of houseplants is overwatering though, so don’t pour water in to the top of the plant pot as this panics the plant, sends it in to overdrive and turns it to mush.

4.    All plants need good natural light, but few will survive strong midday sun, so position them in a bright but sheltered part of your office.

5.    Choose a plant that produces lots of offshoots such as Pilea Peperomides – you can give its babies as gifts to your clients and suppliers when they come to visit.

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Spare your blushes

Softer natural colours are taking over from hard industrial interiors in offices, creating spaces where people feel at home, relaxed, and happy – which makes them more collaborative and productive. Combine rose quartz – one Pantone’s two colours of 2016 – with the warm metallic trend we’ve inherited from Scandinavia, and you’ve got a recipe for success in your home office. Emma Morley, founder and creative director of interior design agency Trifle (triflecreative.com), shares her tips on how to make it work.

When this lovely colour hit the scene a few years ago, we predicted ongevity and we have been delighted to see we were not wrong, especially when it comes to work spaces. Here are my top five tips for making dusty pinks and warm metallics work in your home office:

1.    See soft pink as a warm neutral rather than as a ‘scary accent colour’. It is versatile and very easy to use and works well in contemporary schemes as well as more traditional settings.

2.    Start by painting a small wall – remember it’s always easier to add more than to take it away. Although the best thing about painting is that it can quickly be undone if you really don’t like it.

3.    Then introduce some accessories in warm metallic materials like copper to add a bit of sparkle – the options are endless, especially with stationery.

4.    If you want more impact, Kangan Arora’s Patang rug for Floorstory uses this palette brilliantly and also shows how well it goes with other colours.

5.    Finally, don’t go overboard – remember, you’re not Barbie!

You can read the story online here. 

British Design Awards (Elle Decoration)

All copy as provided to the publication.

 

MOO LOOK (ONOFFICE)

Photography by Rob Wilson

Copy as provided to publication. 

Moving offices can be a daunting prospect, especially when your employees adore their previous home. Trifle Creative turned a drab, corporate shell into a warm and welcoming creative space that MOO’s London team couldn’t help but fall in love with.

How do you move 200 employees from a topsy-turvy Shoreditch office they love into a corporate-looking space the size of three Olympic swimming pools, while keeping everyone from the creative team to the coders happy? This was the challenge digital printing company MOO put to Emma Morley of interior design firm Trifle Creative. “I’m rarely daunted, she says, “but the first time I walked into this vast space, it was just grey: the carpets were grey; the walls were grey – even the ceilings were grey!” The office in Farringdon was going to need a complete overhaul if it was going to make anyone at MOO smile.

 

From Art Deco to X-Rays (Crafts Magazine)

All copy as provided to the publication.

The textile artist and Perrier-Jouët Arts Salon Prize winner talks to Katie Treggiden about the wide open horizons and tiny details of her childhood that have influenced her work – and about her first solo show.

How did growing up in Hungary affect your work?

I grew up in the countryside, so I could always see the horizon. In that landscape, you see lots of whites, greys and brownish colours, especially in the winter when there isn’t much colour. I tend to work in black and white and the tones in between. Being the first to walk across virgin snow is a really strong childhood memory for me. I think that drove me to work with the undiscovered, and sparked my interest in the duality between scale and detail.

What did you make as a child?

I drew a lot and focused on tiny details. I think that’s why weaving appealed to me. Working on a small scale is something that comes from within – working on a large scale, as I do now, is more of a challenge, but I enjoy it. It’s good to carry what is within you, but also to move away from it.

And what brought you to London?

I did my art and design foundation at Tower Hamlets College. The course covered the whole spectrum of art and design, and exposed me to exhibitions like the Turner Prize, which really deepened my understanding of conceptual art. I was drawn to surfaces, textiles and structures, and eventually joined some textiles workshops. Weaving immediately captured my attention. It’s the creation of a whole material from a single thread – I found that really interesting.

Whose work inspired you during that time?

I was inspired by artists like Mark Rothko. He didn’t use form in his paintings because he wanted you to focus on the colour. By not using colour, I’m doing the opposite and putting the focus on the structure of the weave. The geometric shapes of Art Deco architecture in New York, Vienna and Budapest also inspired me. And something as simple as the iridescence of a dragonfly wing – my work is often transparent until the light hits it and makes it shimmer.

Whose work do you admire now?

I still take inspiration from architecture when I’m developing new structures – I really admired Zaha Hadid for constantly innovating and pushing boundaries.

Tell us about the “x-ray” weaving technique you’ve developed.

After Tower Hamlets, I studied at Central Saint Martins and became interested in the structure of weaving. Most people understand that a woven fabric has a vertical warp and a horizontal weft, but it’s not something you see. I started to wonder what an x-ray of a fabric would look like. I wanted to re-create that idea on the loom, so I developed a weaving technique through which I can expose the vertical lines or the ‘bones.’ I use a nylon monofilament to bring out all the vertical threads. With this technique I can also manipulate these threads into groups or separate them – and that’s what you see in my work, because you can see the whole warp: you can single out one thread and follow it right to the top.

Where does your courage to do things differently come from?

Doing things differently is what interests me, so I don’t really have a choice! Making something that I haven’t seen before is my driving force, and that’s something that Central Saint Martins really encouraged, so that was an important part of my education.

Who are the other artists or designers of your generation doing things differently?

I studied with Nadia-Anne Ricketts from BeatWoven and she always pushed the boundaries. We are both driven by similar things, and now we’re both based at Cockpit Arts and exhibited together at Design Days Dubai, so we are following the same path. People are always fascinated by the concepts and stories behind her work.

What are you working on at the moment?

I won the Perrier-Jouët Arts Salon Prize this year and they are presenting my first solo show at the CAA, so I’m just finishing some new pieces for that on the loom now – while working with curator Julia Royce to select existing pieces from my portfolio.

‘Weaving with Light, Solo Exhibition’ curated by Julia Royse and presented by Perrier-Jouët Arts Salon is at Contemporary Applied Arts London 24 June – 30 July. 

Close to Home (Guardian Weekend Magazine)

All copy as provided to the publication.

A new generation of designers are going back to their roots to tell the stories of their hometowns through the objects they create. Katie Treggiden explores the on-going quest for local identity in design.

With homes and high streets the world over starting to look eerily similar, environmental concerns about flying furniture around the globe, and a lack of transparency enabling international brands to hide bad behaviour, it’s no surprise that globalisation is experiencing a backlash. So what is the alternative? A growing contingent of designers is embracing ‘localisation’ instead.

Novacastrian was founded by an architect, a graphic designer and a metal worker, who grew up together in Newcastle. Using local materials, they make furniture inspired by their city. “The North East is steeped in industrial heritage,” says co-founder Mark McCormick (the graphic designer). “It has mined coal, built ships and invented steam trains. It has a creative force that we find really inspiring.” Originally designed for a riverside café, the brand’s Staiths shelving unit references the Dunston Staiths – industrial timber structures built in the River Tyne at the turn of the 20th century to expedite the transfer of coal from rail to river. “The Staiths weren’t built to be attractive,” says McCormick. “They are utilitarian, functional and industrial, but the elegant rhythm of their latticework has its own beauty.”

Another Novocastrian product, the Slate Binate coffee table, comprises a blackened steel frame topped with Cumbrian slate quarried just 75 miles from their workshop. “It’s about elevating local materials,” explains Richy Almond (the architect). “Slate is seen as a boring bumpy building material, but lift it off the ground by 350mm, frame it with a little brass trim, and it becomes something totally different. A honed finish brings out the natural grain and suddenly it’s as beautiful as Italian marble.”

For Indian-born surface pattern designer Kangan Arora, it was a case of ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’. When she came to London to study, homesickness led to a debut collection inspired by the colour and chaos she had left behind in the Punjab. “I can still find inspiration on every corner,” she says and her latest collection consists of three prints, Radium, Painter and Jali, sparked by a recent trip home. Radium references the offcuts of vinyl used to decorate commercial trucks in India: “They end up stuck to every surface in the workshops and create this incredible colourful camouflage,” she says. Painter comes from the traditional hand-painted signs that vinyl is slowly replacing: “I’ve taken their brushstrokes and enlarged them into a Memphis-style pattern.” Jali echoes decorative steel screens used protect Punjabi windows. “They are functional objects, and yet they have such beautiful, intricate patterns,” she says. Arora screen prints her products by hand in her South London studio and attributes her success in the UK to exactly what inspired her very first collection – the vibrant hues of her homeland. “London is an incredible city, but it is rather grey,” she laughs. “I think people are drawn to my colours.”

You can read this article online here. 

Making Their Mark (The Clerkenwell Post)

All copy as provided to the publication.

The UK’s hand-engravers have never been more in demand and yet almost half are approaching retirement age. Katie Treggiden catches up with co-founder of Clerkenwell-based Sam James Ltd, James Neville, to find out what the future holds for this exacting skill.

Hand engraving everything from hunting guns to trophies and jewellery has been a daily occurrence in Clerkenwell for centuries, but this ancient craft has reached a decisive moment in its history. In 2012, Cut in Clerkenwell created an archive of 20th century engraving, revealing the work of previously unknown craftspeople often for the first time. As a result, practitioners are busier than ever – and yet 40% of the workforce is approaching retirement, so it’s vital that the next generation is found and nurtured. With the oldest team member at 76 and the youngest apprentice at 19, Sam James Ltd not only represents a link to the past, but also to the future.

Having grown up around silver due to his late father’s antiques business, James studied metalwork and painting at Camberwell College. Spotting a potential career, his father gave him some tools and introduced him to the basics of hand engraving. He hasn’t looked back since. In 2011, he established Sam James Ltd with Sam Marsden: one of only three people – and the only woman – to have won the coveted Cartier award twice.

Five years on, the business employs five people, two of whom are in their seventies and count an impressive 150 years of Hatton Garden experience between them – “Why give up something you love?” says Eric, 76, “As long as your eyes work, you can keep doing it.” At the other end of the spectrum, two apprentices, Jack, 24, and Louise, 19, are learning their trade. The company is based at Clerkenwell’s Goldsmith’s Centre, which runs apprenticeship programmes and training courses and requires its tenants to support new talent too. “It’s important to pass the skills on to the next generation,” says James. “People are often scared about sharing knowledge, because they think they’re going to lose clients, but that’s a risk you have to take if you want to grow a business.”

The tools of the trade haven’t changed in eons – carving tools comprise a simple column of steel set into a handle. “Differently shaped steel parts enable us to make different cuts, but they all work in the same way,” says James. Wearing four-times magnification glasses, he starts by carefully scribing guide lines into the surface of the metal and then transfers a design onto the surface or draws it freehand – a thin layer of grease creating a contrast. Moving the plate under his tool, he starts to carve. “It’s just like a potato plough,” he says, somewhat understating the precision of the task. “You go in, you go down, you get your level and you move forward – and you try to get each line better than the last, every single time. It’s a quirk we’ve all got in this business – constantly striving to be better.”

It’s perhaps surprising that such an intensive craft is thriving in London, but Clerkenwell is still the beating heart of the business. “Rents are not cheap, but you’ve got everything you need within half a mile,” explains James. “In this building I’ve got a polisher, a setter, and two silversmiths, so we’ve got to be here. And I love Clerkenwell. I’ve been coming here since my Dad brought me along to collect antiques from workshops, and I’ve worked here all my life.”

And as long as his eyes hold out, James isn’t going anywhere. “I love what I do,” he says. “You see something exquisite every day. Whether it’s a tiny stone in a piece of jewellery, a beautiful antique or just a really well made piece of cutlery – there’s something that makes me say ‘wow’ every time I come to work. How many people can say that about their jobs?”

The Goldsmith’s Centre is Clerkenwell Design Week’s live events hub 24 – 26 May 2016 and will be hosting:

·      Conversations at Clerkenwell, the festival’s annual talks programme, including top speakers such as Daniel Libeskind, Sam Jacob and Theo Williams

·      A series of salons curated by Dutch designer Ineke Hans

·      A pop-up exhibition on the craft of contemporary goldsmithing

·      The launch of the Goldsmiths’ Centre’s new membership programme

The Great Indoors (Stylist)

All copy as provided to the publication.
Photography by Anya Holdstock

Spring has officially sprung, but it’s still not quite warm enough to head out into the garden, cocktail in hand. Stylist discovers how to enjoy the great outdoors from the comfort of your central heating.

The days are getting longer, the sun is getting brighter, and yet it’s still not what you might call warm. All is not lost, because the latest interior design trend is all about bringing the outside in. Pioneered by architects like Frank Lloyd Wright in the mid 20th century, it’s not a new idea, but the current revival for all things mid-century combined increasingly convincing research supporting its benefits make it the latest antidote to our ever-more digital lives. Research shows that houseplants can reduce stress, improve concentration, and even lower blood pressure. “By altering the balance of humidity and air quality, indoor plants not only have a positive affect on our energy and efficiency levels,” says Tor Harrison, founder of botanical studio Toro (toro-studio.com), “They also dramatically lift our spirits.” It takes more than just sticking a spider plant in the corner though, so we asked the experts for some tips.

4.    Living Wall

For the ultimate space-saving, high impact way to bring the outside in, create a vertical garden or ‘living wall.’ Ferns, grasses and ivy all work well to provide instant cover, and if you’re keen on a kitchen garden you’ll be glad to hear that herbs, lettuce and strawberries will thrive too. “Simple living walls can be created by training climbing plants up a trellis,” says Gary Grant, the man behind the UK’s largest living wall (greenroofconsultancy.com). “Most house plants can be used, the issue is matching water and light requirements.” Choosing plants with similar needs appropriate to the space is key, but choose right and almost nowhere is out of bounds – even dark spaces can be fitted with artificial lighting systems. Large-scale vertical gardens should be installed by professionals but for smaller scale installations, modular systems and ‘planting pockets’ are available. The modular Wolly Pocket system (woollypocket.co.uk, from £29.99) is easy to hang yourself and comes with an optional irrigation system.

Top five Instagram accounts to follow for green-fingered inspiration:

·      Gardening coach, photographer, and wannabe urban farmer @gardengirl_la is full of clever ideas for growing food in tiny spaces

·      London’s oldest (and swankiest) garden centre, @cliftonnurseries is worth following for ideas, even if your budget won’t stretch to actual purchases

·      Toronto-based Darryl Cheng of @houseplantjournal shares pictures of (mostly) indoor plants together with tips and tricks for looking after them

·      @plantsofbabylon finds and photographs tiny signs of life in even the most hostile urban environments, proving that plants can flourish anywhere

·      English gardener John Tebbs shares products and stories inspired by the garden @thegardenedit

Out of the Woods (Cornwall Life)

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Tom Raffield designs and makes steam-bent furniture from a woodland workshop in the Trevarno Valley near Helston. He tells Katie Treggiden why it’s so important for him to invest in the local community.

Using a unique steam-bending technique he developed while still studying at University College Falmouth, Tom Raffield designs and makes all of his products in a workshop he and his team built five years ago from trees that had fallen during a storm. He lives on site in an old gamekeeper’s cottage with wife and business partner Danie and their two boys, Bearwyn, two, and Beauregard, four. It’s a location that is crucial to his work. “The woodland is my main source of inspiration,” he says. “There are acres of beautiful, untouched and remote woodland in this valley, which is a rare thing in this part of Cornwall and we are lucky enough to own about seven acres. I wouldn’t be making the sort of work I am if we were anywhere else – I only need to step out of my front door and walk a short distance through the trees and an idea for a new design could be staring me in the face.” A case in point is his Scots Light, a wooden lampshade handmade from 80 individually cut and steam-bent ‘leaves’ of ash, inspired by the cones that fall from the Scots pine trees that surround him.

Walking through his workshop, the making process needs little explanation – trees go in one end and finished products come out the other. Apart from that steam-bending technique of course: instead of heating wood in a steam-filled box and then bringing it out to bend – a process limited by the 30 seconds to a minute in which the wood must be bent before it cools – his steamer is a bag, allowing the wood to be bent inside, removing the time limitation and enabling incredibly complex three-dimensional shapes to be formed. One of his earliest products was a chair made entirely from a single length of wood.

More recent products include the Arbor Sofa, which features one long ribbon of oak forming the front legs, arms and backrest, plus a base, three back legs and a fixed seat upholstered in wool from one of the few vertical woollen mills left in Britain; and the Giant Flock Chandelier, which comprises over 120 individual steam-bent wooden shapes suspended around three tungsten light bulbs, to mimic a swirling flock of starlings in the twilight sky.

This distinctive body of work has won Tom a Lighting Design Award, and recent selection as one of Kevin McCloud’s Green Heroes and as one of Walpole’s Brands of Tomorrow. But interestingly, those are not the accolades he is most proud of. Last year he won Apprenticeship Employer of the Year, and that’s the award he has on his desk. “Wherever you live, you’re part of a community, so you have a responsibility to use what’s local to you,” he says. “We’re lucky that Cornwall is full of people who are really good at making things from boat builders to crafts people, so I use as many local suppliers as I can, but I also think it’s important to invest in the future by taking on apprentices.” Tom works with students and graduates from University College Falmouth and Cornwall College Camborne, many of whom end up as full-time employees. “I’m passionate about training young people,” he says. “I get so much satisfaction from watching them learn from all the other people here. And the business evolves as a result of those people coming in, which is a lovely thing – we are all learning together.”

He’s excited about Cornwall’s future. “It’s beautiful, so people want to live here,” he says. “And a combination of high-speed internet, flights from Newquay airport and the way people do business these days makes it increasingly possible to make a good living here. A lot of young creative people are moving to Cornwall to set up their dream businesses and there’s a real energy around that.”

Colourful Combinations (Homes & Antiques)

Photography by Bruce Hemming
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Artist Torie Wilkinson, cleverly combines antique finds and mementoes from her travels with bold, colourful contemporary pieces to create a warm, playful home.

A childhood spent rummaging around antiques fairs ensured the ‘vintage bug’ bit Torie Wilkinson early. “I used to tell my parents what to buy!” she laughs. She now collects thimbles, having doubled a set left to her by her Grandmother, and is an avid collector of mid-century German ceramics, which she sources via eBay. “It started with a lamp I saw on television four years ago,” she explains. “After some research, I realised it was post-war West German Lava Pottery. They have certain shapes, but there are endless variations in glazes, so you can get quite addicted, thinking, ‘I haven’t got that shape,’ or ‘I’ve got that shape, but not in this glaze.’”

Torie’s love of antiques, combined with a degree in fine art at Oxford’s Pembroke College, and twin careers in art and advertising, have given her an eye for design that is evident in her South London home.

But it’s a far cry from the property she bought in 2009, which had been occupied by the same family since World War Two – the final occupant had retreated into just two rooms, leaving the rest untouched for decades. “Everything needed doing – central heating, rewiring, the works,” she says. “But I can remember standing in the first floor sitting room the first time I saw it, and thinking ‘It would be so lovely to host Christmas here.’” It took three years to complete what Torie describes as a “first pass,” during which time she lived in just one room at a time.

Having got the key pieces in place, Torie used bright colours and bold patterns to add a contemporary twist. “I probably use more colour and pattern than most people,” she says. “I use a lot of colour in my art and I couldn’t bear to not have that in my home too.” But she does admit she sometimes has to rein herself in. “It can get a bit much,” she says. “I use strong colours, so the ceilings are often the same colour as the walls and the woodwork to keep them harmonious. And I would love to have a really striking duvet cover, but I have to keep it simple otherwise it would compete with the headboard.”

But above all, this seemingly perfectly curated space is home. “There are blankets and rugs to snuggle up in,” she says. “It’s not a show home – you’re allowed to put your feet on the chairs. And at the end of a long day, Heidi always gives me a warm welcome, which is just amazing.

Little Black Book

1.    Crystal Palace Antiques. Imperial House, Jasper Road (just off Westow Hill), Crystal Palace, London SE19 1SG, 0208 480 7042, crystalpalaceantiques.com

“Crystal Palace Antiques is a great local haunt with a floor after floor of antique gems at reasonable prices with a good mix of periods,” says Torie. “I loved and lost a very old Indian window frame here because I didn’t go for it immediately. It would have made a beautiful mirror frame.”

2.    Swedish Interior Design, The Granary, Erringham Farm, Nr Shoreham BN43 5FA, 07958 788 555, swedishinteriordesign.co.uk

“I was looking for a grandfather clock and when I got into the Mora style I found Swedish Interior Design, and my clock,” says Torie. “They’ve got a big warehouse with a couple of hundred clocks and you can go and walk up and down and every single one is different.”

3.    The High Street, Sandgate Kent CT20.

“Very near where I grew up on the South coast, Sandgate High Street is a run of antique shops from the high end to the more everyday,” says Torie. “It’s great for some serious browsing followed by fish and chips and a walk along the sea front.”

4.    Michele Varian, 27 Howard Street, New York City, New York, 10013, USA, 001 212 343 0033 michelevarian.com

“I’m lucky enough to travel with work and I love homeware store Michele Varian in New York,” says Torie. “I’ve bought some quirky things there including a sailing shop kite I use as an art piece.”

5.    Jane Newbery, 33 Dulwich Village, London SE21 7BN, 020 8693 2634 janenewbery.co.uk

“Jane supports local artists – like me!” says Torie. “But her main shop sells a wonderfully curated collection of homewares – she has a great eye! I bought one of my bedside tables and the flowery bin under my dressing table there.”

Tribal Happiness (OnOffice)

Photography by Rika Looij
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Eindhoven-based Tribes co-working space promotes happiness and productivity for business nomads.

The way we work is changing. 95% of medium sized businesses now offer flexible working – and evolving technology combined with cost effective travel enables us to work from wherever the business is. People are also more likely to set up independent ventures and enjoy the freedom that comes with working for themselves: 70% more under 35s started their own business in 2013 versus 2006 and the figure was 55% for over 35s.

Targeting the estimated 1.7 million so-called ‘business nomads,’ ex-Regus CEO Eduard Schaepman has established new workspace concept, Tribes. “Regardless of whether they work for a large company or for themselves, today’s business nomads are increasingly a group in themselves,” he says. “Like-minded professionals who go where the business is; a group of people who care about the same things and have the same habits; a group with the same values, aspirations and practices.”

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The first 1,500sqm Tribes space opened at Eindhoven’s Flight Forum in May, quickly followed by Rotterdam, and new premises are planned for Amsterdam, Utrecht, The Hague, Arnhem, Brussels, Antwerp and Ghent this year. Workers can buy a one-day pass, a monthly membership, or rent permanent offices adjoining the shared spaces.

Flexible areas include meeting rooms, long tables where individuals can plug in laptops, sofa areas for informal working, library spaces cocooned in Pierre Frey wallpaper for more focused periods of concentration, picnic-style tables and a café area reflecting the trend for café working, and a reception desk that doubles up as a bar.

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Interior designer Huguette Crielaers describes the project as having the same premise as flexible workspace giant Regus, but says, “Schaepman wanted to add something more to it, something to make it more special, more social and a bit hipper.”

That “something more” came from translating the idea of ‘business nomads’ into a brief that tasked Crielaers with taking inspiration from nomadic tribes, and specifically a book called Before They Pass Away – a record of three years that self-described ‘visual anthropologist’ Jimmy Nelson spent photographing vanishing indigenous cultures.

“The book provided the DNA for our design concept,” says Crielaers. “We started by looking at the values shared by the nomadic tribes and our business nomads and decided that the space needed to be connecting, authentic, timeless, inspiring and then also a bit homely.”

The interior design takes its cues from the structures, shapes, materials and colours that surround the clans in Nelson’s book. “We wanted to get closer to the tribal colours and if you look at their clothes, their materials, their flags, the cushions they’re sitting on – they are all in certain colours,” says Crielaers. “It’s not a bright yellow, but a mustard yellow, not a bright green but a more moss green, it’s midnight blue, dark red, copper… so we started with those colours.”

An abundance of oversized indoor plants sit alongside natural materials like leather and wood. “We looked at what kind of materials the tribes use and saw that they really translated well, so we tried to integrate these authentic fabrics in our concept,” says Crielaers. The floor is tiled throughout with Fossil by Kasia Zareba for Ceramiche Refin and overlaid with Desso carpets marking routes through the space. “The tiles are a new stone design with a very tribal look, which we loved straight away,” says Crielaers.

A circular meeting table semi-enclosed with leather straps reflects the democratic arrangement of tribal meetings. “Most of the tribes in the book seemed to sit in a circle,” explains Crielaers. “So we had to make a tribe’s table – a circular table surrounded by something like a tent. There is no hierarchy and people can make eye contact more easily.”

The Masai Mara meeting room (all the meeting rooms are named after tribes) features a large waney-edged table with leather-clad chairs and artefacts sourced, via a local supplier, from Africa and Indonesia.

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The broad shape of the building made it difficult to get natural light into all parts of the space. The team at AbrahamsCrielaers played with the light that was available – roof lights, combined with the black foil that clads the glass entrance, cast playful shadows across the reception area. In other places they embraced the lack of natural light, creating darker “cosy” spaces. The standard ceiling panels have been painted navy blue to escape the typical office aesthetic and to make the space feel more intimate. Clusters of pendant lights sourced from Dutch Bone, including recycled plastic lights made in Columbia, add warmth. “If you want a homely look, lighting is incredibly important,” says Crielaers. “Lighting makes the difference between a standard office and something different.”

There are more direct references to the book, such as the photos of tribes people, interspersed with members of the Tribes team, that adorn the lockers, so users have a face to remember instead of just a number. Motivational quotes such as “And so the knights sat at a table without a head, thus offering equality to all those present (Sir Thomas Mallory)” and “Work for a cause, not for applause” were selected in collaboration with communications agency The Communication Company.

But it’s not just the visual aspects of the design that were inspired by the tribes Nelson depicted in his book. “The way the tribes live is very inclusive,” says Crielaers. “Whereas in our culture you’re either in or you’re out, especially when it comes to workplaces, where you’re either of working age or you’re too old to join in.” The team are hoping to replicate the tribes’ connection with older generations by offering retired professionals free membership in exchange for making themselves available to younger entrepreneurs for advice and guidance.

The ultimate question is the difference the space makes to the people who work there. “It is much more fun to work somewhere like this,” posits Crielaers. “And I do think joy and happiness make you more productive.” And it seems she’s right. As Shawn Achor said in his TEDx Talk, The Happy Secret to Better Work, “If you can raise somebody’s level of positivity, their brain experiences what we call a ‘happiness advantage.’ Your brain in ‘positive’ performs significantly better than in ‘negative’, ‘neutral’ or ‘stressed’. Your intelligence rises, your creativity rises, your energy levels rise. In fact, we’ve found that every single business outcome improves.”

British Design Awards (Elle Decoration)

All copy as provided to the publication.
Sponsored by John Lewis

Now in their 14th year, the ELLE Decoration British Design Awards, held in association with John Lewis, celebrate and reward the best of British design. This year we have decided to recognise emerging designers who have made an impact over the last 12 months. We concentrated our search on UK-based creatives, brands, designers and manufacturers who have been working in the industry for less than five years. Thousands of ELLE Decoration readers nominated young talent across the six categories Here, we announce the shortlist.

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Best lighting design: Sarah Colson for Vitro Lux collection and Studio Vit for Cone Light collection

Sarah Colson

Losing her job in 2013 led London-based Sarah Colson to pull a box of materials, tools and half-finished projects out from under her bed and rediscover her passion for making. In doing so, she sparked a whole new career that has seen her exhibit at Milan Design Week, take part in community projects in Brazil and even give a TEDx Talk in Dubai (and all this from someone who cites a lack of confidence as her biggest obstacle). Her design process still involves a box of unlikely materials: “I have collections of objects that live in my studio: pound shop bargains, brightly coloured wires, fishing tackle, sewing machine parts, woven baskets…” Colson makes three-dimensional ‘sketches’ from these objects to create what she calls “families of monsters”. She takes these forms to glassblower Jochen Holtz and together they turn them into lights such as those in the Vitro Lux collection. “I go in with a monster and come out with objects that have a genuine beauty in their balance of form and colour,” she says. Having launched her first collection just 17 months ago, she already has plans to exhibit at Masion & Objet and the London Design Festival later this month, and there are collaborations in the pipeline for early 2016. “I am really honoured to be shortlisted for the ELLE Decoration British Design Awards – to achieve such an accolade so early on is just fantastic,” she says.

Elle_Decoration_05.jpgStudio Vit

Studio Vit’s Cone Lights each comprise a sphere and a cone. This simplicity of form is something that Helena Jonasson and Veronica Dagnert, founders of the North London studio, worked hard to refine. “The idea originates from a standard lampshade and bulb,” says Helena. “We reduced those things to two geometric shapes, applying contrasting materials to each, and then considered scale and proportion to create an interesting whole.” The oversized bulb is the result of their desire to create a little imbalance or tension in each product they make. Studio Vit works closely with small factories and craftsmen in and around London to bring their concepts to life. “It is very important for the creative industries that companies are willing to offer their time and advice for a small order of prototypes,” they suggest. The designers describe their first few years in business as an ‘endurance test,’ explaining that “the time between the early stages of a project and it reaching the market and generating money is long. It requires dedication and perseverance.” But their hard work is clearly paying off. They are developing their Cone Lights for a European manufacturer, and working on a new collection for &tradition. They are also working on a lighting commission for the Ace Hotel in London’s Shoreditch and will be showing their Cone Lights at Viaduct during the London Design Festival.

Best craft makers: Stuart Carey and TedWood

Stuart Carey

Stuart Carey’s ceramics career began when his name was picked out of a hat aged just 14. The head of his school’s art department Glyn Thomas, a trained potter, randomly selected 15 GSCE art pupils to try ceramics instead of the traditional painting and drawing syllabus. “I was doubtful at first, but under the guidance of such an inspirational teacher, I soon found I had an aptitude for ceramics and a yearning to explore the material,” says Carey. Almost a decade later a Master’s at London’s Royal College of Art had a similarly transformative effect. “The RCA broke down what I thought I knew, cut away my bravado and left me open and honest but exposed,” he says. ‘Honest’ and ‘exposed’ are words that could easily be used to describe Carey’s work. He hand throws semi-porcelain or white stoneware tableware in batches, resulting in unified collections of one-off objects. He has already received big commissions – he is currently hand-making 750 pieces for the Calvin Klein tableware collection – but Carey is dreaming even bigger: “I would love to take over a huge public space like the Turbine Hall at the Tate and spend a few months experimenting, slowly filling the space and interacting with people to explore the possibilities of clay”. He says that being shortlisted for the Elle Decoration British Design Awards has provided himwith renewed energy to “keep striving to create beautiful things”, so we might just see that Turbine Hall installation yet.

Tedwood

Ted Jefferis’ love of wood is in his blood: “I come from a family of woodworkers,” he says. “My dad builds wooden boats and I love messing around with them.” It’s this love of wood that informs his designs. “It all starts with a tree growing in a woodland. When I make furniture, I use simple tools to expose the natural beauty of the wood. To do this, I have to read the timber and feel its reaction to my tools. Craftsmanship is about respect for your material.” Indeed, so much so, that he lives and works surrounded by that material, a relationship he compares to a farmer living among his fields: “Being surrounded by the material that is your livelihood connects you to your work in a way that is intangible.” Describing being shortlisted for the ELLE Decoration British Design Awards as “unreal and unbelievable,” he claims that his ultimate ambition is to work with British furniture makers Benchmark: “They are an amazing example of how British craftsmanship is the best in the world. Despite their size, they have managed to stay true to their love of making.” In the meantime he is busy preparing for his first appearance at the London Design Festival’s Tent London and working on a collaboration with Britain’s oldest paint-making dynasty, Mylands. “It is a pleasure to be working with a family-owned company that has been supplying British craftsmen for over 130 years.” We’re sure the feeling is mutual.

Best use of print and pattern: Anna Glover for bespoke linen wall coverings and Las Pozas Frost cushions for Mint

Despite an eclectic mix of influences spanning Indian miniature painting and Japanese woodblock printing, Anna Glover’s creative process is always the same. “All designs start with hand painting, usually in gouache or watercolour,” she says. “The images are scanned and manipulated on the computer, enabling a complex layering of motifs, textures and colour. The artworks are then brought to life on different surfaces using digital print technology.” Her larger-than-life bespoke linen wall covering was designed for an Austrian farmhouse and depicts an arrangement of objects, animals and plants in moonlight. “Together they tell the story of the owners, their house and the beautiful location,” she says. Her striking Las Pozas Frost collection for MINT was inspired by gardens established in Mexico in 1947 by English poet and artist Edward James. “After many of the flowers did not survive the frost of 1962, he built beautiful concrete sculptures to replace them,” she says. “Set amidst the lush jungle foliage, they form a spectacular, surreal playground.” Having studied printed textiles at university and spent four years in working in design studios, Glover says the biggest challenge in getting started was leaving the security of a full-time job. “Although at times it is really hard, the risk and challenge has helped push me forward,” she says. It was clearly a risk worth taking.

Best furniture design: Liam Treanor for Lina desk and Affonso stool, and &New for its first collection of powder-coated steel furniture.

Elle_Decoration_04.jpgLiam Treanor

Liam Treanor’s Santiago collection was inspired the work of by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, and specifically his vision for Bilbao airport. Treanor’s Lina desk and Affonso stool, both part of that range, are named after mid-century Brazilian architects Lina Bo Bardi and Affonso Eduardo Reidy. “I’m heavily influenced by architecture,” he says. “If I wasn’t a furniture designer, I like to think I would design buildings.” It’s not just nomenclature; the confident form and clean lines that define Bilbao Airport are apparent in the collection’s tapering legs and the Lina desk’s expansive horizontal surfaces. “I’ve taken a playful idea and stripped it back, staying true to my refined aesthetic,” he says. The collection is made from FSC-certified oak and white ash – materials Treanor chooses to work with because of their texture, warmth and familiarity. “Humans have worked and lived with wood for thousands of years,” he says. “I feel great pride in adding to its story, creating items that have not been made from it before.” Currently working on a new a collection that combines leather and metal components with his trademark wood, Treanor still dreams of houses: “When I design I don’t just consider the product itself, I also think about the context it will be used in. So to design an interior as well as the furniture would be extremely satisfying.”

&New

British-Finnish design duo Jo Wilton and Mirka Grohn met at the school gates four years ago while collecting their children and went on to found the antique and vintage furniture business that became &New. “Working with vintage design furniture made us appreciate the quality and craftsmanship found in these pieces,” says Grohn. “But we felt that those qualities could be given a modern twist. We started with a few key pieces and expanded from there. Everything so far has been unplanned.” Their ‘big break’ came through ‘Selected15’, an exhibition of new and established talent as part of Austria’s Graz Design Month earlier this year. They describe their aesthetic as a combination of Nordic simplicity and British wit, inspired by mid-century designers such as Yrjö Kukkapuro, Greta Grossman and Eileen Gray. The minimal forms and bold pops of colour in their powder-coated collection came about because “brown can get a bit boring.” The pair has big plans for the coming months, including launching their latest collection at Super Brands, part of Tent London, and taking part in pop-up shop Tranzitstore at the the London Design Festival later this month, coupled with an appearance at Maison & Objet in Paris. How do they feel about being shortlisted for the ELLE Decoration British Design Awards? “If you had told us a year ago, we wouldn’t have believed you!”

Best eco design – Juli Bolanos Durman for Ode to Intuición Series

Edinburgh College of Art’s artist-in-residence, Juli Bolanos Durman, turns jam jars and beer bottles sourced at car boot sales and blown glass discarded by students into the Ode to Intuición series, a limited-edition collection of non-functional vessels. “I believe that we have to do the best with what we have,” she explains. “I have always been conscious about the amount of rubbish we produce every day and it scares me. I enjoy reusing materials. It is a personal challenge to see the potential in ordinary objects, to give them a second chance and transform them into precious pieces.” But the sense of colour and fun she injects into every piece is what really makes them successful – something she credits to her Costa Rican heritage and her deliberate adoption of a childlike curiosity in her design process. “I have learned that once you cave into the discomfort of not knowing, life can surprise you in wonderful ways,” she says. Durman is currently pursuing an Exceptional Talent visa to enable her to stay in the UK, and would love to create a lighting collection, despite never having worked in lighting before. Should her wishes be granted, we can look forward to more wonderful surprises.

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Best accessories design: Daniel Schofield for Tarnish collection

“I really didn’t see it coming,” says Daniel Schofield of his appearance on the ELLE Decoration British Design Awards shortlist, a sentiment that could be said to apply to both his career and his approach to his work. After studying graphic design, serving a carpentry apprenticeship, and working on historic restorations, Schofield finally found his way into design, and hasn’t looked back since. The Tarnish collection also came about by accident: “I was making some lighting and noticed the way polished brass reacted to touch. It made working with it quite difficult so I decided to stop fighting it and started looking for a way to enhance the fingerprints to make a feature of them.” By lacquering just half of each piece in the collection to protect it from blemishes, he draws attention to the non-lacquered side. “The more people engage with the object, the more half of it will tarnish and create a story unique to that person,” says Schofield, who worked closely with craftsmen in Sheffield to make the collection. “It’s great working with people with so much knowledge in a particular area – every time I speak to them, I learn something new.” The designer has his first solo stand at Tent London, and is currently putting the finishing touches to a capsule collection for Indian furniture makers Capsbury, launching at designjunction during the London Design Festival this month.

The New Scandi, Guardian, April 2015

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With an appetite for innovation and a new generation of talent, the Scandinavians are coming – again. Katie Treggiden explores the rebirth of Nordic design.

Scandinavia is creeping into every corner of British life. First, it came through television in the shape of ‘Nordic noir’ – a new genre spawned by the likes of The Killing, The Bridge and Borgen. It entered our wardrobes, with Acne, & Other Stories and Cos all opening shops in the UK. Then Restaurant magazine ranked Copenhagen’s Noma ‘Best Restaurant in the World’ four times in five years, sparking a trend for all things fresh and foraged. Now Scandi style is finding its way into our living rooms.

Or rather, back into our living rooms. We’re all familiar with classic 1950s and 1960s Scandinavian chairs: Eero Aarnio’s Ball, Arne Jacobsen’s Egg, Eero Saarrinen’s Tulip… the list is long. But design fans are just as excited about the scene today as they were when the Egg chair first rolled off the production line 57 years ago. In February this year, more than 40,000 people visited the Stockholm Furniture Fair. So what drew them there?

Furniture from the Nordic nations has a quiet, understated aesthetic. Perhaps as a result of a cultural mindset that values the collective over the individual (Janteloven in Danish and Norwegian, Jantelagen in Swedish), Scandinavia has a flair for affordable functional furniture, made using natural materials and traditional craftsmanship.

“Scandinavian design has been on the radar in the UK for a while,” says Christina Schmidt, co-founder of Skandium, “at first among an initiated crowd of architects, designers, and aficionados, but increasingly with the public too.”

This growing interest is partly due to big-name brands rejuvenating their product lines – through pushing the possibilities of materials and technology, forming interesting collaborations, and reinterpreting their Scandinavian heritage for a contemporary audience.

Finnish glassware manufacturer Iittala, the brand behind Alvar Aalto’s 1936 Savoy vase, has launched Ruutu (from £79, Skandium), a collection of diamond-shaped vases, each of which takes seven craftsmen 24 hours to produce.

Meanwhile Marimekko has collaborated with Finnair, immersing passengers in Finnish design from the moment they leave the runway. Specially designed napkins, tableware, textiles and even aircraft livery reference the view of Finland’s unspoilt countryside below. (from £3.75, John Lewis)

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Danish-British designer Ilse Crawford’s collection for Danish brand Georg Jensen (from £72, Skandium) was partly inspired by Nordic noir. “The combination of silver and yellow metals is very much part of Danish culture,” she says. “It was about bringing that together with something like The Bridge. It’s a shadowy world, so the ideaof having glowing moments in the shadows really appealed to me.”

And it’s not just the heritage brands making waves. Nordic countries now boast some of the best design schools in the world, such as the Bergen Academy of Art and Design in Norway, Finland’s Aalto University and Konstfack University in Sweden. Their investment in education (higher education is free in all three countries) is clearly paying off.

“Interest in Scandinavian design has grown due to a new wave of creative energy from young Nordic designers,” says Nina Bruun, designer and product developer for Muuto. “Their designs are novel and exciting and yet continue Scandinavian traditions: functional, honest and produced to the highest standards of quality and craftsmanship, combined with an egalitarian aim for affordability.”

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The Danish brand’s latest release is the Fibre Chair. Designed by Copenhagen-based Iskos-Berlin, its typically Scandinavian pared-back form is made from a wood-fibre composite and is completely recyclable. (£229, Skandium)

The Form Chair by Simon Legald for Normann Copenhagen features classically Nordic curves, and yet challenges traditional construction. Initially conceived as Legald’s graduate project at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, it has taken three years and 20 prototypes to develop, and as a result of a new fixing system, the legs almost appear to grow out of the underside of the seat. (£162, Clippings.com)

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Young Danish brand Hay has opened a shop in Bath and a concession in London’s Liberty, and even created sub-brand Wrong for Hay in collaboration with UK designer Sebastian Wrong. Recent launches include a reversible patchwork bedspread by Danish studio All The Way to Paris and the Cloche Lamp by Norwegian designer Lars Beller Fjetland. (Accessories from £5, Hay)

It may have taken half a century, but Scandinavian designers are finally taking on the legendary reputations of their predecessors, exploring, building upon and even challenging the conventions of their legacy. The newfound global appetite for their work is making it increasingly likely that, 50 years from now, the world will speak of a Legald or a Beller Fjetland in the same reverent tones currently reserved for a Saarinen or a Jacobsen.

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The next generation: our pick of five Scandinavian studios making an impact.

1.    Färg & Blanche: Stockholm-based Fredrik Färg and Emma Marga Blanche’s experimental style, fusing fashion with furniture, has already seen their work produced by Swedish brands such as Gärsnäs, Zero and Design House Stockholm. www.fargblanche.com

2.    Pettersen Hein: A collaboration between Danish designer Lea Hein and Norwegian artist Magnus Pettersen, Pettersen Hein makes sculptural furniture and accessories with a Modernist aesthetic. www.pettersenhein.com

3.    Morten & Jonas: These two Norwegian designers met at the Bergen Academy of Art and Design before establishing their studio in 2011. Their Bake Me a Cake table lamp for Northern Lighting is made by inmates at Bergen prison as part of Norway’s pioneering approach to rehabilitation. www.morten-jonas.no

4.    Note Design Studio: Note is a Stockholm-based design collective working across architecture, interiors, products, and graphic design. Already producing for the likes of Menu, Ex.t and Mitlab, their style is decidedly Scandinavian, and yet distinctively their own. notedesignstudio.se

5.    Anderssen & Voll: Norwegian design duo Torbjørn Anderssen and Espen Voll focus on domestic objects. Their work has a Nordic warmth and tactility, combining understated forms with bold colours. www.anderssen-voll.com

The Axe Factor (Telegraph Magazine)

All copy as provided to the publication. Bottom left, near right and far right photographs by Adam Hollier

Sebastian Cox is passionate about coppiced hazel. ‘I sit up at night thinking about it, reading about it and watching TED talks about it,’ he says. ‘Planing English timber to reveal its flecks and rays makes my pulse race.’ Cox, who has a masters degree in sustainable design from Lincoln University, uses coppiced wood to create elegant furniture that is ‘crafty’ enough to sit well in a farmhouse kitchen and modern enough to suit edgier tastes. ‘When I was studying, everybody was talking about bamboo because it is fast-growing and self-replenishing. I can remember thinking, I’m sure coppicing produces the same result.’

Hazel coppicing involves felling trees every 14 years. They regrow and, as long as they are coppiced, will never die of old age. One fourteenth of the wood is cut each year, so there are always trees ready to be harvested. Forests in Britain have been coppiced for thousands of years, and whole ecosystems of flowers, insects and birds have evolved to live in these unique habitats. But a decline in woodland management over the past 50 years, owing to the falling value of timber, has seen a parallel decline in these species. ‘My motivation is putting money back into the woods by making objects that people want to buy,’ Cox says

The design world has its eye on Cox’s work. Kevin McCloud, the presenter of Grand Designs, has called him ‘a true adventurer’, and in 2011 his oak and coppiced-hazel Suent Superlight chair won Outstanding Design at the national Wood Awards. In 2013 a commission from Heal’s allowed him to express his passion for Arts and Crafts furniture. The result was a small collection (a desk, a sideboard and two tables) of handsome but simple pieces with naturally finished hazel frames that have a pleasingly imperfect line.

More recently Cox has worked with Sir Terence Conran and Sean Sutcliffe’s Berkshire-based furniture company Benchmark to design a collection partly made from coppiced chestnut. It was launched at the Clerkenwell Design Festival last month where two of the standout pieces were his Shake cabinet and sideboard, whose cabinet doors are clad in cleft chestnut shingles.

Cox harvests hazel from his family’s farm in Ashford, Kent, where the coppice is 300 years old. Earlier this year he found a new source – in nearby Sittingbourne – to accommodate the commission from Benchmark. He is involved in every step, from felling trees to weaving chair seats. ‘Hazel shoots compete for sunlight, so they grow fast and straight. After 14 years, you have two-inch rods – perfect for furniture. We cut the tree to ground level, which gives it a chance to regrow. I can use everything from the two-inch rods to the younger shoots.’

He uses a billhook to strip twigs from the rods. ‘I sort the rods according to what they will be used for, slice them to length and use a planer and band saw to cut them square before leaving them to dry for four to six months.’ Wood warps as it dries, so it is planed again to get the flat, square-edged pieces that are suitable for furniture.

‘Then all I have to do is take this material and translate it into a language that makes sense to a modern consumer. That’s a fantastic brief. I steam-bend the legs of the chairs. I split young hazel that’s too small to make anything else from and weave it for the seats. And I’m learning to carve spoons from the curved, knotted sections, so I can use every last bit of the tree.’

You can read this article online here.