Friday, 25 November 2011

Grey Matters…

I was asked earlier this week by an industry publication to provide my thoughts on interior design trends for 2012, so this week my blog is focused on the colours that I think are going to be hot during the next 12 months…

Economists and corporate types have been talking about the ‘new normal’ – continuing economic uncertainty and market volatility for the foreseeable future (oh dear…), and in keeping with this pretty grim outlook, the key colour for next year is going to be grey... and although times may be tough and austerity bites harder than ever before, take comfort from the fact that every shade of grey is super cool! - you will see it in everything; wall coverings, polished plaster, window treatments, artwork and furnishings. The great thing about grey is that it is a colour that works on most palettes, so it can be easily incorporated into a wide variety of different concepts and designs...

(Image from Christina Fluegge)
(Image from Christina Fluegge)
(Image from RUM by Danish interior stylist Gitte Kjær)

In terms of other colours on the ‘must have palette’ to team up with greys, an odds on favorite for 2012 is likely to be yellow… this will lift the palette and add an element of freshness to the room. It wouldn’t surprise me if the emergence of yellow as a key colour in schemes is also a reaction to the challenging economic environment we all currently find ourselves in - with yellows we are striving to benefit from its positive psychological qualities; happiness, optimism and confidence for the future. From a more philosophical perspective it is also important to consider that custard is yellow. As are bananas. And many Lamborghinis.

(Image from Kråkvik & D'Orazio)

Other colours that will feature heavily in 2012 include; indigo blue, grass green, greige (beige/green hybrid), alongside the traditional and timeless old favorite… monochrome.

(Image from B&B Italia)

Orange will still be hanging on for dear life; purple is on its way out (kicking and screaming) and brown, which had a very long run, is gone (RIP and thank you for your services to design).

(Image from habitually chic interior design by m. elle design)

As I said, grey matters - I love using a palette of grey in all its forms and I look forward to adding an injection of happiness in the form of yellows, oranges or indigo blue to lift our spirits in 2012… Keep calm and carry on… and embrace the ‘new normal’.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Birthdays are all about balloons, cupcakes and pretty colours…*

I’ll start by managing expectations this week. It’s a short blog. A very short blog. Why? Well, it was my birthday yesterday and I am recovering after a lovely champagne fuelled evening…

If you remember back to the blog on concepts where we talked about how it is possible to get inspiration for your interior from almost anywhere, I thought I would revisit this briefly and use birthday images to create a concept and colour palette for a room!

Taking a wonderful quote from a fellow Princess**; ‘birthdays are all about balloons, cupcakes and pretty colours…’ - here is a concept image that captures all three… and to top it off, it also includes the colour pink!!! The first image also perfectly epitomizes my day yesterday - lots of site meetings surrounded by builders and stepladders along with that lovely, warm and pervasive feeling that it was my special day! I should point out that I was not in fact in a drug or alcohol induced hallucinogenic state all day and seeing balloons everywhere that I went…

I can imagine creating a fantastic little girl’s room using the palette below…

(Images from Rum and Leslie Shewring)

That’s it from me this week. A normal blogging service will resume by next Friday…

*Fellow Princess: Lisa Ndukwe

*What is a Princess? Feminine version of a prince; a monarch’s daughter. Or someone who attends my exercise class on Wandsworth Common…

Friday, 11 November 2011

Almost every time I make a building, some people will condemn it straight to Hell…*

…well that’s because you should stick to seats mate…

As part of my series of articles on ‘classic chairs’, I thought I would share the inspirational work of a truly brilliant designer… “Arne Jacobsen” (he will hate me calling him a ‘designer’ as he notoriously disliked it, but I don’t really care, because like many of the other subjects of my blogs, he is at time of writing this quite dead). I also thought it was an appropriate subject this week given that I am off for a much deserved weekend break to Copenhagen (where I like to imagine that everything I sit on will be a Jacobsen classic and all other chairs will be burned in the streets or relegated to a landfill). Despite his early success (and later triumphs) with product design, Jacobsen actually felt that he was an architect above all else. Hence, I find it interesting (and he probably did too, but not in a good way) that Jacobsen is most famous for the products he designed for the inside of the buildings, rather than the buildings themselves…

Having spent almost two evenings (with wine) and one weekend (with wine) researching hotels for our trip to Copenhagen, I am disappointed to say that have just found the hotel we should be staying in - the SAS Royal Hotel. Designed by Jacobsen, it was the ‘world’s first designer hotel’. Built in the late 1950s, Jacobsen was given the opportunity to design every element of the building, including (in no particular order); the furniture, silverware, door handles, ashtrays in the souvenir shop (???) and the airport buses (??? ???). It was Jacobsen’s opportunity to put his grand theories of integrated design into practice - he believed that the design of every element of a space was equally important "from the spoon to the city" (a design philosophy put forward by Ernesto Rogers). For the project he designed the following chairs that have become absolute design icons; the Egg™, the Swan™, the Swan™ sofa and Series 3300™.

So, here are all the chairs designed specifically for the hotel – many of these will be very familiar to you as they have been forever stamped into our minds by the likes of ‘Big Brother’… (and don’t get all uppity and pretend you haven’t watched it at some point…).

Egg™ chair 1958

Arne Jacobsen designed the Egg™ for the lobby and reception areas in the hotel. The Egg is one of the triumphs of Jacobsen’s total design. The Egg chair was deliberately an elegant contrast to the straight lines of the building.

(Image from

SWAN™ chair (3320) 1958

Also designed for the hotel, the Swan has no straight lines, (making it hugely technologically innovative in 1958 – remember this was the period BA – Before Apple). The Swan was also designed as a sofa.

(Image by Verne/OWI)

Given that we have missed out on the opportunity to stay here, I am going to have to convince my husband to take me for a drink in the bar (I suspect the idea of a drink will be enough to convince him…). I am genuinely intrigued to see what it looks like - when initially built the design didn’t please everyone - it was called “the punch card” and “the glass cigar box” – it will also be interesting to see whether I can visit room 606, the only room to be preserved completely as a shrine to the designer.

In addition to the chairs designed for the hotel (and a bit earlier in his career), a major source of inspiration for Jacobsen stemmed from the bent plywood designs of Charles and Ray Eames (who were the subject of previous blogs on classic chairs – remember, Ray is not a man – she was his wife…). They actually inspired the development of the Ant, which was Denmark’s first industrially manufactured chair. This was followed by the Series 7 in 1955 – it was the ongoing success of these chairs that firmly established both Jacobsen and the Eameseseses in the history and evolution of furniture production. In simple terms, both matched modern needs perfectly - light, compact and easily stackable.

Ant chair (3100) 1952

This stackable wooden chair was originally designed for the canteen at the Novo Nordic healthcare company. Today, the Ant is one of the most prominent icons of the entire collection. However, the Ant was originally close to ending up as just another prototype, because Fritz Hansen was not convinced of the chair’s potential. The chair survived the initial skepticism (and, being perfectly honest, when Arne Jacobsen guaranteed to buy all chairs produced if no one else would).

(Image from

SERIES 7™ 1955

The Series 7 was a spin off from the Ant, and a result of Jacobsen manipulating the lamination technique to perfection...

(Image from

Grand Prix (3130) 1957 (…because it received the Grand Prix at the Triennale in Milan)

(Image from

Arne Jacobsen is noted for his sense of proportion and this is clearly evident in all the chairs that he designed. Indeed, he saw this as one of the main features of his work (when he wasn’t trying to convince people that he was an ‘architect’). In an interview he said;

"The primary factor is proportions. Proportions are what makes the old Greek temples classic in their beauty. They are like huge blocks, from which the air has been literally hewn out between the columns.

Whether one looks at a baroque, renaissance or contemporary building - the buildings that one enjoys to look at, the ones that one admires, are all well-proportioned, that is absolutely essential. Next comes the material - not mixing the wrong materials. And out of this comes, of course, the colour - and, in sum, the overall impression."

Never a truer word said – great design is all about proportion… so I’m off to the airport to get proportionally tipsy before I board my flight to Denmark…

*Arne Jacobsen (in case you didn’t work it out…)

Friday, 4 November 2011

All work and no play makes Jane a very, very dull person (but she still loves her job)…

Right, before I get started this week, two important and completely unrelated points. Firstly, it is now less than two weeks until my Birthday and I am beginning to worry that my hubby hasn’t made any plans for ‘my fabulous Birthday weekend’ – if you are reading this Davy, sort it out… secondly, I have been profiled once again in idfx (the industry bible for the interior design industry) – they asked me to write an article about the Hotel Puerta America, which was the subject of one of my previous blogs… so it would appear that this blogging thing does work (hence the deliberate comment directed at my hubby to get the Birthday plans sorted)… Anyway, back to my inspirational images of the month feature – this is where I focus very simply on the things that mean something to me and the inspirational words and images that reflect aspects of my own personal style.

I was sat nicely in my studio yesterday and it struck me that I have been so super busy in recent months that this is where I am spending nearly all of my time (when not on client site, visiting suppliers or spending quality time with my dog – he’s too big now to be classified as a puppy and he farts unapologetically all the time like a grown up man) – it also struck me that I really do need to tidy up a bit in here and find a way of getting my husband to move his drum kit to somewhere else in the house(and, to be frank, it’s got to the point where I really don’t care where the bl00dy things end up). I was also reflecting on my change of career and the deliberate move out of the City that was meant to reduce the amount of time that I spend working and, as a consequence, the amount of time that I spend operating at heightened stress levels… Hmmmmmm, given current commitments, not sure that this has been successful 100% of the time… But then, in a genuine moment of epiphany, I realised that in reality (and when compared to my life in the City before) everything is completely different now… and while continuing to intellectualise this further and reflecting fondly on the works of all the great philosophers to ascribe some meaning to this apparent conundrum, I remembered the following quote, a quote that I have thought deeply about for many years when meditating and a quote that I believe in totally - “choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life”…

…ok, you can either believe that hugely convincing version of recent events or the frankly less believable alternative – I was sat nicely in my studio, drinking a cup of tea and eating a drumstick lolly, furiously scouring the Worldwide Interweb for a vaguely relevant quote to include in my blog this week… and this is what I landed on…

Work and ambition has been a pervasive theme in my life to date - after graduating from Oxford I worked in the City as a media strategy consultant. Seven years in I got the itch and after reading Paulo Coelho’s tale about following your dreams, (The Alchemist), I promptly left my job, went back to college to retrain as a designer and amounted a not insubstantial amount of debt – to date, it is widely acknowledged that this is probably the most expensive book my husband has ever bought me (but he maintains that it did achieve the desired outcome). It has all paid off in the end - after graduating top of the school, I have been fortunate enough to build my experience with a number of the top interior design studios in the UK and have used this as a platform to set up my own business. The reason for all the background (or ‘the sob story’) is that as a small business owner I spend almost every waking hour working – you have to accept that when you are busy you just have to run with it – it is 6.09am as I write this blog and I have been up working at this time (or earlier) every morning for at least the last two months. I also still seem to be working at 11.09pm every night (and at the weekend too). But I have to say that for the vast majority of time, I really don’t feel like I am working and I definitely don’t resent the opportunity that I have been given (although it would be nice to earn a bit more money – still not on a par with where I was when I was in the City…). I am passionate about what I do now, I absolutely love it and hence the quote from Confucious really rings true for me… another upside (apparently) is that my husband gets to go to the pub more often and watch a lot of sport on TV… 

After all that ‘deep and meaningful’, back to the purpose of this week’s blog - and it isn’t to gloat about the fact that I have found a career that I adore… when I started writing very early this morning I only wanted to share a few images of inspirational workspaces that I love – it is clear that I must have wanted to get all of this off my chest… Anyway, work is, for most of us, a necessary evil – so, my simple advice is to continue on your relentless quest to find the vocation that you love and, irrespective of what you do, recognise that you deserve to work in a space that makes you feel comfortable and happy… I’ll stop short of launching into a rant about Warr’s Vitamin Model of Mental Health or Jahoda’s Primary Environmental Influences and the consequential impact on the workplace and well being. Pontificating wildly about philosophy is quite enough for one blog.

(Image from
(Image from lamaisondannag)
(Image from French By Design)

(Image from

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