It’s not like any of us would expect Ralph Lauren’s home to be anything but fabulous, but in case you needed proof…
When I think of summer I think of sunshine and greenery. I think of warm afternoons lazing on freshly cut green grass under the cool, dappled shade of the trees. I picture looking up through the bright green of leaves made translucent by the intensity of the sunlight toward the stark and endless blue sky. This green of these summer days is so inherently calming, invigorating and revitalising – there’s not much to compare to it.
This month has been cold. I don’t know about you, but when the weather gets cold I just want to surround myself in rich colours; the thought of a white on white house makes me shiver (with cold, discontent, restlessness … etc.). Having said that, I think there are certain rooms that suit being wintery and snug all year, and others that work as lovely crisp, clarified spaces even in the cold. Part of this relates to the room’s use, and the other part relates to its aspect. A bright, white kitchen flooded in winter sun works. A deep, dark tv room tucked away from the blazing summer heat is a complete retreat. I am definitely one for colour eccentricity, and I think a house in many colours can be just as coherent as one that shuns them all. The most important thing is to make each colour suit its room and function, and after that, anything goes.
It does seem a bit odd, writing an article about colour on a colour that is a balanced combination of grey and beige, but alas, when we’re talking about houses we can’t be talking of rich, jaunty colour all the time now, can we? And let’s face it, most of us are a little reserved (perhaps timid) when it comes to choosing colour for our houses, but this doesn’t mean that the results have to be characterless. In fact, one of my favourite interior styles is derived from French country houses and it just happens to be that these spaces epitomise luxurious grey-beige.
This month I can’t go past this colour. Winter is coming and I am longing for rich, sumptuous, dark rooms that have the ability to somehow both embody and yet defy the blustery, wintery cold. It’s the complexity and depth of this colour that makes it work so well in this way. While pure dark blues can feel cold and dark greens a little stifled and old fashioned, deep blue-greens are just perfect. The green edge warms them, making them feel cosy and enveloping, whilst the blue undertones lift them to a certain level of elegance. For this reason, teal is a much more flexible colour than either of its parts alone. It can sway between coastal, country, bohemian, or Parisian-chic. It has the ability to work within many spaces of all sorts of influences.
Donkey Brown is a reasonably loose shade – meaning that you can use it a bit lighter, a bit darker, a bit greyer, a bit more saturated, or as a perfectly medium tone depending on your space. I used a classic medium tone for my lounge room, but one with quite a lot of brown in it. I tried the more grey versions and they just didn’t give me that unctuous feeling I was after. Below are a few examples of colours worth experimenting with, and how they look once luxuriously lathered over walls.
This beautiful New York farm house has the most delicious interior. The colours are glorious ; confident, happy, summery, and playful. What’s so nice about this whole ensemble is almost the contradiction between the built form and its interior colour scheme. Whilst the architecture (by Sharon Architects) is traditional, the interiors tread a continually wobbling line between the presumed country house aesthetic and a much more vibrant edge. I just love this. I often think that I’d love to have a big old tradtional country house, and then I realise that I’m just not really that way inclined. I could certainly live with classic, subdued interiors and elegant finishes for a time, but I know that deep down, soon enough, it’d all just begin to feel a bit too reserved for me. Well, have I found the answer in Rafe!
This month a very calming and demure interior resultant of another successful collaboration between Robson Rak Architects and interior design firm Made by Cohen. Elwood House is a soothing retreat that draws upon classic interior elements and combines them with a light, contemporary touch to create spaces that feel warm and weightless.
This month, because I can’t decide on one (and because I just came across the most amazing range of paints by Marston & Langinger) I’ve decided to feature a collection of colours.
I’ve come across Wolveridge Architects quite a bit recently, and am almost consistently found to be entirely won-over by their elegantly restrained forms and wonderful materials palette. Indeed, I have to say that it’s quite rare that I find myself drawn to a piece of contemporary architecture as a result of a distinct sense of warmth emanating from within (seems, in some ways, a bit of an oxymoron; contemporary and warmth..), but it is true of the works of Wolveridge Architects, and especially so in the case of their Eltham South house.
This month I decided to be really bold and feature … white! In one way it seems a bit inside out and backward to feature such a colour here – in a realm that is all about rich saturation, depth, and character – and yet in another it seems essential given white’s huge popularity and its vast array of subtle undertones that can be close to imperceptible to identify and therefore implement to the untrained eye. So here I feature cool white, if not purely as an exploration of just one side of white’s character. I’d say that there are at least several broad categories of white that I could deal with, but starting with this one just seems right on a warm, sunny, breezy October day like today.
Sometimes I find myself drawn to strange things when I’m writing this segment. I begin to notice myself veering off in unpredictable directions and toward completely out of character destinations. It’s a strange phenomena that I can’t fully explain, except in the sense that there’s a lot of room to move in simply thinking about things for pleasure, and not having any further obligation to dissect, interpret, comprehend, or apply them. After years at university doing exactly this to exactly everything I looked at, these days I feel a great freedom to simply open up to things without any further underlying intention other than enjoyment.
I think this place is one of those things. In fact I recently went for a drive up through Merewether Heights and was reminded by a few examples along the road of just how good a good 1960’s house can be, so when I came across this I thought it would be a nice thing to explore. The architect is unknown, yet the house certainly speaks a clear language. I think what I like most about the house is that it would only work in this location. It’s very site specific, both in terms of its plan, landscaping, and interiors, and I think that this quality is always a sign of good architecture and interiors.Never, ever, would I normally advocate a high gloss interior floor tile, and yet here, in the arid heat, I think it’s perfect. Rarely, if at all, would I consider cool white, mint green, tangerine, and sunshine yellow a sensible or appealing interior colour palette – and yet here, it seems quite right. The whole house exudes a real sense of laid back sophistication and summery, linen-clad days by the pool. I feel like if I lived in Indian Wells, California, I would rather fancy stepping out from my usual self and spending my days in a place like this.
Evidently, this segment is becoming more and more inclusive, where I used to focus on a room, I then moved to covering entire interiors, and now I can’t help but just make it an all-encompassing look at a whole house. Having said that, there’s certainly a more light-hearted approach to things here than in House of the Month (for reasons explained above), but it’s becoming ever more clear that a house really should have a sense of character than runs through it’s entirety in order to properly make sense, and I think that’s another reason that this place seems to sit so nicely in the realm of successful space. It has a very simple design aesthetic which gives great clarity to the building, and certainly helps to instate the strong sense of calm that so readily envelops it.
I’m so glad that Emily Summers and her husband rescued this place from its 80’s deformations and reinstated its classic 60’s beauty, because it sure does look lovely now.All images from Architectural Digest
I got a bit excited when I saw this lovely little Paddington house by Adrian Amore Architects – for two reasons. Firstly, I have just realised that of all the focus I put on wonderful, contemporary, Australian Architecture, I have not yet featured a house from my home state of NSW – travesty! And then I noticed that AAArchitects are based in Melbourne; their Paddington house simply being a tasty diversion from their usual Melbourne-centric architectural works… I guess the NSW feature will have to come later!
Oh dear Lord. Sometimes I really think I belong in another place – aka, England, France, some other part of Europe, etc etc. It’s as though my English/Irish Heritage is really catching up to me now, and I simply need to be around these sort of spaces (I won’t go into my potential Punjabi heritage here, for that would only confuse things, although it does explain my constant talk of sunshine and heat…).
I love this house. The materiality really gets me. And the light. I’m such a sucker for a warm, sunny little space, I can’t help it, it just appeals so naturally to my inner sun lizard. This house, however, has more than mere sunlight. It has a lot. The planning is careful and yet generous, no-where attempting to squeeze in too much, yet never forgetting anything. Within its little footprint, the house offers a genuine sense of space, openness, and repose.
Last week we walked the dogs in a different part of town, and as usual, this meant that I spent most of the time snooping at all of the houses that up until this point I’d not been past slowly enough to look at in any great detail. This particular street is one of the best in Newcastle in terms of its physical location and the wondrous vistas it carries both northward across the city of Newcastle and its beautiful beaches, and southward towards the national parks that inhabit this stretch of coast just south of Merewether.
Upon this walk I came across a house I’d never noticed before – I don’t know how, except to say that perhaps it sits much more quietly on the street than many of the others, who tend to demand attention. Anyway, it was a lovely old Spanish revival place, just in the midst of being very delicately renovated, and had the most beautiful, traditional, semi-circular terracotta roof tiles (alongside other lovely considerations). There are so many poor (ugly) examples of terracotta roof tiles here in Australia that these ones seemed to so clearly describe why indeed we started using them in the first place. It’s like a lot of things I suppose, being that the original is often so much more simple, elegant, and admirable than its later, watered-down imitators.
In 1965, Bunny and Paul Mellon built and decorated this incredible slice of French paradise designed by architect H. Page Cross in the heart of New York. The pair had a formidable sense of style and grace, owning several stunning estates, all of whom continue to exude the most enviable sense of warm and comfortable sophistication. The interiors of their Manhattan townhouse are the result of serious collaboration between several heavy weight designers, including [but not limited to] Paul Leonard, William Strom, John Fowler, Bruce Budd, and Bunny herself. The house is not only architecturally wonderful, but full of the character that years of collected art and furniture bring to a space. It really is a sight to be seen, and when I stumbled across the house via Architectural Digest and Sotherby’s real estate (up for sale for the at once ludicrous and yet absolutely deserved and dignified $43M) I fell into the world of late 20C New York interior design, and to be honest I would rather never retreat… Ahh, if only!
I’m not sure why it’s taken me quite so long to feature this colour; it is one of my personal favourites (you might recongnise it on this website!) and a wonderfully versatile shade. Eau de Nil is inherently restful and calming, evocative of the seaside, pristine springtime flowers, and fresh morning dew. It works with so many varying interior styles precisely because of this broad reference base. And despite its beautiful watery blue-green lustre, it really is almost a neutral, and so can sit comfortably as a backdrop to many interior settings. Furthermore, Eau de Nil is ractually more of a colour palette than an individual hue – ranging from fresh greens to watery blues – and can therefore be applied in any one of its incarnations as suited to your space.
Even the best of us architects are unable to defy the beguiling glances of rigorous, pure, geometric forms. Nor can we honestly turn away from the alluring lustre of robust, masculine, metallic things. And I do not believe for a moment that we are capable of retreating from shiny, wondrously lit objects…
In many ways then, it’s not surprising that lighting is such a fascinating and delicious thing to all of us. It doesn’t t simply come down to the form of the object itself either – as designers and live-rs in this world we know and want for the power of inviting, soul-warming light, and we know that there is no such thing a a meager substitute for a perfectly lit room.
Only recently did I discover Auhaus, a small Australian architecture firm with a focus on finely crafted detail and a meticulous approach to materiality. In fact, they are so fussed about the details that they seem to be gradually developing their own range of interior elements; including lighting and door hardware. This practice’s interior spaces are so thoroughly thought through, and this is what fascinates me so about them.
Not that long ago I came across Studio John Irving Architect and was immediately impressed by their understated, yet somehow supremely confident design sensibilities. Waiheke Beach House is a great example of this – at once spacious, engaging, and subtle. Nothing about this space is boastful or showy, and yet I can’t help but feel jealous of the lucky people who get to call it theirs!
I recently read an article which said that one of the biggest mistakes DIYers make in updating their interiors is in choosing yellow as a wall colour. Well, this upset me! I mean, I can see where one might go wrong in this department, but when it’s right, it’s so right. So I thought I’d better put together some options for those of you who are as awed by yellow as me, but aren’t exactly sure of how to use it. As as you might imagine, dealing with yellow walls is a matter of selecting the right kind of shade, and as a general rule, a bold, primary yellow just won’t work – we so want to ensure after all that you don’t end up living in a lego house! If you do love bright, bold yellows, consider choosing furniture or soft furnishings in these shades, as they’ll be less dominating, and yet just as powerful a design element.
This month’s room of the week is the upper landing and hall of John B Murray’s Hudson Residence. This hall has an inherently subtle nature, relying on natural materials and views to the garden to enliven and decorate the space. The dappled light cast in shadows upon the floor describes the passing of the day, and in a more historical sense, the passage of time is conveyed by the aged timber furnishings within.
This month I have the pleasure of exploring the many and varied effects of Le Corbusier’s Ombre Naturelle. It is an immense, deep grey with warm undertones.
Ombre Naturelle embodies several characters, and is therefore an amazingly flexible colour choice. By it’s nature, it exudes opulence, and in formal living areas will provide a fabulous sense of old world sophistication. Along side crisp whites, neat geometric forms and modernist fittings it shifts to exuding confident masculinity. Yet up against rustic elements it begins to look more natural, evoking memories of Scandinavian woodlands, at once wild, cosy and crisp.
This month’s room is a dining and lounge in a meticulously renovated Chicago apartment building, interior designed by Michael S Smith, with interior architecture by Marvin Herman. With a portfolio of wonderfully elegant and warm interiors, Michael’s work incites a sense of restful calm and clarity, whilst also ensuring each space distinct character and originality.
I am so excited to begin the Colour of the Month series! For the first few editions (at least) I’m going to go with colours from Le Corbusier’s Polychromie architectural, purely because it contains the most fabulous and reliably delicious range of colours. All were deveolped by Le Corbusier in the mid twentieth century after [30!] years of testing and careful consideration. I have very closely translated these colours into actual paint colours by Resene so that you can lather your walls with confidence.