I personally look to the past for mine– this does not mean that I am going to turn a 1960’s house into Victorian Gothic, it is more about learning what the buildings and interiors of the past have to tell us.
I have been lucky in the past few months to have visited some very iconic buildings as well as seeing how a much-loved house is being renovated, so that it is here for future generations.
As Chairman of the CPD Committee at the British Institute of Interior Design, together with Liz who worked at RIBA, we arranged a tour of the Art Deco RIBA building in Portland Place, London for the BIID members. For those who do not know, the RIBA building is not only beautiful in its architecture and interior design, but it also houses collections which contain rare items from the 1400’s to the present day. There are additional collections housed at the V & A as well as a depository. Not only did we have a marvellous tour of the George Grey Wornum building, but we also spent time in both the libraries in both venues viewing some of the rare books and photographs. The highlight for me was to see the personal sketchbook of Lutyens all beautifully coloured by water colours.
The frontage of the building is truly iconic with its stunning windows; it also has stunning sculpture designs by the South African-born British sculptor Edward Bainbridge Copnall perfectly named ‘Architectural Aspiration’. The RIBA library is one of the three largest libraries in the world and the largest in Europe. The huge bronze front doors depicting various iconic buildings and the large canvas in the auditorium called ‘Empirewide’ are just a small sample of all the building has to offer. Beautiful artwork is everywhere from the sandblasted windows to the spectacular staircase figured in Demara marble and black birdseye marble. I adore Art Deco and this building is like being in a sweet shop, there is just so much to admire. We were very lucky to spend time in both the library at the RIBA building and the V & A.
A few weeks later I visited the Vyne which is a 16th century country house outside Basingstoke in Hampshire. The Vyne was built for Lord Sandys, King Henry VIII’s Lord Chamberlain. The Vyne is currently undergoing a £4.5m roof project. This meant that I could not visit the upper floor of the house but it did mean that I could climb up to the roof to see this conservation in action. This project is so complex due to the way all the different roofs meet and the fact they are all different heights and are all constructed differently. The original house was basically bolted onto over time with different buildings. This a small house in comparison to others, but it is important in that it has a stunning Tudor chapel with stained glass where Henry VIII heard Mass. It was lucky to survive as the Reformation and the Civil War 80% of our stained glass was destroyed in this country. After the Civil War the then Lord Sandys sold the house to Chalonor Chute the Speaker of the House of Commons.
Visits like this help to keep me inspired in my works as an interior designer, and I love learning from the past to help the future designs we are working on.
Iconic design is timeless, whatever its age.