Natural By Design
Many of today’s greatest interior designers have a highly cultivated love of nature, as our new book shows
Did modern interior design begin as an unnatural act? Phaidon’s commissioning editor for fashion and interior design, William Norwich, suggests so in the introduction to our new book, By Design: The World's Best Contemporary Interior Designers.
“In 1947, the Museum of Modern Art in New York presented an exhibition called Modern Rooms of the Last Fifty Years. It reflected modern design from the first half of the twentieth century, which ‘was born of the turmoil of the Industrial Revolution,’ to quote from exhibition materials,” he writes. “That, after many thousands of years of manual drudgery, when machines took over people’s work, a new way of designing was required. The utility of things, and interiors, the status of owning innovations, exceeded aesthetic and environmental pleasure.”
Of course, many of us today still enjoy those fruits of industry, while also hankering for a little more of the natural world. “Maybe for us in the twenty-first century, it’s the psychological deprivations engendered by the industrial and the post-industrial age—the time away from nature, the social conformities, combined with the exhausting distractions of the computer age— that make us want more,” reasons Norwich.
Just how today’s best designers find a way to include nature varies greatly. The flamboyant French designer Vincent Darré works a select variety of plant species into his 2018 design for the museum store at Villa Noailles—a Modernist Côte d’Azur retreat built by architect Robert Mallet-Stevens in the 1920s. This shop “has a whitewashed, plaster-wall interior, where stucco moldings shaped like androids display wares by emerging furniture and product makers,” explains our book.
Los Angeles designer Kelly Wearstler adopted a more biophilic approach when working on Santa Monica Proper, an LA hotel just a few blocks from the beach. “Visitors can rest in arched alcoves in the lobby after passing by a hand-carved, seashell-inspired reception desk.” The fronds of a palm, meanwhile, are never far away.
Milanese designer, Paola Navone of Studio OTTO, is a bit more formal in her approach to the Dempsey Cookhouse and Bar, in Singapore. “Botanical and genteel, it features ornate white furniture, monochromatic floor tiles, abundant indoor plants, and oversize Chinese lantern-style lighting,” explains our book.
Finally, the Budapest-born, London-based, designer Linda Boronkay pairs big city sophistication with a touch of the wild at the Pool Bar in Soho House Hong Kong private members’ club (top), where chic ceramics and tiling complement a few choice plants. To see more of these designers’ works, as well as those by other masters of their craft, order a copy of By Design here.