So, did maternity leave change my views on design? Far from it. If anything, it sharpened them. There’s nothing quite like a lack of sleep and energy to make you appreciate things that do exactly what they’re designed to do but are still aesthetically pleasing: from my buggy (Stokke), with its perfectly placed toggle to clip back the rain cover, to my induction hob (Siemens), which can boil a pan of water in 60 seconds. The flipside to this, of course, is how much time I spent wandering from room to room in an attempt to soothe baby to sleep while conducting a detailed visual inventory of all the bits of the home that did not work so well and really needed to be fixed immediately. (Hah! I suspect I’m going to have to learn to love these various ‘quirks’ for quite some time now.)
I concluded, however, that despite being unfinished – and being inhabited by two boisterous (read: destructive/perpetually hair-shedding) dogs – the house was cosy and comfortable, and that this was, ultimately, the most important thing to me. Furthermore, it started me musing on what we mean today when we talk about ‘contemporary’ in relation to our homes. It definitely no longer translates as the triumph of stark style over comfort, which ‘modern’ once tended to connote. Rather, ‘contemporary’ implies something that is up to date and fit for purpose, as well as being warm, inviting and textural. It’s not about the era in which things are designed, either. It’s the way they’re put together. The mix – whereby character meets comfort – is precisely the point. For example, my aforementioned, less-than-perfect home is almost 200 years old, but the kitchen features Corian worktops and there’s under-floor heating upstairs and down. There are beams, wood panelling, some stained glass and a big, old brick fireplace, alongside ’50s, some ’60s, even ’70s (but no ’80s) designs, yet I’d consider my home to be contemporary. I’m going to dub this feel ‘soft modern’. And this is what ELLE Decoration stands for: beautiful, lived-in, contemporary homes. So, this month, we’ve compiled the world’s most striking ‘soft modern’ homes, all distinctive for being decorated largely in that perennial favourite: white. Why? Because sometimes you have to go back to basics to appreciate what you already have.
First published as my Editor’s Letter in the February 2015 edition of ELLE Decoration UK