Letter: The new contemporary
January 1, 2015
October 1, 2016
London is often considered a microcosm of the globe in terms of the richness and variety of its populace, so this month we wanted to see if the same could be said of its homes, dedicating the entire central section of the magazine to ‘The London Look’. And what we discovered as we edited our choices down was exactly that, a veritable snapshot of the world encapsulated in some of the best abodes in our capital city. From a New York-style loft owned by a jeweller in Liverpool Street to an extraordinarily luxe, Italian marbled wonder in Clapham. Brightly coloured Brutalism for a chic bachelor pad in the Barbican to the very height of bespoke Modernism from brilliant British architect Jamie Fobert for a Danish/American couple in central Bloomsbury. And, modest minimalism in New Cross, courtesy of young architects Zoe Chan and Merlin Earys. Oh, and I threw in a rather charming bolthole in the south of France too, because the work of its owner, designer extraordinaire Carolyn Quartermaine, embodies a very particular kind of London look that we would have been remiss to exclude just because she now spends half her time abroad (that’s my excuse anyway!). But, as she so eloquently puts it, ‘None of the things I do would have happened if I weren’t British. We have this unique ability to mix the historical with the contemporary in a singularly maverick way. It’s about daring and dreaming and the use of colour. We can embrace the grunge side, the goth side and it makes for a vibrancy that you don’t see in Germany or France. We are not strait-laced, we don’t go down just one path and seek perfection in a design and leave it at that, which tends to produce something very cold. We go a lot further with the story.’
And exploring a personal narrative is what the best designed, crafted or composed homes always seek to do. It is the same with the greatest designers too; they tell stories with their work. Thus, in this issue, we’ve profiled both Kelly Hoppen MBE and Sir Terence Conran – London has been pivotal to both of their successes. After all, it’s always fascinating to understand where great British design stories began. Certainly one thing I’ve learnt from interviewing people at the top of their game is that, once they had a vision of what they wanted to achieve, there was a refusal to let anyone tell them they wouldn’t ultimately succeed. And I think there’s something terribly British/London about that, too.
What I’ve been testing this month… dog hair busting vacuum cleaners. With two hounds in the house and a dark wooden floor, staying on top of dog hair is a major issue in my household. So the arrival of the new Dyson ‘Cinetic Big Ball Animal’ has caused something of a revolution. It sounds like a jet engine taking off when in action, but my word does it have some serious suction. Armed with the ‘tangle free turbine tool’, rugs and carpets were rendered as new. Unbelievable power. And, this latest model has fixed all previous Dyson niggles, such as the cylinder being tricky to empty and having to clean out the filter. Brilliant. £449.99 (dyson.co.uk).
First featured as my Editor’s Letter in the October 2016 edition of ELLE Decoration UK
Michelle Ogundehin is internationally renowned as an authority on interiors, trends and style. She is an influencer with expertise and the multi award-winning former Editor-in-Chief of ELLE Decoration UK.