My Favourite Kitchens

I’m all for well-planned, functional kitchens. I even teach a one-day workshop about it (more dates for KITCHEN CONFIDENTIAL coming in 2020).

But functional can also look fun and fabulous and, for me, that’s what these four kitchens are all about.

The first image is a stunning mixture of blush pink, black, timber and concrete (it couldn’t be more millennial if it tried!). And what about those pendant lights. Oh, be still my beating heart…..

The second image is all about contrasting materials as well – but oh so different. Rough-hewn timbers, marble and ‘country style’ painted cabinetry. Not an obvious choice, but it all works well together.

Then to a dark, gem-like kitchen where it’s all about the fabulous tiles.

And finally, who could resist this pastel beauty complete with outrageous ceramic floral pendant lights!

Kitchens are for living and these kitchens are ‘absolutely fabulously’ full of life.

More info on the designers of these four rooms via the links below.

1. Ater Architects

2. Blakes London

3. Sisalla

4. Frank De Biasi

Long Term

Ben Pentreath’s background is in Art History, which he studied at the University of Edinburgh before attending the Prince of Wales’s Institute of Architecture.

He worked for five years in New York and then with the Prince’s Foundation, before starting his own architectural and interior design studio in 2004.

Ben is renowned for creating a distinctive and playful style – that draws inspiration in equal measure from the great English practitioners of the 1960s and 70s, and from historical interiors of every period, but all infused with a fresh modern sensibility.

Ben combines a strong use of colour, pattern and classical detail with bold contemporary fabric and furniture: ensuring that the room is just right – both for the client, and for the building. 

As he says, “Above all, we love designing places that work beautifully for the long term.”

Ben Pentreath

My Favourite Alfrescos

Even if gardening is not your thing, it’s still a treat to relax outside when the weather is good.

Alfresco areas don’t have to be large to be inviting. This first photo shows how a tiny inner-city townhouse can still provide a relaxing green oasis.

I think the trick is to plan and furnish your alfresco in a way that reflects your home, your location and your view (if you have one).

If your view is a manicured hedge and lawn, keep things clean, calm and contemporary.

If your home is carved out of a rockface, then an imposing hanging sofa will hold its own.

When looking out on Australian natives, weathered timbers fit right in.

I love colour inside my home but my favourite alfrescos tend more toward neutral tones and textures. I guess it’s fitting that the natural world takes top billing in your alfresco area and your furniture provides the supporting players.

More info on the designers of these four alfresco spaces via the links below.

1. Amanda Lynn

2. Amy Lau

3. Arent + Pyke

4. CLO Studios

Life Long Chairs

I admit they’re not much to look at right now. But these chairs are going to be stunners with a bit (well, a lot) of love and attention. This love and attention is probably going to cost about as much as buying two new armchairs, but I don’t mind. These chairs have been an important part of my life so far and I want them to be again.

Three years before I was born, my parents and brother moved into a house they had built. These lounge chairs were bought at the time. Locally made in the style that we now call Mid Century Modern. I think the original upholstery was a tweedy burnt orange with piping.

One of my earliest memories is sitting on my mother’s lap in one of these chairs. I was probably 3 or 4 years old. We had an oversized pendant light in our living room. I would take my mother’s hand and move it around until I could see the pendant light reflected in the facets of her diamond engagement ring.

They were re-upholstered in the 1970s. Over that decade they, along with the whole house, transitioned from bold Mid Century hues to 1970s textured creams and browns.

My mother died more than 20 years before my father. Hence the very neglected look of these life-worn chairs. But the frames are still solid – with professional restoration the timber will glow back to life again.

The upholstery fabric I’ve chosen is a “refined tweedy weave with multi-coloured yarn structure to give depth and character” from Designers Guild. To me it’s the perfect mix of contemporary life (hard wearing and forgiving of stains!) with just a hint of those long ago Mid Century burnt orange flecks amongst the green.

When I take these re-imagined chairs into my new apartment in 2021, there will be an echo of my parents first taking them into their new home in 1959. More than sixty years will disappear in that moment and these life long chairs will be simultaneously old and new once more.

Previous Instalment

Melting Pot

Located in the heart of New York’s Chinatown, Hotel 50 Bowery is perfectly situated to explore downtown Manhattan. Its design style is Lower East Side cool meets a celebration of Chinatown’s unique history.

Downtown cool in the exposed brick, Edison lightbulbs and brown leather armchairs.

Chinatown in the fortune cookies and iced Chinese tea in the lobby, pops of red throughout (considered a lucky colour), no fourth floor (considered an unlucky number) and lantern-like lighting in corridors.

A small taste from New York’s expansive melting pot of histories, styles and cultures.

50 Bowery

Fresh and Elegant

Peter Mikic is a London based interior designer, originally from Melbourne, Australia who moved to London in 1990. Having worked for a number of fashion designers, he then moved into interiors in 2006.

Over his many years of experience in fashion and interiors industries Peter has gained an in depth knowledge of materials, product design and detailing.

Peter’s known for his playful yet versatile designs, his understanding of space, movement and his fresh and elegant style.

The main living room photograph is one of my favourite interior design images of all time. I’m seriously thinking about that wall colour for the bedroom in my new apartment. Plus the custom rug design is ‘absolutely fabulous’.

Peter Mikic

Valletta Vintage

Valletta Vintage is a collection of vintage and contemporary finds – properties & contents – curated to offer an alternative to mainstream holiday accommodation in Malta. The owners love art and design and believe that good architecture can bring inner peace and solace.

Established in 2012 by architect Chris Briffa, the collection grew from one small apartment to five, each housed in buildings older than a hundred years and spread around the city of Valletta and its harbour. The architect renovated the spaces with his renowned, elegant approach; subtly integrating the traditional with the contemporary.

Together with his wife Hanna, they furnished the self-catering studios with a mix of designer, bespoke and vintage pieces sourced from shops, workshops and markets. Very much like an extension of their own home, each unit is equipped with all modern commodities and comforts, clever details and a growing collection of local, contemporary artwork.

While each studio is different from the other, they are all conceived around a common concept – a commitment to provide a memorable and truly local experience in comfortable vintage settings.

Valletta Vintage

More Is More

I’ve had to ask myself whether I’m truly qualified to deliver a presentation about global style. My overseas travels have tended toward major cities rather than more exotic locales. My family tree is not peppered with a collection of far-flung countries. In fact almost every leaf on my tree is English.

But perhaps it’s that very English-ness that speaks to me of global style. In the 21st Century we see the dark complexities of colonialism through a different lens. But just imagine the sheer excitement in 18th and 19th Century England of seeing that first pineapple or, almost unimaginable, that first elephant!

Arthur Liberty was born in 1843 and founded what was to become the luxury goods department store Liberty’s in 1875. His aim was to create a store laden with ornaments, fabrics and objets d’art from distant lands – to metaphorically ‘dock a ship in the city streets’. Today Liberty’s is still the destination for covetable goods beautifully conceived and designed in England and crafted by worldwide experts.

Perhaps my personal ‘more is more’ interior design preference also has its roots in some sort of ‘English global style’. All those country houses whose generations of inhabitants collected furniture, objects and artworks from all over the world and layered them to highly coloured (and patterned) perfection.

We tend to think of globalisation as a recent phenomenon, but that’s so far from the truth. Human beings have always traded goods and experiences. We’ve always been drawn to the new and exotic. We are global creatures and our homes naturally reflect that – whether we dwell amid the lush greens of England or under the wide blue skies of Australia.

Global Style

Test of Patience

Here’s a photo of my new two bedroom apartment. What? You can’t see it? Well, that’s because it hasn’t actually been built yet.

This is a mere (although some days annoying) detail. Buying an apartment ‘off the plan’ is one of life’s many ‘tests of patience’. Patience is not a natural personality trait of mine, but when creating a home it’s an important one for us all to develop.

Yes, I know that on the reality TV shows they create a room in just one week. But they also get ‘married at first sight’ and a bachelor kisses multiple women in some warped form of contemporary harem. We know that they’re not sound approaches to real life (don’t we?).

Real homes, like real relationships, are best built over time. And, like relationships, creating your home involves a combination of great memories, lots of fun, living through difficult times together, some things that seemed like a good idea (once!), some things that last forever, and some other things (and people) that you wake up one day to find you have definitely out-grown.

If I lived today in a home that I would have loved as a 10 year old …… well, there would certainly be loads of aqua, purple and lime green. In my 20’s I thought that Cristal d’Arques wine glasses and embroidered tablecloths were the height of elegance.

On the other hand, I still adore the Mid Century timber coffee table that I’ve known all my life. I remember sitting on the floor and pretending to do homework at it around age 4. (I think I was getting bored at kindergarten and I thought school, and therefore homework, was going to be an exciting adventure!)

Priorities, resources and style preferences for creating a home, like creating a life, change over time. The trick is reviewing your needs, likes and wants every so often. And then being patient.

You’ve decided that you want a round dining table but you can’t find exactly what you want in the stores? Be patient. If it’s important it will happen. Perhaps next season the stores will be full of round tables. Perhaps you’ll enjoy the process (and time) of commissioning a local craftsperson. Or perhaps you’ll have fun going to lots of auctions and eventually bidding for your perfect ‘new to you’ dining table.

Like important relationships, it’s better to wait than to settle.

I’m really happy with the apartment I’ve bought. Instead of getting frustrated by the wait, I’m learning to enjoy the journey…… Searching for the perfect wallpaper, getting chairs re-upholstered, dreaming about waking up in my new bedroom.

Perhaps I have some patience in me after all!

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Next Instalment

Be Braver

Luke Edward Hall is a London-based artist and designer. Luke established his studio in 2015 and since then has worked on a broad range of art and design commissions and interior design projects.

As well as creating his own ceramics, fabrics, furniture and accessories, over the past three years he has collaborated with a variety of companies and institutions including Burberry, Christie’s and the Royal Academy of Arts.

His colourful aesthetic is informed by a love of history, an appreciation of beauty and a sense of playfulness. People should be braver decorating their home, Hall says: “What’s the worst that can happen?”

Luke Edward Hall