Sharing something of the thoughts and ideas that go into Making Space Beautiful:
The world and the process of interior design suggests glamour and mystery, an ability to conjure something beautiful out of nothing much, with ease. We can of course – but by hard graft rather than magic wand. When students ask which studies will best help them to become an interior designer they expect the answers to be art, then perhaps communication, and media studies for those with an eye on a becoming ‘famous’ ! Of course any and all of these are useful, but the first things we need are english and math or economics, followed by another language or chemistry or physics, philosophy, psychology, social anthropology ….. The fact is, working in any service sector requires the ability to think quickly, to write a report, a quote, prepare a budget, analyse the figures, to understand people. Whether the end result is this, or that, is blue or pink, stone or leather is important only to this one project. Interior design is 85% admin and management to 15% design.
The photo here is of one wall of a ‘games room’ and a transition space. This room links the main house with the pool house, changing rooms and guest bedroom suite. To create it we built into and across an existing yard, using the courtyard-to-garden wall as one side of the construction. As this wall also opens onto the pool and recreation garden we fitted four, full height french windows, so that spaces could really flow and open into each other.
As transition spaces go, this is a large one, but we had to work very hard and against all the odds to create the height that makes this a great space in it’s own right. With a given floor level and the restriction of bedroom window above it would have been easy to settle for around 2350 mm finished floor to ceiling. But that would have created a different sort of space, and not the one we wanted. So we designed a flat roof of welted zinc with a clever arrangement of falls and guttering which eventually gave us 2560 finish floor to ceiling and still came in below the bedroom windows. ( I’ll detail the drawings and explain the roof if anyone is interested at some stage).
Of course all structural elements are equally important, although if I have to rank among equals I will always put floors as the absolute first. Closely followed by ceilings.
Ceilings are the skies of our internal rooms. I wonder why we so often insist on making them flat, without movement or life? No natural sky is without some level of drama. Chandeliers and hanging lantern creates some level of romance creating shadow play in the daytime, and then at night as the light gradually fades across the ceiling into darkness. On the other hand the ubiquitous down lights are there purely to light the area below – they do nothing for the ceiling other than to ruin it; centre lights without character have a similar effect. Carved ceilings, cornices, decorative mouldings can work well when appropriate.
Beams are the means to change proportion and to make ceilings interesting – in any form they create romance by light and shadow play, but the highest use is to alter the perception of the space – to trick the eye to a higher or lower dimension. These ones were milled especially, deep enough to show beneath the insulation and support mechanisms.
We’d decided on a wooden floor, and locally grown Exmoor oak fixed traditionally – nailed onto battens.
The new walls built to create the bedroom and bathroom from stables were made with blocks, fully insulated and plastered inside. The wall on the courtyard side was built using the stone that was taken from the window openings on the poolside wall. To conform to regulation we also needed to insulate the main outside garden wall; we were able to retain just one original stone wall against the house, which flanks the opening into the main house. This was the original garage door when we started the project before this one, and the old hinges are still in place.
The French windows that open onto the pool follow the given design of this side of the house. We wanted to keep the same fine joinery that only supports single panes of glass, but it’s generally accepted now that windows should be double, if not triple glazed, and therefore much weightier in style. However, because it’s a listed building we were able to follow the historical architecture and have these lovely windows. For insulation and because we wanted to keep the framework of the room very simple, we made oak shutters that would fit snuggly over the French doors. And as this is a slightly more contemporary space we wanted them to be clean lined, without boxes or fuss. Rather less simply, the complex knuckle hinges allow them to fold either way, so that they can tuck back into the window recess, fold onto the walls or fold back over the window easily. 2560mm is really too tall for single timbers, so we decided to split the heights, just in case. And in such a manner that when the room was being used for sleep-overs or sleep-all-days the top sections could be opened for light and air, with the main sections closed to view from the pool outside.
We added curtains from the outset – when it was a noisy games room – for extra warmth, sound deadening and softness. A simple metal pole from the ironmonger is fixed between each window, the curtains are thickly padded but with little fullness, so that they stack back neatly between the windows when not in use.
Over the 10 years or so since we built this the room it’s had many evolutions. From girly sleep overs, to drumming and band practicing space, to film room, to pilates studio to artists studio. With concerts and parties in between. And always still a games room of one sort or another. It’s now a relatively genteel sitting room for the three – four guest bedrooms that are in closest proximity, as well as a great sitting area for the summer months when the pool is open. Maybe it’s time for a jigsaw table.