The Birch is a hotel where you can have fun, socialise, rest and reflect in Hertfordshire, England, just 30 minutes north of London. Not bad for a countryside hotel, no wonder it has been voted theHotel of the Year 2020 by the London magazine Times. Apart from the many cool indoor and outdoor spaces (and bars) where you can meet people or simply hang out, there are several workshops (glassblowing, pottery, bread making), a yoga room, a cinema, an on-site organic farm and a wellness space. The original features of this 1763 Georgian mansion were preserved and not overwhelmed by the furniture which is a wonderful selection of functional pieces that range from trendy vintage to the more modern. The interior was curated by the architect studio Red Deer, run by founders Chris King and Chris Penn.
I love September. I love its golden light that enhances colors and shapes, I love the clear sky and the cooler evenings. I love the sensation of calm and regeneration that I carry after the holiday, the positive attitude and hopeful vibe that my contact with nature has left me with a slower pace after the summer months. I relish the fact that September is the end of the summer in Italy and yet is not quite the start of the cold season unlike many other countries in the Northern hemisphere. I like the nostalgic feeling that is floating on the air and the proximity of another holiday, Christmas.
I love spending time by the sea in September and in the autumn in general: contemplating the immense blue sea when most of the tourists have departed is for me a treat that not many get to revel in.
Of course, it is even better if you can do it in a charming place, with a lot of personality and an attractive views. Hotel La Minervetta in Sorrento is the perfect retreat for my September mood. I love how it has been decorated with marine colours and patterns and a well-balanced combination of local artisan pieces and eclectic art and photography. This explosive and color combination makes the hotel unique and snug.
Stripes, chevron, checks, pois and classic tiles patterns decorate walls, floors, chairs, sun longes and beds; the use of mainly two colours, red and blue, makes the look cohesive.
I love the liquid floor tiles in the living area, it makes the space look like it is floating on water. I love the extensive, worldly collection of objects and furniture, it all combines to create a marine, joyful contest that celebrates the beauty of the Costiera Amalfitana where the Hotel La Minervetta is based.
Photos by Bernard Touillon, courtesy of Hotel La Minervetta
At the foot of Monte Rosa (which means pink mountain because of its color at dawn), in a sort of valley scattered with rocks spread out like crumbs from the rocky walls surrounding it, there is a cute refuge built in 1925 and re-decorated in the 1980’s (hence the formica tables), the Rifugio Zamboni-Zappa.
I spent a night there in July with Alex and Giulio and I took at least thirty photos with my smartphone. Waking up in such an outstanding location and having breakfast in such a unique refuge, it is an experience in life.
The refuge is set in a valley on the East side of the imposing Monte Rosa, The refuge is set in a valley on the east side of the imposing Monte Rosa, offering a unique perspective of the mountain. To get there, you have to take two chair lifts (or walk it, depending on your legs) from Macugnaga, ascending panoramic paths and crossing the glacier, it normally takes about an hour.
The refuge, run by a lovely, friendly couple, is open during the good weather season and hosts people for the night or just for lunch.
I recommend you sleep there (don’t forget to book).
When at the end of afternoon the last group of tourists leave, you find yourself in the shade of Monte Rosa‘s peaks, surrounded by the force of nature and an epic solitude and this beautiful refuge is the perfect place to experience it from.
We know that IKEA has always been upfront in design research and has always worked to find new environmentally friendly solutions for packaging and producing but this time they have outdone themselves. On United Nations International Bee Day, May 20 IKEA’s research and design lab SPACE10 has teamed up with design studio Bakken & Bæck and industrial designer Tanita Klein and they have launched Bee Home, a free and open-sourced design that allows everyone to design your very own Bee Home in just a few minutes.
This is how it works: “Step 1: Design. Visit Bee Homewebsite and design your own Bee Home based on predefined parameters. This means you not only select the size, height and visual expression, but also define if you want to place your Bee Home on a rooftop, a backyard or on a balcony. This makes the design process fun, intuitive and easy enough that it can be done in a matter of minutes. Step 2: Fabricate. When satisfied with your design, you download the design files instantly and for free, which you then forward to your local makerspace and have them make it locally and on demand. On https://www.beehome.design/ you can find a list of makerspaces in your local area. Step 3: Place.The final step is to place your Bee Home and plant some flowers.”
Bees are under increasing threat of extinction, as Myles Palmer, Project Lead at Bakken & Bæck explains: “To reconnect with the many bees in our environment, we need to give back what we have taken from them: their homes. By designing new interactive experiences, we can create a more sustainable manufacturing process for doing so: one that is truly open-sourced, informed by local living and customisable for many contexts and uses.”
Traveling with your mind and fantasy is a skill that we have developed over thousands of years but with the level of realism we’re now used to on TV and social media it seems we’re using our imagination less sometimes. The new abstract looks much more real.
Thanks to the technological evolution, we can create worlds that look like or are better than the one we live in, we can make objects with a complex printer and build idyllic spaces sitting at our desk.
This is what Studio Childdid for Plenaire, a dynamic, sustainable British skincare brand. Che Huang and Alexy Kos designed the perfect lockdown escape, a place where most of us would rather be now. Using a 3D program, the prolific duo designed a house by the sea (maybe on an island), flooded by light and air. The rooms remind me of the white-washed Greek houses hugging hills that roll down to azure oceans or the southern Italian houses with sleek rounded edges and circular ceilings surrounded by olive groves. The furniture is spartan but chosen carefully: pieces by Pierre Paulin, Eero Aarnio and Greta von Nessen go together with summer objects like stray hats, shells, fans and amphoras.
Studio Child has nailed it again, I can’t wait to see their next project! In the meanwhile, check out one of their recent cool projects,Humble Pizza in London.
The best 2020outdoorfurniture according to +DECO? Ayanaby B&B Italia!
The collection designed by Japanese designer Naoto Fukasawa is exactly what I would like for the terrace and garden I don’t have!
It combines the elegant simplicity of traditional Asian furniture, the longevity and solidity of wood , Scandinavian inspired shaped seats and a choice of fabulous, quality textiles for the upholstery (I absolutely love the fabrics shown in the photos below!).
What I like about this collection, apart from the looks, is that it is something you can live with and not be too precious with, something your kids will inherit because you’ll never get tired of it.
Like a large part of the world’s population, I am on a lockdown because of the virus Covid-19 and I have been confined to my house for the past three weeks. This period has forced me to review some of my thought processes and points of view enhanced by the constant daily frenzy. This uncertain period has revolutionized the rhythm of our days, leaving a trail of lost appointments and meetings, leaving time for thoughts and reflection.
Outdoor spaces are now desolated and socialising is taking a new direction. On one side, the forced cohabitation has made us rediscover the joy of being together and the art of patience, on the other side, in the majority of the cases, relationships have been forced down the virtual route but maybe more frequent, sweetened by the fear.
We are seeing numerous photographs of the city where I live, Rome, empty and desolate as it has never been before and the ones I’m publishing here have caught my attention due to their impact.
It is a project by m²ft , an architecture studio established by Flavio Martella and Maria Vittoria Tesei based in Madrid and Rome.
They have had this to say::
“Rome. A chaotic, noisy, populated, busy, polluted, lively city. The images of the places and monuments of Rome are impossible to separate from the thousands of people who crowd it: they are the continuous layer that characterizes this city. Or at least the city before the coronavirus.
Today Rome presents itself, like many other cities in the world, in a vest in which it had never been seen. Pure architecture without people; pure form without users; pure urbanization without urban population; pure public space without public. A temporary scenario that has the flavour of the apocalyptic, reminding of dystopian tales and movies that were hoped to remain only in the collective imagination.
We knew in fact that we lived in a fragile reality, always close to collapse, but we didn’t think it could be so weak. But thanks to coronavirus we are entering a new era where all the past choices can be questioned, having tasted, even briefly, what we are facing.This is therefore a project that critically addresses the new urban situations that are emerging from the pandemic. It then displays the toxic atmosphere that is consciously and unconsciously attributed to the public space and to all situations related to it, accentuating the idea of fear that today is associated with it. To do so, we use a graphic style inspired by science fiction, to highlight how, until a few days ago, these situations seemed to have happened only in stories.”
The incredible Yves Saint Laurent Museum (incredible should be inseparable part of the name) is one of those pieces of architecture that just sits perfectly in the location where it was built and looks like it has always been there even if it has a very contemporary feeling.
I have a thing for bricks, especially red bricks. It might be because I grew up in Rome, among the Roman ruins and fascist architecture that used bricks frequently. Recently I developed a soft spot for traditional grey Chinese bricks as well, often used by the beautiful architecture firm Neri & Hu.
The Yves Saint Laurent Museum in Marrakech was designed by Studio KO on a plot of land close to the Jardin Majorelle; it covers an area of 3,908 square metres and hosts 2 exhibitions, has an auditorium, a library, a coffee shop, a restaurant and a bookshop. It was commissioned by Pierre Bergé, who recently died, in memory of his partner, the legendary fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent.
The architecture perfectly balances volumes and sinuous curves, different materials like the concrete of the reinforced structure, red brick made from industrial clay, the natural terracotta with a base in pre-cast terrazza of the outside facing and golden details.
Studio KO, founded by architects Karl Fournier and Olivier Marty, hasn’t left anything to chance. The interiors are sublime. Bricks are used for patterns on the outdoor shell like wood is used to design patterns in the interiors.
Yves Saint Laurent Museum in Marrakech is an example of elegance, a happy combination of forms and colors, the perfect homage to a master of fashion and a genius creative mind. It is no doubt one of my favourite pieces of architecture from last few years.
Some product designers just aim to make beautiful objects, some put their effort into making something beautiful and environmentally friendly, or even something that will help preserve the biodiversity.
Fernando Laposse, a Mexican product designer recently voted Eco Designer to Watch by the British magazine Homes&Garden, is a part of the second group.
He has invented a veneer for furniture and interiors made from the husks of Mexican corn. His collection, Totomoxtle, showcases objects and furniture padded with this colourful veneer.
As you can read on Fernando Laposse website “this project goes far beyond simply aesthetics. Totomoxtle focuses on regenerating traditional agricultural practices in Mexico, and creating a new craft that generates income for impoverished farmers and promotes the preservation of biodiversity for future food security.
Unfortunately, the number of native varieties of Mexican corn are currently in sharp decline. International trade agreements, aggressive use of herbicides and pesticides, and the influx of highly modified foreign seeds have decimated the practice of growing native corn across the country: It simply isn’t very profitable anymore. The market now favours standardised features which can only be obtained with genetically modified and hybrid corn. Additionally, the majority of the corn harvested worldwide is used to feed cattle or transformed into secondary products that range from sweeteners for processed foods to bioplastics, therefore nutritional quality is not a priority. “
I think it is important to highlight this new generation of environmentally aware designers, who invent new uses for waste and recyclable materials.
I love warm hues of Totomoxtle veneer and its tactile feeling. Fernando Laposse is definitely one to watch.
I have always felt that my year starts in September and not in January. I believe in scholastic years, probably because I always go on holiday in August and in September I feel mentally energized and inspired, ready to start a new period of my life.
I am reading Michelle Obama’s autobiography that has a very powerful title “Becoming”. In the preface, she explains why she decided to write a book and she says: “There’s a lot I still don’t know about America , about life, about what the future might bring. But I know myself.”
That is exactly how I feel, familiar with myself, with my flaws and qualities, with my strengths and vulnerabilities. It took ages to arrive at this point and a lot of pushing boundaries even when I was terrified.
As Michelle points out: “Even when it ‘s not pretty or perfect. Even when it more real than you want it to be. Your story is what you have, what you will always have. It is something to own”.
And this is why you should try to make it as interesting and joyful as you can, taking some risks and always putting things into perspective.
Have a nice year, all of you. ❤❤❤
In the photograph below the title, Gurnard’s Head in Cornwall, UK. In the photograph below, trees in Caprera, Sardinia, Italy. Both photos taken by me.