Category: the personal home

“A lot of people would say the building we live in is ugly but to us it is beautiful”

Owain Caruana-Davies, a spatial designer living in a seventies converted office building in London, shares his view on wellbeing aspects of home and the future he believes in, where everyone will be encouraged to have an opinion about design.

I know that one of the first things you notice when entering new spaces, is the air quality. Why is it important and does it really improve wellbeing?

Furnishings, upholstery, synthetic building materials and cleaning products can have toxic effect on our wellbeing. In spaces that are not naturally ventilated, you’ve probably noticed that you can smell the dust and even feel a bit drowsy, but we don’t always relate this to air quality.

Most of us can’t change what was built, but by bringing in plants you can improve the air quality in a simple way. Adding plants to a room has been shown to clean the air through photosynthesis. I use a lot of plants to make the air feel clean; as this is the first thing I notice entering a space.

How can we think more creatively about space?

We could stretch the imagination of how we appreciate space, how much we need and what it can do for us. I’m inspired by people such as the Swiss-French architect, designer, urbanist and writer Charles Le Corbusier who pioneered in the studies of modern design and was dedicated to providing better living conditions for the residents of crowded cities. His own holiday home on France’s Côte d’Azur was an experiment of using minimum human energy in buildings, by only having things you use and positioning them in such a way so that you don’t have to walk to another room to look for them. Ultimately use as little energy as possible. For him this was the perfect house since it had “complete efficiency” and he’s known for the quote “A house is a machine for living in.” Whether you share Le Corbusier view of the home or not, it stretches the imagination of how we can use space.

I live in a small one-bed room flat with my boyfriend. It has large windows, clean lines, even a small rooftop and it’s not too expensive. It’s a luxury to have your own space. We both often work from home so it’s important that the space is flexible and open planned. Often we work on our drawings directly on the floor. Between the two of us we have so many sketches and models, but despite the flat being tiny, we have a nook that works really well for storing our pieces.

For us it’s important that we live in a comfortable space. Home to me is a place we can relax in and where the things that surround us are enjoyable and which we can identify as our own space. I enjoy curating compositions on the walls and usually just hang my favourite pieces with simple clips.

It’s our home in a big city.

If you don’t have a flat with large windows, what can be done with dark spaces that don’t get much light?

Light is of course really important but there are ways of enhancing and changing how a space feels without relying on good inflow of daylight. In a dark space it helps to use mirrors, glossy and shiny objects that allow the light to bounce. Adding different types of lamps that break up the space and keep the eyes moving is a good way to make it feel brighter. As an example, if you’ve got a transition space that is narrow or short, it is actually better to paint it in a bold or really dark colour to make that space feel smaller. When you enter the space after, it will feel more spacious.

In the kitchen I’ve positioned the chairs so they’re capturing that morning light. One of my favourite moments is to sit and enjoy my tea or coffee for ten minutes and notice how the light changes throughout the year.

What does the future of architecture wellbeing and design look like?

I hope and believe that architecture will become treated in a social way where everyone will be encouraged to have an opinion about design. I think the design consultation phase should take place before the first line on paper is drawn. People shouldn’t just accept what was given, but have opinions about the things that improve quality of life and more enjoyable to live.

It will be less about how it looks and the aesthetics of the design and more about the interaction with people and spatial quality.

See more of Owain’s work OCD Architecture
Photographer: @samueljlondon

Mary’s nature story

Taking one step inside the home of Mary Maddocks is like being transported to a cottage in the Welsh countryside and leaving the South East London location behind the shut door. The cosy, warm and joyful feeling embraces you as you enter this Victorian house. The fire crackles and the smell of wood, mixed with the soft tones from sandal wood candles. The muted tones in soft kelim rugs, wicker baskets and the colourful, upcycled furniture grabs your attention and senses. There is no doubt that Mary and her husband are creative, down to earth, who care a lot about their home. You can see it and you can feel it.

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“It feels like our home doesn’t fit in the urban life, we forget that we’re in London”

The nature has a presence inside these walls, in the details of wreaths, dried flowers, sea shells, driftwood brought back home as memories from many walks along the coast, camping trips and outdoors adventures. The link between these places and Mary and Raoul is present and strong, these memories are the grounding roots of this home. The traces of the sea, woods and open fields are forming an atmosphere where you feel shielded and connected to your elemental self. “It feels like our home doesn’t fit in the urban life, we forget that we’re in London”.

The house Mary grew up in was warm, cosy, comfortable, family oriented and colourful. Mary’s mum is house proud but not a perfectionist about her home. It was a haven for my sisters and me, she tells me. Mary’s home today bears a resemblance to her childhood home in many ways.

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‘In my family home we had a lot of art on the walls’

The home is becoming much more than just a shelter and a place to restore. It’s now often our workspace, our shared space, a hotel or a restaurant. For Mary her home has definitely been the creative outlet she wanted and her way to express all of that creativity that wasn’t part of her day job.

Already from the beginning when Mary stepped into this house, which had lost its original features and not been looked after by anyone in a long time, she saw the potential and could envision what they could turn it into. This was the start of a year long project to transform this house into what it is today. The couple’s social life had to be put on hold, every weekend was filled with work at the house and staying with the in-laws eventually got tiresome, as you can imagine.

‘It was tough and afterwards I said never again, but maybe one day’

However Mary and Raul never gave up on their dream, despite lots of DIY challenges.  Numerous Youtube tutorials helped them figure out how to do everything from sanding the floors to laying a path in their garden. The attic is now a mini B&Q, filled with all the tools you need for a major home make over. On the question, would you ever considering taking on another project like this, Mary hesitates but continues: It was tough and afterwards I said never again, but maybe one day’.

img_6105One of my happiest memories is finding these tiles underneath a carpet cover.

img_6109Bringing nature home 

Every house is filled with memories and stories of people and big events and mundane moments made into something special. This house holds the memories of a young married couple celebrating their joint 30th birthday with all their close friends, introducing two new furry family members to their home and celebrating Christmas for the first time away from their childhood homes.

‘I think it’s more about the process, rather than creating the perfect, finished product.’

Christmas traditions were simplified and a bit stripped and this allowed for a refreshed perspective of what it really should be about – spending time with the ones you love.‘I think it’s more about the process, rather than creating the perfect, finished product.’

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This is a family home that is open and welcoming to everyone from Mary’s youngest sister in need of  a home to start her teaching career in London, second sister coming over at least once week, family visiting from Wales and many friends living close by coming over for dinner.

If you’ve been following Mary’s Instagram account @fleaandbear and blog www.fleaandbear.co.uk like I have for over a year you know that she shares inspirational pictures from her home and life. When I entered Mary’s home I was blown away because it was like coming into the world I’ve been following. It was like entering the world of @fleaandbear.

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In their garden you find a little shed which is normally a place where you store garden tools but Mary has turned this into a studio for herself. Here she is taking her inspiration from landscapes she has seen and portraying them with metres of yarn.

Just recently she took the decision to leave the certainty of being a lawyer to do something completely new. The road ahead is open. She is following her passion.