How is it that Spring creeps up on us each year and feels like such a joyful surprise each time? This year’s show of blooms feels particularly splendid, though maybe it’s just that we have a bit more time on our hands to take notice…
Our wonderful (and ancient) wisteria is in full bloom now and sends the sweetest sheath of scent wafting through the windows.
It’s literally bringing nature indoors, which is one of the core tenets of my design ethos.
Open up your doors (or Crittal windows) to nature and in turn, make sure your outdoor space embraces all the seasons.
That means finding plants that perform at different times of the year so there’s always a joyful reminder of the season just outside your window.
In the Spring it’s bulbs, wisteria, magnolia and more. In summer, hydrangea and long wispy grasses.
Autumn leaves in russet tones and then it’s the little winter miracles like hellebores make all the difference. Enjoying the seasons is about noticing nature and the easiest way to do that is to make it part of your home.
Make a list of a few of your favourite plants and find a trustworthy gardener who can make it work for your outdoor space.
There’s no place like your Home
Atmosphere, atmosphere, atmosphere: this is what any interiors expert worth their mettle is out to create. Colour, texture, lighting, materials, composition — these elements all play a large part, of course, but nothing triggers the brain and transports us quite like fragrance. Just like Proust’s famous madeleine, scent has an immediate, overpowering and instinctual effect on our memory. And thus, it is one of the essentials in my toolbox. Here are a few rules to live by when it comes to creating an evocative ambiance with scent:
1) Plant-based wax candles tend to be better for your health as they do not contribute to indoor air pollution in the same way paraffin-based candles might. Do read the ingredients list as many of the big name manufacturers still use toxic ingredients as a base.
2) It’s not about one signature scent but about many. You don’t want your entire home smelling exactly the same. It destroys the narrative of the journey from one room to the next. The kitchen should have a different scent to the bathroom, the dining room to the living room. Perhaps you’d like to create a spa-like feel in the bathroom in the evenings with the scent of tuberose & jasmine; in the kitchen, the scent of fresh herbs; etc. Think of how the room should function and choose fragrances accordingly. Is it a place to relax? A place to be productive? A room in which secrets are shared?
3) Think of the seasons and even the time of day when choosing your scent. It’s good to have an arsenal of “flavours” at the ready to use accordingly. In the summer I like light fresh, natural scents like fig & citrus. In the winter, I go for stronger, more woody scents. The same can be said for the progression from day to night. Each moment has its mood!
4) There are many ways to scent a house but there’s something to be said for the romance of candles. As much as a diffuser might be efficient, nothing is as evocative and romantic as a lit candle. So hide the diffusers (or dispense into an elegant piece of statement glassware) and always highlight candles. They can be part of a coffee table display, on a shelf in a vignette with some other evocative accessories, on the mantle in a pair or a trio, etc. Think of candles as decorative accessories.
5) Always choose a blend. Straight, single-element fragrances such as a rose, jasmine or tuberose scented candle can be overwhelming and boring at the same time. Lacking nuance, they don’t trigger the brain in quite the same way or evoke that sense of mystery that makes a truly memorable fragrance.
With all of this very much in mind, we’re excited to present our studio’s latest scented candle, Ebene, inspired by the rare and precious wood ebony. As the name implies, the scent, with its woody undertones, evokes a sense of depth and mysticism. And of course, this being an interior designer’s candle it is also an object of great beauty. Developed in the scent capital of the world, Grasse, France, and hand poured in Normandy and housed in a diaphanous black glass container, it is made to grace the most sumptuous interiors.
Alison Henry Design and bespoke Florentine kitchen maker, Officine Gullo, unveiled their latest design collaboration and Officine Gullo’s kitchen creations at Decorex 2019. Alison is also proud to announce her Brand Ambassadorship with the kitchen company. Last year the World of Interiors Award was given to the partnership for their collaboration at Decorex 2018 for the design currently being installed into Alison’s own home (Green House Project).
“It’s a great honour to work as a Brand Ambassador for Officine Gullo with such a brilliant team with vision and talent to create the most incredible kitchen spaces. The kitchen has increasingly become the centre of the home and the most important space for sharing your family’s time and memories.”
Marrying the innovative technology more often found in professional kitchens with the comfort of a residential setting, Alison Henry Design and Officine Gullo’s latest, completely bespoke, creation will set a new standard for the domestic kitchen, prompting us to reconsider the nature of craftsmanship in its truest sense. The key is to suit the unique lifestyle of each client.
“During my own home renovations, I was surprised to find that what I envisaged for my house kitchens just did not seem possible. From the minute I began collaborating with Officine Gullo it was clear from our very first meeting that its ‘bespoke’ service was genuinely, and unusually, just that: complete customisation designed for the client, with the client and with an artisanal perfection that is simply second to none. I am so incredibly proud of what we have achieved, and I can think of nothing that really competes. It is a project that really stands out from the crowd.”
Green Spaces and Getting Closer
I’m overjoyed to share there’s been quite a bit of progress on the home renovation front. The house is coming together down to many of the fine details – the custom ceiling rose is in, gorgeous slabs of Statuario marble are down in the bathrooms, bespoke ironmongery is installed at the entrance gates, the towering, floor-to-ceiling Crittal windows are up. I can see the light. Pun absolutely intended, as capturing light and bringing a sense of the outdoors in is one of my signatures.
The biggest highlight and most difficult challenge of this project has been conserving the ancient wisteria that has gracefully adorned the courtyard walls for decades. Perhaps the most well-known shade of wisteria flowers is lavender blue, but wisterias come in white, pink and violet, as well. The flower gives off the most delicate scent in spring sunshine, and delightful when positioned around a bedroom window letting in the light fragrance.
This ‘original feature’ was one I would have been heartbroken to lose as it is so central (literally and figuratively) to the flow of this home. I’m sure the builders would have been happy to see it go, however, having had to build walls around it, scaffold around it, install windows around it, and much more: A true construction nightmare! I’m certainly glad I persisted, though, and I’m sure that now they can see its value for it is a thing of majestic beauty.
Not only does dappled light stream through the picture windows into the house, but being able to see the wisteria bloom and change from season to season—from indoors, may I add—only adds to the open, airy atmosphere I wanted to convey throughout the house. Marble, mirrors, textiles and bespoke fittings certainly do provide texture, but nothing makes a magical interior like the outdoors.
LET’S DRIVE THE CHANGE
Working with charities and fundraising is a huge part of my life. Over the years I have been involved with the charity Cash & Rocket – the world’s only all-female charity-fundraising car tour.
Cash & Rocket was set up to bring inspiring women together for the ultimate adventure of a lifetime, uniting them all through female empowerment and solidarity.
As a woman and mother I really believe that it is so important to help all women and children to give each of them the opportunity to grow and thrive.
Each year, forty red cars and eighty influential international women from the worlds of fashion, film, music, art, design and business are handpicked to join the Cash & Rocket Tour Crew.
During the 4-day Rally from London to Paris to Geneva to Monte Carlo, through female solidarity, they aim to raise money for charities around the world which provide life-changing support to women and children in need.
Julie Brangstrup founded Cash & Rocket in 2011 with a vision to change the world through the creation of a platform that inspires, motivates and supports women from all walks of life.
“If you don’t try you can’t fail. I can’t make a meaningful change on my own. But with the support of our incredible ladies and partners we can make a huge difference to thousands of lives”. Julie Brangstrup | CEO of Cash & Rocket.
Together on this journey we laughed, we cried, and we drove.
To learn more, please check out the website www.cashandrocket.com.
With the house renovation still in full swing and the big, architectural decisions made, it’s time to get down to the details. Currently I’m working on the bathrooms. I am not of the philosophy that these should be seen as accessory spaces – cold and purely functional. Quite the opposite, to me the bathroom must be a fully-fledged room in the house, deserving attention and even admiration.
When I design a bathroom I like to think of it as a home-spa or private sanctuary, and accordingly, it needs the right treatment, including upgraded amenities. That’s where a bathroom brand like Drummonds comes in for me, with modern detailing and classic shapes, not to mention strong scale. From their “Shamrock” showerhead (3 round showerheads, fused into one, standout shamrock shape) and cast iron tub with claw feet, down to their heated towel racks, which sport a hefty radius, everything about their collection makes a serious statement in scale, which I absolutely love. In their bespoke silvery “Antique Nickel” finish, they elevate the room with pretty details and flounces, giving the whole space a sense of value and importance.
A few more of my essential tips for creating bathroom atmosphere:
1) Make use of Light & Air
A freestanding tub will give the room a sense of space and movement. Meanwhile, white marble walls, sinks, etc., bring in the light and lend airiness. I tend to go for “White Statuario” for my own home with it’s subtle grey veined texture as I like to keep it bright creating a gentle sense of serenity and balance.
2) It’s all in the Lighting
The bathroom has many uses – makeup in the morning, spa time in the evening, etc., – it should have just as many lighting options. I tend to go for a lighting system with at least four options, bright for getting ready to go out, medium for a quick check in the mirror, low & romantic for a relaxing evening in the tub, night lighting, and more. I also recommend suggest a PIR light movement sensor for night lighting for those who don’t want to have to think in the dark.
Whether the tranquil sounds of the ocean or classical music, the inclusion of a Aquavision Television in the bathroom is a good choice. For the morning news or to watch Netflix whilst relaxing in the bath surrounded by low lighting and candle, its a great addition.
4) Water Pressure
This may seem like an obvious one, but there’s nothing that will take the pleasure out of a shower like low water pressure. With 5 busy females in my house, I know this to be an absolute essential. Make sure your water system can cope with the number of people in the house and their water habits from the outset.
Don’t be afraid to add homey decorative/ornate touches that go beyond the basics. After all, as I said before this is not a room to sideline. I love a sublime chandelier in the bathroom, giving it weight and importance. Consider a decorative feature such as an antique Venetian mirror to surprise and delight. I also tend to add elegant side tables near the bathtub, with candles and other spa-like accessories to underline the room’s purpose. Crisp linen hand towels contrast soft luxurious bath towels and oversized robes.
In my designs I like to consider all the senses – from scent to touch to temperature to audio and visual enhancing the complete experience.
Officine Gullo Update
Because you asked, here’s the latest from my collaboration with the brilliant Officine Gullo. (See ‘An Invitation to My Kitchen’ story below to catch up) For one, we were over the moon to win World of Interiors’ Best in Show for our ‘Officine Gullo for Alison Henry’ kitchen for Decorex.
During my own home renovation, I was surprised to find that what I envisaged for my kitchen just did not seem possible. I discovered Officine Gullo and it was clear from our very first meeting that its ‘bespoke’ service was genuinely, and unusually, just that: complete customisation designed for me, with me and with an artisanal perfection that is simply second to none. I am so incredibly proud of what we have achieved, and I can think of nothing that really competes. It is a project that really stands out from the crowd.
And, after Decorex’ success we’re discussing the possibility of my expanding my role within the brand beyond that of a collaborator. As much as I would love to while my days away designing their kitchens – so finely engineered and crafted that to me they rival a Bentley or an Aston Martin – that’s not what this new role would entail…
Along with continuing to design my own series for them, I am also looking to open doors for the brand here in London. The idea is to bring more attention to the unparalleled OG, whether it’s finding a showroom space, providing connections with other high-calibre designers, or sniffing out new collaboration opportunities.
My role, as I see it, is to open doors to other designers allowing them to let their creativity flow with what is perhaps the best kitchen brand of our time.
Together, we are currently looking at spaces where Officine Gullo and other artisan brands of the same calibre could show London the wonders of its craftsmanship. A modern home design gallery concept space, if you will. Definitely watch this space.
A Home in the Making: Chapter 2
The Hardest Part…
In home renovation, you would think coordinating with a seemingly endless line-up of contractors, plumbers, chimney experts, flooring specialists and more would make for a full plate, but that, I’m afraid, is the easy part. In fact, working with the London Projects team has thus far been, dare I say, breezy. My job as the designer is the easy part; the rock hard part is the politics.
Just a few weeks ago our project came to a grinding halt when we were served a Section 60, aka a “stop and search” by the Westminster Property Association, the most dreaded of all the infractions in the building world. We were asked to come to a full halt. The builders were asked to hang up their hats and go home. This after spending countless hours, days, weeks following all the rules and regulations like a good school girl, going by the book, crossing my t’s and dotting the i’s down to the last CTMP (traffic control). Suddenly the proverbial goal posts had moved a few feet forward according to the council’s whim. Suddenly our site was in breach of brand new timing and access rules.
Down I went to a community meeting to plead my case to my fellow residents, local retailers, the Belgravia Society and the Westminster Property Association only to find that mine was not the only project on hold, but one of four. There were those who suggested the building sites should pool funds together as financial compensation for our patient neighbours’ mental health. I was crestfallen and saddened to hear this. Our neighbours have been amazing and I would hate to cause them any trouble.
So I stood up and made my case. How had it come to be that 4 sites were going at the same time? Isn’t this an error on the estate’s part, to allow four projects to move forward simultaneously? Surely it’s not on us, who pay dearly for our permissions and go out of the way to follow the rules?
After a long talk and some reasoning by the London Projects team, my message was heard and the Section 60 lifted. Onwards and upwards, and a big thank you to our wonderful neighbours for letting us move forward. We will not disappoint.
Photo: Vasselletti Italy
The Magic of Henraux
As you may have gathered, I have a penchant for craftsmanship that goes above and beyond. I search the globe for it and try and incorporate as much of the very best exemplars in the spaces I create. The Italian marble masters Henraux (http://www.henraux.it/) are right up there among my favourites.
There’s the fact that from this Italian quarry come marble creations of an almost divine perfection. Think of designer Michael Anastassiades’ “Miracle Chips, ” large, impossibly thin, impossibly curved cuts of marble from Henraux’ sister design brand Luce di Carrara (http://www.lucedicarrara.it/uk/index.asp). I’m dying to commission a slightly oversize marble surfboard for my next beach house project. Oh, but there’s so much more!
Established in 1821 in Quercata, Italy, Henraux happens to own and operate the quarry where Michaelangelo himself used to handpick his marble cuts. Later the Modern greats including Jean Arp, Henry Moore, Joan Miró tapped Henraux exclusively for their sculptural works in marble. What’s more, when it comes to more contemporary projects, theirs is the intricately patterned marble found both at the Mecca, which was restored in 1992, and the more recent and absolutely ethereal Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi.
Mind blown? There’s much more to come from this astonishing brand. Their list of design collaborations via Luce di Carrara is growing – just recently they’ve released a set of surfaces and tables with Dutch superstar duo Scholten & Baijings. Moreover, they are busy quite literally carving away at a new space to establish their museum and foundation.
With a heritage that spans centuries, they’re not only invested in finding the technology to modernize the marble trade, but also the sculptors, designers and architects of the future. In fact, the Fondazione Henraux (www.fondazionehenraux.it) funds an annual award for masterful artistic and design projects in marble. On my visit, I was blown away by 2016 winner Daniele Guidugli’s piece, ‘Moby Dick’ a set of monumental whale vertebrae cast in marble.
This is a brand I’m watching and working closely with. I urge you to add them to your little black book.
I have some exciting news to share.
As you may know, I’m currently deep in the proverbial architect’s “trenches”, building my family’s new London townhouse. Today I’m able to share a sneak peak of the kitchen – in my eyes, the heart of any home. Not only am I sharing it here, but I’m very excited to invite you to see it in person, at this year’s Decorex fair in September. I’m proud to say that my personal design for the wonderful Florentine kitchen makers, Officine Gullo, will be available as one of their new models from then onwards.
ALISON HENRY DESIGN X OFFICINE GULLO
I first approached Officine Gullo, a family-run business of fantastically skilled artisans who create professional kitchens fit for palaces and restaurants to work on a design for my own home. I love the artisanal quality of their work, the classic motifs, and the endless customizability (not to mention sky-is-the-limit gadgetry) but wanted something a tad less palatial in size, industrial in feel, a bit more refined, and a lot more inviting for friends and family.
The team at Officine Gullo really took to my ideas for my dream residential kitchen concept – matte white cabinetry, nickel detailing, a splashy chandelier for a touch of elegance, antique wooden floors in a herringbone pattern, and plenty of white carrara marble to tie it all together — and the result was so lovely we decided to collaborate and make the designs available to others. And so Officine Gullo for Alison Henry was born!
The kitchen in my home is very much the social hub and to emphasise it all the more in my design, I added barstools at the end of the kitchen island. While no less refined, this subtle addition makes the space much more of a spot for relaxing and winding down together at the end of the day.
For even more authenticity (and a bit of fun), my home kitchen will open onto a leafy courtyard, for which we’ve also gone ahead and designed a professional grade barbeque in the same white and nickel theme.
I’m so pleased to be able to share my dream kitchen with the world —Officine Gullo for Alison Henry—and hope to see you at this year’s Decorex.
Decorex International 2018
16 – 19 September, Syon Park, London, Decorex stand No. D36
Tickets can be purchased here: https://www.decorex.com/register
Times and transport options are here: https://www.decorex.com/travelinformation
I’ve spent much of my career scouring the planet for unique antiques and treasures to add a sense of patina and a sense of history to my interiors. Of late, however, I’ve realised that all that time spent sourcing those special finishing touches, could easily go into making them instead. Why not make the antiques of tomorrow, today? I’ve decided to launch a small collection of statement pieces that will add glamour and a bit of magic to any interior. These are modern day heirlooms to be passed down from generation to generation and home to home.
There are many to come, but the first in the collection are mirrored wall sconces inspired by those of the legendary French design house, Maison Baguès. I originally fell for their Art Deco-inspired lighting fixtures from the 1940’s that mixed mirrored glass and gilt metal elements in intricate floral designs. Inspired by these, I worked with skilled artisans to create a modern version incorporating all of these elements in a romantic, floral motif. I’m proud to present these as the first in my series of modern day collectables, as they’ll add just the right amount of romance and timelessness to just about any setting.
Watch this space for more launches and feel free to get in touch [link to contact page] for more information on this and any other bespoke pieces.
Some of you might be surprised to know that I am currently in the midst of a home renovation of my very own, and am about a year away from a move in date.
I thought I’d use this blog to occasionally share my personal renovation journey tips thus far in case they might be helpful to you.
Let yourself fall for it
Back in 2013 when I first toured the Belgravia townhouse that my daughters and I will eventually move back into, I fell in love with its “Alice in Wonderland” feel. For one, the entrance to the house was covered in vines and greenery and felt like a secret opening carved out of a hedge. Once inside, through a pair of ornate French doors, the property opened into yet another enchanting garden filled with charmingly overgrown trees and lovely white rose bushes. I was smitten from the get go and willing to turn a blind eye to the interiors, which felt a little trite and traditional for my taste.
Move in, then Repair
I knew from the beginning, too, that there were some serious structural repair works that the house would eventually have to go through, having not had a renovation in over thirty years. Rather than dive into renovation right away, I chose to move in first for a spell and discover all of its quirks, thus making the eventual repairs all the more well thought out.
Start with a Blank Canvas
In the meantime, to make the place more livable to my taste, I stripped out all the tired fabric wall coverings and whitewashed the entire space. I kept the furnishings neutral, too, to let the house’s garden assets become the real focal point throughout. In a way it became an almost blank canvas allowing me to reflect on the house’s potential. Here’s what it turned into…
Get to Know the Space
After a few years living in the house and getting to know the space, I not only understood what needed some serious repair (electrics, boilers and more!), I also had a clear idea of what structural changes needed to be made, and what additions (or subtractions) might add value to the space. I developed the design and found a contractor I could trust to completely gut the space and then rebuild. Which brings us to where we are today.
In the meantime, I’ve taken over an apartment nearby decorated in a similar neutral vein. This allows me to check on the builders often, and make sure all is going according to plan.
Follow along over the following months as I detail my finds for the house, from the best marble cuts, to my favourite flooring finds, to the ideal social kitchen, and more.