I sit with a copy of several of John Pawson’s books at my desk…I love the detailed, expressive work produced by his firm. At times his work has a warmth found in vernacular architecture of Scandinavia, the rigor of a Donald Judd sculpture, and the restraint of Italian and Northern European modern architecture. His work provides a master’s class in elegant detailing. So when I opened up my latest edition of Architectural Digest and saw a home by Pawson featured, I saw some of the lessons come to life.
Less but better. Instead of lots of stuff, surround yourself with thing things you really love. Don’t love your lounge chairs? Then live with a comfy sofa and some great art…or floor cushions. With minimalism, the key is to find pieces that have a sculptural quality, and that speak to each other. In time, you can accumulate more things on trips and through people you encounter, and these objects will have a greater impact because of the memories and connections.
Think in volume, not just floor plan. Volume is one of the most under used aspects of design. Entering a double height space from a narrow hallway adds drama, and makes even a tiny loft feel spacious. Here Pawson opens up the living area to a double height room, while providing privacy to the master bedroom and bathroom through full height onyx walls.
Use unconventional materials. Onyx is probably the most beautiful materials to use on a wall, as it is durable and has a pale glow when back light, bringing the material to life. Here the material provides the material poetry in a pared back house.
Highlight traditional materials. Extra wide, extra long Douglas fir floor boards run throughout this house (this is a signature move by Pawson, who once designed a yacht using continuous teak boards on the deck, curving front to back). Long, continuous slabs of Carrara marble are used for counters and integral sinks in the bathroom and kitchen. Walls are covered in plaster in the main public rooms for subtle texture and refined elegance; in wood in the dining room and library for a sense of provincialism and intimacy; and in fabric in the bedroom for visual and aural calm.
Provide a series of spaces throughout a home. Enfilades make sense. I love it when a house breaks out into rooms, one after the other, like a string of couplets in poem. Done right, with a repetition and change in pattern, pieces take on greater visual impact.
Let the eye-wander. Too much stuff can clutter up our lives. I live in a small, minimal space, and I know that the key is having a place for everything, not doing without. With a place behind closed doors, necessities of life can remain comfortably hidden. I also store objects that I love, and rotate their display, making their importance greater.
Materials as pattern. Metal rails on a balustrade, a checker board floor tile, a framed view, the stack of lumber by a fireplace. These all provide pattern and texture, and can be used to reinforce an understated sophistication and interesting design.
Check out more about this project (here}.
David Bjørngaard, March 2017
Check out my day job at Bjørn Design
Images from Architectural Digest, photographed by Anthony Cotsifas.