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Country Living, Portraits of Style Visionaries
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For many of us, country life is the perfect antidote to our frenetic, noisy, over-scheduled city life. In this month’s Country Issue, our Style Visionaries each harbour a deep love and affinity for the countryside and the life and style that comes with it. Whether building stunning country homes or living in them, our visionaries share with us how the simplicity and silence of rural living is synonymous with harmony and equilibrium, both in a personal and design sense. Think natural fibres, durable surfaces and beautiful aesthetics that work in harmony with the landscape. From quirky country town museums and grassy dunes, to muddy boots and open fires, country style is as diverse and inspiring as it is invigorating….

1. What design elements charactise your ideal country interior?

2. Should the landscape design be a natural extension of the interior decoration?

3. Country architecture varies from region to region. Which is your favourite?

4. What do like doing best when in country?

5. Which Esensual Living textiles are a must to complete your country dwelling?

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Ashley Hicks Studio
 

Ashley Hicks

“I am not a beach person,” confesses Ashley Hicks, British architect, interior and furniture designer, and published author of three design books. “I spend a lot of time in my house in Oxfordshire working, reading, watching the seasons flow. I love it when the peonies give me great bursts of pink to play with in my flower corner in the kitchen, with its perspex shelves carrying an endless variety of small vases”. Trained in fine art and architecture, and endowed with a questing mind, Hicks uses his country house as a set where he forever experiments with new ideas. Following in the footsteps of his father, the legendary interior decorator and designer David Hicks, Ashley has become a prominent personality in the design world. He began designing furniture in 1997 while at the Gem Palace in Jaipur, India, creating an interpretation of a Greek Klismos chair, rendered in Burmese teak with the seat comprising interwoven straps of saddle leather. Always original, his unique style melds the past and present gracefully, as evident in his furniture designed in the tradition of the decorative arts, as well as ironmongery, tiles and a line of fabric, wallpaper, and carpeting under the label David Hicks by Ashley Hicks. His private residential projects across Europe and the USA exemplify an extraordinary inspirational freedom and a predilection for strong colours and patterns.

1. What design elements charactise your ideal country interior?
No specific ingredients beyond comfort and personality. A fireplace is very important, of course. I sculpted my own out of plaster. A lot of books are very important, too. I built an octagonal library pavilion with tree-trunk columns made from fallen trees found nearby.

2. Should the landscape design be a natural extension of the interior decoration?
It's good to compose the garden design around the views from the principal rooms, if possible. Nice to have a vista from the house, but have the more interesting parts of the garden hidden from view so they can be discovered as a series of surprises.

3. Country architecture varies from region to region. Which is your favourite?
I love Greek revival houses in Virginia. And Renaissance castles in Emilia Romagna. Most of all I love the brick, chalk and flint buildings of my native Oxfordshire.

4. What do like doing best when in country?
Walking and reading. But I live primarily in the country so work much of the time in my library, my studio or my workshop.

5. Which Esensual Living textiles are a must to complete your country dwelling?
I like the Cecchi & Cecchi Mimetico throw in green. It would work well in my green, faux-leather walled living room. Also the Aava Vohveli Waffle Bath Towel, which would be ideal in my blue-tiled bathroom and the Vivid Living cushions in merino wool by Hainsworth.

www.ashleyhicks.com

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Vincent Thibert, Caroline Menne, Christophe Roué
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Elizabeth Zechin
 

Min Hogg

For more than three decades, Min Hogg has been one of the most influential voices in the world of interior design. Recognised internationally as the incredibly talented visionary who chaperoned us through countless extraordinary interiors in her role as founding editor of the groundbreaking and iconic magazine The World of Interiors, Min’s innate good taste and penchant for clutter sets her apart as a unique doyenne of design. Now in her 70s, Min’s fabric and wallpaper line, “The Seaweed Collection,” depicts wonderful organic shapes of algae as contemporary, decorative motifs printed on top quality papers, velvets, cottons and linens, confirming her as a connoisseur of high quality fabric design. Inheriting her love of the fine arts from her mother, Min studied at the Central School of Art where she was taught by Sir Terence Conran, before making a name for herself working for magazines and newspapers as a writer focusing on art, fashion and lifestyle. In 1981 World Of Interiors was launched. “During the 20 years I was editing The World of Interiors, never a day went by without indulging in pleasure and inspiration gained from the dozens of printed fabrics and papers that regularly came into the magazine offices. So when a decorator friend, who knew my passion, suggested I could design my own collection, it seemed totally natural and exciting.” Min’s wallpapers and fabrics are perfect for the country or city, cottage or castle – ancient or modern. A fitting example of Min’s innate good taste.

1. What design elements charactise your ideal country interior?
Before I am able to begin describing design elements of an ideal country interior I must insist on certain pre-conditions. The house should have efficacious central heating, and glass doors leading from some rooms directly into the garden. There should be a permanent array of waterproof boots and a selection of warm coats and sun hats in all sizes for guests to borrow when needed. The beds must be comfortable and bathrooms plentiful. The above applies to all types of country house, big or small, grand of humble, as does the following. In the sitting rooms an open fire, with its dancing flames and delicious scent of wood smoke, is the ideal focal point, it will be surrounded by ultra welcoming sofas and arm chairs where after night fall one may surrender to the impulse of curling up with a sensational book. Lighting is of vital importance for a sense of well-being, living and bedrooms are best kept free from ceiling spots or hanging lamps of any kind which can dazzle and create annoying shadows – these are reserved for the kitchen and provided they are placed sensibly, bathrooms, even corridors at a pinch.

2. Should the landscape design be a natural extension of the interior decoration?
Surrounding landscape, dramatic or tame, can be integrated into the decorative scheme by provision of a number of secluded areas permanently arranged for outside dining – but never in either the blazing sun or howling gale.

3. Country architecture varies from region to region. Which is your favourite?
Delight in vernacular architecture, no matter in which region of the world I find myself, leads inevitably to fantasising about owning a property there. My life is littered with such joyful and eventually broken dreams. Stone cottages in the Scottish Highlands, Palladian elephant stables in North India, blue shuttered farmhouses in Provence, wooden cabins in an Armenian forest, castles in Denmark, a Bosphorus Yali, Chinese Ming period houses, whitewashed Greek fishing villages. And countless others, they are all favourites at the time.

4. What do like doing best when in country?
Is there anything more delectable than harvesting from a country garden the vegetables and fruit needed in the kitchen for immediate consumption? After eating, one might explore the surrounding area, perhaps visit a local historic site or one of those fascinating and often eccentric small museums to be found in country towns. There could be a walk in the woods at bluebell season, and a little later in the year cutting armfuls of lacy white cow parsley found along the roadsides. Revelling in a deep blue night sky unpolluted by city streetlights

5. Which Esensual Living textiles are a must to complete your country dwelling?
Patterned or plain, textiles are best when they harmonise with both the climate and colours of an area, leaf greens, sky blues, rose pinks, cloud greys, sandy yellows, earthy browns, snowy whites. All of them in natural fibres. Jazz, the light cashmere throw from Teixidors and the Selena bed linen from Caravane would fit in perfectly. As for the soothing fragrance of the Green&Spring Relaxing candle, inspired by aromatic kitchen herbs, it reminds me of the British country side.

www.minhoggdesign.com

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Min Hogg, Olivia Magris and Christophe Roué
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La Formentera, the Woodland Refuge of Juan Montoya
The Monacelli Press, pictures by Eric Piasecki
 

Juan Montoya

Colombian-born architect Juan Montoya is among the most prolific and acclaimed interior designers today, globally known for his glamorous residential and contract projects. After studying in Bogota, he moved to New York where he graduated from the Parson’s School of Design, then worked in Paris and Milan before returning to New York in 1978 to found his firm. Juan’s style is extremely tactile, mixing textures, colours and objects to create a sense of volume and scale, often adding distinctive custom-made accents inspired from cultures around the globe. He also designs a furniture line that carries his timeless and original stamp. His own piece of paradise is La Formentera, his woodland refuge in upstate New York that he named after the Mediterranean island of the same name because parts of its terrain reminded Juan of living there in the 1970s. A work in progress over 30 years, La Formentera, which has been captured in its own book La Formentera, encompasses 100 acres of breathtaking rolling, rocky woodland, a rushing brook that opens out into a lake and an island that bursts into a bloom of daffodils in the spring. Passionate about landscaping, Juan shaped the gardens himself, creating a country haven of exquisite beauty and solace that, as soon as his busy schedule permits, he retreats to, to pull his boots on go for a tour of the garden…

1. What design elements charactise your ideal country interior?
Relaxed and no fancy fabrics, I prefer cottons and wools.

2. Should the landscape design be a natural extension of the interior decoration?
I think the opposite, the nature directs you into the interior.

3. Country architecture varies from region to region. Which is your favourite?
The ones that tell you where you are and reflect the area.

4. What do like doing best when in country?
The first thing I do when I arrive at our country home is to put on my rubber boots and walk around to inspect.

5. Which Esensual Living textiles are a must to complete your country dwelling?
I like colours evocative of my garden. Natural textiles, soft, neutral tones punctuated by vivid accents. For a country house, my favorites are the chic Philippe throws by Cecchi&Cecchi, the Abbey Wood bedlinen by Libecco and I love the whole range of RPL Maison home scents.

www.juanmontoyadesign.com

Philippe Throw

Cecchi e Cecchi

Philippe Throw

 
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Vincent Thibert, Frédéric Ducout, Caroline Menne
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Yannick Labrousse
 

Charles Zana

“Confronted with nature, one should be humble, go for raw materials, simplicity and understated luxury,” says architect Charles Zana, whose contemporary, discretely stylish approach to interior design does wonders in the country homes he builds. Zana feels it is important to integrate the architecture into the surroundings. “The outside becomes part of the project. This means the decoration shouldn’t be overwhelming but in harmony with the landscape,” he adds. After spending five years working in New York, Zana founded his own practice in 1990 in a serene, open space on the Left Bank in Paris where he works with his team on a wide range of projects, including restaurants, hotels, private residences and corporate spaces. The latest being the new corporate offices of Condé Nast France. Zana pursues his passion for art and design by inviting artists and galleries to show in his studio, which is full of art and pieces from his two idols Sottsass and Andrea Branzi.

1. What design elements charactise your ideal country interior?
My ideal country house has a certain form of simplicity, it opens up towards the outside and let’s nature in. I think Tadao Ando’s houses are a perfect example of this wonderful balance between the inside and the outside.

2. Should the landscape design be a natural extension of the interior decoration?
Before I start thinking about the architecture or the decoration I take in, I study the surroundings as, again, harmony is all about achieving the right equilibrium between the two. One should approach nature with humility and the decor shouldn’t try to overpower it.

3. Country architecture varies from region to region. Which is your favourite?
I love the grey and white houses you find in Nantucket.

4. What do like doing best when in country?
I like to walk and listen to the silence.

5. Which Esensual Living textiles are a must to complete your country dwelling?
Throws make wonderful accessories for country houses. I like the rustic chic of the Ciak throw and the softness of the Random, both by Cecchi&Cecchi. Scented candles are also a must as they add a luxurious touch to any interior. The Kajaal candles are my favorite because of their refined and seductive fragrances.

www.zana.fr

Ciak Throw

Cecchi e Cecchi

Ciak Throw

 
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Jacques Pepion, Caroline Menne, Vincent Thibert

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