Designer Lauren Davies On Modern House
As the founder of the sensory design studio HEKA, Lauren Davies helps clients find the magic in their brands and products. It opens their eyes to the stories they should be telling and leads them towards more sustainable processes – whether in the fields of food, design, beauty or fashion. When it came to renovating the family home, Lauren took the same approach she applies to her work, focusing on the stories that mattered and bringing the outdoors in. Here, Lauren tells us about the evolution of a home and how we can all find more natural magic in our urban environments.
Lauren: “I grew up in North London. We first lived in Hornsey, in a house with a long garden that stood on a large open space to which all the neighbors had access. It was a really idyllic place. Then we moved to Muswell Hill, where I spent time on the moors as an older child and teenager. My childhood really influenced my work, which consists of looking at nature from this urban perspective. I love showing people that you can find natural ingredients, colors and smells in the urban landscape. I certainly brought this approach to the design of our house.
“I bought this house in 2009, just before joining the RCA, so the House has evolved with my career but also with my family. When we originally moved in, there were two apartments, so we converted it into a house, renovated the attic and installed a spiral staircase to connect the ground floor to the basement, where we moved the kitchen. We took all the walls on the ground floor to create a huge space and painted the boards pink. He had a pretty chintzy interior style; I just gave away my last cocktail cabinet, although we kept some of the pink boards.
“When I met my husband, we rented this house and moved to South London. I love Brixton and have very fond memories of my life there, but East London feels like home. It is the perfect symbiosis of the park with the canal, creativity, food, music; there is always something exciting going on.
“When I was pregnant with my first son, we returned to this house. I knew that I would often be at home with the baby, so I wanted to be near the park and my friends. We took out the spiral staircase because it was not very family-friendly and converted the upper floors into a space for guests. We moved to the ground floor and basement, and dug the side door to enlarge the kitchen in the garden.
“The house is Victorian, but there weren’t many original features left when we bought it. There were no cornices, ceiling roses, fireplaces or original doors, so we felt we had the freedom to give a more contemporary look to the interior.
“The kitchen is the central space of the house. We chose a deliberately neutral palette, using plywood and white perforated panel to contrast with the bright walls, pictures, pillows and plants, which change and evolve according to our mood and the season.
“I really like the contrast of light wood, mid-century chairs and graphic floor tiles with the ultramarine blue and surprising green walls. I chose these bold colors as hyper-realistic representations of the outside; as a playful way to bring the outside in.
“I don’t have a dedicated workspace at home, so the kitchen is designed as a space to feel inspired. It was important to have small spaces where you can sit and work, whether around the table or at the breakfast bar.
“It was also crucial to bring nature into the kitchen with lots of plants. The space opens onto the garden – you can see the trees in the park and parts of the sky. It is very connected to my work and it is a very meditative space “when I have a break between conversations, I take cuttings of flowers or dead heads in the garden. It inspires my thinking and it’s also where I cook, which is another sensory experience related to my work, so I think it’s a bit like a laboratory.
“The House has evolved with us and I think we are still in the early stages. I think the next step will be to start living in the whole house. I am delighted to approach it in a modular way, with the different spaces acting as interchangeable spaces for living, working and playing.
“I always think about design and how it applies to life and nature; I think about it in terms of a circular process. We really have to take into account the longevity of the products and materials we use, especially in the design and construction of our homes.
“A good starting point is with the architects you work with, and also by selecting sustainable, natural and breathable materials. Obviously, some materials need to be insulated, but I think it’s so important to have materials that let fresh air in (in the right places, of course).
“The life cycle of our furniture must be taken into account: we must ask ourselves: “What is this piece made of and where will it go when I finish it?”The power of consumers is enormous, and if brands feel that consumers are making certain sustainable choices, they will react accordingly.
“Through my work with HEKA, I want to help people see the magic of things and create a sense of wonder. I’m looking forward to doing this with the rest of our house as we grow there in the years to come.”
How do you define modern life?
“Modern life is about adaptability. For many reasons – from climate change to changing work situations to the modern cost of living – our way of life is changing. Modern living spaces must be able to handle a multitude of features and enhance different atmospheres while taking sustainability into account.
“It seems like a lot of pressure to arrange a space, but thanks to careful planning and excellent design – and elements of modularity if necessary – it is quite possible to create a harmonious space for work, play and rest, which can grow with the people who occupy it.”