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Challenge No. 5 – A Surrealist Style Dining-Room

House & Garden Magazine – Dec 2020

In the fifth episode of House & Garden Magazine’s Creative Responses series with Janine Stone & Co., our design team have been challenged to transform the dining room of a high-profile fashion designer’s Nash Terrace house.

Janine Stone Dining Room Design

On the client brief:

We were challenged to help a high-profile fashion designer restore and decorate a dining-room-cum-lounge in a recently purchased Nash-terrace home near Regent’s Park. The completed scheme wonderfully marries the classical with the surreal, by juxta-positioning mid-century furnishings against the backdrop of the home’s handsome regency features.

Despite the elegance and grandeur of this property’s period architecture, the brief entailed creating an interior design and atmosphere that did not feel antiquated in any way. The client wanted an imaginative design; reflecting their eccentricities and would stoke personal creativity and conversation among dinner guests.

We have aimed to create something surreal, but not so Avant-garde that it isn’t possible to relax and unwind in the space.” says Janine Stone. “At the beginning of any design journey, the client brief often contains many uncertain notions and ambiguities … through listening, interpretation, moodboards, sketches and detailed visualisations our job is to quickly hone in on what the client really wants to achieve.

Janine Stone Dining Room Design

On the design and inspiration:

By interpreting the brief with a surrealist slant, we have provided ourselves with a bountiful array of opportunities to introduce elements to this interior designed to spark creativity and conversation the brief required of us. Features including the flowing ceramic table lamp, psychedelic faux marble screen, lighting bolt sofa or coffee table that’s cast in bronze but made to appear like rope – are surprising to the senses, unexpected and somewhat unconventional in a period property like this one. Surrealists believe beauty, new ideas and ways of doing things are found in the juxtaposition of the unexpected and the uncanny. We have taken this idea (with a pinch of salt) and used it to create the composition of this interior scheme.

Fashion designers are rarely afraid of making a statement through style and this has given us the confidence to put together this eclectic array of furnishings that encompass international work from mainly mid-century Brazilian (Ofidia Coffee Table), Italian (Wall mirrors), French (Tub armchairs), Dutch-Bulgarian (Guise screen), Swiss (Ceramic table lamp) and British-Maltese (Zahaba stools) designers among others. “Creativity often happens when old ideas and influences collide” says Janine.

It would be surprising for a client who works in fashion, not to have an acute sensitivity toward the textures, finishes and fabrics used in their interior. Textures and finishes were therefore paid special attention with this brief. Our approach in this regard has been somewhat similar to how Avant Garde chefs, like Heston Blumenthal present dishes that look like one thing, but taste of something completely different. “With this interior we have decided to play with your senses” says Janine.

Examples include the guise screen, which helps partition the dining area from the lounge space. The creators have used a spray-painting technique borrowed from the automobile industry to make this iridescent finish seemingly change when seen from different angles. It also makes the screen appear solid and heavy, when in reality the screen is light as a feather, making it easy to maneuverer and reconfigure the room for various occasions. Similarly, the ceramic table lamp by Swiss artist (Carmen D’Apollonio) appears to be melting off the table edges, as if taken straight from a surrealist work like Dali’s The Persistence of Memory. We have already mentioned the bronze cast coffee table that looks like sailors’ rope, which is another illustration of how this scheme plays with your senses.

Sensitive to how our client experiences the world, we have included a multitude of different natural textures and finishes in this scheme which are designed to entertain his sense of touch; including linen, parchment, rosewood, tavertine stone and bronze among others. “Whilst many interiors are judged on their looks, it’s usually how they make you feel that leaves the most lasting impression,” says Janine.

On the interior architecture:

As a grade I listed house designed by John Nash, being sensitive to the original architecture of the property would be of utmost importance in any design project. When you purchase a listed building, you become its custodian, responsible for protecting its most important features for the enjoyment of future generations,” says Gideon Stone, Managing Director. Janine Stone & Co. would restore the ceiling by recasting the stucco ceiling mouldings. British stonemasons would have been commissioned to restore the window casements, to keep out any unwanted drafts and damp that so many buildings of this period suffer from. In keeping with the façade’s famous white stucco, we have opted for white walls. It’s a way of tastefully connecting the building’s neo-classical architecture with its more contemporary interior. The reclaimed solid oak parquet flooring is utilized to the same effect. We could have opted for pastel tones for the walls, but this would have been perhaps a bit too archaic for this brief.

Historically and to this day, living in a Nash terrace house near Regent’s park is a highly glamorous affair. “A bronze accent across many of the furnishings and fixtures is a subtle acknowledgment of the building’s prestige, without it feeling like a show home or unnatural place to unwind” says Anthony Bevacqua, design director at Janine Stone & Co. Across such an eclectic array of furnishings, our thinking is the bronze accent acts as a common thread that helps complete the composition so that no furniture item or object feels out of place.

On the project:

Arguably the interior we have created has a mid-century modern quality about it. For the scheme explores a multitude of natural textures and colour tones. The furniture reflects organic shapes and forms, that whilst seemingly unconventional, have been chosen equally for its comfort or the purpose it serves. As a completed space, it is uncluttered, light and understated. Above all it’s a space to converse, entertain and let one’s ideas ruminate in comfort. “This scheme reflects what is possible when a client gives us an open brief” says Janine Stone.

How To Follow The Series …

A summary version of Janine Stone & Co.’s fifth design challenge and their response is available to read on the House & Garden website.

Further exclusive content and behind the scenes information is available on the Janine Stone website and Instagram (@janinestone_co), where you can keep up to date with the various design challenges House & Garden will be setting us over the course of this year .

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