How author and journalist Kassia St Clair is led down the garden path

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Written by Phil Kenny
Photography by Beth Davies

Children’s author Roald Dahl wrote many of his popular stories in his garden shed in Buckinghamshire. Dylan Thomas penned poetry in a tiny timber hut perched on a cliff above the Welsh Carmarthenshire coastline. Over a period of 20 years, playwright George Bernard-Shaw retreated to his shed in St Albans. Similarly, Virginia Woolf chose to write novels from her potting shed in Sussex, while author Philip Pullman created the entire ‘His Dark Materials’ trilogy from his shed in Oxford. …

A true aficionado delights in the stories behind everyday objects he curates in his home

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Bakelite phone by J. Heilberg / J.C. Bjerkness for Ericsson 1950. Kitchen clocks by Max Bill / Ernst Moeckl for Junghans 1957

Written by Sophie Lovell
Photography by Hans-Gerd Grunwald

Hans-Gerd Grunwald’s visual memories from his youth, like many of his generation, are marked by the powerful, democratic German design expressions of the 1960/70s, as exemplified by the 1972 Munich Olympic Games and Braun household products.

With the maturing of a keen interest in the history of design and product development, he became something of an expert in the field, through correspondence courses and his own research. The chance to take early retirement from the automobile industry and focus completely on this first great love, saw him turn what was essentially his hobby (of giving guided design tours of museums to friends and acquaintances) into becoming a specialist tour guide at Die Neue Sammlung — The Design Museum in Munich, which is one of the largest and most important museums of applied art in the world. …

The 620 Chair Programme has a new linen coat. We asked the writer and curator Jane Audas to take a seat.

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Photograph: Dean Hearne

By Jane Audas, writer, curator and digital producer

It is not really the style at Vitsœ to blow trumpets and line the streets of Leamington Spa waving flags when they have a new product coming out. This is because design is an iterative process at Vitsœ. If something needs changing to improve performance, they think very hard about it, design even harder, and then make the change. Job done.

But sometimes it is OK to toot a horn (not as obstreperous as a trumpet) and share the thinking and process of product development, particularly when it represents more of a shift change to the product line. After all, it is a rare and lesser spotted thing — new Vitsœ. Well, may I cordially announce (ta da!) that the beloved 620 chair has a new coat. …

Chef William Leigh’s words of wisdom, and a recipe for his Granola bar

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The view from Neruda’s house

‘Glad midsommar’ one and all!

“Green was the silence, wet was the light, the month of June trembled like a butterfly.”

… or so Pablo Neruda would have us believe. I have been to Neruda’s house in Isla Negra, Chile and it’s a stunner — views over the Pacific in hues of unutterable ultramarine, and an endless beach snaking off to the horizon. It might speak, ahem, a different interior design language than the one we’re used to, but it is entirely charming.

My visit — as we were in Chile in December for my sister’s wedding — was followed by an epic feast. We’d already eaten the ‘cordero a la parrila’ (whole lamb, grilled over a firepit) for the wedding breakfast — here we were on the hunt for ‘congrio a lo pobre’ — fried conger eel, chips, caramelised onions and a fried egg. It was truly outstanding, a hunk of eel the size of my arm in a batter as crisp and light as midsummer sunshine. However, June in Chile is the depths of winter, so the butterfly Neruda was referring to was probably trembling due to it being a bit, dare I say, chilly. …

The refreshing detail of a perfectly comfortable pour

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Original Alcock, Lindley and Bloore, non-drip teapots displayed at Vitsœ

“The chances are, if I asked you to draw a teapot from memory, you’d think of a shape not too dissimilar from the Brown Betty. That’s because it’s one of the most manufactured teapots in British history.” So says ceramicist Ian McIntyre who, as part of his Collaborative Doctoral Award with Manchester School of Art, York Art Gallery and the British Ceramics Biennial, set about examining the origins of this noble pot.

Brown Betty is a product of evolution, with form and function refined over decades, rather than the authorship of any single designer. It emerged as a cheap, utilitarian pot for the working classes, absorbed into the fabric of everyday life. This evolution resulted in a teapot modest in appearance yet perfect for the task in hand: brewing and pouring tea. By quietly performing its job so well it has endeared itself to generations. …

When times are hard, comfort is often found in food. We have turned to the Vitsœ kitchen to ask our chef, Will Leigh, to offer us all some of his wisdom and comfort. Here are Williams’ words:

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…starts with a bang. In Roman times, the first of the month was a raucous and raunchy affair known as Veneralia; now we know it as April Fools’ Day, which is somewhat tamer. The Romans certainly knew how to party. April is generally received as coming from the verb ‘Aperire’ meaning to open — in that the buds and flowers will open in this month. It is commonly known as the start of the season for planting, as the soil begins to warm and the chance of frost diminishes.

Architect Juergen Riehm discusses the importance of the psychological nugget when working with Vitsœ

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“As someone who was born in Germany, my exposure to Dieter Rams was very immediate,” said Juergen Riehm, co-founder of 1100 Architect. With extensive offices in New York and Frankfurt, business partners David Piscuskas and Riehm started their practice in 1983, from a rented one-room office in SoHo, Manhattan. After humble beginnings, they now employ 70 staff who work across a range of award-winning projects, providing architecture services for cultural organisations, commercial workplaces, educational institutions, local and federal governments and residential clients.

Sitting on the corner of 10th Avenue and West 37th, their New York premises stretch out across the 10th floor of a recently renovated 1917 office block in the Hudson Yards district. It’s an area undergoing regeneration on a massive scale, with ongoing construction works clearly audible from the streets below. The noise, however, doesn’t distract from the magnificent views across the city — the Empire State Building is visible from windows on the south-east side, and the Hudson from those facing south-west. …

Italian calligrapher Betty Soldi talks about her work and studio in a once-derelict Tuscan greenhouse.

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Betty Soldi lives in a world that’s bursting with colour — which isn’t surprising when you discover she’s part of an Italian family who have been making fireworks since 1869. Whilst her ancestors chose gunpowder and string as their creative medium, Betty has always preferred to use paper and ink. Convinced that her pyrotechnic lineage was at the root of her decision to become a calligrapher, she moved to the UK to study design at Ravensbourne University and returned to her hometown of Florence a decade ago, after many years working for distinguished clients in Paris, London and New York.

Settling back into Tuscany’s capital, Betty was determined to find a studio large enough to accommodate her vast collection of books and objects. She was lucky to discover a derelict greenhouse with its own garden, just a short walk from the famous Pitti Palace and Ponte Vecchio. Betty explained, “I’m an urban bunny at heart. I love the energy you feel when you live in a sprawling metropolis; there’s that inimitable mix of old and new. …

Interior designer Alex Kalita in conversation with Vitsœ’s Andrew Jones

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Alex and Andrew in Alex’s studio in Brooklyn

In times of economic turbulence, many people are choosing to improve, enhance and invigorate their temporary living spaces instead of taking a leap into the uncharted waters of home-ownership. Brooklyn-based interior designer Alex Kalita has responded to this shift in real estate attitude by developing a business that actively encourages tenants to make subtle, but significant changes to their homes with the addition of good quality, easily transportable fixtures and fittings. …

Dieter Rams and Mark Adams speaking on the occasion of the opening of Vitsœ’s shop at 21 Marylebone Lane, London

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Photography by Olivier Hess

From Mark Adams, managing director

It took us just four weeks to turn this space from “very horrible” to “half respectable”. We have moved all of our furniture, lighting and equipment from Duke Street. Before that it moved from 72 Wigmore Street. Even the kitchen sink has moved twice.

We have added longer H-Posts to our shelving system — but they are the same tracks, shelves and cabinets hanging on them. Our sofa now has a few more seats added to it. Our family has expanded, and our home is bigger.

Our lease means that we might have to move relatively soon but, being Vitsœ, we will pack everything up and take it with us. As ever — start small, add to it, rearrange it, take it with you when you move. …



Makers of furniture designed by Dieter Rams. Living better, with less, that lasts longer … for 60 years.

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