Client: Matthew Freud & Elizabeth Murdoch
Project challenge: Design and build a bar worthy of the numerous pieces of art that surround it and the parties it will undoubtedly be part of.
It was when almost finishing one of the last projects at Matthew Freud’s Cotswold Jacobean manor that he mentioned, “are you ready for a set of very different design challenges? Maybe start thinking along the lines of Frank Lloyd Wright and start getting used to frequent visits to London”.
Nothing prepared me for the amazing Giant Modern Movement Oasis of a building hidden behind the town houses in Primrose Hill. As I walked in I felt relaxed, my shoulders dropped and I was inspired knowing that whatever Matthew and Elisabeth wanted in the property was going to be a pleasure to create. Not many clients give you the open book and confidence to design and create objects to fill spaces in such a supportive way.
Freud’s mantra was “ What would George do?”. Trying to get in the head of George Nakashima, a master woodworker, architect and the leading light of the American Studio furniture movement, was a total privilege and honour.
Designing the master bedroom furniture in three forms of maple (straight, figured and quilted) was a challenge and the Scottish Yew wood embellishments hinted at G.N. My take on G.N design is that nature is beauty, but as the designer, you have control. The acute angled corner chopped from the wany edge of a walnut cabinet top can emphasise this.
The British Arts and Crafts movement was also a constant source of inspiration, designers like Gimson and Barnsley of the Cotswold School were always in the back of my mind. Using nature as art also emphasises the construction, like using double dovetails to hold boards together to achieve the right fit, especially when designing the bar cabinet which knowing Freud’s party addiction would be the focal point of his people collecting.
The rise and fall courtyard to swimming pool is a serious “boys’ toy”, so I incorporated rising towers on each wing of the bar, hiding Cuban cigars and tequila – these were back lit to add to the drama.
Knowing that the bar owner is verging on collectomania, I incorporated display areas to the top and front, flanked by antique printing blocks -homage to Elizabeth’s father and printing. The storage spaces had to be designed with future proof and practical solutions that would be functional and a thing of beauty in a home that was filled with (mostly) 20th Century Art, and is added to on a regular basis.
All aspects of work in the mini Tate Modern were a joy, I just hope G.N and Freud approve.