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4th March 2024
This week we have daffodils. Not for the first time, but as daffodils never fail to cheer just when it seems as though winter will never end, they are something to celebrate. Dorothy Whipple, who delights in spring flowers in her novels, rented the South Lodge at Newstead Abbey estate (above) as a weekend retreat and writes in Random Commentary, "As I was digging in the garden at Newstead, among the daffodils and primulas, I heard the cuckoo for the first time calling through the spring-thin woods. I feel so lucky to be here."
1st March 2024
After all the post-war constraints and space-saving efficiency, the new, radical, open-plan kitchens in dwellings built in the 1970s and 1980s were very welcome. They were expanded to create a shared family space with a combination of functions, and many had enough room for the all-important kitchen table. This kitchen appeared in a 1980s Habitat catalogue (although the orange is very 70s), and it would still be a huge selling-point today.
29th February 2024
In the late 1950s, the architects of the Barbican estate in London wanted to install small, efficient, windowless kitchens at the rear of the flats. However, by 1963 London County Council had introduced a bye-law which required all kitchens to have a window or ventilation. So a deal was struck: the kitchens were renamed 'cooking areas' and work proceeded in consultation with yacht designers, Brooke Marine. Today the original fittings are highly sought-after because they were so well-designed, although many kitchens have been cleverly renovated and updated.
28th February 2024
Le Corbusier was working on the Unité d'Habitation in Marseille from 1947, just as Perret was rebuilding Le Havre. Both installed small, functional, modern kitchens but the differences were significant. Where Perret worked with generous proportions, windows, and attractive views, Le Corbusier applied his own rules and theories. Charlotte Perriand, with whom he worked, created small-scale kitchens in which whoever was washing up or cooking had their back turned to the flat and faced stainless steel and cupboards (and if taller than 5'2" felt over-large for the space). Yet the Le Corbusier/Perriand modular kitchen is regarded as a milestone in domestic design.
27th February 2024
Auguste Perret was the chief architect of the rebuilding of Le Havre after the devastation caused by bombing in the Second World War. Although it had to be done quickly to rehouse the local population, the quality of design and materials, in particular concrete, was extraordinary. A visitor to the Appartement témoin Perret will see amongst other fascinating aspects, a small but carefully thought-out kitchen close to the front door and living area with good light, and utilitarian but modern fittings such as extensive cupboards, a fridge, a waste disposal chute, and two sinks for doing the washing-up and clothes.
26th February 2023
This week we have five small but influential kitchens. The National Museum in Oslo recently acquired a rare 'Frankfurt kitchen' from 1960 which went on display in 2022, cleverly lit to make it look as though it's a lovely sunny day. Designed in the late 1920s by Austrian architect, Margarete Schütte-Lihotsky (1897-2000), it is regarded as the "pioneer of modern kitchens". It aimed to increase efficiency and hygiene, and the layout also reflects the ideas of the domestic scientist Christine Frederick.
23rd February 2024
Emmeline Pankhurst knew how clothes could attract attention and make a statement. Her huge, almost sculptural hats were extravagant, flamboyant, and often topped with ostrich feathers dyed purple. One of these feathers is in the collection of the Museum of London, and the full story of the fashion for hats with birds' feathers (which led to the founding of what is now the RSPB) can be found in Tessa Boase's book Mrs Pankhurst's Purple Feather: Fashion, Fury and Feminism - Women's Fight for Change (2018).