Ilse Crawford: "The interior is the life of the building"

In Swedish you say “besjala” to put soul into a place. We’re physical beings and ultimately buildings are a frame for life. So you could say my upbringing was rather puritanical. The Scandinavians very early on approached modern furniture from the point of view of using natural materials and wood instead of metal. Because, I think, interiors are ultimately where we live, they are a lot more than pieces of furniture. The interior, I think, is essentially the life of the building. Of course it’s understandable: you have quantity surveyors, you have project managers and so on who need to get things in on time and on budget. Ilse Crawford: My mother was Danish – from the Faroe Islands, so that’s as Scandi as you can get. One is about a long, drawn-out, sensual experience, and we put that behind a secret door, the opposite of what you might normally do to make it a special place. It’s about looking at the things you do every day and making them work on a human scale, like having a great kitchen, making the photocopy room fantastic, the possibility of, say, having movable shelving around you where you can put your objects and still have a sense of being connected to others. We just said, “Let’s try it for a month. I come at them from the other perspective completely, probably because of my Scandinavian roots. Although often described as an interior designer, Crawford’s portfolio contains projects ranging from a secluded garden for a Hong Kong restaurant to the conversion of a   100-year-old house in Stockholm into a boutique hotel. But, in fact, we do a lot more than that here. So it could be smelled, heard and felt. “It’s not an intellectual activity. It was two restaurants: a fine-dining restaurant for slow food and a food bar, which is a more everyday experience of the same food. Wellcome Collection Club Room by StudioilseMarcus Fairs: Why isn’t interior design taken as seriously as architecture? The interior, I think, is essentially the life of the building. It’s not about having sweet sofas everywhere. We had discussions around a few sixteenth-century block- board tables that we wanted to include. It’s not an intellectual activity. You experience interiors through your body. So I think the power of an interior to amplify and express the life of a place, the content, the brand is huge and so often underestimated – especially in very commercial, corporate situations. “Because, I think, interiors are ultimately where we live, they are a lot more than pieces of furniture. That’s how we approach them. Obviously you have to balance that with practical needs, but I think, historically, the tectonic, practical and functional have ended up driving the wagon, and ultimately you’ve got things the wrong way around. You can sit together; it’s more masculine, you might say, but very much an expression of the ingredients and the way of cooking. But so often it’s just seen as a shopping list. They’re really about interior life, how we live as human beings.”
Ett Hem Hotel by StudioilseDezeen’s editor-in-chief Marcus Fairs interviewed Crawford in her London studio ahead of   Inside Festival 2011,   where she was responsible for heading up the jury. I think you can do that, for example, in an office. So you have a completely different way of looking at the same conundrum. The studio essentially focuses on space from the point of view of the human being inside it. Ilse Crawford: Not consciously but invariably. And that’s something that I think is interesting with interiors: you can take what’s going on in one sense and translate it through to the other senses. There’s still a big gap, I would say, between Sweden and Denmark and Britain.”
Food bar at Mathias Dahlgren’s restaurant in Grand Hôtel in Stockholm, SwedenCrawford suggested that interior design is not simply a case of matching furniture with an overall design concept, but rather, it’s about considering how a person will experience the room and their surrounding environment. They were a touch wobbly and Mathias was quite worried about that, because of course chefs are quite worried about everything being perfect. So I grew up thinking that everyone was modern. We’re physical beings and ultimately buildings are a frame for life,” she said. And my dad was Canadian. Ilse Crawford: As the head of Studioilse, I mostly design interiors. There’s still a big gap, I would say, between Sweden and Denmark and Britain. But what you end up with is a world with no identity that’s absolutely uninhabitable. We’ve been working with developers recently to determine how to put the human being at the beginning of the programme of development, rather than the estate agent – how to make some of their buildings more liveable. Ilse Crawford is one of 45 designers and architects featured in Dezeen Book of Interviews”My mother was Danish – from the Faroe Islands, so that’s as Scandi as you can get. But, in fact, we do a lot more than that here,” Crawford said. So, yes, I was certainly brought up with that feeling. Matbaren restaurant interior in Grand Hôtel in Stockholm, SwedenAnother project we’ve done is Mathias Dahlgren’s restaurant at the Grand Hôtel in Stockholm. “So I grew up thinking that everyone was modern. We gave them a strong material language, making sure there was the right combination of warm and cool materials, because we all want to have a tactile connection to where we live, right down to the finishes. They’re really about interior life, how we live as human beings. Because while he might be making the most amazing food, for people to fully understand it they need to feel it on all the other levels, to experience it. TwoTwoSix Hollywood Road by Studioilse Marcus Fairs: Can you provide some examples of how you apply your approach? You experience interiors through your body.”
Aesop store, London, by Studioilse”If you look at the way designers approach buildings, I would say that the majority do it from a conceptual perspective,” she added. In Danish you talk about a place like it is an embrace. It was fascinating having to do two expressions of the same man’s food. That’s also part of being human. Marcus Fairs: Have your Scandinavian roots influenced your work? The design should be driven by life and the practical stuff should be the stuff that makes that happen, not the other way around. “The studio essentially focuses on space from the point of view of the human being inside it. I was brought up, I realise now, in that Danish ideal of the warm, modern home. And my dad was Canadian.

Updated: 06.11.2014 — 00:40