THE ROOMS TO REVIVE LARDERS, LIBRARIES AND LAUNDRY ROOMS
We predict that these old-school spaces are back on the rise in modern homes. Interiors author Stafford Cliff explains all
I’m a great believer in the saying ‘what goes around, comes around’. The German philosopher Hegel saw the concept as a spiral between the thesis and the antithesis; one generation creates the thesis (or trend) and the next generation reacts against it. Then the following generation rediscovers the best of the first idea, and develops it for themselves. Don’t you recall that when TV became popular, people said it would be the death of cinema? And when CDS were invented, it seemed like the end of vinyl? Recently, I learned that there’s a new trend for reviving old-fashioned rooms, such as pantries, that people can only have known about from their grandparents – or from Downton Abbey.
Michael Reeves, acclaimed interior and furniture designer, says the trend is about ‘zoning’. ‘ Where people have the space, they are asking for strongly designated areas. I’m working on a home at the moment that has a library with space for a piano, a whole room for laundry, and a walk-in larder. I do think that libraries in particular are very important, but, because they’re such a luxury, people would probably also incorporate an office so that the room has another function. I also think people still want big all-singing, all-dancing kitchens – frankly I’ve never understood it myself, because those who want them don’t tend to cook much.’
Kitchens, laundries and larders are now the rooms with the greatest status, it seems. Richard Coutts, architect and founder of Baca Homes, has noticed that wealthy clients ‘ like to have a dining room with a “front of house” kitchen, and then, tucked behind it, a working kitchen where the majority of the meals are cooked’. James Soane, co-founder of architecture and interior design firm Project Orange, has just finished a newbuild family house in the Suffolk countryside that has a formal dining room/study/sitting room at the front, and a ‘ back of house’ with a huge open-plan kitchen/dining room/ lounge. Even in Soane’s smaller city projects, the kitchen is king: ‘ We find that there’s a tension between the size of the kitchen that developers are asking for (quite big) and what we think people really require,’ he explains.
For designer Sue Timney, it’s the need for privacy that’s driving the revival of old-fashioned spaces in modern homes. ‘It’s no longer a case of open, open, open every space until you live in one area that combines everything and gets kind of messed up,’ she muses. ‘ We’re sharing so much nowadays, but sharing every aspect of your home is something that you can now choose not to do. A laundry room is a good example. Nobody wants to have their washing machine and tumble dryer on show in their kitchen. Larders are also coming back, as they keep an aspect of the kitchen separate.’
Interior designer Mark Lewis has fond memories of the walk-in larder in his childhood home, a lovely house in the Wye Valley. ‘If I can see the option to integrate a larder into the layout of someone’s house, I’ll do it,’ he says. ‘It doesn’t have to be more than three or four square metres, as long as you can walk into it. I work mostly with Victorian and Georgian architecture, and you have this awful thing called a fitted kitchen, which is so out of place in that type of building. I make my kitchens look as simple as possible, removing the wall cupboards and installing simple shelving; yes, that means less storage, but then you bolt on a pantry and suddenly the client’s worries about storage are forgotten. If you’ve got the flexibility to
move the walls anywhere, I’d have a good-sized kitchen, a goodsized larder, and a separate living area. I’d ditch the dining room.’
At the other end of the house, there’s the question of dressing rooms. In the 18th century it was common for fashionable ladies to entertain in theirs, but they’re being revived as private spaces – and they’re equally popular with men. ‘ Whereas previously one would have seen the lady of the house have far more space for clothing and shoes, now couples need as much space as each other,’ observes Richard Coutts. ‘Many of our clients want us to design the house so that the husband and wife can disappear into separate areas. They attribute long and successful marriages to this!’
Michael Reeves concurs. ‘ We hardly do a project now where clients don’t want his and hers bathrooms and dressing rooms,’ he says. ‘These are people’s private spaces. If you’re doing your makeup, reading a book, or playing the piano, it’s about the need for privacy, and having a designated area of the home that’s your own.’
Along with washing machines and tumble dryers, televisions and technology are other things we are increasingly keen to partition off. ‘Television has long dominated the life of everyone, but now people are taking the room that used to be the parlour and making it into a library – somewhere that the media doesn’t dominate so much,’ says Timney. ‘People are returning to old-fashioned pursuits like reading. I love the idea of the calm away from the storm.’ Most of the homes Coutts works on have some kind of library. ‘Though we live in a digital age, it seems that people are even more precious now about having books around them. Whether it’s a small space integrated within a staircase or a mezzanine overlooking a double-height living room, libraries are used for moments of quiet reflection and peace. They are a nice antidote to living life at 100 miles an hour; an ideal place for gathering one’s thoughts.’ Or, perhaps, for planning what sort of feast you’re going to rustle up from your larder.
For designer Sue Timney, it’s the need for privacy that’s driving the revival of spaces such as larders, libraries and laundry rooms in modern homes