“Das Haus – Interiors on Stage” is the large-scale scenography of a living situation based on the very personal ideas of an internationally influential designer who changes every year. Following London design team Doshi Levien’s successful launch of the imm cologne’s new design event (2012) and the subsequent edition by Luca Nichetto (2013), koelnmesse has nominated Danish designer Louise Campbell to create “Das Haus – Interiors on Stage 2014”.
At the international interior design fair imm cologne in January 2014, she will be building a low-tech house as an open space for flexible use in which the furniture merely serves to symbolise basic functions. For the Dane, flexibility, comfort and scope for creativity are the most important requirements an ideal home should satisfy.
A “Haus” like something from Alice in Wonderland
Louise Campbell wants to use “Das Haus” to tell stories. One of them pursues the theme of Alice in Wonderland, whose adventures take her to both miniature and giant-sized worlds. The dimensions in “Das Haus” seem to have been shifted slightly too, and ultra-long tables and beds produce some disconcerting effects. Visitors to “Das Haus” 2014 can thus look forward to a fascinating play with scale.
Louise Campbell has called her scenography and its play with scale and measurements “0-100. (Made to measure)”. Amongst other things, the many layers of meaning in this title allude to the search for the right balance between hectic activity and total relaxation. The instruments and grids present throughout the house are intended to underscore the importance our modern lifestyle attaches to measuring and weighing things up.
The basic form of the house speaks the simple, uncluttered language of Scandinavian design and echoes its preference for natural materials. Louise Campbell takes an open space structured by a post-and-beam grid and bathes it in warm, welcoming light. At the same time, she sees her “Haus” as a piece of design rather than architecture: “The house itself can be seen as a big piece of furniture. It’s one big storage unit for people. Or you could say it’s a shelf for life,” says Louise Campbell pragmatically. And yet behind the pragmatism of the house and its designer, who is mainly known for her lighting designs, there is a wealth of surprises, poetry and humour waiting to be discovered.
Louise Campbell is one of the leading protagonists in a new avant-garde generation of designers who are evolving the grand tradition of Scandinavian Modernism not only with respect but with new-found self-confidence as well. Born in Copenhagen in 1970 and influenced by the two cultures of her Anglo-Danish parents, the designer studied both at the London College of Furniture and the Danish Design School. Her clients include Louis Poulsen, Zanotta, HAY, Royal Copenhagen, Holmegaard, Stelton, Muuto, Interstop and the Danish Ministry of Culture.
A slow house full of handmade things
What Louise Campbell has erected in Pure Village at the imm cologne with such incredible passion for detail isn’t one house, it’s two! Two timber-framed, prototypical houses with an exposed beam structure that look as if they were positioned at an angle to one another on the floor of the hall and then pushed inside one another like a telescope. The posts of one house have been painted white, those of the other a light grey. The rectangular overlap in the middle created by the intersection of the two volumes marks the spot where opposites are reconciled and the two houses merge into one.
The structure, which has a footprint of 240 m2 and is made of wooden beams, larch shingles and lots and lots of fabrics, turns out to be a thoroughly attractive and seductive experimental setup. Louise Campbell wants to figure out how opposites can be reconciled through design. And in her eyes, the biggest conceivable contradiction in our lives is the (in-) compatibility of man and woman, of reason and emotion – which makes a partnership between the two the biggest experiment of all.
“I don’t understand why we don’t question something as fundamental as love more,” explains Louise Campbell provocatively. “What is love? How does a designer approach these questions? By circling around our physical bases through form.” She wanted to design “Das Haus” as a home “for him and her, for slow and fast, soft and hard, light and dark, colour and material, British and Scandinavian – with a tranquil space in the middle where everything fits together with some quirks, but no conflicts.” And in this case, “him and her” doesn’t just mean male and female, but the masculine and feminine side within each and every one of us.
The Danish designer shows how both “he” and “she” can make themselves very much at home within these contradictions – and does away with various interior conventions in the process: “Das Haus” is one big, open space, the bed is a 16-metre-wide piece of furniture for sprawling, lounging and sleeping on, the bathtub stands in the middle of the living area and the kitchen is located in the man’s domain. In the middle, he and she meet at the big table in harmony. There are no “proper” rooms; instead, the various areas of the home are defined by the furnishings and accessories.
Besides featuring Louise Campbell’s own designs such as the LC Shutters lamps from Louis Poulsen and Zanotta’s Veryround Chair, “Das Haus” also contains a variety of products by other designers. Everything else was made by hand in Louise Campbell’s Copenhagen studio. And because she felt it was important to include something old as well, a 100-year-old stoneware bathtub was borrowed from the museum collection of Villeroy & Boch and set up in the middle of the living area. “There are no walls dividing the various zones, only soft textiles that can be rolled up or down as desired. There are no secrets and no pressure – the ideal marriage. Perhaps indeed the ideal house,” says Louise Campbell of her interior concept, in which everything is designed from the inside out.
A large wall surface in the kitchen zone is one of the highlights of “Das Haus”. For Louise Campbell, the kitchen is both a workshop and a place to cook, and she has thus hung 573 tools of every kind imaginable on the exterior wall. The big table is used for stirring, mixing, sawing, painting, hammering and sewing. And whilst technology is notable only by its absence, the house contains the instruments required for every conceivable kind of handicraft. Finding the right measure – the right balance between reason and emotion, perfection and cosiness, hectic activity and total relaxation – is a key theme for Louise Campbell, both in her design and in her version of “Das Haus”, which is why she has so aptly named it: “0-100. (Made to measure)”.
“Personally I feel very much at home here,” says Louise Campbell of her “Haus”. “So where floral wallpaper in a kitchen would not naturally present itself at the top of my list, plenty of fine tools do. Even so, I’d much rather sleep in an imaginatively decorated space than in a bare white bedroom.” Her house is a celebration of physical existence in the here and now. Digital projections are entirely absent. The warm lighting, exquisite textiles, comfortable rest zone and many playful details and accessories are a reminder of what is truly responsible for the quality of our homes and lives. Louise Campbell exemplifies this attitude by lending a willing hand with the construction of “Das Haus”, stapling, painting and draping as it takes shape. By celebrating classical sensuality and all that is handmade, her interior concept is the diametric opposite of the technophile tendencies that have become so widespread in today’s world. The designer cites Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, Sherril Jaffe’s Scars Make Your Body More Interesting, Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility and The Cure’s Wild Mood Swings as the sources of her creative inspiration.