Monday, March 16, 2015
Spring Book Releases: Anouska Hempel
I read Anouska Hempel last week, and I have to confess that I'm having difficulty putting my thoughts into words. Designer monographs typically provide readers with an even-keeled reading experience. There are some design books in which the featured work looks more or less the same throughout the entire book, while there are other monographs- Nicky Haslam's comes to mind- whose photographs capture a range of looks and styles. However, even when a body of work is diverse or eclectic, its collective similarities are often obvious enough to make it look cohesive on paper, something which usually guarantees that reading design books will be smooth-sailing.
But Anouska Hempel's work- and Anouska Hempel, for that matter- is altogether different. It seems to shift course dramatically, moving from one end of the style spectrum to the other. Take, for example, the designer's country house, Cole Park, which is featured prominently in her monograph. When I studied the book's photos (see below), words like "lavish" and "baroque" came to mind. I was even reminded of a perfume that I frequently wore back in the early 1990s: Guerlain's Samsara, which is a heavy, oriental-type fragrance. It must have been Cole Park's surfeit of objects and rich, deep colors that evoked this olfactory memory. And yet, in just one flick of the page, the home's opulent redolence evaporated, for there on the page was a photograph of Cole Park's attic bedroom, a palate-cleanser of a room if there ever was one. Like the rest of the house, this room has a sharply-defined look, but its non-color colors and earthy fabrics convey a mood that is altogether different from the rest of the house.
Such radical shifts in style and aesthetics have the potential to exhaust and confuse the reader. But Marcus Binney, the book's author, manages to create a sense of harmony out of interiors that may seem discordant at first glance. In the book's introduction, Binney writes of those hallmarks of Hempel's work, including the use of screens ("to add an air of mystery, partially concealing, but also hinting at what lies beyond"), grouping of objects, and attention to light and reflections. Once armed with this information, the reader will start to see that Hempel's rich, decadent interiors and her zen-like spaces are not as dramatically different as they might at first seem. It takes a thorough reading and careful study of this book to understand why Hempel designs as she does. If you're not prepared to do both, then this book may not be for you. But, if you're up to the challenge, what you are rewarded with is a book that will likely encourage you to think differently- and more deeply- about the design process.
Image credit: © Anouska Hempel by Marcus Binney, Rizzoli New York, 2015.