As one of Britain’s most exciting young interior designers, Swedish-born Beata Heuman brings a playful energy to her sophisticated and irreverent designs. In this extract from her debut book ‘Every Room Should Sing’, Beata explains what really makes a happy home
THE DINING ROOM AT A COUNTRY COTTAGE DESIGNED BY BEATA HEUMAN. THE PAINTED BOOKSHELVES ARE INSPIRED BY THE BLOOMSBURY GROUP’S CHARLESTON IN EAST SUSSEX. THE SWEDISH 1850s OVAL DINING TABLE IN BURR ELM WOOD CAN BE EXTENDED FOR LARGER DINNERS. IMAGE: SIMON BROWN
When I was a child, my world was one road long: the tree-lined drive up to the house where we lived. I grew up in a tiny hamlet, made up of my family’s farm and almost nothing else, in Skåne, in the south of Sweden. I had my three siblings for company, but could go for weeks without really seeing anyone else until I started school, which begins at age seven in Sweden. Our home was everything to me and that feeling—that this one place can encompass all that you need—has never left me.
Even in less isolated circumstances, home is a powerful thing for children. Not only is it the dominant place of a child’s existence, but our senses are heightened when we are little. Everything is new and in Technicolor, and impressions are felt deeply. Childhood helps to form our understanding of what home is and what we might want it to be; allowing our inner voice to be heard is invaluable when trying to connect with what home means to each of us. I have gone from growing up in rural Sweden to living in the vast city of London. There is a generosity about how the English live, and how they welcome guests into their homes. It feels relaxed and open, and there is a worldly air about the place. This is definitely something that has affected my view of home and how I would like to live, especially as my interests, needs, and priorities shift as time goes by. That said, the thing that strikes me is how little has really changed. The core remains within, and it still influences what I seek when it comes to the environment around me. The older I get, the more strongly I feel it. It is not all that I am, but recognising everything I still have in common with the child I was is to me one of the pleasures of getting a little older.
BEATA’S FIRST SOLO PROJECT, WHICH ENABLED HER TO SET UP HER OWN STUDIO. THE VIBRANT PINK WALLS OF THE LIVING ROOM (LEFT) ARE A FOIL TO THE SLIGHTLY MACABRE WALTER FORD PRINTS. NAVY UPHOLSTERY GROUNDS THE SCHEME, WHILE THE BRIGHT ORANGE OF THE HALL CABINET LENDS AN UNEXPECTED EDGE. IN THE MASTER BEDROOM (RIGHT) BEATA DESIGNED PLAYFUL PELMETS FOR THE WINDOWS AND HER OWN MARBLEISED VELVET FOR THE SOFA AT THE FOOT OF THE BED. THE MIRROR IS FROM A CZECH DANCEHALL AND BEATA CHOSE A RESTFUL BLUE FOR THE CEILING. IMAGES: SIMON BROWN
Many aspects go into building a home: the architecture, the functionality, the local vernacular, and so on. These are all important, of course, but too often the most intimate and emotionally engaging part of building a home—creating a sense of sentimentality in the space—is neglected, most notably by commercial property developers. Anyone who has walked into a show home in London will understand what I mean—invariably a monstrosity in flame-retardant graphite upholstery and nasty dark wood veneers, with glaring spotlights leading you from “en suites” to the “family lounge,” each room more depressing than the next. It is not built to last for generations. It is not there to meaningfully connect with you. There are no layers of history beneath. In fact, it is shamelessly the opposite: a bland, conformist, empty ideal presented to prospective buyers in the name of “luxury.” Spending time there won’t make you feel good, because of the complete lack of anything sentimental or personal. It is soulless design with no sense of place, and because of how prescriptive this look is, it is almost impossible to add layers to, and so it mostly just stays that way. The fact that this hopelessly dreary and already dated style remains the face of a multibillion-pound industry is baffling to me.
Instead, think of a moment when you come across an item that meant something to you as a child; there will be a leap of the heart and a flurry of emotion within. Recognising something personal is comforting, uplifting, and sweet. It means something. Having familiar items from way back makes me feel more connected to my house in London but also to my home in Sweden and growing up. It is nice to think that these same things will in time evoke memories for my own children. Why aren’t we more actively trying to include moments like this in our interiors? The importance of the sentimental should not be underestimated. In the words of Billy Baldwin, “Nothing, and I mean nothing, is interesting unless it is personal.”
THE SOFA IN THE LIVING ROOM IN THIS PROJECT WAS BOUGHT AT AUCTION AND HAD BELONGED TO LEGENDARY AMERICAN WRITER, PAINTER AND PHILANTHROPIST FLEUR COWLES. THE ARMCHAIR BELONGED TO THE CLIENTS AND BEATA HAD IT REUPHOLSTERED, WHILE THE OTTOMAN, SHELVES AND SIDE TABLE WERE MADE BESPOKE. THE WALL HANGING IS FROM A NEW TRIBE. IMAGE: SIMON BROWN
Your home will continue to evolve with you through life, taking in whatever comes your way and reflecting you and your family’s past and present. It needs to be a fold for all the experiences you go through, which is a completely individual journey. That is why any sort of uniform style never seems quite right to me in a residential setting. A singularly modernist interior can leave me awestruck. But how can life take place there when relaxing in your armchair disturbs the aesthetic? A prescriptive style is a fascinating way to explore a concept. At its best, it is a work of art. It can work very well in a restaurant or a hotel where you have an experience for a night or a few days. But to me, it is not an environment to call home. A strictly uniform approach might look awful or it might look great, but in both instances it is without the mark of individual personality. If a space does not allow you to be your complete self, how can you be happy there? We are all different and contradictory in nature—serious and silly at once. I think we need this complexity reflected in the things around us to feel stimulated and at ease. We are more than just one thing.
The home should be a true reflection of who you are and where you are, but you also want to make sure your surroundings are the best versions of themselves, to serve your intentions for the kind of life you want to lead. It is not the easiest point to illustrate, but the same idea lies behind religious buildings. Places of worship are designed to inspire their congregations and help them access a range of emotions through architecture and iconography. Your surroundings affect you consciously and unconsciously, and we should all aspire to construct a home environment that helps us to be the person we want to be. An interior can enrich your life, and can even open your mind to certain ideas. You need to seek the right combination of whatever matters to you.
(LEFT) IN THIS COUNTRY COTTAGE PROJECT, BEATA SOURCED AT AUCTION THESE 18TH-CENTURY BOTANICAL PRINTS WHICH WERE BEAUTIFULLY FRAMED BY THEIR PREVIOUS OWNER, FLEUR COWLES. THE DECO CHAIR IS AN UNEXPECTED ADDITION AND BRINGS A TENSION TO THE SCHEME. (RIGHT) THE PITCHED CEILING AND PILLAR-BOX RED CORAL PENDANT BRING DRAMA TO THE COTTAGE’S BATHROOM, WHILE THE NATURAL MARBLE AND BLEACHED OAK FLOOR GROUND THE ROOM. IMAGES: SIMON BROWN
So, what is home? The answer could be a simple list of what you need: a place to sleep, a place to eat, a place to wash, a place to store things, a place to read, a place to sit with friends. All of this is true. What is also true is that the main spaces we occupy shape us, more than we might realise, and all too often there is a dislocation between people’s home design and their personalities. Like anything worthwhile, it will take time and effort to work out what home means to you, and even longer to build an environment that is a true reflection of who you are. What I can say for sure is that if you persevere and put some effort into it, you will find that creating a real sense of home will bring you comfort, joy, and excitement. I believe that if you are happy in your home environment, you will feel a sense of fulfilment and well-being, and your home can become what I think all interiors should be: truly life enhancing.
Every Room Should Sing by Beata Heuman*, photography by Simon Brown, Rizzoli International Publications, RRP £45
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