Design Your Own Garden Evening Course starts 28th September

Student Exhibition 2017

The Inchbald Exhibition, featuring the Students’ work of the 2016/17 Courses, was held as usual at the Cadogan Hall and was considered by visitors to be an excellent example of good tuition allied to talent and extremely hard work.

Distinguished judges included Tim Gosling, David Harber, Annie Stevens and Anthony Paul. In addition, one of our own ex students, Michelle Holland, now working for Goddard Littlefair, joined the panel, bringing knowledge of the School and new experience to the verdicts.

Interior Design Judge Tim Gosling and Principal Alan Hughes

Among the prizewinners, Julia Zeen (Garden) and Alex Joergensen (Interiors) are both now working for the distinguished Phillipa Thorpe organisation. Rob Sutcliffe and Leigh Glover (both Garden) have started their own companies and we look forward to hearing of their success. Jack McCoy, with several others, is proceeding to taking his Masters at Inchbald and Millie Souter has joined Helena Coates in her studio.

A number of students are currently working as interns, some have returned to their own countries as interns or working designers.

Casper Mackenzie spent his gap year at Inchbald (I think that was a first) and returns to Leeds University to complete his degree there. Perhaps we will welcome him back for his Masters!

One or two, of course, have gone on holiday, and very well deserved!

Meanwhile, the School stays open in preparation for the intake of 17/18 and we look forward to welcoming all our new students, as well as those continuing with their studies here in 2018.

Jacqueline Duncan, Dean

Colourblind Designers – A Hidden Blessing

Jacqueline Duncan, OBE

I recall an interesting conversation which took place long ago between an ex RAF officer and a designer, both of them colour blind.   The officer, Peter Dudgeon, had recently founded an upholstery business, and in doing so had extended his knowledge of colour, its versatility and the surprising effects that could be achieved by its manipulation.

The RAF roundel for example, he assured designer Michael Inchbald, looks as if the colours are all exactly similar in proportion to each other but they are not – the white, which to the normal eye spreads and thus looks larger by comparison, is slightly reduced to give conformity to the whole.   Peter claimed that it had been devised by a colour blind artist (and yes, they do exist!).

The conversation led on to the fascination of camouflage, used so extensively in nature and adapted by man, sometimes for protection and at other times extended to decoration in the form of trompe l’oeil, a painting skill devised to ‘deceive the eye’.   Where camouflage  is concerned, the “handicap” of colour blindness becomes a desirable skill.   Colourblind personnel were recruited in war to design the patterns, and indeed to detect those of the enemy, since the fact of colourblindness indicates a totally different perception of what appears to be the fact observed by normal vision.

Until the end of the 19th century the English army wore scarlet, and were known as redcoats for that reason – it is said that the colour choice did not show the blood!    Red, an aggressive colour in itself, is a subliminal alert to danger, and several hundred scarlet clad soldiers bearing down on their opponents would in itself be a daunting sight.   Interestingly, the gunners wore blue, a colour similar to their weapons and one that would draw less attention to their position.   The guns were not only vital but very expensive.   To a colourblind observer, however, both men and guns would be individually visible.

Scarlet morphed to green and finally around 1902, to the familiar khaki of modern warfare.  This in turn led to the development of military camouflage as we know it, widely used throughout the first and second world wars to obscure and confuse, unless of course, the opposing officer was colour blind himself!

In decoration, the skills of trompe l’oeil artists have been extensively deployed to confuse and deceive the observer, using both painterly and architectural talents.   Wallpaper manufacturers such as Zuber, have taken advantage of this style to produce paper panels that can transform a small room into a garden, or offer an amazing vista on a featureless wall.   And the violin, hung rather nonchalantly with its bow on a paneled door in Chatsworth, is in fact painted on to the door, over the paneling.   The first time I saw this I was astonished to discover that the violin and its shadow were no more than flat paint.

The Chatsworth House violin, which ‘hangs’ from the back of the door to the State Music Room. The trompe l’oeil was painted by Jan van der Vaardt (c.1650-1727).  Photo Diane Naylor © Devonshire Collection, Chatsworth.  Reproduced by permission of Chatsworth Settlement Trustees.

Colour, space, light can all be manipulated to provoke the imagination, or even provide a gentle joke!

Michelle Holland: Summer Exhibition 2017 Judge

At Inchbald we are privileged to have distinguished judges to review the work of our graduates but it was a particular delight to invite former student Michelle Holland back to the School for the 2017 presentation of awards.

Michelle was a memorable student from the class of 2007 coming to the School with a degree in languages and several years experience working as a Hotel Consultant for PKF Hotel Experts then running Market Research for Swiss International Air Lines. She brought creative flair, and a serious sense of business like efficiency to her course work as she tenaciously acquired the skills to make her dream of being an interior designer a reality.

Her final project was an ambitious reworking the Hilton Hotel in Manchester, through a connection made when the then Head of Design for Hilton International came to talk to Inchbald students.  Michelle presented her final work at Cadogan Hall, which was also the venue for her debut as an Inchbald judge this year.

Michelle went to work for Mary Fox Linton, straight after her graduation and after several years moved to Desalles Flint. She is currently an Associate at Goddard Littlefair where she works principally on designing both small and large scale luxury hotels.

The work at this year’s exhibition was in Michelle’s words, “impressive” and she was struck by the variety and finesse of the projects on show.  In her awards speech, she congratulated all those exhibiting, recognising their hard work and the determination it takes to produce work of such a high calibre.  This was an especially significant remark made by a very successful graduate who embarked on an Inchbald course with no experience of design and has subsequently proved herself an asset to the profession.  Her current success comes as no surprise to the staff at Inchbald.

Printing Press Bar & Kitchen, Goddard Littlefair (c)

Alan Hughes. Principal

Interior decorating and agriculture!

On 4th July I was invited to a Summer lunch by Country Life and was able to solve a question. Some twenty years ago a new manufacturer Jim Lawrence, started issuing full page ads featuring light fittings and various artifacts aimed at Interior designers. Surprised by the fact that I had never heard of Jim Lawrence, I asked someone about him and the reply was laconic; “he’s a farmer” I was told and there was no further explanation.

It just seemed surprising at the time, and I have often wondered about the connection between agriculture and interior decoration. On Tuesday I found myself sitting next to the real Jim Lawrence, ready to explain that he was indeed a farmer, that he had changed direction but that he still ran Belted Galloways on his land. So there we were, both heavily involved in the world of design and both devotees of Belties, cattle that I used to breed. There was much to discuss!

On my left was charming Becky Metcalfe, who works in the offices of Chelsea Harbour and opposite was Penny Whitlock who works for her father’s firm, Primeoak. Later I checked out a very attractive website featuring country architecture. Acting hostess was Kathryn Bradley Hole; I have seen a lot of her work but had not had the privilege of meeting her; so lunch was not only interesting but inspiring.

Later in the week I attended the AGM of the British Institute of Interior Design where I found more friends. The Institute was started around 1961 in Milner Street at a lunch I gave for David Hicks, John Siddeley and Jon Bannenberg. Michael was uncertain about the whole idea, and the others were surprised by it but I pointed out that America was well ahead of the UK in its understanding of and support for the Interior design profession and we should follow that example. The school was already started and we needed to regulate the practice and disciplines of designers. Siddeley organised a larger meeting which was received with general enthusiasm but no decisions were taken and no Chairman elected. Unhappily the stars all wanted to be chairman and none of them wanted to do the work!

I should take this opportunity then, to thank and congratulate those hardworking presidents who have brought the BIID to its successful accomplishments and have defined the status of its members.

Jacqueline Duncan, Dean

Can I be a Designer?

Alan Hughes, Principal of Interior Design School discusses how Inchbald can equip you to become a designer and answers the most common question he is asked at interview; can I be a designer?

Every year, in the course of my work, I interview a lot of students; young people starting out on their career and older ones who wish to change the pathway of their work, who would like to concentrate their energies on “something I have always wanted to do”.   And all my interviewees have the same concern – do you think I am good enough to earn my living as a designer – am I creative enough to justify aspiring to success in this profession.

There is much uncertainty around the issue of creativity, and the methodology of communicating and implementing creative ideas.   One of the problems is that artistic skills of any kind have too often been subject to elitism.   This has a great deal to do with early education, when artistic children must demonstrate a high level of talent in order to be taken seriously as contenders for any artistic profession.   This is a selective process which in itself downgrades the natural talents and possibilities of those who could so easily excel with more informed encouragement.

Put more simply, if you have a flair for maths then you are perceived as having the potential to be a successful accountant and encouraged accordingly, but creativity is a more elusive talent and the artistic professions are seen to be more rarefied.

The fact is that we all have an inbuilt reaction to our surroundings in terms of our personal choices of dress, food, comfort and more specifically environment; Thus the average person in the course of their life makes thousands of selective decisions which are dominated by knowledge or education – or the lack of it.   Those reactions are halfway to the point when we actually wish to improve, and begin to design.

However, students aware of the challenges need to know if they can be sure their natural talents will be sufficient in a professional situation; and this includes those who may have had considerable success with their own houses/gardens or those of their friends.   Without benefit of disciplined study such minor success does not necessarily convert into professional achievement.

Often the next uncertainty may be voiced as “I can’t really draw”.   This is a skill which is much easier to learn than my students anticipate.  We teach students to draw far quicker than they anticipate, and of course we teach them the magic complexities of computer aided design.   Once mastered, CAD is almost too easy; equipped with these two systems of communication everyone will find it simple and rewarding to translate their ideas smoothly onto drawing board or screen.    Drawing, like CAD, is a tool, not an end in itself, and in realising this the worry about the skill involved will evaporate.

With those initial fears conquered comes the freedom and exhilaration of design reality together with the pure pleasure of expressing ideas and implementing them.   Students who doubt their ability can take heart from the fact that good and concerned education supporting their own talent and discipline will take them into a successful and very rewarding career.

Any career is a challenge but good education equips us all to face those challenges and overcome them.

Alan Hughes, Principal

Birds still flying at the Tryon Gallery

Birding and Sporting Art: 21st Century Update

On June 22nd I was invited to the Rountree Tryon Gallery for the Charles Stanley Summer party.   I hadn’t been to the Gallery for many years, perhaps when Aylmer was still alive; the collection has widened a bit since his inspired limitation of subject to sporting and wildlife.

My particular interest is in bird painters and I found an enchanting little Thorburn in the back of the gallery, featuring ducks. I note from the website that they have number of distinguished bird painters in their collection.   I am personally interested in Harry Bright, a 19th century illustrator whose bird paintings I have collected for several years.   In my view, he is as good as Thorburn where the subject is similar, in some respects better, but I am not aware he ever took an interest in sporting subjects.   It is in this respect of course that Thorburn so engaged his English public and his popularity has still not waned.

Mallard – Archibald Thorburn (1932)

Aylmer Tryon was as active in his sporting life as he was in his chosen profession and I believe he was responsible for the group who inaugurated the English interest in the River Hofsa in Iceland.

I once spent a very happy week there with friends in the late summer.   The river was as seductive as are all rivers, but allied to the flat landscape, the breadth of the sky and the birds, so unused to human presence that they lacked any fear, I found something very special about Iceland.   And we did catch fish!

The ducks remain in their gallery – Thorburn’s popularity has become exceedingly expensive, but it was a lovely party.

Jacqueline Duncan, Dean

David Harber’s Eaton Square Event

The hottest day this summer found me walking with David Harber through the gardens of Eaton Square to view his spectacular new collection, this time of garden sculptures.   It was a wonderful venue made available to him by the late Duke of Westminster.   The garden planting, the immaculate level of upkeep both went towards an impressive backdrop to sculptures, mostly of metal, conceived to provide particular interest in a garden landscape at once both empathetic and dramatic.

One piece, a pierced ball of bronze petals, each petal gilded on the inside, created an extraordinary effect of captured sunlight and last Wednesday was certainly the right day to appreciate the inventive skill of its author. This piece, called Mantle, can be lit from inside creating a shimmering and evasive light effect in the darkening twilight.   Another ball, made of tiny flat obsidian stones, has been seen at Chelsea, devised as a fountain, the water sliding evocatively across the stones so that the obsidian is presented with a permanent soft gleam.   Another similar model has a quarter lined out of it like a ripe fruit, the new surfaces lined with mirror to conjure and delight the eye.

David Harber’s Eaton Square Sculpture

It was a privilege to be escorted round such an exciting exhibition by David Harber himself, surely the Grand Master of his profession in every way.

Find his work on his website. Forget the bust of Ceres and the Grecian urns; invest in a work of Harber’s art to intrigue and provoke all who visit your garden.

Jacqueline Duncan,Dean

NLA Annual Lecture 2017 by Sir David Adjaye OBE

It was a privilege to listen to architect and designer Sir David Adjaye OBE, in conversation with Peter Murray, the founder of the London Festival of Architecture at the Royal Geographical Society.

It is clear from Adjaye’s work, and his words, that he is an extraordinary talent but what came through most strongly was a really investigative approach in terms of how the response to a brief can develop. It is perhaps obvious to say but his attitude to each client, each job that he spoke of ‘authoring’, is one of an open view as to where the project might lead. Commenting that a consequence of public recognition often makes the audience assume they will get something that they could identify as an Adjaye style building, he was very clear to emphasise that clients would be disappointed as he and his collaborators approach each new project from a very individual standpoint resulting in an appropriate outcome, rather than one that could be identified as having the Adjaye look.

The development of a personal style is often a concern for new designers; Adjaye is a great exponent of those who utilise an ‘approach to the process of design’ as their style. He advises that the outcome can and should lead anywhere.

The collaborative element to Adjaye’s work was much discussed. With offices in the US, Africa and London, he stressed the diversity of his fellow designers in studio and celebrated the varied cultural influences available particularly in London. “I am lucky to travel all around the world, the people I meet, they envy London its diversity, its creative energy as a centre for culture and design”. He collaborates with many other architects, running what seems to be a multidisciplinary studio; Chris Ofili, Deyan Sudjic, James Turrell to name but three, pulling on all areas of fine art and design. His sustainable approach indicates a broad view and is “more about lifestyle and how we live” than simply focused on material and carbon footprint. He thinks about the use of a space for everyday life, mixing in with what is already established. Idea Store in Whitechapel High Street showcases this approach as a community library, presented in a completely democratic manner and rubbing shoulders with market stalls and regular ‘high street’ activity, completely at ease in such an achievement.

Questions from young, and older architects completed the evening with encouragement and advice. His message, decide what you want to do and follow that decision but do it with passion. Clear, sincere and eminently good advice, the passion from the speaker was obvious.

Alan Hughes

The Wonder Of Trees

Jacqueline Duncan OBE, Dean reflects on the use of large trees in garden design on her visit to Audley End, Essex.

Last weekend I took the opportunity  to re-visit the tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera) at Audley End and found it, handsome as ever and still in flower.

Audley End, Saffron Walden, Essex

Audley End is one of the most extraordinary of the great English mansions.   Once a monastic foundation more than twice its present size, it has served as a royal palace and latterly as a private home.   There is much to admire in the house, but surely the pride of the estate must be the magical parkland setting with a rich variety of specimen trees; and included in this collection is a magnificent tulip tree.   Find it to the left of the restaurant area as you look at the front elevation;  not yet at its peak it is the perfect size and spread, the curious rather fat leaves giving the plant a particularly attractive texture.   It is presently in the midst of flowering, the pretty bell shaped blooms with golden petals and orange stamens, the tree still covered in buds.

Liriodendron tulipifera

Through this exceptional parkland flows the Cam, with a small tributary running alongside the Walled gardens  featuring a fine double herbaceous border and some interesting orchard planting which will look magnificent in maturity.

Last year I planted a handkerchief tree (Davidia) purchased from Landford Trees and must wait some years for it to flourish the remarkable white sepals that appear in the late spring – here in Eccleston Square is a well established specimen that emphasizes the drama and the joy of trees.   This autumn I shall order a tulip tree from the same nursery and hope that some future guardian will benefit from its mature beauty.

If you find the notion of such a major tree in your garden overwhelming, then look at Cornus Eddie’s White Wonder, a beautiful plant of more modest size but offering a spectacular and long lasting flowering in the late Spring.

And go to Audley End – it is so worth a visit.

Garden Water Features

How To… Use Water Features In Your Garden

Andrew Duff

Water features of any size are a great asset to the garden.  Not only do they provide a focal point but they also give a sense of well-being. Whether still or moving the tranquil effects of water can calm or uplift any space.

For the small garden think about scale.  We assume that a small garden requires small features and that everything needs to be in proportion.  This makes the space seem even smaller, a sort of miniature garden.  So, have fun and take a risk!  Large sculptures or pots add a sense of drama.  Large leaved plants backed with smaller leaved plants help accentuate the depth, making the garden seem larger.  Do not limit yourself to a very small water feature; for water to work well you need at least half a metre square of surface area.  And remember the rule about using an existing measurement – try the door or window width or even a path dimension; coordinating measurements will anchor any feature you choose to introduce.

So, have fun and take a risk!  Large sculptures or pots add a sense of drama.

Materials are important. Do you want the feature to stand out or blend in?  Link back to a material that is already in the garden in order to harmonise. If the house is brick introduce brick again.  For a cottage garden galvanised metal or rusty steel can be both contemporary and traditional.  Is your water feature flush with the ground or is it raised?  In a small space a raised pool often works better.  A 1 m2 pool raised 450mm high provides an exciting focal point, is large enough for dramatic reflection and, the rim is the right height to sit on and enjoy.

Fountains can make or break.  Think subtle and sophisticated.

A large fountain in a small pool is totally out of scale.  Try a small bubble fountain fixed just under the water’s surface; the jet will gently babble away creating a calming movement and sound, or use a very fine jet and keep it simple.  One arching spray of water on the centre is more than adequate. For a Mediterranean feel locate a jet in each corner of a square or rectangular pool and aim them to cross each other. The Alhambra Garden in Spain is a great resource for inspiration.

Still water requires a little more maintenance to keep it clean and it will also evaporate quicker.  A little black dye will help heighten the reflective qualities and stop algae growing.

The Alhambra Gardens in Spain

Do not overcrowd a pool with lots of plants; remember the design mantra that less is more.  Again think scale. You don’t want a miniature water garden, but you do need to choose plants that are appropriate to the pond size.  Miniature water lilies can work well if planted alone. For contrast plant large oval-leaved Hosta around the edge and sword-shaped Iris directly into the water.  If you are looking for inspiration I would suggest visiting the flower shows or have a look at their websites – RHS Hampton Court Flower Show is generally the best one for water-plants.  (Try not to look at the larger water gardens; this is not the look you are trying to achieve.)

Safety, with water in the garden, is paramount.  A raised feature is safer, especially if you have young children, but I would always insist the client has a metal grid fitted just below the water surface so that if a child falls in, the grid would protect them.


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