Breaking the boundaries of interior design is what keeps my job interesting. So last month I was honoured to meet Reev Aram, a designer who brought contemporary design to Britain at a time when the country was a modern furniture wasteland.
Reev was speaking at the annual conference of the BIID, held at RIBA HQ at Portland Place, London, followed by a gathering at designer rug company Front, which turned into quite a party as it was also the Institute’s 50th anniversary.
Reev opened his first showroom on London’s Kings Road in 1964, filling it with the work of Castiglioni, Breuer, and Le Corbusier when the English were on a diet of G Plan and Stag.
|The Aram Store in Covent Garden|
Passers-by were shocked! Zeev would stand outside, listening to their comments as they stopped and stared at the bright, white, stainless steel interior. Most thought the modern showroom and its modern furniture were an affront – he even received hate mail. "Who needs this rubbish?" they asked. They called it clinical, and wondered why anyone would want to buy 'hospital furniture'.
A few months later, Terence Conran opened Habitat further down the road; for the first time, the British consumer had an alternative to chintz. Mary Quant and her mini skirt wasn't the only revolution happening in Chelsea that year.
How times have changed, and now the pieces Zeev chose have become design classics, endlessly copied but still looking as fresh as they did in the 60s. Fifty years on, Aram is now located in the heart of Covent Garden and remains the capital’s top destination for furniture and product design.
In a room filled with the UK and Europe’s leading designers, I was not alone in my reverence for Reev Aram. As well as bringing great design to Britain, he’s a designer in his own right, notably producing the iconic arc lamp that is now so in vogue. I have used this lamp many times in my designs and I love his knack of mixing old with new for an eclectic feel that is very much the ‘At Home’ style too.
One thing Reev said really resonated with me, and it was this: ‘Good design is something that fulfils its purpose in the most beautiful possible way. I have learned to trust my instinct; if something makes me catch my breath, then I know I'm looking at good design.’
Wise words, and a sentiment that I would always aspire to.
Hugh Jamieson, Principal Designer, At Home Interiors