May 22, 2015

What is Luxury? Being an Outsider

Luxury is ubiquitous, craft has been commodified and, according to Peter York, “authenticity is a con.” When luxury is no longer luxurious and limited editions can be purchased at Primark, only ultra-luxury will do. This means finding something that no one else can have, or afford – be it bespoke, vintage or antique – perhaps a pair of socks woven from hair, a golden pebble, or whatever floats your multi-million pound super-yacht. Assiduously handcrafted artefacts, like Inhedited’s £400-a-pop gilt-edged, Japanese marbled notebooks (see below), are readily available to the few… but it may be more satisfying to make something yourself.

Inhedited notebook cover

Inhedited rulerInedited notebook hand marbled inside coverToday’s ultimate luxuries are surely things that are not so easy to come by, like space, time, education and taste? We increasingly yearn for a place where we are not hounded by online advertisers, or disturbed by digital reminders of tasks we have yet to complete, or purchases we are called upon to rate. We’d prefer to shut out the dissonance from the haves versus have-nots – to escape to a quieter place, where the emphasis is on slow living – and simple, everyday pleasures, like cooking, cleaning and reading a book – or a magazine (preferably one we can touch and smell too). New luxury is the simplicity of hanging your washing out on a line in the fresh air (see photograph above top from Visuology Magazine 2: The Outsider Issue).

Designers have not missed out on this trend, as evidenced at Clerkenwell Design Week, where exhibits included ‘affordable’, design-led alternative living in the form of a city (or country) barge – see below. Bert and May’s one bedroom ‘luxury’ floating suite, created by RaT Architecture and styled by Laura Fulmine, offers a Scandinavian vintage interior with “a hidden foldaway double bed, creating the perfect solution for guest stays.” However, there was no mention of the mooring fees, or the fact that it’s not possible to get a conventional mortgage for a houseboat.

City Barge

Bert and May Spaces - city bargeInside Bert and May City BargeAs ‘craft’ becomes a brand in its own right, expect handcrafted style to inveigle itself into every aspect of our lives. Not a bad thing, especially if it is original, sustainable and locally produced. Out of the Valley, a new company set up by Dartmoor based Rupert McKelvie creates bespoke cabins, furniture and interiors. With a focus on “off-grid” living, his company’s designs use sustainable materials and locally sourced timbers, wherever possible. Out of the Valley‘s efficient yet easy-on-the-eye cabins draw on traditional building techniques, such as timber frames – as well as newer methodologies, including solar power, micro-hydro glazing and other innovative insulation techniques.

Out of the Valley cabin

Out of the Valley cabin interiorOut of the Valley cabin in sunshineFor more outsider inspiration, see our previous posts on hermitage housing and Harajuku’s Hideaway Treehouse Café, and visit the V&A’s What is Luxury? exhibition (until 27th September) to re-consider the meaning, purpose and future of craft.

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