Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Best Rooms of 2010...?

Australian House & Garden does a feature every year where they list the top 50 rooms of the year.  The 2010 picks have just been released.   There were quite a few which did not grab me at all as they looked too styled, too display home, or just a teeny bit ugly.  These are my five favourites:


You can see that I like white, clean and bright.  And this did get me thinking about this question: what exactly is Australian style?   

There is a lot one could say on this topic, one could mention our 'easy going' inside \ outside sunny lifestyle.   But that forgets of course that a substantial part of the south of the country has cold winters and even snow.   One could talk about how we love to use colour, but then what about all those lovely white and neutral interiors we see everywhere?  Or we could look at all the natural timbers and fibres we use, or our hard edged modern back extensions.  

My answer is much simpler, and harks back to the days of the Australian Impressionists who, inspired by the French, gathered at Heidelberg outside Melbourne to paint in what was then a radical new style.   They found that the light in Australia was completely different to the light in Europe.  It means that they had to adjust their painting technique and subject matter and colour to address the hard squinty brightness of the light.

This is illustrated by these wonderful works, all painted in the same year:

Charles Conder 'Herricks Blossoms' 1889

Arthur Streeton 'Golden Summer Eaglemont' 1889
(this is now an inner suburb of Melbourne)

Arthur Streeton 'Windy and Wet' 1889

I think this hits the nail on the head.  The light in Australia is different to the light in other countries.  It is harsher and brighter (and burnier, as I have found out at some cost).  This means you have to decorate and design differently.  You need shady spots, and you have to be careful with too much white.  It means that colours show through clearly and cleanly, so the shade of red which may look burgundy in a room in France is fire engine red here.  And that lovely white Swedish room may cause sun blindness here.

I know someone whose mother died in the 1980's and when they packed up her home they found an Arthur Streeton painting hidden under her bed.   Why would you hide the work of such a wonderful artist?    

(Images: (1)(5) Australian House and Garden (6) from the book 'Living the Modern - Australian Architecture) (7) - (9) from the National Gallery of Victoria)


Ann said...

Lovely post Jane. I like your light theory.

I didn't like the rooms in H&G's list - even less than last year's list. Too architecty (my new word) and sleek and soulless for me. I did like all the black though...

Lee said...

Good analysis of the HG top 50 rooms. None of the rooms really grabbed me either - I usually do the 'which one would I have?' thing, but this year nothing jumped out at me.

Amazing story about the Streeton under the bed!

brismod said...

I just spent some time looking at the 50 rooms. I like the five you chose - white, clean and bright are good attributes.
The Streeton under the bed is intriguing. Maybe she wasn't meant to have it in the first place? Or maybe it's the equivalent of hiding money in the mattress?

Mise said...

Lots of black and white there, Jane, and a sort of stately modernism. I can imagine you in any of these rooms. And now you've got me wanting to see Australian light for myself to note the difference. The furthest place I've never been...

Jacqueline @ HOME said...

Dear Jane,
I love the paintings....all of them.....they have a great similarity too.....Streeton and Conder, I mean.....very light and delicate.
..... and such stylish interiors. Slightly minimalist but with interest. ....and, very you, with that touch of retro.
Hope that you are enjoying your weekend. XXXX

Samantha said...

I like your room pics. I like light, bright and not "too" decorated, also.

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