Designer Charlotte Taylor’s Aspirational Architecture Takes Her Beyond the Virtual Realm
A new book, 'Design Dreams,' documents the British designer's feet-on-the-ground fantastical renderings, and many IRL projects are in the works.
The British designer Charlotte Taylor’s virtual, domestic dream spaces are distinctly soft and creamy. Through the aspirational architecture she creates with her studio Maison de Sable, Taylor offers a vision of arcadian fantasy in a palette of ecru and eggshell. Minimalist and for the most part immersed in nature, her digital domiciles feel richer in sensuality and attention to detail than over-the-top opulence or sheer square footage.
“Most people’s idea of the dream home has been informed by reality TV,” Taylor said. “It’s not my style, these houses on Selling Sunset. Part of my work is giving people access to another kind of dream home that’s more attainable.” More and more her practice is transcending the digital and bringing these fantasies to life.
While virtual renders might bring to mind something more akin to a video game than Kinfolk magazine, Taylor uses the medium to build a universe of clean lines, soft light, and a sense of the serene. In July, she released the book Design Dreams, a survey of 3D-rendered speculative architecture that features futuristic Modernist builds immersed in nature. While architects have long used renderings to visualize design proposals, this compendium brings together the work of Taylor and her peers who’ve developed a subgenre of virtual home design where the render is more an end than a means, escapist imaginings of domestic living that admirers consume as entertainment-fantasy. While some of the designers in the book favor environments that are more surreal or sci-fi, Taylor instead aims for intimacy. “I hope that the spaces are not too far-fetched so people can still have a relationship with them,” she said.
Taylor often includes details like strewn books and unmade beds, suggesting an appreciation for life’s simple pleasures. Luxury here is the fantasy of having nothing to do all day but read in a tangle of sheets as perfect light pours in. In her virtual worlds, books and magazines are everywhere, a hint at how much vintage print media plays a role in her design process. “I really like back issues of Domus,” said the 29-year-old who studied fine art and begins each design with hand-drawn sketches. “What makes my 3D projects more familiar is I’m referencing the staging and styling you see in older interiors magazines.”
The most fantastical element in Taylor’s creations is the possibility of so much untouched nature. Through windows we gaze on stunning vistas of desert horizon or volcanic rock face, uninterrupted by people or other architecture. “Even in Taylor’s most hyper-modern interiors, there’s something bucolic,” said architect and PIN–UP magazine founder Felix Burrichter. “In this vision of a new pastoral, everything is soft, including the line between what’s real and what’s fake.”
Right now, Taylor is hard at work translating the design language she’s developed through CGI into a number of in-the-flesh projects. Later this year she’s set to release her first furniture collection through the Lisbon gallery Garcé and Dimofski. “The gallery is all about utilizing craft in Portugal,” explained Taylor, who’s designed a daybed, ashtray, lamp, and chair made from local wood and conceptualized around the simplicity of the material and joinery. While the furniture collection exists IRL, for its release Taylor has also designed a virtual home to stage the pieces. “Ideally we would like to build the house too, but let’s say we’re looking for a plot at the moment — very loosely looking for a plot.”
Though the house in Portugal seems destined to remain a fantasy for the foreseeable future, Taylor has already broken ground on a few other buildings. The furthest along is a desert house in Utah, a collaboration with Studio Andrew Trotter, commissioned for Parea Zion, a hotel and wellness retreat located on 240 acres outside Zion National Park and scheduled to open at the end of 2024. While Taylor designed the place to showcase the dramatic canyons all around, she had to consider real-world weather conditions for the first time. “I had an all-glass facade and the architect was like, ‘that’s going to be boiling!’”
She added, “I come with really far-fetched ideas,” she said. “The dialogue between traditional architecture and my head-in-the-clouds approach is interesting.”
Another project of Taylor’s is designing the interiors for a listening bar, also planned to open in 2024. “I think it’s going to be the first listening bar in London,” said Taylor, referring to the Japanese concept of a cafe or lounge with a swanky sound system designed for patrons to listen to vinyl – they’ve been a Tokyo mainstay since the 1950s but have recently gotten trendy in cities like New York. Taylor explained her listening bar will be different from the traditional wood-clad bars you find in Japan. “Acoustically, wood is the best, but we’re going to stain the wood and really work with lighting to make it feel futurist,” she said.
Taylor is also renovating an old farmhouse in Puglia, southern Italy. “It’s actually my ex-girlfriend’s house, but I’m still working on it,” she explained. “It’s a modest house compared to most of my designs but that makes for a nice challenge. Attention to detail becomes even more important when you have such little space to work with. And I tried to keep consistent with the Puglian aesthetic, finding a balance between that traditional style and what you see in my digital projects.” The project is expected to be completed in 2025.
Though she’s expanding into IRL design, Taylor isn’t done with CGI. “I still want to continue with the 3D because it’s a good way of experimenting, and at the moment I’m thinking about how I can take it to the next level by getting the other senses involved,” she said. “How is scent linked to a sense of place? How can we think about architecture in a way that’s not purely visual?”
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