House for an Art Lover (…That’s Me!)


Oh, how I wish that this House for an Art Lover was built for me. Unfortunately it wasn’t, but I promise that one day when I’m rich and famous I’m going to steal this design!

I’ve already raved about Charles Rennie Mackintosh and the design for the Glasgow School of Art, but this project was one that he never saw built. He and his wife designed this house in 1901 for a competition by the German maggazine Zeitschrift für Innendekoration, but they were disqualified and did not win (they did get a consolation prize for “pronounced personal quality, novel and austere form and the uniform configuration of interior and exterior”).

In the 1980s a number of people decided to finally build the house according to Mackintosh’s designs, and interpreted his sketches and plans as best as possible. The building finally opened to the public in 1996, as a museum and art centre attached to the School of Art.  It is by far my favorite thing in Glasgow, and I would highly recommend to anyone interested in architecture, art, or design.

An exterior view of the house in Bellahouston Park.

The original designs were interpreted by John Kane, Graeme Robertson, and Andrew MacMillan, among others. From this view it doesn't look like the house has many windows, yet the interior feels light and airy.

The original design sketches from Rennie Mackintosh.

At our tour of the GSA, Ruth told us that Mackintosh liked to use these mullioned windows because they provide a frame of reference for a particular scene. You can easily sketch or draw what you see within each rectangle, using the frame as a point of reference.

These window seats are directly in front of the mullioned windows, providing the perfect place from which to sketch. This same bench/window design feature was used at the Glasgow School of Art. Notice the swirl on the arm of the bench, as well as the slight curve on the step. I think that this softens the harshness and severity of the wooden seat. (Not that a cushion wouldn't help, too!)

When we were there, the room was set up for a private event, but I found this picture on the web that shows the Dining Room as it's mean to be seen.

The barrel vaulted ceiling really did a lot to open up the space. Without the white above, I think that all the dark woods could feel very heavy.

This stained glass appears in the door separating the dining room from the music room. The heavy dark wood contrasts strongly with the lyrical design of the rose, which could be considered a Mackintosh/Macdonald trademark.

This is the interior for the Music Room. The piano here was completely designed for the space, and utilizes a much more feminine shape than the dining room next door.

Here you can see the reality behind the stylized rose that appears through many of the design details at the house. The vertical lines of the structure pair nicely with the curved petals of the flower, much like Mackintosh marries the masculine/dark wood/vertical features with the feminine/white/curved designs throughout many elements within the house.

Many of these sculptures by Margaret McDonald are scattered throughout the house. I love the interplay of the stone; the carved stone segments are both separate and united at the same time.

Another sculpture placed in the window. Here, once again, you can see the relationship between light and dark, straight and curved, and clear and opaque. I think Mackintosh and Macdonald must have had an amazing relationship to be so aware and so respectful of the combining of such different elements.

On the balcony. Notice the curved windows/doors! Even the planters have a very typical Mackintosh design in the set of 9 squares. It has been suggested that he was mimicking the tile work in the local tenement buildings by using this simple square structure.

The view looking out the curved window/door onto the balcony. You can just see the fabric hanging alongside, which was designed for the space.

Mackintosh designed some lovely light fixtures for the house. Most of the others are long and dangly, but this one is oval in shape and casts some delightful shadows on the ceiling. Do you see the rose design, once again, in the stained glass? Also uses filament bulbs, so the light was lovely and fuzzy.

This is a panel near the fireplace, designed (I believe) by Margaret Macdonald. It reminds me of Klimt's The Kiss, but in art nouveau style. And look! More roses! In the one picture of Macdonald that I've seen, she also has her hair styled like this, in a large rounded poof to the side.

In addition to being a designer, Margaret was a skilled silversmith. These plaques are found at about 9 feet high on the columns in the dining room. Do you see the very subtle colors in the rose and leaves?

The fireplace in the Music Room. The palette of pale purple, pink, and green is found throughout the house.

An example of the long and dangly light fixtures. These are set in two parallel lines all along the dining room. Again, using filament bulbs.

My favorite feature of the house is these windows/doors. The curved nature of the glass softens what could be seen as a harsh wall. Often in modern architecture this effect is accomplished with having a wall entirely of glass, but that feels naked to me. This allows light and space to flow back and forth between the inside and outside, yet still maintains that there is a difference between the two. I also like the distortion on the curved glass!

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Posted on 29/07/2010, in Exploring the UK, travel and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

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