Ilse Crawford / Touch Collection

Ilse Crawford is a name that everyone should know, in my opinion. One of my absolute favourite designers and inspirations, the journalist-turned-interior designer is a leader in her field (Ilse was Mason & Objet’s Designer of the Year in 2016, and was awarded an MBE for Outsanding Services to Interior Design, although this is not bragged about by the humble creative).

Focussing on putting the human at the centre of interior design, with a keen eye for tactility within materials, StudioIlse have worked on pieces such as Cecconi’s, and the Soho House in New York. Recently adding product design to their lengthy skill set, the London-based team bring the same human care to their sleek products which utilise materials and processes that are touched by your eye so delicately, yet intensely. Forms are smooth, materials are tangible, even just through sight.

With such fascination for the works of Ilse Crawford, it was becoming difficult to narrow down which piece to write about. The mint, European Cecconis, the luxurious Aesop Store (which takes your mind to more clean, peaceful places than you could ever imagine just upon looking), the striking Et Hem that brings out the best in Swedish design and lifestyle. Maybe these are for another time, once I have experienced them through more than photographs and videos (I admit that I watch Ilse’s episode of the addictive Abstract on a bi-weekly basis). In September this year, whilst marvelling at London Design Festival, I was lucky enough to experience the work of Ilse Crawford in person.

The Touch Collection of design was produced by StudioIlse in collaboration with Bosnian makers, Zanat, who preserve and use local traditional woodcarving techniques. The Touch bench, cabinet, table and lamp were on display at No. 4 Cromwell Place, in London’s Kensington area. An almost overwhelming sense of grandeur fell over me as soon as I approached the classy, white location for the StudioIlse display.

The first thing to note about my recollections of being in the presence of some of the designers behind the Touch Collection, and the furniture itself, is that I cannot emphasise how much touching occurred. Hands were drawn to have a gloss over the undulating surfaces of the table, bench and cabinet upon entry to the room – and so, the Collection lived up to its name. The smell freshly carved wood curls lingered in the air, as camera shutters clapped and hands were bumped and pulsated along surfaces. Another piece of design excellence to mention is the dimensions of the Touch Table. Rounded corners not only mirror the soft curves of the wood carved mounds, but also allow for maximum use of space. Far more people can be seated around a circular table edge than one where corners spike and push you away; the table is crafted to a width that encourages conversation between two sitting at it. Eyes were guided through mountains and valleys created along the carved tabletop, transporting your mind to rolling Bosnian Mountains. A touch of animal life amongst the Mountainous tops was added through a soft, grey, tightly curled wool rug, which laid atop of the accompanying bench. As you looked up from the furniture, your sight was greeted by soft, faded green watercolour-esque streaks in the wallpaper. Faint enough that should you not pay attention, you may miss it, although strong enough that once noticed, gradients of green take your mind back to the Bosnian Mountains visited only moments ago. Yet another sensual marvel to behold. All senses were heightened, invigorated and left in awe.

I can only hope that my encounter with the Touch Collection is not my last with the design of StudioIlse.

– J

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