This shoot was influenced by my love of Japan and experiences on a recent family holiday there. It was photographed by the talented Ben Anders.
I have always admired the way the Japanese use space, embrace texture and use dark shadows and this shoot explores those elements, showing that even when there is empty space, an image can feel complete.
A recent book I read, a gift from a friend, entitled In The Praise Of Shadows is an essay on Japanese aesthetics by author and novelist Jun’ichirō Tanizaki. It explores architecture and a sense of the use of space in buildings. This magical book also includes descriptions of lacquerware under candlelight and illustrates beauty in the imperfect.
I painted the backdrops and surfaces to give texure and interest to calm areas in the shots. The foliage was selected for the natural imperfections. The shot above was influenced by temple moss gardens, small internal courtyard gardens and miniature planting.
Many props were brought back from Japan from visits to flea markets, stationers, calligraphy stores and ceramics galleries. Other props were from home made by Japanese ceramicists and bought from Flow Gallery.
Photography Ben Anders, styling Sania Pell.
Last August I was delighted to be asked design the dinner setting and co-host a very special evening with Jemima Burrill, curator of NOW Gallery at Greenwich Peninsula, to celebrate women in design. The event, that we themed ‘texture’, saw some of the most talented female designers in the UK come together to celebrate and discuss their work, including Sonnet Stanfill, curator at the V&A and Helen Arvanitakis from Tom Dixon’s Design Research Studio.
The evening opened with a talk from fashion designer Phoebe English, whose work was was shown in an accompanying exhibition. In conversation with Jemima Burrill she spoke about her journey from student to fashion designer and her love of using traditional ‘forgotten’ crafts.
The dinner was held in the Tom Dixon show apartment at Greenwich Peninsula. I set three long dinner tables with charcoal linens, hand-drawn chalked lines and bespoke place settings using my original ink drawings. I designed the table setting to complement Phoebe English’s exhibition and her largest installation to date.
The evening continued with garden designer Alys Fowler describing her inspiration for the design of the new gardens at Greenwich Peninsula which is rich in texture and flora. We then heard from Helen Arvanitakis from Tom Dixon Studio who spoke about her design concepts and inspiration behind the studio’s work and the products that feature in the show apartment at Greenwich Peninsula. The evening’s last speaker, Sonnet Stanfill gave guests an insight into her role at the V&A as a curator and a buyer of 20th century design for the museum.
The table settings were created from stitched paper place mats, hand painted place name cards, ceramics from Flow Gallery and Yuki Sugiura, candles from Tom Dixon and vases that I wrapped with leather.
I invited one of London’s leading florists Simone Gooch of Fjura to create beautiful floral arrangements.
The event ended with a wonderful night of informal discussion and amazing dinner provided by michelin-starred chef Stevie Parle and his neighbouring restaurant Craft London.
The evening gave women from many design disciplines a rare opportunity to come together to informally discuss their work and the design industry in a relaxed, inspiring environment. It was a wonderful evening enjoyed by all, that stimulated debate and celebrated the wealth of female talent in the UK creating exceptional design.
A very big thank you to all who helped make the evening such a success.
NOW Gallery is a new public exhibition space for contemporary art and design on London’s Greenwich Peninsula. A permanent, free gallery which features work by a programme of unique three-month commissions from established and emerging artists, designers and other creative practitioners. Find out more.
The Tate Modern gallery is one of my favourite places to visit. I am not alone in thinking this as it is the second most popular musuem attraction in the UK after the British Museum and the 4th most visited art museum in the world. Five million people visit it every year. Not only is the art it houses world class, its industrial architecture is stunning too. The galleries are housed in the former Bankside Power Station and the scale of the Turbine Hall is awe inspiring and the views from the sixth floor overlooking the Thames, St Paul’s Cathedral and the London skyline are breathtaking.
The enormity of the building and the views from the upper floors looking downward to the Turbine Hall floor captured my imagination. I photographed the concrete to lose its sense of scale and confuse the eye, making the people below seem like ants at my feet. A fun photographic trip to Lilliput.
If you live close enough to make regular visits, annual Tate membership is brilliant value as you can access all the big name exhibitions for free, the members’ cafe and get discount at the great shop. We’re looking forward to returning soon for the Matisse Cut-outs show which opens on 17th April. Can’t wait!
London is such a busy, vibrant city with so much to see and do that we don’t always have time to do everything that is on offer, especially with young children. As an interior stylist living in London I travel all over this wonderful city and know the shops well, it is part of my job after all, but when it come to relaxing and enjoying the other side of London to where I live I am always in a bit of a rush. So one weekend, when the children were on a sleepover with their grandparents, my husband and I headed East for our own Saturday night sleepover and saw our city in a different, relaxed way. Rather than jumping on a plane to another city, we hopped on the tube in West London and an hour later we were there, perfect. We saw sights, shops and restaurants that we had meant to visit for a while, but simply had not got round to.
We stayed at the newly opened Ace Hotel on Shoreditch High Street. It was the perfect bolt hole – well designed with a really good urban aesthetic, great service, a buzzing bar and a spacious lobby with a coffee bar and restaurant called Hoi Polloi. Our room was creatively designed in a cool colour palette of greys with indigo and a splash of mustard. It also had their signature old school record turntable and selection of LPs, I just couldn’t help myself dancing away to Michael Jackson’s Thriller. The pricing is very reasonable for London considering the quality of the hotel and I would recommend having a look if you’re considering a stay in London and want to visit the creative hub that is the East End.
The Ace have collaborated with a number of brand names to produce items you can use during your stay or purchase as mementos, such leather goods with Ally Capellino and the bicycle above with Tokyobike who have a stylish store in Shoreditch too.
The hotel’s interior is by London-based interior design and architectural practice Universal Design Studio.
On Saturday afternoon we meandered down Redchurch Street, popping into Tracey Neuls (my favourite shoe store), APC, Hostem with its inspiring interior and couture womenswear upstairs, Aesop and Labour and Wait. We wandered around Arnold Circus and into Ally Capellino (my favourite bag store – can you spot a trend here?), the sweet Luna and Curious and Leila’s Shop. We stopped in at fab interiors store SCP, Artwords Bookshop and went on to Brick Lane market and the various vintage stores. Saturday evening we started with a drink at the Electricity Showrooms (a bar we frequented when it first opened in the 90s and was something different, although now it is more of a traditional pub unfortunately), followed by a wonderful dinner at renowned The Clove Club and finished off with drinks back at The Ace Hotel bar which was busy with Saturday night revellers and DJ playing.
On Sunday we began with brunch at Terence Conran’s Albion, followed by a wander down Columbia Road for the flower market, shops and stalls. We popped in to House of Hackney, Present and even managed to buy a new sofa on the spur of the moment – a 1960s Danish design 3-seater in grey felt from the always excellent Atomic Antiques. We took time to wander around the streets near Spitalfields, where there are beautiful old Georgian silk weavers’ houses. One of the weekend’s highlights was visiting Denis Severs’ House at 18 Folgate Street, which has been on my to-do list for years but with limited opening hours I had never quite made it. It is a recreation of a silk weaver’s house in the 18th century and part historical re-enactment, part art installation, part stage set. You walk around in silence while candles and fireplaces burn, and food and drinks are out on tables as if the residents have just left the room. It is filled with atmosphere and character and after a short queue to get in it was a wonder and really quite magical. So much so we returned at New Year with our children.
Shoredtich, Hoxton, Brick Lane, Spitalfields – they are all filled with amazing Georgian buildings in varying states of repair and surrounded by street art and a mish-mash of newer architectural styles, from bland 60’s offices to cutting edge glass towers. I love that contrast.
It was great to have a little holiday in our own city but it has given me a hankering for an urban city break further afield.
Hmm, The Ace Hotel New York… now there’s an idea!
September 13, 2013 in inspiring places
We visit our little holiday house by the sea that my grandfather built every year. It is part of my childhood memory and now is part of my children’s too. The old walled city of Zadar on mainland Croatia has many beautiful buildings in different states of repair and is laced with Roman and Venetian history.
On the one rainy day of our holiday we visited the city and popped in to see an art exhibition, where the entrance fees contribute to the on-going restoration. They are in the process of returning it to its former glory but I just loved the faded colours, the grand stairways and the layers of paint and textures of different building materials that had been revealed – and by chance my daughter’s clothes were of a similar tone. Elsewhere there are beautiful un-restored stone balconies and carved stonework amid the modernity, that bring joy to everyday life.
Ancient Catholic churches and towers remain, and one of my favourite things – the flagstone-paved streets, polished smooth over time by thousands of local feet.
We will have to revisit next year and see how much progress they have made.
Going through my photographic archives I discovered these images that I took last year on holiday. One of the most wonderful things about our Summer time in Croatia is the fresh simple delicious food. This fish came direct from the local fishing boats to the village market the morning they were photographed. They were barbecued for our lunch accompanied with salads and fresh bread. What especially caught my eye was the beautiful silvery tone of their skin.
These shells with a pearlescent interior are known locally as Peter’s ears and can be found in the bay we swim in if you snorkel for long enough. I dived for them like treasure as a child, much like my children do now too, their silvery inside catching the light under the water.
Mussels can be bought in the village market if you are lucky and early enough and I just loved their deep, inky colour; another delicious lunch.
We are travelling to our little house on the bay this week to dive for treasures and swim in the deep blue sea.
I have been using Instagram over the last few months and will try to post a few photos while I’m away and when we have access to wifi in cafés. If you would like to see what I’m up to you can follow me at instagram.com/saniapell.
I’ll be back soon with lots of exciting news of what I’ve been up to over the last few months. It’s all been hush, hush but I will be able to tell all soon. x
Sania Pell is a freelance interior stylist, creative director and consultant based in London. She is a contributing stylist at Elle Decoration magazine, with whom she has worked for 16 years, and is known for bringing a unique aspect to photographic shoots for national publications, leading brands and retailers as well as style consultancy for top architecture practices and property development companies. She is the author of best-selling book The Homemade Home and The Homemade Home for Children. A trained, former textile designer, Sania is also involved in many multi-disciplinary creative projects.
To enquire about commissioning Sania for commercial or editorial projects, please use the contact form.