80. Framing the heavens

I've been tiling the reveals of our roof windows

21st July 2015









The prolific architect Charles Holden (1875-1960) is best known for the London Underground stations he designed in the 1930s which came to define the look of the network: sleek, well-proportioned modernist boxes. Earlier in his career, however, he had a brief Arts and Crafts moment. In Oval, just up the road from us, he built the Belgrave Hospital for Children, an unusually big and chunky expression of Arts and Crafts design ideas. One detail of this building has been an inspiration to us: the entrance, which is emblazoned with gold mosaic tiles. Like other Arts and Crafts architects, Holden couldn’t resist using a splash of gold to complement the rather sober materials and finishes he used elsewhere. It certainly suggests that anyone crossing the threshold is a bit special, which is fitting for a hospital for children (though the building is now flats).

Well, we can’t resist a splash of gold either. So I’ve spent the last week tiling the deep reveals of our two roof windows with gold mosaic tiles. This has not been an easy job as I have had to cut and cement dozens of individual tiles to finish the corners properly, standing on a scaffold tower with the sun on my head. Yesterday I left site looking like I’d been down a mine after spending the day mixing, spreading, wiping down and mopping up black grout. But it’s been worth it: the gold tiles are stunning and do wonderful things with the light including throwing a golden glow over the walls of the library when the sun is low.

I finished the window reveals with walnut frames, following the design idea I first used for our kitchen shelves (see blog 11). So now we can look up through walnut and gold to view the heavens above, enjoying a rather special private view. A frame always helps to focus the eye and by isolating fragments of the sky the movement of the clouds becomes much more evident and interesting. Occasionally, a distant aircraft briefly comes into view. So far, no divine beings. Although I am reminded of Andrea Mantegna’s Oculus, I’m glad we don’t have the bottoms of cherubs interrupting the view of our little fluffy clouds.



4 comments:

  1. So beautiful, Will. And nothing truly good comes without an immense amount of toil. Am reminded of a trip in 2002 to the Blue Streams Tin Mine Museum in St Agnes, where a lovely man took me through the process of refining ore into tin. Endless grinding and washing and struggle and then the pure silver light of the metal. And now, no more mines in Cornwall but many artists, writers and craftspeople going through a similar process to reveal the light of their inspiration ...

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  2. Oh, and I forgot the fire - but you've had that all the way through the process!

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  3. Oh my! Now if that isn't a very cool touch I don't know what is.

    Epic as ever sir :)

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  4. Like other Arts and Crafts architects, Holden couldn’t resist using a splash of gold to complement the rather sober materials and finishes he used elsewhere.
    Home Construction

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