There’s more to Johnny Grey than meets the eye, though there’s plenty of “eye candy” in his designs! The lauded Brit, who was schooled as an architect, digs deep for inspiration and has a roving eye where influences are concerned. I recently attended Decorex in London to witness the debut of Grey’s new line of furniture for the modern cottage kitchen and enjoyed seeing how he brought together disciplines as diverse as Wabi-sabi and the Alexander Technique.
He’s an intrepid reader who can reel off lists of books he’s devoured, many of which have forged his soulful sensibilities. He counts among his favorites A Perfect Mess by Eric Abrahamson and David Freeman, The World of Goods by Mary Douglas and Baron Isherwood, Happiness: Lessons from a New Science by Richard Layard and House as a Mirror of Self by Clare Cooper Marcus. “I want to spread ideas to designers and homemakers about ways of embedding soul and comfort in our homes using new tools from brain research, psychology, art, food and the five senses,” he explains. “These concepts I’ve identified have come to me through ten original and powerful books that have made a lasting impression on me.”
The design industry is lucky to have Grey as a Pied Piper of sorts, especially in the current economy in which thoughts turn ever more frequently to home and comfort, less to razzle and dazzle. “Over the years many books with powerful ideas have not found tipping points,” he says. “Designers don’t have enough time to read, and they tend to stick to design books. I’d like to see that change or at the very least be a filter for the ideas that expand beyond the nuts and bolts of the trade.” Grey’s exposure to the ideas in these books are showing in his own work of late, as he’s digging deeper into his own psyche to create furniture that has meaning and mood. It was a seven-year-old Grey who envisioned his Tree Corner cupboard (pictured above) , which he debuted at Decorex. He remarks that it has taken him the five decades since to bring to life the larder-cum-cabinet with its curvaceous support fashioned from a holly tree harvested from his garden.
You can bet he will continue to push the envelope, as this designer is not afraid to make waves. Once leading the charge to advocate the post-culinary kitchen, he’s now taking the crusade further, calling for the post-feminist kitchen where women release themselves from slavedom and join the family while preparing meals. You’ll hear him bandying about phrases like “The Unfitted Kitchen,” which he sees as a revival of bringing furniture back to the room that has become cold and sterile in many cases, and the “Living Room with a Culinary Center.” His stand at Decorex was an intimately warm example of this, replete with a down-lit coziness that could be construed as romantic on the one hand or downright calming for a bustling family on the other. Whatever the homeowner’s reality, the end-of-the-day routine would be nurtured by Grey’s vision of the “heart of the home,” and that’s just what he’s intending.
Modenus Guest blogger – Saxon Henry