(Photographed By Michael Sinclair For House & Garden)
It has been frequently reported over previous years that the Building and Construction sector is responsible for up to 40% of global carbon emissions, however few of us have considered the role of interiors within this conversation. Recent work however by the Carbon Leadership Forum, as well as by architecture and design firms such as LMN Architects and Hawley Peterson Synder, has highlighted that over the lifespan of a building, the carbon footprint of its interior design has just as a significant impact as the structure's construction.
So now that you've been cheered up, please be so kind as to let me take you back in time to the early 90s, when people smoked on planes, a time when you could snap a house up in London for under 100K and when our carbon footprint wasn't constantly in our thoughts. Maria Speake & Adam Hill had recently left the University of Glasgow and were starting out on their Retrouvius journey, working on a company whose focus would be on reclaimed materials, furniture, floors, fireplaces; if it was being thrown out, they'd have it. As Adam puts it: "I'm an architectural ambulance chaser. I'm here to pick up the pieces". They would sit at dinner parties telling people of their new venture, and the other guests would look aghast, imagining these two chivvying out fireplaces when the owners were away, dismantling drywalls in the middle of nowhere. It was more skip diving than chivvying out, but I am sure they have saved plenty of fireplaces in their time. Only now are we realising how right they were.
Although Retrouvius is made up of two halves in Maria and Adam, there is one that we are concentrating on today. That is the lady herself, Maria Speake, who heads up the design side of things. When she won House & Garden's designer of the year in 2019, her rallying cry was 'Screw Not Stick', a sentiment that still rumbles around my head when considering any adjustments to my home. When she's not winning awards, she's making homes more beautiful. I am always on tenterhooks to see the latest Retrouvius projects that are allowed to grace the pages of the interiors' magazines. Most recently, there was a ten-page spread in The World of Interiors, and as you can imagine, the project was a delight. All I can say is a huge thank you to Maria for taking the time to do this, I loved her answers and always keen to hear a bit of Pulp!
Favourite day of the week?
Don’t have one, all have highs & lows
Any good advice? Who gave it to you?
All of my female clients have offered nuggets of parenting wisdom to whom I am so grateful even if I’m not sure I have quite mastered the art.
Gavin Stamp my old architectural history professor always said most architects were always too concerned with what their peers thought of their work & consequently ‘marketed’ themselves to their direct competitors by publishing within architectural journals that v v few clients read…. Whereas Frank Lloyd Wright was a charmer & preferred to entertain his clients & wasn’t concerned with his contemporaries.
Is there anything you’re very bad at? (Mine: running, cooking and controlling my emotions)
Shutting-up…… I blame the surname but it is annoying, I apologise to all those regularly affected.
Do you like poetry?
Why wouldn’t you, minimalism in word form maximal in impact?
Used to enjoy watching John Hegley.
When was the last time you climbed a tree?
More of a bouncer on a low bough.
Favourite tube stop?
Rarely take the tube cos I have a whizzy electric car which means it costs about 48p to park for 4 hours in Mayfair, madness I know.
I love Swiss Cottage tube on the escalators they have the early fluted up lights that I remember from Steen Eiler Rasmussen's - Experiencing Architecture book & then those orange columns in Piccadilly with their stylised flattened capitals are always an uplifting treat, inventive not slavish.
Dogs or Cats?
Dogs definitely. Want all cats to wear cowbells to help stop the avian killing fields those felines are capable of.
Apart From Retrouvius what is your favourite shop?
Urban London: Gallery 25, have always loved David & enjoy an often acrobatic climb through the jungle of pieces….
Country: Wotton’s Farm Shop near Cassington in Oxfordshire.
Have a thousand of them in my head that I can run to whenever I need an escape.
Meanwhile in the physical world…. Walking through a beech wood at any time of year.
Or a Greek island in spring when you spot verbascums & cistus happy in stoney paths when we bathe them in mulch in our damp domestic herbaceous borders.
A song that can always make you tap your foot?
Common People not so much tapping but hollering out in my car.