Good interior design is about more than the way things look,” writes Ilse Crawford in the introduction to her new book. “It is about human happiness and well-being. It is about making life better.” And in the rest of A Frame for Life: The Designs of Studioilse (Rizzoli), she proceeds to make her case.
Few industry insiders are more universally admired than Crawford. As founding editor of the U.K. magazine ELLE Decoration, she eschewed slick perfection for an irreverent, imperfect—if heightened—version of everyday living. After a stint as vice president of Donna Karan Home in New York City, she returned to Europe to launch Studioilse in 2001 and to teach at the Design Academy Eindhoven in the Netherlands, where she heads a department that she founded called Man and Well-Being.
The title of the book puts Crawford’s work in its proper perspective. “Interiors are instruments: only interesting when they are used,” she writes in the first chapter, next to an image of her own relatively compact London apartment. Unlike most designer editions, the images in this book aren’t always large scale; many have the intimacy of vintage snapshots or personal albums. Her fans, of course, will revel in the requisite visual feast of her portfolio—the cultured comfort of Stockholm’s Ett Hem hotel, the rough-luxe glamour of New York City’s Soho House, the spare grandeur of a young family’s Regency-era home. Given to pronouncements both profound and particular (“Neanderthal sheepskins can soften even the hardest clients”), Crawford is a breed apart: an enigmatic talent and forward-thinking intellectual with humor and heart.
A Frame for Life: The Designs of StudioIlse, by Ilse Crawford: Rizzoli; $55