How many ideas of living exist nowadays? The answer is both straightforward and elaborate at the same time – it’s also as varied as the number of people that inhabit our planet. The number grows even larger if we start counting offices, work spaces or simply the desks that many of us individualize. The particular and the whole blend in with one another where the fragments that make up our personal stories become shared information on how we live, what we surround ourselves with and how we perceive harmony and beauty in everyday life.
Interview and text by Discipline for Yatzer.com
LIVING WITH, the new project by Discipline tells the story of inspiring individuals and their incredible lives, through the eyes of renowned interiors photographer Paul Barbera. But before moving forward, we should introduce you to theDiscipline world, a young brand founded by Renato Preti with a clear vision of what makes a house or a studio a home. The new platform for sharing ideas and beautiful interiors debuted during Salone del Mobile 2012 with a collection of over 30 ranges of furniture, furnishings, accessories and objects. The brand identity is strongly marked by the exclusive use of natural materials such as cork, wood, bamboo and copper and a style which aims at exalting the real values of design such as simplicity, functionality and durability.
For the first episode of the LIVING WITH project, Discipline met Swedish illustrator, artist and set designer Liselotte Watkins in a large apartment near Porta Venezia in Milan, where she has set up her home. Together with her husbandJonas and their two small children, their large apartment also serves as her working studio. Luckily enough for her,Liselotte is one of those people who enjoys the buzz of working with and around a lot of action. Convinced that a house can never contain too many organically oriented objects, Liselotte’s love of nature is a common thread and can be found everywhere, from the flowers, plants, wood and bones through to the occasional stuffed animal that can be found throughout her home. Known as a multi-tasking set designer, she is also the queen of re-arranging. Every object in her home has a story, whether inherited from a grandfather’s aunt or found in the streets of New York.
Liselotte, could you tell me something about yourself, like where you’re from, where you live, what you do?
I’m originally from Sweden. I have lived in Texas, New York and Paris but now live in Milan with my husband Jonas and our two children Ava and Wim.
I work as a fashion illustrator and set designer.
Since the last time I interviewed you about your home, you’ve moved house and your family has grown larger. Can you tell me about how you live today? What do you like about your neighbourhood?
I am so happy with the move. I love this new area, we live close to the Parco Palestro in a busy area full of shops and restaurants. We spend an awful lot of time in the park, both in the winter and the summer months. We seem to be the only family who enjoy it even in the depths of winter. I blame it on the Swedish genes!
Where do you spend the most time in your home, and why?
I spend most of my time either in the kids’ room or in my studio. The kids’ room used to be my studio. But that seemed awfully unfair as the studio was much larger so we switched them. The irony is that round about the same time I started doing really big drawings. So now I do really big drawings in a very small room. I think I’ll have to get a real studio again soon.
Can you tell me about your daily work routine? Does it require a lot of discipline?
Not really. As Louise Bourgeois once said "art is a guarantee of sanity" It’s a necessity not a job. I work very intensely between 11 am and 4 pm, for five hours straight. Then I pick up Wim and we go to the park. Sometimes I also work late at night.
How do you keep focused with two small children?
Although it is sometimes difficult to get into the "zone”, I’m fortunate in that I’ve always thrived in working in a busy, loud environment. I’m not one of these people who need peace and quiet. Admittedly it is sometimes hard to find the time to get to see exhibitions or concerts. So I google everything instead, I spend hours researching everything, from new interesting characters to new things that are going on. I am obsessed with finding things. It’s like a drug.
video shot by Paul Barbera, Courtesy of Discipline
Where do you get your energy from?
Genes. I don’t know. I have always had way too much. Now my son has tons of energy and I look at him and see myself. He has so much more than I have.
What do you and your family like to do together? How do you spend your weekends or evenings?
We try to get out of the city. I miss nature. We drive to the sea, to little towns. In the evenings it’s all about the little people going to bed. Then Jonas and I have a late dinner. We are very ambitious with the cooking and always end up eating at 11.30 pm.
Do you invite friends over for dinner?
Everyone comments on how dangerous dinner is at our house because you are always drunk before dinner is finally served. Jonas loves to cook but it’s difficult to get started before Wim and Ava are asleep. I’ve always loved having people come over, nothing planned, just hanging out with my friends, playing with the kids; that kind of thing.
Where do you find inspiration? How does your creative process start?
I always see ''something'' first. That gets everything going. It’s funny because it can be anything. A person, a movie, a dress; even something someone says. Travelling of course is the best thing to get you out of your routine. The last exhibition I saw was at the Natural Museum in the Parco Palestro. I love Natural Museums. The one here in Milan must be one of the saddest, but I love seeing all types of animals in different stages of decay. Wim is also obsessed with animals. He runs around, screams out their names and what they sound like. He makes everything very vivid and crazy which inspires me. I hate correctness and being bored. With kids at least you are never ever bored. Exhausted yes - but never bored.
Does the furniture in your house have any stories to tell?
Oh lord! Everything has a story! It can be the chair that I found on the street when I lived in New York. The really heavy doorstop-dog I inherited when my Texan husband’s mother died. My grandmother’s chest of drawers. My grandfather’s aunt’s pedestal and old towels. Stuff I’ve come across in markets whilst travelling. The leather hippo that my friends bought for me for my birthday which is named after my grandfather Allert. Lots of photographs from my friends. As you can see, the list is endless. It’s impossible to name one thing.
How would you describe your style when it comes to interiors? Do you have any favourite materials, colours, textures etc. that you like to include in your living or working space?
Natural textures. Wood, bones, stuffed animals. Flowers, plants, greenery. You can never have too many organic things. I like bringing the outside inside and the patterns of nature into my home.
You work as a set designer and often create beautiful still life installations for windows, displays or photo shoots. Do you enjoy arranging objects, flowers, art works etc. in your own home too? Do you have a specific method or philosophy that you follow?
No, I go with the flow. I’m constantly rearranging things. I don’t like to see things just lying around without a purpose, like people who have books lying around that they never open. That is so provocative. I don’t like showy things, things that break easily.
What do harmony and beauty mean to you? Are they important in your life and home?
They’re everything. But for me, pure beauty means nothing and harmony without chaos is not interesting. I like ragged edges that break up beauty that mess it up somehow.
When it comes to material things, what would you not want to live without? Do you have any guilty pleasures?
Good question. I have never felt guilty about things. I feel that I’m saving the things that I come across, that I’m giving them a new home, that I get to take care of them whilst introducing them to new friends. I guess I have too many clothes. I could definitely live with less. I have something like 40 coats!
Are there any values that you have inherited which have become important to you in your life today?
My family in Sweden lives simply in the woods surrounded by nature and lots of animals. Animals are the one element missing from our home. I have grand plans for getting dogs and cats and birds, but my husband is a bit more hesitant. After all, he’s more of a city boy at heart. So I’m waiting for the kids to grow a bit. I’m sure I’ll have them on my side, and then we will be three against one. Growing up with animals is the best, I’m so lucky that my family taught me so much about nature and animals. It is something that I will always carry with me, and it is something that continues to inspire me.