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Studio Irvine’s dollhouse captures the legacies of 20th century women pioneers
Paints According to Irvine by Studio Irvine
Image: Courtesy of Dolphin Sisto Legnani

Studio Irvine’s dollhouse captures the legacies of 20th century women pioneers

The Milan-based studio conceived a modular design spanning 14 rooms, each featuring a distinct colour and dedicated to the oeuvre of seminal women creative practitioners.

by Anushka Sharma
Published on : Sep 30, 2023

What would it look like if a room were to be inspired by your characteristic flair and style? And more importantly, what colour would it be? It is almost intriguing to envision what would ensue if one’s personality were to delineate and permeate a space—assuming a panoramic envelope in lieu of its usual intangible presence. Pioneers in art, architecture and design have left a treasure trove of legacies for generations to interpret and even reimagine. In one such project of paying homage, architect Marialaura Irvine builds a dollhouse in which each room speaks of a seminal women's creative and innovative oeuvre.

Studio Irvine, an architecture and design studio based in Milan and helmed by Irvine, unveils a transformative project that merges the spheres of architecture, art and design through the lens of colour. Titled Paints According to Irvine, the dollhouse venerates a list of creative women pioneers, while also representing a pursuit of the beauty of natural colour. The project spans 14 rooms, each drawing inspiration from the inventive work and impact of Giorgia O’Keefe, Eileen Gray, Cini Boeri, Charlotte Perriand, Ray Eames, Nanda Vigo, Gae Aulenti, Clara Porset, Lina Bo Bardi, Franca Helg, Sophie Taeuber-Arp, Annie Albers, Ruth Asawa, and Lilly Reich. The ground-breaking contributions of these women have been critical in shaping the narrative of modern design and architecture, and the ripples of their influence continue to inspire and shape contemporary practices.

Founded in 1988 by the British designer James Irvine, Studio Irvine specialises in product design, art direction and architectural spaces that involve specific research on materials and surfaces. Run now by the architect Marialaura Irvine, the studio conceives work that embodies her cross-disciplinary philosophy denoting a constant inclination and curiosity towards all types of projects—from a chair design to one of a surface, from the art direction of companies to architectural projects. With an objective to simplify and enhance overall design and production, the studio’s research pursues a synthesis that follows an industrial approach while reducing material waste. Studio Irvine continues to expand its diverse repository—its 30-year history propelled ahead by curiosity, attention to detail and layers of historical tradition typical of Italian architecture.

Paints According to Irvine is a showcase of the architect and product designer’s understanding of colour as a potent form of communication; the modular dollhouse is crafted from 14 distinct colours from MATTEO BRIONI new powder paint product. The concept draws from the narrative that first began in Earth according to Matteo, harnessing the power of natural colours to dictate the perception of space and return to architecture its most transcendent virtue—the capacity to inspire. The philosophy of the beauty of imperfection plays an important role in the project as well, serving as the adhesive that ties together Studio Irvine's statement. Irvine’s deftness in intertwining design and art is conspicuous in the artistic direction she helmed.

This multifaceted research commenced in 2013 and has been guided by Irvine's early experiences and impressions of colours and architectural spaces. Taking cues from her childhood interactions with her dollhouse, she began to emulate the pioneers of modern architecture such as Behrens, Le Corbusier and Walter Gropius. The reflective expedition led her to one question: What about the women? What followed was an exploration of influences and the creation of individual rooms dedicated to some of these women whose work continues to defy the boundaries of architecture, design and art.

Through the modular design, the visitors embark on a journey through inspiring stories, captivating colours and transformative spaces. While the sand-pink living room dedicated to Giorgia O'Keefe offers an environment to relax, live, and read, the medium-intensity red kitchen honours Eileen Gray's exceptional architectural compositions. Each room, each colour, nods to a different sensibility and a unique experience, a testimony to the transformative power of colour and design. The project celebrates the beauty of imperfection, the three-dimensionality of powder paint and the ability of natural pigments to transform into magnificent surfaces. With an assorted colour palette bringing architecture to life, and each space donned in a unique texture and tone, the project fortifies the belief in the force of colour to define a space and our experiences, emotions and interactions.

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