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Jane Hall on Beatrix Potter’s Places
16 December, 2021
Jane Hall begins her Introduction to Woman Made, Great Woman Designers (2021), with a reflection on Alison Smithson’s analysis of Beatrix Potter:
Few contemporary designers would cite children’s book author Beatrix Potter as an obvious source of inspiration for interior design. For mid-century British architect Alison Smithson, however, Potter’s fictional rendering of Peter Rabbit’s home and his kitchen filled with pots, pans, and instruments of everyday use epitomized what she conceived of as a deeply personal form of design, with the kitchen utensils providing decoration revealing the honesty and authenticity innate to family home life. Like many designers of her time, Smithson’s approach was predicated on the notion that design should both do something and look good doing it. Her memory of Peter Rabbit’s kitchen emphasizes the centrality of one’s habitat to the concept of so-called Good Design, an idea popularized in the postwar period, communicating that how something is made, what it is made from, and the function it performs have integral value to the maintenance of everyday life.