Primitive Living

Pictures by Anna Verlet
A couple of months ago I was asked by a company to discuss key lifestyle trends. I thought some of you might be interested in one of the areas I discussed. "Primitive Living". Last week in Design Before Fashion I referenced our desire for a return to simplicity. Although most of us are living in overcrowded cities we are seeking the simple life in our fashion, packaging, restaurants, cooking, shopping, homes and our gardens.
"These are turbulent times. I wonder: are the 2010s going to be more turbulent than the 1910s?," says Jonathan Grant president of think tank RAND Europe. With statements like this no wonder why so many of us would love to own this cave-like holiday home in Spain by Anton García-Abril of Ensamble Studio. More and more of us desire to live in peaceful and Self-Sufficient surroundings living away from a world in which our sense of security now seems pretty precarious. According to the Future Foundation 45% of 25-44-year-old's feel the need to be closer to the countryside.
American street and portrait photographers including Bills Backyard are capturing men in the city with bushy beards, working flannel shirts, long johns, and chunky boots. "Grizzly Adams" comes to mind. Women are ditching pretty and choosing denim, chunky flats and their hair is long and wild.
The man who works on the land and loves the harsh outdoors was showcased at Billie Reid and Glemaud's FW2010 runway shows. We are opting for unsophisticated simplicity relating to a nonindustrial, often tribal culture, especially one that is characterised by a low level of economic complexity.

The primitive aesthetic celebrates the imperfections of natural materials, highlighting our thirst for simplicity and honesty. "We are seeking familiar forms to bring comfort, solid materials to give weight. Robust and heavy textiles to reassure," says Ilse Crawford. Delicate design isn't cutting it for most of us. Something I touched on in Home is Safety. Olle Lundberg's uncomplicated cabin tucked away in Napa, San Francisco is more than just visual beauty it also embraces privacy, warmth, clean air and an abundant source of natural lighting. All the things us city folk long for.
For those of us living in the city we can only dream to own enough land to have a vegetable patch to grow our own produce such as Ollie Lundbergs above. There are an estimated 10,000 community gardens in the U.S. alone, allowing people who don’t have land of their own or who simply want the community experience to grow food, relieve stress, connect with the environment and interact with other members of the community. For those in the UK 76,330 people are waiting for an allotment - in some areas, people could be waiting as long as 40 years.
While the traditional image of a garden may not exactly fit into the reality of most urban environments, the fact is you can grow your own food whether you live on a rural farm or in a tiny Manhattan apartment. This desire has led in new approaches to sustainability. The Bacsac garden planter is designed to be an alternative solution to avoid the constraints of creating a roof garden in town (taking into consideration difficulties of transport, excessive weight, etc).

At DIY store B&Q, sales of fruit and vegetable seeds increased by almost a third last year; seed supplier Suttons now sells more vegetable seeds than flower seeds.  Gionata Gatto's design project Cultural Roots focuses on how food unites us. The luggage in these transparent, moveable flight-cases is a seed-bed for herbs and vegetables. The concept is to place the cases in unused public spaces in the city, and they will grow into multicultural vegetable patches where anyone can grow anything they like. It will turn abandoned public spaces into communal spaces bearing the seeds from which new communities can grow. Designer Frederik Roijé has created an architectural hen house where the birds can breed and retreat.
If we are not growing our own food we want to still feel as if we have hunted and gathered it. Unpackaged in Islington, London sells groceries loose and asks shoppers to use their own bags to carry their purchases home, helping to cut down waste. 
The food we do buy packaged we want it to be clear where the food is sourced and who produces it. “Knuthenlund Estate an organic farm in Lolland strives to offer high quality organic foods and at the same time taking care of the unique nature, that is characteristic for the Danish island of Lolland.. This is why Knuthenlund Sheep’s Brie is sold in boxes made of sustainable poplar wood. And the brie is wrapped in paper made by potato starch. Knuthenlund’s Sheep’s and Goat’s Milk is sold in reusable glass bottles. In the printing process, it has been important to limit the use of printing colour. Knuthenlund also offers gift boxes made by unprocessed wood. Knuthenlund’s ambition to run a farm that both shows consideration for product quality and the environment.”

According to Mintel the importance of home cooking and quality ingredients means 41% of us now cook everything from scratch and only 11% of us use a microwave regularly. However, Donna Hay told me that we want to spend approx 15mins in preparing our meals. So rustic, simple meals is what we prefer.
We even prefer to use natural materials for our cooking utensils. Scanwood have highlighted with packaging their product has come from a living source.
Feeling cold is linked to fear and vulnerability. This answers, as discussed in Design Before Fashion, why a lot of us have turned away from high-spec, clinical-like kitchens and opted for warming and more welcoming materials.  High tactility in handmade wood, tiles, zinc and marble brings a less 'finished' feel and  helps create a primal hearth where we feel safe, which is why people are always drawn to the kitchen. 
 More of us are wanting natural and handmade products in our home. Messana O'Rorke Architects made this dining table from an old maple tree they had to cut down on their property. When we bring handmade into our homes the pieces speaks of the connection and love with which the object was made. It can be sensual, full of sentiment and imperfect.
 The use of the hessian sack and the stereotypically eco-aesthetic we have been trying hard to shun can now be embraced.
In early 2007 the Telegraph newspaper stated " DIY is dead, Do It For Me is the latest trend". However the tide has turned  again. Now it's make my product look like it's been DIY'd. This trend is growing rapidly with designers producing product that have make shift solutions including Matthew Hilton's Compass Table Legs or the Containerstystem 1530 by Postfossil or the Small Father Clock from Skitsch. Designers are producing product that has been converted waste materials or useless products into new materials or products of better quality or a higher environmental value, including the Armadiature by Robi Renzi for Renzivivian made from cabinets assembled from a patchwork of salvaged wooden componentsAppo by Carlo Trevisani  reutilised bottles into table centerpieces and the Lamp Love is made from a raw tree branch by Klára Šumová sold at Mint.

The materials and colours link back to Home is Safety. We want warming colours browns, tans, greens and the materials we want are recycled timbers, chunky wood, sturdy leathers. We want our homes to connect to nature. The wall art tractor connected to the farm is made from Frank Plant; Stag head Moo is by Northern Lighting; The Clay Rocking Chair is by Maarten Baas; The recycled sofa is from The Collective a restaurant who specialises in leftovers; Hand-crafted in an Indonesian farming village, the Magno FM radio by Singgih Kartono has an appealing mix of retro and modern styling. 

A lot of us have come to the conclusion to not rely on others to make us happy. We have embraced the need to take control in our own lives. We have clicked into survival mode - hunger, thirst and safety have suddenly become our priority. A "give it a go attitude" from making our own chair to growing vegetables to making fresh bread has become instinctually important. This sense of personal control and self-reliance means we need to create a security and safety around us. We do this with what we have discussed above in turning back to primal living. "What you make of your life is up to you. You have all the tools and resources you need. Your answers lie inside of you" says Denis Waitley.


  1. What an interesting post and what a wonderful blog this is, I am so happy to find it (via BodieandFou). I have spent today taking in 'Welcome Home' in one big gulp! I am in awe of your taste, your images & interests and nodded right along with your observations. Heaven - thank you!

  2. Thanks so much Sam for your lovely words. I hope you come back for some more sips now and then xxx

  3. love this post! i live out of town
    with chickens and trees and silence.

    its heaven :)

    the designer hen house is gorgeous but i can guarantee they'd all sleep on top of it rather than in it!


  4. there's something to be said for simplicity. my jaw dropped when i saw the photo of the bed on the edge of the cliff. wow, how gorgeous. xo!

  5. Erin I love it that a girl with first hand chicken experience tells us how it really is!!! xxx

  6. hahahaha hope i didn't kill the dream!
    they are fab little friends :)

  7. hello... hapi blogging... have a nice day! just visiting here....