The story of how textile designer Sabina Fay Braxton came to live in a 1935 home designed by Swiss master Theo Meier, an early figure on Bali’s artistic scene, is a story deserving of a novel
After living in Bali for 25 years, Theo Meier along with his wife and muse Laiad moved to northern Thailand in search of fresh inspiration and new tranquillity. There, along the languid Mae Ping River, Meier set in on designing a one-of-a-king home of reclaimed material from old homes.
Over time, more and more elements were added, each reflecting a convergence between Bali and the local Lanna vernacular, while a collection of carvings and Thai and Balinese reliefs found their way into the architecture. The result was a personalised vernacular and a personal sanctuary where Meier would continue to live and paint until his death in 1982.
Meier had been friends with Braxton’s parents and she recalls with glittering eyes visits as a child to that house ‘lost in the jungle’. Having grown up surrounded by Balinese dance, ritual, paintings and sculpture, Braxton’s connection with the Meier house was immediate, or, as she describes it: ‘the synergy was tangible and all pervasive’. After the birth of her son, Braxton decided to move part time from Venice to live in the house, and began to establish ateliers in the region to work exclusively with local materials: abaca in the Philippines and silk, cotton and metal in Thailand.
‘My home and work are both a synthesis of time and place, an East and West that I have known all my life,’ says Braxton. ‘These intermingle and create a form of their own that is naturally mine.’
The design mixes the aesthetics of Thai and Balinese cultures, with inflections of Japanese minimalism. ‘The interiors call for eclecticism and a cohabitation of diverse cultures, a synthesis of many influences,’ explains Braxton.
As one might expect, much of the home is decorated or adorned in Braxton’s trademark textile creations and works of art. Linen, silk and abaca fibre are her favoured mediums. The strength and beauty of abaca, along with its discrete lustre have been the inspiration behind some of Braxton’s simple abstract wall coverings and upholstery designs.
Metal has also featured prominently in the creative’s work, the result of her fascination with the patina left behind after natural processes and the use of precious metals in garments dating back to the Byzantine era. This has led to a series of metal weaves that channel a voice from the past, which have graced the boutiques of illustrious brands as well as the interiors of private collectors in search of a suitably harmonising backdrop to their artefacts. The textiles are also highly present throughout her home.
When asked about her personal style, Braxton speaks of co-mingling cultures: mixing artefacts such as her Chinese carved lattice-work bed with a Balinese table and Thai ornaments. The fabric wall coverings add a richness and feeling of luxury to the spaces, each one carefully chosen for its ability to integrate with the surroundings.
Yet you get the sense that this is not a static environment. The designer moves pieces around, continually re-creating the mise-en-scene experience of her home. And just like her fabrics and her life, Braxton weaves her creativity throughout, resulting in a collection, a space or a work of art with a story all its own.
Text / Hilary Lancaster
Images / Frederic Ducout