Charlotte Taylor Returns Home to Build an Architecture Practice

The designer is known for her saturated, surreal, virtual 3D objects and spaces. Now she’s making them real.

charlotte taylor portrait

Charlotte Taylor stands in her doorway holding an "I love Ferrari" mug. "I'm a big car person. I don't have a license, but I love cars," she says.

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February 27, 2024

Rifling through the meticulous architectural drawings of her father, a lighting designer, young Charlotte Taylor was entranced. From childhood the designer nurtured a love for design and architecture that led her to imagine stunning, surreal virtual spaces. But this year Charlotte has begun circling back to her early inspiration, building a practice in architecture and interiors from a homebase she’s set up back in her childhood house in the suburbs of London.

Charlotte skipped architecture school and pursued an alternative creative pathway. Her creative 3D image studio Maison de Sable was borne by exploration: especially in 2020, Charlotte was able to make connections with expert 3D visualizers who encouraged her and pushed her own work. “Anyone who’s very passionate about what they’re doing—it’s hard to stay away from that. It’s exciting,” Charlotte says.

Over the summer she released Design Dreams, a curated book of Maison de Sable’s work and collaborations. “The book is sort of a marker for my period of 3D design work. It’s all about the community that came out of Maison de Sable, sort of a celebration of that era of my more surreal work,” Charlotte says.

Although she knows 3D design will always be part of her practice and process, she observes it taking the back burner while her load of architectural projects grows. Where Maison de Sable focuses on the surreal and virtual, Studio Charlotte Taylor is all about tangible work: furniture, interiors, architecture. Charlotte has been fortunate to find more interesting and passionate people to work with and help her grow the studio—like her friend and collaborator architect Benni Allen of EBBA Architects.

“It’s been a very roundabout way of getting into architecture and interior design, but now I’m finally working there and it feels very surreal. It’s a big learning curve for me at the moment,” Charlotte says. The biggest challenge in taking on architectural work could be summed up as red tape—the paperwork, rules, and processes that Charlotte has never gone through before. “In 3D you do the design, the image is there, and it’s done,” she says, reminding me of the sentiments of virtual sofa designer Tom Hancocks. “But there’s a lot to architecture. The timeframe is so much longer than the projects that I’m used to.”

On the day we speak Charlotte has just returned from Vienna, where she and Benni are working on a Brutalist private home. She tells me she does her most productive work in transit, which is probably to her benefit—between juggling projects in Vienna, Andalusia, London, and Los Angeles, plus commuting into town to meet with Benni and other friends, Charlotte spends a lot of time on planes and trains.

book and hammer on cofee table at charlotte taylors house

Moving around throughout the day often brings Charlotte’s work to her coffee table, although she admits the posture isn’t the most comfortable. A hammer sitting on top of her books has a hidden secondary function: inside is also a screwdriver.

Though occupying her family home is only a temporary situation—and a massive barrier to seeing her friends in her previous neighborhood in East London—Charlotte finds all her travels make her quiet life in the suburbs more appealing. Here, she is in the ongoing process of building a haven of earthy materials and colors with metallic moments sprinkled throughout. The neutral palette defines Charlotte’s personal style. “Friends always mock me because it’s like even the cats fit the house,” she laughs.

As an adult Charlotte has taken over the primary bedroom, transforming her childhood room into an office—a space she really only enters to change the calendars on the wall and do occasional research. Mostly she spends her time in the kitchen, cooking and working.

On the fridge hang an array of silly magnets. An uncannily realistic wooden baguette from eBay is among Charlotte’s treasured items. She admits a tendency to collect all kinds of knickknacks and curiosities. “I spend way too much time on eBay and in secondhand stores collecting stuff. Moving back here I have so much space that I’m just filling it with objects; I’ll have to stop at some point,” she says.

But for now, fixing the house and filling it with odd objects is a fun project for Charlotte—one that she enjoys even as her pile of architecture work deepens. “Because it’s a family home I have the freedom to do anything, which is nice. It’s like everything is sort of half-done at the moment, but it’s a nice project.”

What early memory inspired you to pursue design as a career?

My father’s a lighting designer and I used to go to site visits with him probably on a weekly basis. I’d always be around construction sites and his office, which is just like mine is now—stacked with architectural drawings everywhere. There was always a sort of curiosity and admiration for his work, and he still draws everything by hand with these cool old school architectural instruments. So I was always curious about interiors and architecture from a young age.

What did you observe in his studio that you have brought into your own practice?

I do all my drawings by hand as well. Not to the same level of precision as him—my mom is more painterly and messy, so I think I probably formed between both of their creative and drawing styles.

What neighborhood do you live in? What attracted you to this spot?

At the moment I live in the middle of nowhere, in the suburbs. It’s actually where I grew up from ages 13 to 18, around about then. I was living in East London up until a year and a bit ago, but then I had to move out of my apartment and I came here, thinking I’d only be back in my hometown for about a month. But I have actually really enjoyed life here. It’s very slow. I don’t bump into anyone. The cats have the garden and my family is very nearby. I’m super close with my family so I’m pretty happy here. My friends think I’m insane for moving back to the suburbs.

Where do you do your best work?

Really I work all around the house, probably the least in my actual office, but I’m most efficient in transit, on planes and trains. I think it’s because there’s no distraction. I know that I just have that time. Especially flying without internet, if I have to do drawing or design work, I know that I have like four hours just to focus on work.

Do you have any collections?

I collect lighters, and not well-designed ones. Particularly the most terrible designs I can find. I don’t know why it started. It’s been a few years now. I mean I do smoke, I’m on and off, so I guess it’s partly from the practicality of needing a lighter, but from traveling I started collecting them. I have over 600 now, and even my business card is a lighter as well.

I also collect fridge magnets, like tacky sort of tourist things, or calendars of cats and cars—I’m a big car person. I don’t have a license, but I love cars. I’m quite a collector of things.

charlotte taylor fridge magnets

“I’m a bit of a hoarder when it comes to objects,” Charlotte says. Her magnet collection holds up a note of warning from a neighbor.

I cracked up when I read the note on your fridge from your neighbor about standing by the window. Were you surprised to receive that?

It was my first week moving back here and I was so excited when I saw it. I was leaving for the gym, and I was like, “Oh, so nice, there’s a letter from my neighbor,” and then I read it. She’s not even opposite me, she’s a few doors down, and I wasn’t just standing in the window naked, I was getting changed in my room. But yeah, it’s going to stay on my fridge forever. I’m very proud of that.