What lies beneath

Jules Verne (1828-1905) was a French novelist, poet and playwright known mainly for his adventure works such as Around the World in Eighty Days, Journey to the Centre of the Earth or 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea – which is my focus today.

Trivia: There is a restaurant in the Eiffel Tower in Paris which is called Le Jules Verne. You may try there, e.g.  gold caviar, pan-seared scallops or a basil sorbet.

Verne is one of the most-translated authors in the world and believed by some critics to be the “Father of Science Fiction”. In 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea Verne presents the story of  Captain Nemo who imprisons in his submarine (Nautilus) Professor Pierre Aronnax, his servant Conseil, and a Canadian whaler Ned Land. They embark on a marvelous underwater trip  around the world during which Captain Nemo tries to convince his guests that his deliberate choice not to tread on dry land ever again was the best choice ever made. He presents to them the riches of the underwater kingdom, the one he seemed to have mastered and the one he believes to be superior to the continental world:

The sea is everything. It covers seven tenths of the terrestrial globe. Its breath is pure and healthy. It is an immense desert, where man is never lonely, for he feels life stirring on all sides. The sea is only the embodiment of a supernatural and wonderful existence. It is nothing but love and emotion; it is the `Living Infinite,’ as one of your poets has said.

Therefore, it becomes clear that the voyage is the journey of regaining one’s self-awareness and reaching for the emotions that lie beneath…

Trivia: Nemo in Latin means nobody. Captain Nemo is as charismatic as he is enigmatic. We know that he is a genius scientist who built the submarine (that in fact has the features of modern submarines) on a desert island. He’s the one who holds grief and seeks vengeance over the death of his parents. His motto is Mobilis in Mobili which can be translated as: Moving in what is moving or Moving in what is transient.

Verne gives accurate and detailed descriptions of Nautilus’ technicalities, but he also gives us the insights into how it looks inside.

For example, there is a passage (read more here) in which Prof. Aronnax describes the library:

Captain Nemo rose. I followed him. A double door, contrived at the back of the dining-room, opened, and I entered a room equal in dimensions to that which I had just quitted.

It was a library. High pieces of furniture, of black violet ebony inlaid with brass, supported upon their wide shelves a great number of books uniformly bound. They followed the shape of the room, terminating at the lower part in huge divans, covered with brown leather, which were curved, to afford the greatest comfort. Light movable desks, made to slide in and out at will, allowed one to rest one’s book while reading. In the centre stood an immense table, covered with pamphlets, amongst which were some newspapers, already of old date. The electric light flooded everything; it was shed from four unpolished globes half sunk in the volutes of the ceiling. I looked with real admiration at this room, so ingeniously fitted up, and I could scarcely believe my eyes.

Or, a fragment with the description of the dining room:

The dishes, of bell metal, were placed on the table, and we took our places. Undoubtedly we had to do with civilised people, and, had it not been for the electric light which flooded us, I could have fancied I was in the dining-room of the Adelphi Hotel at Liverpool, or at the Grand Hotel in Paris. I must say, however, that there was neither bread nor wine. The water was fresh and clear, but it was water and did not suit Ned Land’s taste. Amongst the dishes which were brought to us, I recognised several fish delicately dressed; but of some, although excellent, I could give no opinion, neither could I tell to what kingdom they belonged, whether animal or vegetable. As to the dinner-service, it was elegant, and in perfect taste. Each utensil—spoon, fork, knife, plate—had a letter engraved on it [N], with a motto above it [Mobilis in Mobili].

Yet, I have decided not to present any of these. I think that since this novel (just as most of Verne’s works) is associated with childhood or teenage reading, it would be better to find a kids’ room inspiration, such as this one by Andra Birkerts Design. I haven’t chosen it for the sailing/nautical elements alone. It was for the combination of those and certain glamour (the chandeliers!). But most of all, for the light which “floods” the space – large windows which, just as the glass windows of Nautilus,  can show you the intricacies of the world around you.

What’s important for this interior?

  • Colours from nature: blue of the sea, white of the waves, beige and gold of the sand
  • nautical elements with certain glamour
  • natural fabrics: cotton, wool, linen
  • dominant pattern: rope, sail, steer
  • dominant colours: white, blue, beige, pastel pink
  • dominant furniture style: modern, simple, Scandinavian
  • dominant materials: natural wood, glass
  • walls: pastel paints, wood-layered walls
  • important details: nautical elements, windows, beddings
  • If you can do only one thing in this style: playtime area
In this style:
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