My Moonbase Alpha
When it comes to design, some sci-fi fans draw the line at a Tardis moneybox and Star Trek pyjamas. But not Catherine Bujold. French- Canadian Catherine has transformed her home into her own Moonbase Alpha in hommage to classic 1970s TV show Space: 1999. And it’s not geeky in the slightest – it’s fabulous!
It all started for Catherine when, as a child, she was taken to one of the landmark events in 1960s design history – Montreal’s ‘Expo 67’ Exposition, a world’s fair where national pavilions competed to define the future for the decades ahead. “My passion for modern design furniture goes back to the summer of 1967,” explains Catherine. “How beautiful the future would look according to that exposition. The France Pavilion was pure eye candy. In there you could see the newest furniture designs – all those pure and bold forms, beautiful and intriguing. It didn't take much more for me to be under the spell of the absolute beauty of foam, molded plastic and modular furniture. Those shapes were totally new at the time, but somehow, I felt totally at home surrounded by them.”There were pieces by Olivier Mourgue, the person who designed the red Djiin chair seen in 2001: A Space Odyssey the following year, and fabulous chairs by Pierre Paulin. This really was a presage of the future for Catherine, a decade later Paulin’s Ribbon chair, was in Space: 1999, and one which she now owns and is one of her proudest possessions.
Stanley Kubrick famously destroyed all the sets of 2001 so that they would not fall into the hands of a lesser director; but the sets of Space: 1999 would one day be raised to a whole new level in the home of Catherine Bujold. Back in 1967, though, all the beauty of the future seemed far beyond reach. “Of course at that young age I could only dream about living surrounded by such beautiful objects. A world of plastic and fibreglass... this had to be the perfect world! I could relate to this furniture so much, it was like I’d just found my true identity. I was ready for the future and... I waited...”
She had to wait until the mid-Seventies, when British space series Space: 1999 put all her dreams into her own television set. “There had been man’s first landing on the Moon. How exciting it was to watch the future happening on TV in front of our eyes. How lovely it would have been to live on the moon, I thought. So I watch the different missions to the moon one by one and, again, I waited...Then on that day in August 1975, the day I first saw the ad on TV for Space: 1999, I couldn't believe my eyes, a world beyond belief. This was the perfect world! The world I’d waited for all my life. Never before and never after has a TV show had such an impact on me; I saw such beautiful design on this TV series.”
The most expensive series ever produced up to that time, Thunderbirds legends Gerry and Sylvia Anderson had created the look that Catherine would want to live with forever. The largely-American crew lived together in the Earth outpost Moonbase Alpha, which had been sent spinning into space by a huge nuclear explosion Catherine has taken Alphan wall panels to a whole other level; custom made, cut from MDF and painted white to match the rest of the clinical interior. “The ones used for Alpha were 11/2 inches thick, but you might find it harder to cut and to manipulate. And depending on the size of the room, one inch can be just enough and will still give you the look”. – so without Star Trek’s mission, but with a similar habit of encountering alien civilisations. But it was the sets that really captured Catherine’s imagination: “I was blown away – just like the Moon in the series,” she says.
Then, all too soon, it was over. Sci-fi fans everywhere have their lost leaders. From America it’s Joss Whedon’s Firefly, cancelled after only one series; from Britain it was Space: 1999, cancelled after two. Of course it was once also Doctor Who, whose eventual return, generations of fans had campaigned for with success. So maybe...?
Catherine is adamant. “To me, Space: 1999 is the incarnation of absolute perfection in every way. A masterpiece... simple as that. They could never remake a show like this as they could never again recreate that unique space age mood.”
But she could. It isn’t just her fantastically good taste in 60s and 70s Artemide molded plastic decor that she employed in creating her ‘Sorellarium13’. She has even recreated the show’s distinctive Alphan wall panels.
It’s been a long journey for Catherine – and like the crew-members of Space: 1999, spinning out into deep space, it’s not likely to be over any time soon. “My God, would have I loved to live on Moonbase Alpha among all that gorgeous furniture, illuminated wall panels, computers, monitors and germ-free environment,” says Catherine. “I never thought that some day, thanks to the internet and the 1990s’ Seventies revival, it would be possible to have that wonderful furniture in my own home!
“My house needed a make-over in order to change all those rooms into big open spaces. And of course the hardwood floors had to go; the only place I can stand wood is on trees! I just love synthetic, I love technology, futuristic environments as we all imagined them at the end of the 1960s and at the beginning of the 1970s.” Doesn’t it get restrictive, living with just one style? “No, I love uniformity in design not all that mix-and-match that we see so much these days.”
The pictures here are of Catherine’s living room as it looked a few years ago: “When my collection would fit in the one room! Now it's all over the house and I had to put some in storage since I don’t have enough space and don’t like clutter. Hopefully some day my entire house will look like Alpha – or close.”
Catherine couldn’t be more ‘chuck out the chintz’ – except in one regard. “We now live in the future, but sometimes it looks more like the beginning of the century,” she complains, but admits to one win for nostalgia. “As far as today’s science-fiction is concerned, I’m afraid I have some reserve. I’d rather watch old shows than new ones. The mood of those shows is so depressing and what about their look! What are the designers on those shows thinking?”
Past future? Future past? Catherine knows when things were best: “I’m very happy to have been born in the Sixties – the future looked bright and promising back then.” And in Catherine’s very own Moonbase Alpha, it always will.