News 18 December 2015

London Design Festival 2015

September is one of the busiest months in Fashion and Design.

September is one of the busiest months in Fashion and Design, with new collections and Autumn launches heralding the beginning of another giddy season.

One of the most exciting events is the London Design Festival (celebrating its twelfth year) which stretches across the whole of the capital, with hundreds of unusual venues and thousands of talented artists and designers showcasing their work.

First stop for me was the Design Centre in Chelsea Harbour, a delicious mix of over 600 of the world's biggest brands shaping today's luxury interiors. With workshops, demonstrations and some seriously beautiful contemporary design, it was a great place to find inspiration.

A spiral staircase leads you up to the top floor, with its glass roof and outdoor terrace. From this vantage point you have a birds eye view of the stunning aerial installation by Natalia Higgins, Strata Sky, specially commissioned for the show: giant slices of turquoise and blue agate turn slowly in the heat, their natural form coordinating beautifully with the interior.

Each of the 105 showrooms faces in, so you can be nosey in every direction! The atrium of the building is flooded with light and there are cute moulded pods for you to sit on.

Lighting featured big in many of the showrooms, with clusters of pendents and floor lamps as well as bold, oversized shades and wooden carved lamp stands. Overall, colour palettes where neutral - whites, creams, greys and apricots - with darker accents of navy, plum and chocolate brown (the autumn colours coming through). Gold, copper and bronze featured heavily too.

Porta Romana were there doing demonstrations, showing how they work with different painted finishes to complete their exquisite lighting collection. Certain finishes require nearly a hundred different applications!

I completely fell in love with these hand-painted and hand-embroidered silk wallpapers by Fromental, inspired by 18th century chinoiserie, from 'chinois' the French for Chinese. I couldn't get over the exquisite detail and the fact that every wallpaper is unique and bespoke, designed to fit around furniture, windows and even light fittings. Artists spend up to 600 hours stitching each individual panel. I didn't dare ask how much a roll would cost me!

Next stop, the Victoria & Albert Museum, the hub of the Festival and home to the largest collection of decorative arts and design in the world - 4.5 million objects and counting.

I was especially keen to see The Tower of Babel, an installation standing six meters high created by artist Barnaby Barford. The pyramid of 3,000 tiny bone china shops, each one unique and each depicting a real London shop photographed by the artist, is intended to make us think about our relationship with shopping and our search for spiritual fulfilment.

The shops at the bottom of the tower are derelict, while those at the top are the creme-de-la-creme of London's exclusive boutiques and galleries, like Harrods, Selfridges and Liberties.

Each china shop was for sale, with prices going up as you got higher and higher. This visitor recognised the shop she and a friend had lived above as students!

The V&A includes collections of wallpaper and furniture by some of the greatest names in British Design History, including William Morris, Charles and Ray Eames, and Robin Day.

This classic 1950's Hillestak Chair was one of Day's first manufactured pieces, with a seat and back made of moulded plywood, a technique he pioneered.

In the beginning, Day made shelving from broom handles and wood salvaged from skips (a true mend and make do-er), using the steam from this kettle to bend the plywood for his early dining seats, including the Hillestak.

Robin Day's 'Onetree Chair', part of a project started in 1998 when a 170-year old oak tree was felled and shared out in sections to 70 artists and designers, who each made a Onetree work. I love the way the furniture was displayed alongside large oil paintings on the wall - both masterpieces in their own right.

A design classic: the 60's Forum Three Seat Sofa is still going strong today and continues to influence sofa design in the 21st century.

Arighi Bianchi has some fantastic mid-century inspired furniture, including this Fifty Nine leather sofa by G-Plan which mimics the Forum's sleek exterior skeleton, as do the Loffee and Hurlingham sofas by Halo.

G Plan Vintage Fifty Nine Sofa

Halo Hurlingham Sofa

Halo Loffee Sofa

The Oslo and Cantilever dining chairs echo the bentwood frames and gorgeous veneer finishes made famous by Day.

The Oslo Walnut dining range comes in oak too with both wooden and upholstered dining chairs in a range of colours.

The back of the honey-coloured Cantilever dining chair is made from steam-bent oak veneer.