Living Designs

By Jo Phillips

Dearest London, our city layered with life, history and a plethora of stories, material noises visions and sounds. It’s that time of year as we build up to the holiday season when this Grand Old Lady has numerous festivals and fairs. Mid-September sees London Fashion Week followed closely behind by London Design Week which then blends into Freeze Art fair and Raindance Film Festivals. What treats did she have in store during the design festival? It seems that materials and emotions, heritage and sustainability were key this season. Find out more in Living Design here

Our city is known the world over for its history and heritage known and seen so recently and marked by so many across the world of the passing of a globally respected Queen London can often be seen for its past yet its future is just as vital in world leading importance. This sprawling hubbub is a creative minefield with new ideas popping up on every corner.

This season’s design festival did not disappoint with many ideas steeped in emotions that drive us. After Salone de Milano where the emotive connection between person and design was very much a theme, this certainly carried forward in our city’s design show.

We asked furniture designer Lara Bohinc a few questions about this idea. Why is designed so tied to emotion from your perspective?

“we respond to everything we see on a subconscious emotional level whether we like it or not. For me, it is important that my pieces have a connection with a user, as this makes them more valuable and more important. The visual language of the piece should ideally trigger something in our brain that either reminds us of an emotion, an event or a person” 

And how do you feel this has changed for you over the years?

“Since the pandemic and during that period of isolation I wanted my pieces to become something that would make you feel loved and cocooned; and also something that would entertain you. I guess in a way my view has changed and I wanted to create pieces that would make me and others smile”.

The Big Girl Armchair Bohinc Studio

Brompton Design District programme curated by Jane Withers Studio theme was “Make Yourself at Home”. This saw designers reflect on the places we call home and the role of design in transforming these spaces. 

Extended is a new series of mirrors by Studio Sanne Visser. The mirrors reflect our sense of comfort and belonging in the hairdressers and barbershops where we get our hair cut; homely spaces of familiarity, sensitivity and relaxation. The eight custom-designed mirrors are made using human hair rope and recycled mirror glass. The materials were collected from eight barbershops and hairdressers in the borough of Kensington and Chelsea as part of Sanne’s residency at the Design Museum.

Martin Gamber and friends bring ‘No Ordinary Home’, an experimental show loosely centring around the idea of an object to hold a plant. These “vessels” and their plants create an extraordinary living space with dripping jungle vines alongside dried grasses side by side with spiky fluffy cacti growing next to neon flowers made from borosilicate. In this space this group together to create intimacy, coherency, understanding and conversation despite the distinct approaches of each artist. The shared framework for the show was a set of rules: to make an object to hold a plant and to make this using existing elements from their studio archive, revisiting materials and techniques from old ideas. This re-evaluation of studio leftovers (experiments, samples, partially made elements, failed works, moulds) encouraged each designer to reappraise their past and approach the plant holder from their own design aesthetic but with a common goal of uniting everyone.

Martino Gamper & Friends – No Ordinary Home photo by Andy Stagg

When Bethan Laura Wood was invited to make a collection for 1882 Ltd., she drew on the ceramic history of trompe-l’œil decoration used for food vessels. Highly popularized in the 18th century and inspired by the increasing exchange of foods across the globe and the aspiration for ‘enlightenment’ through scientific exploration and cataloguing of nature. The trend of theatrical dining merged into a wonderous world of creating hyper-realistic ceramic replicas of fruits and vegetables. Some vessels even replicated the shapes of whole animals, used to often house contrasting food inside. Bethan has mixed this with the abstraction and optimism of 1960’s party foods, including the mainstay staple of bite-sized cubes of pineapple, cheese and melon skewered by sticks and arranged in an explosive array otherwise more glamorously known as caleidoscopio di stuzzichini in Italian which reflected the decade’s fascination for Sputnik shapes inspired by the space race.

Bethan Laura Wood – Disco Gourds·Updated Sep 23, 2022 by Owen O’Leary

Paper is the inaugural furniture and lighting collection of London-based designer David Horan designed exclusively with Béton Brut gallery. It sees Horan as a modern decoupeur, layering handmade Japanese paper to create new applied vegan vellum. Informed by the French craft traditions of decoupage and Japanese Mingeimovement, Horan wraps a series of original works including seating, a coffee table and lighting. Horan grounds the magic of Paper in forms as precise as they are architectonic. The geometries contain harmony in ratios evoking Deco and Classical. Paper was conceived via rigorous material experimentation in Horan’s London workshop. It was an exercise inde-composition, andre-composition–of rippingit up, and starting again.

Horan worked with Mineo Kato from Japan Fine Papers in Hackney to source the washi. From the discards of the dragon’s Orochi-gami skin, remnants are restored piece-by-piece by the workshop of Kajigase Takashi, before Horan takes it through a final metamorphosis.

Paper by David Horan for Béton Brut 2022 by Owen O’Leary

Design is a method of solving certain problems, it is primarily about the function, which is followed by a clear aesthetic form. Design finds its place in war, for example, in the creation of camouflage nets. The net with which the Gropius chair has been upholstered was woven in the original technique, developed by volunteers from the VinnSolard Center, located in Vinnytsia. In Vinnytsia and other cities and villages of Ukraine, with the outbreak of the war, there are many centres where willing locals and people who moved from the North, East, and South of Ukraine are convening to weave camouflage nets for the Ukrainian military. VinnSolard is one of those centres where, from the earliest days of the war, people of various professions worked on camo nets, united by a single goal; victory. Among those who joined the volunteering were Latayko Antonina, art director, a graphic designer from Kyiv, and Bakulina Nataliya, producer and, until recently, editor of ELLE Decoration Ukraine.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 1.-Noom-Studio-Gropius-Bau-Chair-designed-by-Kateryna-Sokolova-photo-by-Andy-Stagg.jpg

Gropius Low Chair Military Edition By NOOM in collaboration with Nataliya Bakulina and Antonina Latayko designed by Kateryna Sokolova photo by Andy Stagg.

Designer James Shaw and writer Lou Stoppard explore themes around moving in together. Tastes and desires collide when two households combine to become one. object spread around highlights the mixing of tastes and conflicts when two become one. Showing the role physical possessions, habits and compromise play in our relationships. Shaw’s objects and the arrangement of the display have been shaped by a new short story written by Stoppard, which was, in turn, inspired by the way Shaw’s objects look when placed alongside other furniture. Esoteric habits to do with tea-making or hand towels, which may well have been acquired from our parents or past relationships, are suddenly forced to co-exist. A physical manifestation of our ability to accept, tolerate, and to love one another.

 Two Kettles, No Sofa by James Shaw – Install Images by Paul Plews·

Into Sight by Sony Design was a life-sized media platform installation, playing on sensorial effects that transform simple boundary surfaces into an infinite vista through shifting light, colour and sound.

Stepping into the installation unleashes a unique response; as you venture further inside you will become more aware of unexpected visual and audio dimensions that continuously evolve through your interactions. This project aims to capture and discover new insights regarding the coexistence of physical and meta realities.

Photos by Andy Stagg

Wastemâché is a circular craft material made from gathered industrial waste and carbon-linking ingredients like sea moss. It is malleable and claylike, and air dries hard like stone. Developed out of a need for alternatives to extractive craft methods that take better care of our planet, whilst preserving the therapeutic benefits of hand making. After being soaked in water, it can be reused, reformed and reimagined. Through its application in products, it allows us to question, reframe and lean into society’s veneration of newness. Objects can be reconfigured days, weeks or years later, or can be left to biodegrade. Unburdening future generations. Created by Annabel Maguire from the RCA

Designer Britton Kroessler says

Living with Neurodivergence has made me more aware of how I respond both intentionally and reflexively to mental and emotional hardship. It is through specific grounding rituals that I am able to maintain a sense of balance. These objects reframe the rituals that bring me comfort so that they may be engaged in any setting, bringing that sense of groundedness with me. Through this project, I worked with other Neurodiverse individuals to explore and create objects that are tailored specifically to their own emotional, physical, and psychological needs”.

Transformation was also a theme that reoccurred:-

Swivel bought colour, material and interactivity to St Giles Square, a vibrant public space beside Tottenham Court Road, as this area transforms with the edition of the Elizabeth tube.

Swivel is a celebration of materiality and movement, and invites the public to have a moment in this space. Through unexpected hues and patterns, Swivel will brighten up this area and offer a juxtaposing natural material to a square that is surrounded by many man-made structures, from the Brutalist Centre Point to contemporary glass buildings. The square has many points of entry, and Swivel allows people to pause their journey, and enjoy this playground of seating. Swivel is designed by Sabine Marcelis, with marble provided by Solid Nature and supported by Almacantar.

This is the 2oth year London Design Festival that celebrates and promotes our city as the design capital of the world

Porro’s new London point opens at Tom Dixon’s Coal Office building. The brand’s architectural systems and collections, characterized by pure geometric shapes, technological details, and research on materials and finishes, blend with the expressive power of coal evoking the history of the place, ready to become a new platform for custom-made projects, to spark creativity and craftmanship at the next level. 

Celebrating the opening of its new London point @ The Coal Office in the King Cross area north of the city. Porro has chosen this building as its London base, a structure that underwent a significant refurbishment within the framework of an urban renewal project, just a few steps away from Central Saint Martins, a hotbed of future talents:

“Innovation and the desire to break out of established paths have always been the driving forces of my family’s company, now in its fourth generation and close to 100 years old. We feel the fascination of a such a contemporary and intercultural place, a crossroads where art and creativity can thrive: we believe that by mingling different creative approaches and combining seemingly opposing worlds, linked by design quality as a common thread, we can develop incredible interior designs”,

Maria Porro

Walk into the store and discover such delights as the Offshore dresser by Piero Lissoni, with moon-white open-pore painted ash exteriors. The drawers, in birch plywood plated with natural maple, are equipped with a double extraction guide for a comfortable and complete opening. Thanks to a special 45° connection between the shelf, sides and top – the result of an accurate manufacturing process.

The brand’s icon and symbol of its customisation skills, the Storage wardrobe and dressing room system designed by Piero Lissoni + Porro CRS feature the new 25x25mm profile, which allows placing open compartments alongside spaces closed by doors with the utmost freedom: an optical lightness further enhanced by the transparent corner solution.  The black-painted metal frame matches the interiors in black sugi, an extremely sophisticated and captivating finish: matt ink-black surfaces featuring a marked veining pattern draw inspiration from the ancient Japanese technique of Sou Sugi Ban, which used to protect cedar wood by burning it with charcoal. 

Porro’s ongoing research into materials, manufacturing techniques and shapes that evoke emotions revolves once again around Materic, the table project designed in 2017 by Piero Lissoni with the idea of testing the versatility of matter through basic geometries. Featuring a tapered round top in Paonazzo marble on a truncated cone base in solid natural ash, it is shown in combination with the Romby armchairs by GamFratesi, imbued with an abstract charm. The truncated cone base in solid natural ash, featuring a flared shape with wood slices cut in an exquisite cabinet-making exercise, matches a swivel, soft and compact padded seat, covered in fabric or leather. 

Fashion meeting design was also on show. The collaboration of Karaca with visionary designer Hussein Chalayan was presented. A limited-edition collection of architecturally inspired tableware, the first in the world to be crafted from fine pearl.

Comprising two six-piece sets, for dinner and breakfast, the collection’s elegant, yet simple designs cater for today’s lifestyle choices.

The Digital Pearl single dinnerware set is made from ground pearl. Each piece stacks together perfectly to create an eye-catching pyramid, that’s both functional and contemporary.

The Poly Breakfast set, is made from porcelain and in white, black, and beige. The concentric circles allow plates and cups to be linked with one another in different ways, giving consumers the creative freedom to shape their breakfast table according to taste. 

 “Our idea with this collection was to foster a playful and interactive relationship between the user and the form. The Digital Pearl set can be used vertically where the plates and cups overlap to form a pyramid shape. Setting the pyramid on your table adds an architectural, graphic dimension to your dining experience. Meanwhile, The Poly Breakfast set is an interweaved collection. The products can be combined and displayed in a multitude of ways, each time creating different shapes and forms depending on the preference of the individual”.

Hussein Chalayan, designer.

New digital destination for craft, art and design, Curio, launches its inaugural exhibition at the 20th London Design Festival celebrating contemporary making  and the application of craft skills.

Standout, was The Scholar’s Vase, a collection of four new vessels by acclaimed ceramicist Tamsin van Essen who makes work in terracotta for the first time, prompting visitors to reconsider the perception of readily accessible materials in the context of high-end ceramics.

And stonemason Zoe Wilson’s Locus Sandstone Carving, Arc Limestone. Carving and Consist Limestone Carving, finely carved stone spheres created with exceptional precision entirely by hand.

Over in the Shorditch design triangle TOAST has reimagined a series of worn TOAST garments to create a capsule collection. Available to see and buy at their London, Shoreditch shop, each piece features a creative repair. The pop-up will also host repair and upcycling workshops.

Also going on was The One Tree project with the repurposing of a dying ash tree from Sheridan Coakley’s garden, into a range of different objects. It seeks to create one-off objects of beauty, which will both retain the carbon from the tree and give new material life to something which would have otherwise disappeared.

A range of different objects are being made for this project, including a love seat, a sculpture, a wall-hung medicine cabinet, a number of different tables, stools, a bench, a light, vessels, bowls and even some pieces in glass.

Also exploring woodwork, was London Green Wood a cooperative of makers based at Hackney City Farm. They work with unseasoned, locally grown wood and hand tools. From their outdoor workshop, they bring heritage crafts to the heart of the city and make basic woodcraft skills available to all. London Green Wood demonstrated spoon carving and the ancient craft of pole-lathe turning at SCP.

The Mosaic Factory decided to plant a tree for every visit they received during Shoreditch Design Triangle.

The wood theme continues at Copse Studio. An exhibition of ceramics explored form and composition inspired by trees. Initial drawings were developed into abstract designs that form the patterns on the surfaces. The patterns were made using a variety of clays and coloured porcelain that are rolled into clay slabs. This hand-crafted process makes each object unique and

As part of the Eternally Yours exhibition, Somerset House commissioned Carl Clerkin to build a functioning repair shop in their gallery. SCP along with Very Good and Proper, Ercol, Pearson Lloyd, Jasper Morrison Studio, and John Tree Studio have all donated components to the shop. Broken parts, excess stock, and waste material were sent to be repurposed. Carl Clerkin and a host of designer-makers set to work, breathing life into unwanted materials to create new products.

An exhibition of all the outcomes will be displayed from 4–12 Oct, culminating with an auction on the evening of 12 Oct.

The Grief Gallery presented the Curating Grief pop-up. This installation of The Grief Gallery featured curator and grief coach Charlene Lam taking to the streets of East London with a travelling exhibition plinth. Welcoming visitors to acknowledge personal and collective losses through the contemplation and celebration of objects: the ones left by people we’ve lost and kept by those left behind.

Re-use was a theme seen in several spaces across the week. In R for Repair, a project being led by DesignSingapore Council and National Design Centre (Singapore), broken household objects, often with deep sentimental attachment, are handed over to designers to be not just repaired, but creatively renewed. Co-curated by Hans Tan Studio (SG) and Jane Withers Studio (UK), the exhibition will feature Singaporean designers repairing UK objects, and UK designers repairing objects from Singapore, in a cross-cultural exchange bound to provoke new interpretations of our everyday items.

Plasticity is a monumental sculpture, designed by Niccolo Casas, 3D-printed by Nagami, and made with Ocean Plastic®, marine plastic waste intercepted by the collaboration network Parley for the Oceans. The project explored the possibility of turning harmful waste material into new uses while highlighting the work of the organisation in cleaning up the world’s beaches, islands and coastal communities.

The Conran Shop is partnered with It’s Nice That to present Meet Me in the Metaverse (picture on left) An immersive installation taking over the brand’s Chelsea location saw the digital and physical collide in a playful exploration of design’s role in this intriguing new world.

Collaborating with a global group of future-facing digital artists, the installation featured curated items from The Conran Shop – but not quite in the display you might expect. As well as their original iconic forms, this explorative installation showcased pieces reimagined by digital artists into never-before-seen objects.

Meet Me in the Metaverse aimed to not only spotlight the original craft of each item featured, but invigorate design-conscious audiences to become inspired by upcoming possibilities.

Creating their responses by investigating the history, materiality, and function of their item, each artist utilised the world-building capabilities of digital art to create a conceptual rethinking of the product at hand.

Reimagined works were presented by the likes of Poul Kjærholm, Pierre Paulin exclusives, New Designers-winning originals, and featured works by six digitally focused artists. This range of digitally investigative talent was curated by The Conran Shop in collaboration with It’s Nice That, an award-winning publication that supports and champions creativity in all its forms.

Over in King cross a key exhibition was Tom Dixon’s TWENTY. A thoughtfully curated selection of unseen creations, some new; some reformed and some in embryonic experiment-mode.

Highlights at TWENTY included a gigantic MELT Dichroic chandelier, a BIRD chair made of eelgrass from Denmark, a latex S-chair and giant mycelium sculptures.

‘A twentieth anniversary provides a moment to review, adapt, upgrade and rethink some of the designs that we have produced, but also to introduce some of the latest thinking in materiality, longevity and luminosity for the near future.’

Tom Dixon

For the first time in the history of the LDF sustainable development in China was explored.

It focused on sustainable stories in China by local designers from realistic and cultural perspectives. Showcasing 20 designs expressing the views of the country’s youths through architecture, concept design, fashion and textile. Showing sustainable concepts in traditional Chinese culture, recommending solutions to the dilemma of fashion consumption and building a sustainable future.

Sustainable China was presented through four themes:

déjà vu // 似曾相识 – ‘Sustainability hidden in traditional Chinese handcuffs’ dilemma // 进退维谷 – ‘Exploring possibilities beyond the fashion-sustainability dilemma’ reveries // 醍醐灌顶 – ‘Thinking about a sustainable future in timescales’ and finally salon des refusés // 叛经离道 – ‘Other sustainable futures’

Victoria & Albert Museum held a conversation with Jason Bruges (Director, Jason Bruges Studio) and Madeleine Kessler (Architect and Curator British Pavilion, 2021 Venice Biennale)

Interestingly the talk looked at how can experiences feel exclusive and unique when they are also designed to be experienced with digital audiences of millions? especially since we are all looking at design via mobile phones.

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