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London Design Festival 2013: my highlights

LDFOver the past week or so, I was able to get to a few design shows as part of London Design Festival 2013, so today on the blog I thought I’d share my highlights with you.

Had a great time at Design Junction, probably my favourite show.  I really liked John Green‘s furniture, particularly the Embrace side table / bookshelf / coffee table.  It’s not new, but it’s a clever piece of furniture that’s stylish, versatile and sustainably produced.

noble and woodNoble and Wood‘s modernist style pieces caught my eye, particularly the Cloud console with its interchangeable leather tops, and the Saddle magazine racks.

I popped into the V&A to see ao textiles‘ demonstration of natural dye techniques on their sustainable textiles.  Beautiful colours and patterns.

100% Design was a bit of a disappointment for me, to be honest.  Not much of interest for me personally and the Eco part of the show didn’t seem particularly eco, with many of the brands not demonstrating any eco credentials at all.  However, I did like Tom Vousden‘s furniture and Ilias Ernst‘s Timber lighting.

And onto Decorex.  Held this year for the first time at Kensington Palace, it was spacious, easy to get to, and full of stunning decoration and design ideas.

CuriousaAbsolutely loved these pendants from Curiosa and Curiosa.  Retailing from around £3,000 each, they’re unlikely to be a feature in many homes any time soon, but the handblown glass from Devon and the combination of colours had a mesmerising quality that was beautiful.  And more simple lights are available at a much more affordable price.

Hibou Home have a very cute collection of wallpaper and fabrics for children’s rooms – something a lot more on my radar these days than it used to be!

bluebellgrayBluebell Gray were exhibiting for the first time – some stunning Scottish fabrics.  They were showcasing their colourful painterly shapes.

I had a great chat with Mylands paint, learning about how they make their paint, and why they are different from Farrow & Ball and Little Greene.  Convinced me to try them out next time.

Finally, I heard an interesting panel discussion in the Seminar Theatre: Sustainable Luxury – a contradictory concept.  Can luxury ever be sustainable, or does luxury exclude sustainability by definition?  The debate grew quite heated at times, with Oliver Heath (eco-architect and designer) and Rebecca Whittington (co-founder of The Scarlet Hotel, an eco hotel in Cornwall) arguing that we need to start to think about luxury differently – space, light and beauty are all luxuries in this world and these can be sustainable.

This was fiercely contradicted by Cheryl Gurner of luxury bathrooms manufacturer Bathrooms International, who stated that her clients, at the top end of the market, couldn’t care less about sustainability, and that if it wasn’t rare, endangered or precious, it wasn’t a luxury.  She argued that it’s up to the designer to bring sustainability into top end projects by convincing the client to use, for example, a grey water system, or to make sure that when items were replaced, they were reused or recycled appropriately.  That part of the market will not compromise on finish, look and experience so eco is only going to be selected if it sweeps the board with the end result, irrespective of its eco credentials.  She concluded that designers can – and should – influence, but they can’t impose.

Joe Burns of Oliver Burns (property development) was somewhere in the middle, arguing that, whilst his business was built on the concept of ‘thoughtful luxury’, it was difficult to be the eco warrier when up against all the legislation attached to premium properties, which are often listed, in conservation areas and generally restricted.  No solar panels and air source heat pumps allowed.  However, they give consideration to all the options, all the way down the chain, to come up with a solution that is thoughtful and eco-aware – along the lines of how I work.

Oliver Heath went on to comment that contractors are the weak link in the chain, and I must say that this has been my experience too.  The contractors are the ones that rip out the old and put in the new, so what they do with what they take out, and the products they’re happy to use to create the new, are key parts of the whole puzzle.

The panel agreed that sustainable design needs to be marketed as an improvement, not a sacrifice, and that the industry needs to share knowledge and experiences, rather than scolding each other and consumers for not making the perfect product or the perfect choice.  As I wrote recently, there is no right answer,  you have to just make an informed choice, balancing what’s important to you with the big picture.

What do you think about sustainable luxury?  Did you visit any events in London Design Festival?  Let me know in the comments.

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A few of my favourite things

Along with the factories in Europe and half of London, this blog is going on holiday for a couple of weeks and we’ll be back in September, celebrating London Design Festival and continuing with our howto series on interior design.

We’re still open for business though, so if you’d like some help to get your home the way you want it, and save money in the process, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

In the meantime, I thought I’d showcase a few of my favourite companies.  Click on the picture to go to the website.

Benchmark Furniture

Benchmark Furniture

Benchmark Furniture

A collaboration between Terence Conran and Sean Sutcliffe, a furniture maker, Benchmark sources all its timber sustainably, as locally as possible, and makes everything in Berkshire in its energy efficient workshop.

Ian Mankin

Ian Mankin

Ian Mankin

Natural fabrics, some organic, over 90% of which are made in Lancashire.  Also wallpaper, lampshades, cushions and other accessories.




A huge range of architectural salvage and vintage furniture.


Reborn Paints

Reborn Paints

Quality paint reprocessed and blended from previously unused paints – each pot has up to 90% recycled content, and it’s available in 28 subtle shades.


See you in September!

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Antiques, sunshine and cycling through London parks

Last week, I paid a visit to the Spring Decorative Fair in Battersea.  As it was a sunny day – and haven’t they been in short supply until recently?! – I decided to cycle from my home in North London, and boy was I glad I did.  Heading through Primrose Hill, Regents Park, Hyde Park and then Battersea Park in the glorious sunshine was exactly what I needed – and quicker than public transport too.  Don’t even get me started on driving in this city!

At the antiques fair, I especially liked the sleek and curvacious lines of Paola Bazzoli‘s 20th Century Italian stock, and Quindry had some beautiful pieces too.  Hudson Grove also caught my eye with their stock from Ichabod Headless.  Antiques and vintage pieces are a great environmentally friendly way to get a well made, stylish piece for your home.  And they don’t have to break the bank, either.

To top it all off, Megan’s – an old favourite from my days at design school – were providing the catering for the fair, and so a delicious takeaway salad was devoured in the sunshine in the park on the way home.  Not a bad way to spend a few hours and pick up some inspiration!

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