The third week in September brought London’s annual Design Festival, with hundreds of exhibitions and installations springing up around the city. It’s always brimming with inspiration, and after spending far too much money on train fare travelling back and forth from Bristol for last year’s event, this time around I decided to stay with a London-based friend and see as much as I could. Over the course of four days, I walked more than 60km, took in two separate trade shows (Design Junction and London Design Fair), and visited countless showrooms, galleries and pop-up spaces. It was a great chance to catch up with some of my favourite brands, but today I want to focus on the makers and designers who I came across for the very first time, as well as a few newly launched pieces that caught my eye. So, here are my top 10 London Design Festival finds – I hope you like them as much as I do!
Contemporary Indian crafts from Kam Ce Kam
First up is Kam Ce Kam, a new brand launched during the festival. It was set up by interior architect and designer Jehanara Knowles, who grew up between New Delhi and London, and Shalini Misra, founder of award-winning interior design practice Shalini Misra Limited. They wanted to ensure the survival of traditional Indian crafts by fusing them with a contemporary aesthetic, and the results are stunning. Created in collaboration with artisan makers, the debut collection encompasses chairs, tables and accessories. Each piece showcases centuries-old techniques and celebrates the materials used – my favourites included the hand-woven cane ‘Mera’ chairs and ‘Divaar’ screen, the two-tone marble ‘Mausam’ coffee and console tables, the sleekly carved ‘Tera’ chair’, and the stackable candlesticks and storage boxes. There’s also a strong commitment to sustainability – the terrazzo tables, for example, are made from marble offcuts generated during the production of other items.
New designs from Another Country
Also launching during the festival were several new pieces from British brand Another Country. It’s known for its timeless, understated designs, and the latest additions to its range are stunning. Among them are the company’s first bed, a fully upholstered sofa and the ‘Hardy’ oval dining table, all featuring its signature warm tones and simple shapes. There’s also a modular shelving system called ‘Frame’, which comes in black, green and natural oak, plus a softly curved stackable chair named ‘Arc’. Most notable, though, is ‘Fold’ – a striking lounge chair with a cane back, upholstered pads and a black frame, created by designer Alain Gilles. It’s not what I would have expected from Another Country, but I really liked it and can see it working in all sorts of different settings.
Stylish, versatile furniture from noo.ma
I was drawn to start-up brand noo.ma‘s stand almost as soon as I walked into London Design Fair. Based in Poznán, Poland, it was founded on the belief that the spaces around us shape the way we feel and view the world. Its furniture and accessories are therefore designed to be functional and beautiful, and were created with everyday use in mind. There are sideboards, media units, cabinets, tables, beds, poufs and more, all featuring clean lines and timeless shapes. I particularly liked the look of the ‘Naturally’ collection, which pairs slimline black legs with nature-inspired colours such as earthy terracotta, forest green and sandy beige, and the modular ‘Fobi’ shelving system, which consists of metal frames and plywood inserts that can be arranged in all sorts of different configurations. Everything is available to buy online, and it’s definitely a brand I’ll be keeping an eye on from now on.
Beautiful ceramics from HoJung Kim
Another discovery at London Design Fair was South Korean artist HoJung Kim, who uses ceramics to explore the relationship between different colours and materials. A graduate of KyungHee University, HongIk University and London’s Royal College of Art, she mixes traditional craft techniques and industrial methods to create elegant yet eye-catching objects. Her ‘Flow’ stoneware and porcelain vessels, for example, feature recycled fragments of clay that drift across the surfaces in swirling patterns, resulting in a harmonious collection that reveals unexpected combinations as you look more closely. I loved the way they offset muted beige and brown with vibrant orange and sky-blue, and the clay fragments reminded me of rocks studded with fossils and gemstones.
Mallorcan design from CONTAIN
An entire stand at London Design Fair was dedicated to design from Mallorca, and it was here that I came across CONTAIN. Founded by partners Mauricio Obarrio and Juan Peralta, this Palma-based lighting and furniture studio creates pieces inspired by the colours and textures of the island, using local materials and crafts where possible. The results are beautiful, blending simple forms with striking surfaces. There are floor, table and wall lamps made from brushed, bronzed or blackened brass, sleek coffee and side tables, and stunning contemporary chandeliers. What’s more, many of the designs feature stone terrazzo (for which Mallorca is known) in wonderfully soft colour combinations, created in collaboration with Mallorcan terrazzo specialist HUGUET.
Sustainable glassware from LSA International
By far my favourite installation over at Design Junction was premium glass brand LSA International‘s ‘The Greenhouse’. Dressed with lots of leafy greenery from Botanical Boys, it was set up to showcase LSA’s sustainable ‘Canopy’ collection, developed in collaboration with Cornwall’s Eden Project. Inspired by the Eden Project’s goals of conserving water and plant life, ‘Canopy’ focuses on the concepts of hydration and propagation and features drinkware, self-watering planters, vases and terrariums made from 100% recycled glass. I was very taken by the distinctive shapes, the delicate look (none of the chunkiness I’d normally associate with recycled glass) and the cork lids, as well as the fact that everything from the recycled cardboard boxes to the vegetable inks on the packaging has been designed to be as environmentally friendly as possible.
The Greenhouse also provided a peek at some other new LSA launches, my favourite of which was the ethereal, sand-blasted ‘Mist’ range of glasses, carafes and vases.
Hand-crafted furniture from Isokon Plus
Also spotted at Design Junction was Isokon Plus, which has been making sleek wooden furniture since 1931. Everything is hand-crafted in small batches at its London workshop, and the collection features designs by Modernist greats such as Marcel Breuer and Egon Riss alongside more contemporary pieces. The centrepiece of its stand this year was the ‘Shell’ chair, created by long-term Isokon Plus collaborators Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby back in 2004 but only now going into full production. Designed to accompany the existing ‘Shell’ table, it’s made from super-thin wood that’s molded over the frame, without any visible fixings or screws. The result is extremely lightweight and almost looks like it’s been folded together – a truly beautiful chair!
Ercol x Norm Architects
Another classic British brand, Ercol, used the festival to showcase its ‘Pennon’ dining table, designed by Denmark’s ever-inspiring Norm Architects. It was created to avoid distractions and enable diners to focus on enjoying the company of others – as the team at Ercol say, “it’s eye-catching yet it doesn’t upstage you or your dinner.” It features large aeroplane wings whose shape is echoed in the leg supports, together with elegant spindles (a signature element of many Ercol designs). It’s available in whitened, natural or dark ash as well as walnut, and it looks great paired with any of Ercol’s iconic chairs.
Ercol also let slip that they have more collaborations with Norm Architects in the pipeline, together with big plans for their centenary next year. I can’t wait to see them…
‘Prototypes’ by dellostudio for M.A.H.
I stumbled across Hackney gallery M.A.H. (Modern Art Hire) on the way to somewhere else, but I’m glad I did. Founded by interior stylist Laura Fulmine after she encountered endless problems trying to licence artwork to use in photoshoots, it has a growing collection of pieces that can be hired out for photography, film, office spaces and interior projects. To celebrate London Design Festival, Laura commissioned new work for the very first time – a furniture series called ‘Prototypes’, designed by Oscar Piccolo and Charlotte Taylor of London- and Paris-based dellostudio. It encompasses a dining table, a coffee table, four different chairs, a shelving unit and a screen, all inspired by Greek and Roman architecture and (intriguingly!) The Flintstones. I loved the mix of columns and organic forms, and the way abstract shapes have been cut out of some surfaces. The overall look is sculptural yet playful, and it made a great backdrop for M.A.H.’s eye-catching artworks.
Stunning lighting from Foscarini
Last but not least is Italian lighting brand Foscarini, who took over Oneroom Gallery – a Victorian warehouse in Shoreditch – to create its ‘Metaphysica’ exhibition. The aim was to present its latest designs in an unexpected, dream-like way, and it was a joy to wander around. Light and shadow were used to create a sense of mystery, and there was even fake smoke billowing up from the floor! The lighting itself was beautiful too – my eye was instantly drawn to the engraved ‘Rituals’ collection, which was inspired by oriental paper lanterns, and Marc Sadler’s cloud-like ‘Nuée’ suspension lamp. I also loved Tord Boontje’s ray-like ‘Sun – Light of Love’ pendant, dangling dramatically over a vintage bathtub.
Foscarini, M.A.H. and first and third LSA International images by Abi Dare; all other photography via the respective brands above
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