London Design Festival 2018

Well what a magnificently busy week last week was!  London Design Festival is the highlight of the trade calendar in Interiors, every September suppliers pull out all the stops to showcase their new collections with events, displays, workshops and parties (basically they ply you with free prosecco, gin cocktails and charcuterie boards in exchange for your attention).  In venues all across London you can meet new suppliers, see expertly curated exhibitions, listen to knowledgeable speakers and source for all of your project needs.

After Decorex and the Royal Academy on Sunday, I ventured to Focus at Chelsea Harbour Design Centre early Monday morning.  It’s not a destination I frequently visit because my reps are amazing and they come to me, but there are some showrooms that aren’t to be missed, such as Tissus d’Helene (or as most designers know it, the Aladdin’s cave of textiles), Artisans of Devizes and Via Arcadia for their wonderful tiles, and Phillip Jeffries for their stunning wall coverings.  House of Hackney also had a pop up this year, their installation was fantastic and they really showed off their wallpapers and fabrics beautifully in a dark and intense little space that really drew you in from the outside.  I spend the entire day going from showroom to showroom, visiting brands that I had perhaps steered away from in the past so I could be sure that I had a full rounded and updated view of the Harbour.  I ordered up plenty of new samples which will hopefully arrive in the coming weeks to stock up the library, then headed home before the party started – I couldn’t face a busy week on a hangover!

On Wednesday Farrow & Ball released their much anticipated 9 new colours!  They are;

School House White 291 (a nice neutral white with a warm grey undertone)

Treron 292 (a lovely warm green grey)

Jitney 293 (a stunning neutral brownish pink)

Paean Black 294 (a dark aubergine)

Sulking Room Pink 295 (a wonderful grown up mauve pink)

Rangwali 296 (a vivid hot Indian pink)

Preference Red 297 (a mature merlot red)

Bancha 298 (a Japanese tea green)

De Nimes 299 (a lovely warm mid tone blue)

I love every one of the colours that Farrow & Ball have released and I’m not going to cry any tears over the 9 they’ve shelved to be able to make room for the new, however I am a little shocked that Black Blue 95 has gone.  I’ve used that colour many times in the past and as Railings and Off Black are so similar, I would have thought they would have shelved one of those instead, or my personal preference would have been to get rid of one of the creamier neutrals instead, but they know what they’re doing.

I had a client meeting coming up on the Thursday so I spent my midweek in the studio working on some drawings in prep for that, before heading into London early Thursday morning.  First stop was Shoreditch House for a meeting at the rooftop bar and then I dropped in quickly to the Original BTC and Superfront pop up, before heading down to the Old Truman Brewery for the London Design Fair.  This for me was by far the best trade show of the entire festival, the calibre of the products on show was extremely high and there was a healthy percentage of sustainable British textiles, furniture, textiles, accessories and rugs.  The great thing about the design fair is that 99% of the people manning the stands are the creators of the products they’re showcasing, so they’re very knowledgable and willing to answer any and all questions.  I found some amazing brass handles from Yorkshire, vegetable dyed hemp textiles from London, handcrafted wooden furniture from Somerset & Scotland and some stunning lamps and wool textiles from the Lake District. There was also a very interesting installation created from chipboard and ply, coloured and patterned in a myriad of designs, showing that even the most mundane of materials can become something spectacular.

From here I headed to Darc Room, a new exhibition of lighting.  It wasn’t really what I expected, most of the suppliers were showcasing some variation of flat LED light, there wasn’t really anything that grabbed my attention as new and unique, but I’m sure others had a more positive take on it.

Onto Olympia, for 100% Design.  This trade show for me is sometimes hit and miss as there are a lot of commercial office furniture suppliers exhibiting their meeting pods, acoustic desk panels and ergonomic height adjustable stools (all terribly ugly and usually monochrome with some type of fire retardant synthetic wool/felt covering them) which really isn’t my aesthetic.  This year however, hats off to the curator because the show was in an easy to navigate grid layout, grouping similar stands together in sections so I was able to bypass the contemporary office furniture section in favour of lighting, textiles, handcrafted furniture, art, architectural features such as doors and ironmongery as well as their tiles and surface finishes section.  It was definitely worth the trip and I found some amazing new products that I haven’t seen before.  They also had a nice little lighting installation in one of the side rooms with some very interesting pendants made from wood, ceramic and metal.

As with fashion, some designers stick with what they know and you see the same light fittings and pieces of furniture in their designs over and over again, just in different fabric or finishes.  For me, our clients come to Studio JQ because they want something that is curated around them, not a cookie cutter version of what someone else has.   I have a huge appreciation for those ‘iconic’ or ‘classic’ pieces, but I much prefer to spend the time to put together a more eclectic mix of old and new, antique finds and unknown newbies.

My Design Festival week continued at the weekend with a trip to the National Portrait Gallery for an exhibition of Michael Jackson art.  Like him or loathe him, it was fascinating to see different artists interpretations of the King of Pop using a variety of mixed media.  The most poignant for me weren’t the paintings, photographs or videos, but a pair of black loafers in the centre of a circle, held up on their tiptoes by a collection of helium balloons tied with strings around the heels.  The caption from the artist said that this not only represented Michael Jacksons iconic dance move where he would jump on his toes, but that each time a balloon deflated, it had to be replaced with a new balloon, representing how tiresome and never ending the process of keeping up the public appearance and the facade was for a person in the public eye.  I felt that this was all to relevant in today’s age where everyone is now creating their own public persona through social media, even if it’s only to their friends on Facebook or Instagram.  Social Media is an amazing tool for connecting people and sharing information, but we must be wary that we don’t become dependent on our ‘balloons’ to stay afloat…they only stay inflated for so long, they’re bad for the planet and eventually, they’ll run out.

Jenny Quinlan
Director & Head of Design
Studio JQ Ltd

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