20 Standouts From the London Design Festival
Brexit or not, September is the month the global design community descends on the United Kingdom, where once again, London is bursting with product launches, exhibits, and installations for the London Design Festival. Boldly promoting London as the “design capital of the world,” the annual event was just that— September 15th through 23rd at least. Running concurrently with four furnishings trade shows—100% Design, the London Design Fair, Designjunction, and Decorex—as well as the London Design Biennale, the 16th edition of LDF seemed bigger than ever. Interior Design, live on the scene, spent all eight days scouting out the best of the best. From an exhibit celebrating Uruguayan design, to a ‘breastfeeding’ bench, and a terrarium fed by social media, the 20 standouts here caught our eye.
Uruguay, a virtually unexplored territory when it comes to contemporary design, proved that’s a mistake at the Aram Gallery. Included in “Hilos Invisibles,” an exhibit celebrating design from the South American country, the Tutura chair by Carolina Palombo Piriz and Matteo Fogale is made entirely of locally sourced materials, with its Petiribi wood frame, braided cattail back, and handwoven wool seat all built by Uruguayan artisans.
Velvety soft, expertly tanned bull hide is the canvas for Omni Drips, a vibrantly hued digitally-printed pattern by Scottish design studio Timorous Beasties for leatherworkers Bill Amberg Studio. Launched as a new leather upholstery product for wall panels and leather goods in “Hyper Real,” an exhibit exploring digital manipulation, the hide series also features designs by Tom Dixon, Faye Toogood, Alexandra Champalimaud, and Natasha Baradaran.
Designed for “comfortable breastfeeding in public,” Heer, which premiered at 100% Design, is an ergonomic bench with a child-soothing gentle rock offering partial privacy for nursing mothers.
An everyday object is unremarkable—until seen through the distorted lens of historical context. In Poland, the manhole cover symbolizes the Warsaw Uprising of 1944, when the city’s sewage system was used by the Polish resistance to fight German occupation. In the exhibit “A Matter of Things,” the London Design Biennale’s Polish pavilion (organized by the Adam Mickiewicz Institute operating under the Culture.pl brand) at Somerset House, the man hole cover was one of 10 objects selected for its ability to generate an emotive response. Rendered in a prototype-like grey-painted plywood, the objects are meant to explore cultural codes and experience’s influence on meaning.
The whims of social media cause “Data Garden” by Florentin Aisslinger to flourish—or flounder. Each time someone on Twitter tweets the words ‘data’ or ‘garden,’ a seed drops inside the terrarium installation, on view in “Creative Unions,” an exhibit highlighting work by the graduating class of arts and design college Central Saint Martins. The word ‘water’ switches on the irrigation system, making for a fragile ecosystem relying on uncontrollable variables.
Designer Tiago Rato channeled sand dunes layered by the wind in Portugal’s Algarve for the Armona sideboard. Produced by Nauu Design, the sculptural piece was featured in “Best of Portugal,” an exhibit promoting Portuguese design at the London Design Fair.
With a graceful curve inspired by the stately interiors of its namesake city, injection molded polycarbonate Venice is one of three chairs designed by Philippe Starck unveiled by Kartell.
Commissioned to temper the ‘work’ atmosphere of the lobby at Ace Hotel London Shoreditch, games table Blanco e Nero, rendered in manufactured stone Silicastone by Marco Campardo and Lorenzo Mason of M-L-XL is one of five custom products produced this year for annual exhibit “Ready Made Go.” Each product—meeting the demands of the hotel’s annual shopping list and the result of collaboration with local design and manufacturing firms—is incorporated into the hotel indefinitely.
All design objects on view in “PlasticScene”—among them the TT and M stools by Thing Thing—are creative responses to waste plastic. The exhibit, held at the Gas Holders building in the newly renovated Kings Cross development, invited 12 international designers and studios to “elevate the perception of waste plastic and inspire its further use” with excitement and originality.
Lightweight, stackable, and with an optional veneer armrest, the veneer-and-black powder-coated steel Co Chair by Menu and Norm Architects for The Office Group is a slim-lined chair meeting the multifunctional seating demands of the modern office space, from conference to co-working environments.
MultiPly, a maze-like, three-story structure of square, interconnected cross-laminated timber volumes, dominated the Sackler Courtyard at the Victoria & Albert Museum.
An interactive installation by Danish fashion designer Henrik Vibskov in the Tapestries Gallery, “The Onion Farm” consisted of an 82-foot-long tunnel of prickly-haired industrial brushes interwoven with red textile ‘onions’ in rather wacky contrast to the room’s priceless contents.
Inspiring dozens of Instagram snaps, “Alphabet,” an interactive installation of a series of colorful lacquered-metal chairs depicting all 26 letters of the alphabet took over a portion of Finsbury Avenue Square in the Broadgate district.
Vegetable-tanned leather takes an unexpected turn in the oak-framed Clop lounge chair by Jordi Ribaudí for Spanish manufacturer Toru, which has a fold in its leather seat back.
The Jesmonite and blackened-steel GC18 table earned David Knowles, a 3D Design student from Northumbria University, the Rado Star Prize UK 2018. GC18’s 400 hexagonal columns are inspired by the Giant’s Causeway, a natural rock formation in Ireland with some 40,000 interlocking basalt columns. The prize, which comes with a nearly $6,600 cash prize and a True Thinline Plasma watch, honors new talent at Designjunction.
Soho Home, the interiors line of Soho House, launches its first brick-and-mortar location. Over taking the top floor of the Soho House’s salon, kitchen, and bar Barber & Parlour in Shoreditch, Soho Home will feature products found in its Soho House locations as well as the results of special collaborations, among them limited-edition handmade tiles from manufacturer Bert & May. Like the hospitality chain, Soho Home will feature events, workshops and panel talks on topics ranging from interiors to photography and fashion.
How much can a computer determine from a face? Visitors sat down to find out at the London Design Biennale’s USA pavilion. Winner of the Emotional States Medal, the Cooper Hewitt’s “Face Values” installation stirred provocative conversations with humans and machines over emotions, ethnicity, and age.
Light and flexible upholstered screen and wall panels join the Flix collection, which also includes seating and high-back and side privacy sofas, of vibrantly colored sound-absorbing furnishings by Ineke Hans for Hitch Mylius.
On the first floor of London department store Fortnum & Mason, a stylish tea party artfully paired contemporary furniture, accessories, and limited-edition products. Toasting the British ritual of tea, celadon green was the dominating hue in “Time For Tea Scholten & Baijings,” a collaboration between the store and Dutch designer Stefan Scholten of Scholten & Baijings.