MY advice for attending the London Design Festival has always been to don a pair of comfortable shoes and carry spares for when calves and toes ache. Next, minimise the collecting of samples and brochures, unless you want to add sore shoulders to sore feet.
Lighten the load further and leave your wallet at home, especially if you are easily seduced by beautiful design and always on the lookout for something new, unless you are intent on making a specific purchase. The temptation, this year, was irresistible.
Among the wallet-openers I saw on my stroll-and-stop escapade were the Lustre Grand Cargo lights, from French design house, Designheure. These are the antithesis of the vogue for metallic shades and fittings that make bare bulbs the light attraction.
There is simplicity and an undeniable French chic in their composition, with a finish that suggests tailoring and a couture approach to their design. Tailoring was certainly one of the main themes of the festival and was utilised by some of the big name exhibitors. Danish company, Republic of Fritz Hansen, which continues to make furniture to Hansen’s original designs, and is licensed to make Arne Jacobsen’s designs, too, is rapidly needling its way into modern upholstery.
Vignettes of its furniture and lighting touched on the trend for blush and copper, adding tan-brown leather and charcoal grey to the mix. The result is chic and fresh, without being twee.
As well as the revival of traditional upholstery techniques, historic applications to pattern were seen at Design Junction, where tiles featuring geometric patterns were being made on-site.
This was a fascinating process, resulting in the sort of tiles that would draw gasps when ripping up a carpet in the hall of a Victorian house and discovering a floor of geometric, terracotta beauties underneath.
Among the eclectic and wallet-busting ideas,which would easily adapt to the average house were found at Tent London, where a copper-and-glass light fitting was placed above a dining table, the top of which was made from a copper-tinted mirror that reflected the light piece. So, when seated at this table, whether looking up or down, you could see the light, which provided a nice shift of focus away from a dominant timber table and six-chair arrangement.
The reflective mood was pervasive as polished metals shone everywhere. Even at the V&A, with its usual emphasis on antiquaries and textiles, monumental design installations were a refreshing change of scale after intensive focusing on design specifically for the domestic environment.
Its exterior courtyard, edged throughout the year with tables and chairs by mid-20th century modern designers, Eero Saarinen and Harry Bertoia, and where tea can be peacefully sipped away from the stress of London traffic, is now home to a polished aluminium ‘wave’ across the central reflection pool, designed and installed by architect, Zaha Hadid.
Elsewhere in this vast building, Terence Conran and the American Hardwood Council invited 10 famous designers, like Paul Smith and Norman Foster, to name something they always wanted in their home and couldn’t find.
Conran then commissioned emerging designers to make these products, including the perfect pencil sharpener and a slanted door, of all things.
One of our emerging print artists is Marianne Keating whose work forms part of Wallpaper - Artist’s Interior Worlds, running until November 1 at London Print Studio Gallery. This group exhibition, which launched during the London Design Festival, shows the work of contemporary fine artists, alongside that of modern decorative designers. In the company of notable art figures like Jake and Dinos Chapman and their Insult to Injury wallpaper (which reworks Goya’s Los Caprichos etchings), Marianne’s The Future is Unwritten wallpaper cites a film made by The Clash’s Joe Strummer who was also a founder of the London Print Studio Gallery. www.mariannekeating.com www.londonprintstudio.org.uk