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My Highlights of Clerkenwell Design Week 2018: Kitchens & Colour

My Highlights of Clerkenwell Design Week 2018: Kitchens & Colour

Imagine a hot summers day, wandering around some of the oldest streets in London's EC1 with design inspiration around every corner and a plethora of coffee shops and food stands dotted along your path. This is Clerkenwell Design Week! Labelled as the heart and home of design, you can indulge in perusing permanent showrooms, pop up delights, art installations and larger brand exhibitions. Although it could be seen as the place for industry professionals and commercial sector, leaning towards higher-end brands rather than high street, I would argue that there is still plenty of down-to-earth inspiration to help you breathe personality into your home. 

I love Clerkenwell Design Week compared to other fairs or festivals because of it’s unique and beautiful location. This was only my second year attending and I was much more intentional with my time than last year (where I think I nearly fainted in the heat and forgot to have lunch!). This year, I was again on a tight schedule thanks to that looming school pick-up time so I really only had about four hours to navigate those pink lines on the pavement that would guide me much more efficiently than a map could, allowing me to look up and appreciate the architecture.

There was chatter among other bloggers and industry people of feeling disappointed and a of being underwhelmed by the offerings of CDW2018 this year but for me and my own design journey, it provided exactly what I needed. I was inundated with ideas for my new kitchen but like with anything of this magnitude (similarly to shopping at Bluewater!) I had to narrow my view and choose my route carefully. Here was my plan - I was going to start at Design Fields where I was listening to a talk just before lunch and then end up at the renowned Fabric nightclub where I was hoping to be wowed by the spectacle of light!

1. DEVOL Tysoe St.

My first stop on my short walk from Angel tube station was  deVOL’s Tyson Street showroom where I had a long and interesting chat about kitchens with Will. In my view, deVOL are the pinnacle in creative, original kitchen design that marry tradition with modernity in perfect unity. If you don’t know this brand then aquaint yourself! These guys made the most amazing handcraft kitchens including their signature Shaker Kitchen range which celebrates Georgian style (that can be cleverly modernised) and at this newer showroom, I finally got to view their unique Sebatian Cox kitchen in the flesh. The roughly sawn, dye-stained doors look so great with the birch wood cupboard interiors and as always their rooms are so impeccably styled that you forget you're in a showroom! The greenery and copper accents below are going to feature as planned in my new kitchen for sure!

2. Exmouth Market

My stroll to Design Fields took me through Exmouth Market (a lovely new discovery) which had lots of appealing independent shops, inviting cafes and retro butchers and I happily stumbled across this lovely Letterpress Print Maker Marby & Elm. Remember my colourful gallery wall in my hall on Instagram last week featuring fluorescent artwork? I feel that one of these neon word prints would be just at home up there.


3. Design Fields

I landed here just in time for a talk by Carolina Calzada-Oliveira, co-chairman of the SBID Colour Council on the subject of the colour blue. I’m going to save my thoughts and discoveries for another blog post but I want to mention how interesting it was to discover that blue is apparently our favourite colour not only in the UK but across other countries too. I loved hearing how Carolina gathered 2020 colour predictions from her own network of professional forecasters and was fascinated by the shades of blue that made the cut. Although ranging from an almost light grey to a darker navy, all the hues were muted and satured and could clearly work for a range of room schemes. Unsuprisingly blue along with green are my own favourite colours to decorate with (and wear) and although I can sometimes be wary of trends, I really enjoyed chatting with Neil Edwards from the SBID about how cultural identity and historical context has a strong influence on colour psychology. We discussed personal responses and connections to colours and how that at any one moment our emotions and mind-set has the greatest bearing on whether you like a colour or not. This is so important for my own practice and business and is something I'm compelled to learn and write more about.


4. British Collection

I'm a great fan of things that are designed and made in the UK so the British Collection is always a draw for me at Clerkenwell Design Week. At this point in the day, my weary feet were being drawn to kitchens and this exhibition did not disappoint. First up is a kitchen that everyone was talking about on social media prior to my visit, so I couldn't wait to see it in the flesh. I'd never hear of Pluck Kitchens before even though they are based nearby in Brixton but something tells me that after wow-ing the audience at Clerkenwell Design Week this year, they're going to be firmly in the minds of designers from now on. 

A mint green and peach kitchen. What image would that conjure up for you? I can honestly say these colours would probably be the last in my mind for any kitchen refurb (except if I was back in the 60s and called Betty Draper) but the compact design of the space, delicate balance of the hues and clever arrangement of original art made this kitchen sit in perfect harmony and bring a smile to my face. I had a great chat with the team about kitchen design and how I was coveting the copper pendant lights for my own kitchen renovation (we are slowly getting there!). Oh did I mention the custom made repeating triangular worktop design made by Corian? This kitchen was an inspiration indeed.


Just beside this colourful exhibition was my second encounter with deVOL Kitchens who were presenting their newest kitchen design - the Haberdasher's Kitchen. Harking to retro design with glass panelled cabinet doors and exquisite wood, you have to touch and try out the door action to really understand the amazing craftsmanship that goes into these kitchens. I have to say that I completely fell in love with the design except for the fact that I could never imagine having such gorgeous crockery on show and wonder where I could hide all the kids plastic crap (you know the teletubbie cups and ikea plates). Another beautiful design though from DeVOL.


5. Elements

Staying with the kitchen theme (sorry but it's the only thing on my mind at the minute!) I was super excited to meet the team at Dowsing and Reynolds and see their hardware in the flesh. I’ve been eyeing up their cupboard handles and plug sockets for the new kitchen for a while now and was grateful to touch and feel them before I buy. If you haven’t heard of them you must check them out thier affordable ranges of hardware in a whole host of metallic finishes which could work well for both modern or traditional schemes. Nice leather pulls too. It really is the little small details like hinges, door handles and sockets that can add to the overall impression on a space. There's my top tip for the day!

Next door I was stopped in my tracks by Proper Copper, a new company who have cleverly perfected copper piping for door handles and taps (and many other things I have happily discovered) to give that industrial feel that I am going for in my own kitchen. Khan the owner spoke so passionately about their experimenting process which led them to offer various finishes on the copper and how to get a really honed and professional look. I'm seriously considering the taps for the kitchen and love these guys even more now that they are handmade in Brighton (my second favourite place in England outside London)! I've seen lots of people in magazines talk about how their builder was able to whittle them up a bracket or rustic tap from copper piping but now they don't have to as Proper Copper have perfected the technique and finish to such a high standard! Go check them out and a follow on Instagram to help out a start-up company with a really fantastic product.

6. St John's Square

On my way from the Elements marquee towards my next stop, I had a pleasant surprise of gazing at some amazing carpets from Britons pop-up exhibition and their wondrously colourful collaboration with Timorous Beasties. My favourite was this bright greeny-yellow swirly grey carpet. What an amazing feature carpet this would make!


Also in St John's Square was Zettners Townhouse which was very colourfully presented in a nod to Chelsea Flower Show which was happening on the same week. Doesn't this just make your heart sing?



DEVOL Showroom in St John's Square

On the edge of St John's Square sits deVOL's main 'showroom'. This end of terrace Geogian townhouse is a must visit for any design-geek or interiors lover. This quirky and assymetric building hosts deVOL’s beautiful show kitchens across 3 storeys with a nice little terrace on the roof. I say showroom but interestingly it doesn’t feel like a show house in any way. The imperfection of the centuries-old walls and the impeccably designed dark rooms gives a very lived in feel (and actually people lived here in the recent past) and I love that other festival visitors remarked on this too, that it feels like being shown around someone's home. The ground floor area is a pink and greeny-blue kitchen with glazed handmade tiles, adorned with chandelers and original artwork. The photos don't really do it justice - it has to be seen to be believed!

I was dying to make my way to the first floor to see the new Sebation Cox kitchen that had a strong copper theme. I'd seen a few pictures to whet my appetite but it really knocked me off my feet! The tall glass apothecary cabinet, copper splash back as well as copper worktop and sink that melt into one worked perfectly against the lovely chalky blue walls. Also I was so happy to see artwork from Rebecca Leigh who I've been admiring for a while now. My two thoughts about this kitchen was that firstly, we often forget art in a kitchen but I think it gives a real homely feel. The other is that mixed metals DO work well in a kitchen if there is plenty of each. Here gold and copper work really well together in a way you couldn't anticipate. 

The other rooms are beautifully decorated and one of them is now the marketing office. I joked with the staff whether they got to have turns to have a bath in here on their lunch break (why not?)!

8. Light

My re-cap of this will be as short as my actual visit in real-time. By the time I'd found the entrance to Fabric I had about 5 minutes to rush around the extensive lighting exhibition before speeding to Farringdon station to pick up son number one from school, full of ideas. The oversized Calex bulbs (I've used their bulbs before in my own projects) and the gorgeous retro-ness of Bert Frank made the biggest impression on me. 


So, in rounding up, there was bascially a lot of great conversations with brands and makers as well as amazing kitchen inpiration to help me with the final bits to finish off and style our own kitchen. I'm always blown away by the openess and passion of people in the interiors industry and as well as design inspiration, I came away from Clerkenwell Design Week glad to have made a career change into this field. Did you manage to visit CDW2018? Are you going to visit next year? Any thoughts on the kitchens and ideas above? Would love to hear what you think in the comments below...

Yours in colour and creativity,

Donna Ford Skirting Boards and Chandeliers

P.S. This isn't a sponsored post and as always photography was taken and belongs to me.

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