London Design Week 2018: Individuality in Interiors
What is design? Where do you go for good design? How can we even define good design as surely it's a subjective thing? But more importantly how can we we incorporate individual design into the very fabric of our homes? You may not heard about The Design Centre in Chelsea Harbour but when I heard it described as 'the interior design world's Mecca' by Vanity Fair I knew it would be worth a visit. This was only my second visit having heard Kate Watson-Smyth chair a discussion there last year but I was keen to go back for more interiors inspiration.
What is the Design Centre Chelsea Harbour?
The Design Centre can be best described as the largest European centre for interior design housing 600 luxury interiors brands (in over 120 showrooms) and could be seen as the pulsing heart for the London couture design scene and serves a dynamic industry of interior designers. Best of all in the spirit of truly inspiring everyone, this week-long event of London Design Week is free and I really love that innovative creativity and design is accessible to all. The venue itself is glamorous, architecturally interesting with it's huge domes and the customer service is outstanding. And you can spend the whole day there with a great choice of places to eat and drink including Perky Blenders coffee which is exceptionally 'drinkable' for a non-coffee drink like me (that's a huge compliment by the way)!
Rooms of our own
The main reason I wanted to attend London Design Week was to hear a panel discussion called Rooms of Our Own chaired by Charlotte Abrahams. Part of London Design Week (and in my view possibly the most inspiring part) is the Conversations in Design where inspiring interiors figures take part in open discussions about the lay of the land in the industry at present. My own personal interest in individuality in design for my own practice drew me like a moth to light to this particular discussion it's something so instrinic to my own process as well as collaboration with clients.
My relatively new entry to the interiors world meant that I didn't know a great deal about the contributors but my horizons were about to be broadened! The collective creativity and experience of Sophie Ashby, Hubert Zandberg and Susie Atkinson provided great insight into the core principles of how designers work and they articulated some of my own key beliefs about interior design and views on what an interior designer should be. Although their actual interpretation of rooms and natural inclinations range from starting room design from a piece of art, to collecting objects and seeking to tell new narratives to working almost exclusively with natural materials, the common thread was their dedication to a client-led experience.
The leading question and theme for the event was centred around the concept of Individualism and whether the term in itself has become a trend. In agreement with the speakers, I find this a counterintuitive idea really because there is an authenticity to being individual. We can't fake our unique upbringing and view of the world. However bringing these ideas into conscious awareness to help clients or ourselve create a house that they can call home, that's another matter altogether.
I'm not going to write their whole conversation verbatim (although every word was pure gold) but I wanted to share some key thoughts and takeaways about what can actually help us in our personal design choices. I could really identity with Susie in her explanation that designers are trying to get inside your mind and I guess discover those nuances, preferences and likes/dislikes that you don't even know are there! Putting it more poetically Hubert thinks it's about unlocking your soul so you can truly be at home. But all the contributors agreed that design in any field is not trying to mimic and that designers are on a mission to do something new!
The conversation moved on to comparing fashion trends to those in interior design (something that I've mentioned before is that if you're happy to wear a colour or pattern you're probably going to be happy residing in a room of same vibe) and how that we are in a unique time when everything is available to everyone. That's not only referring to what we can source for our homes but also where we can glean inspiration from. Sophie spoke so passionately about the fact that we are so overstimulated and our minds so cluttered by the constant visual data hitting our brains every day via social media that we need to step into nature and other spaces to be truly inspired and to be able to access our own ideas and creativity. Personally I am most inspired from being in a London gallery or experiencing new environments in another country. Maybe Pinterest and Instagram are in some way hindering our ability to be truly unique...
Probably one of the biggest questions as a designer is how do we work with something a client loves (or hates) that we don't feel will work in the space?! From my experience I can 100% agree with Hubert that we have to "find the zen in that pink!" It's our job to be able to be completely creative when we are limited by let's say an old family heirloom, some bland curtains or an odd shade of pink and have a responsibility to create new ideas to make the scheme work. The client has to live in their home (not us) and if they want it to stay it should!
So you can see the calibre of these three designers I'm sharing some of their incredible work below.
You can see why I drawn to this conversation. What unfolded was a frank and insightful dialogue about Individualism and whether we need to worry about it becoming a trend and I found it so refreshing hearing some of the top London Interior Designers talking passionately about client-led design.
Cole and Son
On to the showrooms now and my first port of call was one of my absolute favourite wallpaper brands Cole and Son for their eclectic and timeless designs. Did you know their only UK showroom can be found here at the Design Centre Chelsea Harbour? Last month I was delighted when I heard about their collaboration with Martin Lawerance Bullard and instantly fell for the tropcial and dreamy Royal Fernery wallpaper (I'm picturing it in our new master bedroom). It's inspired by the spectacularly colourful Jardin Majorelle that I've had the pleasure of visiting a few years ago on a romantic trip to Marrakech, so a fitting design for my new bedroom I think! And yes I've already written a blog post (with photos of the beautiful gardens here) about how Morocco made a lasting impression on my interior design preferences.
I had a great chat with the Sales Manager Sally about Cole and Son's different patterns and textures (some have more of a metallic finish if you fancy a more glam look) and as is my preference with paint, I am a massive fan of the more matt finish papers they produce. I've been dying to use one of their wallpapers for a while and feel this could be my chance. And apparently decorators leap with joy at the texture of this paper and how easy it easy to apply (which bodes well for me as I'm hoping to try wallpapering myself for the first time).
My avid readers will know that I really believe that lighting is a key component to really bring a room together and provide the right atmosphere. Original BTC really grabbed my attention with its industrial and simple yet elegant forms of design. All british made and with bespoke items available, I could have taken any of these lights home!
Watts of Westminster
Now for something a little bit different. The majestic colours emulating from my next showroom were too hard to resist and the minute I entered I was slightly lost for words (not great if you're a blogger)! The wallpapers available by Watts of Westminster are not only hand printed with 19th century blocks but you can specify the exact colours of paint for your bespoke paper. Yes wallpaper in ANY colour way you want! Besides the stunning wallpapers on display, all those decorative trimmings had me itching to get the sewing machine out as soon as I got home. As soon as I entered the showroom I was warmly greeted by a women who passionately described what her company offers to the industry and was keen to tell a few tales of how the company that started over 140 years ago had their hand in some of the design in the Houses of Parliament and the Tate Modern and had even close links with the Pre-Raphaelites. It was fascinating and I was truly in awe at this incredible legacy right in the heart of the Design Centre Chelsea Harbour. It turned out that I had been chatting to the Director of the company Marie-Séverine de Caraman Chimay. Her great-great grandfather was the founder of Watts of Westminster in 1874 and I felt privileged to brush with such incredible historical design that is still in the game in our modern world. Something tells me that antiques and a harkening for the past will always be on our radar when it comes to our personal interiors.
Next stop was Porada where I was warmly welcomed to browse and that I did. The exquisite quality not only of the sleek and elegantly designed pieces, but the wood itself is a thing of dreams. As you can see from the images I managed to take, the decor of the space was warm and homely with that hint of mid-century elegance. Green is one of my favourite colours to decorate with anyway but these shades perfectly compliment the deep rich wood tones and evoke a comfortable relaxing space in an instant. Interestingly Porada insist that for them "everything's born from the love of wood" and that comes across instantly. There was something intangible about this place that touched my interior senses and I could have lounged here all day...
My love of wallpaper gravitated me towards the Style Library and Gracie stopped me with a friendly smile in my tracks as I strolled through the door (a theme is developing here!) and quite quickly we were chatting about individual approaches to interior design and the psychology of colour. Our discussion mirrored that of the earlier Conversations in Design that I had attended in that we should all have pieces in our homes that is so intrinsic to our story that if we move it to another room or even another property (which is likely in this day and age) that it could still work with our design choices. Gracie herself spoke fondly of her childhood home in the North East of England and in particular a room where a huge farm table adorned the dining room against a backdrop of nineties orange and yellow (Graces assures me it look better than it sounds!). It's something she hopes will reside in her own home one day and it will probably be a treasured object for the rest of her life. It's interesting how interior design is much more that the colours on the wall and the furniture we put in there but we can also breathe into them memories and life.
Anyway I digress! Style library is a newer edition to the Design Centre and is the official home of six of the finest British brands, Zoffany, Harlequin, Sanderson, Morris & Co., Scion, and Anthology. I love the stylistic differences and variations between these top brands and so the Style Library really is an eclectic collection which has something for everyone. In their own words, "We're here to help you bring your home to life, the way you really want it."
It was a delight to see the William Morris wallpapers in the flesh and lots of fabrics and silks inspired by his original designs (I'm such a fan of the Red House which I wrote about here). Another lovely discovery was the idea of using silks for our living room to help dampen the sound for our AV equipment (John is adamant that if we replace the carpet with a wooden floor it will drastically affect our acoustics)... You see function and design must always marry in delicate balance!
Wired Custom Lighting
As I was dashing out the door to get back in time for the school run I managed a quick peek into Wired Custom Lighting. You know I am a sucker for lighting and if money were no object (but of course it always is!) then I'm sure I could find a home for one or two of these grand pieces in my house. I'm hoping one day I’ll get to design a boutique hotel or restuarant where one of these can adorn the room and be pride of place as the central character in the scheme.
A FEAST FOR THE EYES
As I wandered around this inspiring venue, with all the natural light spilling through the glass domes, there were visual delights around every corner...
The aerial installation conceived by Arabella McNie of playful and patterned "paintbrushed wallpaper" suspended under the huge Design Centre Domes sets a backdrop of a Design Week full of fun and colour.
Well how about that for a round up!? Sadly my stay couldn't have stretched any longer but it was more than worth the brief visit. I wanted to intentionally mention the people that I met on my whirlwind tour of London Design Week at the Design Centre Chelsea because for me design and art is undeniable linked to people. The artists and artisan's that create and the inhabitants of homes who then use them. For me design without faces is pointless and this goes hand in hand with the fundamental belief that our personal spaces should sing loudly about who you are, what you hope to be and celebrate everything that you love. And great interior designer will help you achieve that!
Unfortunately it's all over now but I can't wait until next time. Maybe you'll join me then?
DISCLAIMER: All photography from the event is my own.