Despite the recent Brexit vote, the U.K. has been the place to be this fall. Design professionals and tourists came to see the inaugural London Design Biennale (Sept. 7-27), an international survey titled “Utopia by Design,” held at Somerset House. The Biennale, which presented 37 international design interventions exploring ideas surrounding sustainability, migration, energy, and social equality, was staged to coincide with the London Design Festival (Sept. 17-25), now in it’s 14th year. The Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian National Design Museum represented the U.S. with a replica of the New York museum’s “Immersion Room”—an interactive installation highlighting digitized wallpapers from the museum’s vast collection.
Originally conceived as a smaller cluster of fairs, the festival now encompasses a total of 400 events spread throughout Clerkenwell, Islington, Shoreditch Design Triangle, Bankside, Chelsea, Brompton, and Brixton, the newest area on the design map. Historic landmarks including the Victoria & Albert Museum, which functioned as the festival’s unofficial hub, hosted site-specific projects including Mathieu Lehanneur’s “Liquid Marble,” “Foil” by Benjamin Hubert of Layer, and Glithero’s “The Green Room.” Across town at Sir John Soane’s Museum, an exhibition titled “Below Stairs” celebrated the Georgian home’s newly restored Regency kitchen while featuring works by Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby, Jasper Morrison, Martino Gamper, and Paul Cocksedge, all emphasizing culinary life.
The latest iteration of Design Junction, another burgeoning fair relocated to Central Saint Martin’s Granary Square, has been incorporated into the re-envisioned area of King’s Cross. Across town in Central London, the Old Truman Brewery was teeming with British manufacturers in what was formerly Tent London, a smaller fair which launched 10 years ago. It is now re-branded as The London Design Fair, a four-day industry event gathering 500 exhibitors including independent designers and international pavilions like 100% Norway, while highlighting the country’s output of modern British art, design, and crafts.
At Design Centre Chelsea Harbour, Focus/16 highlighted the building’s top interior showrooms while Decorex International, located in the outskirts in bucolic Syon Park, is the U.K.’s premier interior design show, now in its 39th year. More than 400 exhibitors featured new collections of fabrics and furniture that appeal to the professional decorator and design trade as well. Smaller presentations showcasing contemporary craft included Future Heritage and The New Craftsmen, also demonstrating maker skills at Burberry Makers House exhibition in town.
The Brompton Design District celebrated a decade of design, highlighting exhibitions while offering up cocktails concocted by designers; Martino Gamper’s “Gingerini,” for example, was a mixture of ginger root, strawberries, champagne, and ice.
Sixties-inspired textiles, including painterly and abstract expressionist patterns, were some of the trends spotted in showrooms with wallpaper taking centerstage. British-born photographer-turned-textile-designer Martyn Thompson showcased Rock Pool, his newest collection of water-inspired motifs woven in cotton on a jacquard loom.
And while the fairs offered something for every taste, several independent exhibitors stood out. In Shoreditch, local designers including Lee Broom at Electra House had the public lining up to see Opticality, while Dutch transplant Tord Boontje curated Electro Craft, presenting 30 kinetic works outlining the connection between technology and the creative’s fascination with craft. Around the corner, Sheridan Coakley, owner of SCP, a veteran British furnishings manufacturer and retailer, presented a mix of U.K. designers and Mexican craft alongside work by Dutch designer Piet Hein Eek.
Read on for more highlights from the fairs and news around London town.
Blackpop | Homage Collection
Blackpop, a new independent producer of wallpaper, fabrics, and furnishings, uses digital technology to produce its range of textiles specified for commercial and residential projects. Artist Maxine Hall launched the brand in 2013, and her newest collection Homage is inspired by the Abstract Expressionist art movement of the 1940s and 50s. Selections include Vanguard wallpaper and Vanguard Vibe velvet fabric (shown).
Photograph courtesy of Blackpop