London has hosted another successful London Design Festival - more commonly referred to in this time-poor era as LDF. Centred around the V&A museum, the festival takes in numerous design events right across the city, such as the long running but fairly corporate 100% Design, plus younger more adventurous offerings, Design Junction and Tent along with the opulent interior design led countryside experience of Decorex held at Syon Park. This post will cover just a small selection of interesting new products, while next week D.d will take a look at a slice of the wonderful installations that were on show over the week.
The Israeli duo Raw Edges showed their 'Endgrain' pieces in several locations: the bench at Future Heritage at Decorex and a full installation including an amazing floor at Chatsworth House. The process is a development of ideas they have been pursuing since their early experiments in coloured parquetry for Stella McCartney showrooms. In this latest form, large blocks are made by laminating different pre-stained strips of veneer and blocks of timber together in different sequences, then cnc machined into the final shape. The complex patterning that results has a cheery harlequin feel with slivers of colour contrasting with natural sections in straight lines and swooping arcs.
It seems that every design fair brings another fascinating Bouroullec product. At LDF the buzz was around their new television for Samsung called the 'Serif'. A few weeks before at Maison & Objet in Paris, it was their outdoor pieces for Seletti. They seem capable of turning their simple reductive aesthetic to just about anything. 'Serif' takes the concept of the I-beam and stretches it into a frame for a screen and in the process provides a narrow shelf on the top for small decorative objects or just a place to put the remote control. It will be offered with or without the spindly legs (shown above) making it equally appropriate for use on shelves or freestanding in the middle of the room. It is the later mode of operation that seems to most intrigue the Bouroullecs who set out to create a TV with a genuine sense of furniture.
Russell Pinch and Oona Bannon started their label PINCH in 2004 and have quietly built a loyal following for their quiet crafted products over the intervening years. The new 'Nim' tables are a departure from the studio's normal work in timber and upholstery, exploring a material called Jesmonite (made from a mixture of acrylic resin and gypsum plaster powder). Referencing lava strata, stone and the effects of weathering, the table has a pleasingly natural colour shift from top to bottom like an age old form of ombre.
I have a soft spot for the Japanese paper light manufacturer Ozeki & Co as I was the Australian distributor of their products for many years. On a visit to the 'factory' (more of a workshop) some years ago I saw a number of prototypes by contemporary designers that had never made it into production. While the lamps designed by Noguchi in the early 50's for which the company is justifiably famous, will always be the core range, the handmade washi paper material lends itself to creative expression in a variety of ways. The 'Hotaru' lamps by British designers Barber Osgerby don't attempt to take on the genius of Noguchi's sculptural forms. Rather they concentrate on the cloud-like qualities of Japanese paper lanterns in spherical shapes. Slight alterations to the sphere - a pulled in waist or a tapered bottom - offer a very restrained, even gentle aesthetic.
SCP is a London institution that has been pushing contemporary, predominantly British design, for over 30 years. As a company that supported Jasper Morrison, Konstantin Grcic, Matthew Hilton and many other big names early in their careers, it is in a unique place to reissue a number of gems from the vaults. This they have been doing with gusto for the last two years and at LDF 2015 they pulled out another corker - Grcic's 'Pasha' sofa - from the 90's. In addition to their intense reissue programme, founder Sheridan Coakley has never lost sight of the importance of constantly moving forward and he continues to launch work by a new generation of designers such as Faudet-Harrison, Donna Wilson and Lucy Kurrein. Lighting designer, Michael Anastassiades made his furniture design debut with the boxy 'Rochester' sofa and ottoman. As usual it is Anastassiades' eye for detail that sets this design apart from many others that have attempted a similar look.
James Shaw shot to fame with his graduation piece, the 'Well Proven' chair designed with Marjan van Aubel a few years ago. His 'In the round' collection of stool and chair show none of the natural madness of the 'Well Proven', instead executing a type of shaker-style simplicity using turned oak rods. These along with work by Peter Marigold, Katja Pettersson (one of the co-founders of Swedish group Front) and Tom Faulkner were on show as part of the Super Design Gallery at Tent.
Daniel Schofield has a refined sense of shape that sometimes comes across as being influenced by Japanese forms and at other times by objects from Scandinavia. The unusual combination of a rectangular top and arched handle found in 'Arch', provides a quirky but appealing occasional table that begs to be moved around the house.
His work was also on show at Tent - an exhibition housed within the Old Truman Brewery site in London's east end area of Shoreditch. The exhibition always features a huge number (this year it was 440) young designers and small brands from 29 countries. The global nature of the event was given more formal acknowledgement by way of Country Showcases from Norway, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Taiwan, Korea, Ireland, the Czech Republic, Italy and Australia.
Another British designer and woodworker who was exhibiting at Tent that creates interesting shapes in his furniture pieces is Charlie Crowther-Smith. His 'Hide' chair is made from a single plank of oak with a curved bracing system made from laminated sections.
Stylistically extremely different, his '1552.2' cabinet made of larch, oak and ramin dowel uses cnc cutting to apply a pattern that disguises three drawer and two door openings.
The international nature of Tent throws up a number of countries that don't immediately spring to mind when discussing design such as Estonia and Lithuania. At the Lithuanian Design Block show Emko showed their contemporary take on stick furniture that included their already successful flatpack shelving system 'Folding' and their 'My Writing Desk' and 'Naive' chair.
Also at Tent was a stand showcasing work from the Tartu Art College in Estonia. Of special interest was a fresh take on the Bauhaus tubular steel chair by Katlin Eskla. 'Duo' has immediate appeal with it's natural hide sling and open metal frame. Estonia is famous for its woodworking prowess - particularly plywood bending - but this chair shows that their young designers aren't pandering to this reputation.
Perhaps revealing an even greater influence from the Bauhaus was Australian brand QueenSo with their new 'QNSo07' armchair. Also made from square section tubular steel and natural hide, the 'QNSo07' offers large paddle arms stretched across a striking blue frame. Shown as part of a selection of Australian design that participated in Tent's Country Showcase, the chair feels simultaneously retro and contemporary. I'm not sure the extended wings add much to the concept but it certainly makes the chair's presence felt.
100% Norway has been part of Tent for several years and the organisation celebrated its 12th exhibition in London. The exhibition is typically excellent and this year was no exception.
Of particular interest were the stone objects by Hallgeir & Hege Homstvedt. While Hallgeir is well known for his furniture, lighting and accessory designs for Muuto and New Works, these objects are a refreshing playful change from his normal emphasis on clever industrial design.
The work of Oslo based studio Kneip was also startling. Exploring the space between art and design, the duo showed a diverse collection of objects in metal with oxidised finishes all of which related to the various effects of nature, whether it be by wind or the weathering effects of water.
Ceramics are achieving a massive comeback in the UK. While most of the country's porcelain factories have closed down in recent decades some in Stoke-on-Trent have been re-opened to create more independent design ceramics. Handmade ceramics are also enjoying an upturn in popularity.
Danish ceramics studio, Tortus Copenhagen combine smooth classical shapes with complex glaze variations. Their aim is to preserve the country's centuries old pottery tradition by creating inspiring contemporary vessels. The richness of the colours are quite amazing and could only have come from extensive glazing experiments over many years.
I had seen the work of Studio 22 at Ventura Lambrate in April but at LDF the Uzés based designer, Jakob Hartel showed some newer designs that showcased the spectrum of his work from the complex and facetted nature of his 'Piasom' room divider to the the smooth and Scandinavian inspired aesthetic of the 'Horace' daybed.
Two lighting designs stood out from the plethora of new products on show at LDF. One was by Tel Aviv designer, Nir Meiri and the other by Australian design studio DAAST. The former design called 'Black Swan' is a delicate floor lamp with two shades that stretch up gracefully, resembling the neck of a swan. Sydney based studio, DAAST (Andrew Southwood-Jones and Alexander Kashin) are known for creating highly original and beautifully resolved designs. Their new table lamp called 'Tunnel' debuted at LDF. With its square tubular funnel shaped body, the light has a strong sense of sculpture but features a innovative dimmer mechanism in the form of a magnetic button that attaches to the side of the lamp and follows the light's sweeping shape.
The third light (and final item of this long ,long post) that impressed was actually an installation of a great number of 'Flame' lights made by London based lighting studio Luum. Situated in The College, a building which up until recently housed Central Saint Martins, the lights created a ethereal and poetic atmosphere. The combination of white and clear glass bubbles cascading down the time-worn stairwell was enough to melt the heart of anyone who loves design.