The black, the colour, the slice of gold: Megatrends for Commercial Space 2011/12

My highlight of 100% Design last weekend was a talk by Stylesight’s Vice President of Global Trends Renee Labbe, herself subtley stylish with cotton shirt and jeans, Californian complexion and accent.  Stylesight is a company that predicts future design trends so that designers can make sure that the work they are producing on their drawing boards now is on trend when it hits the shops.  I wasn’t sure how seriously to take it – I don’t know whether organisations like this are accurately predicting the future or creating it or neither. It was an enjoyable talk though. Apparently there will be four distinct ‘Megatrends for Commercial Space’ in 2011/12, analogue, Soul, manifesto and Rebel. This is some of what I learned (I have selected the bits I found the most funny, interesting or confusing):

Analogue– design by elimination, taking every day and making it luxurious, everything is super normal but not bland. It’s a hotel for the design savvy that work hard and don’t want to be bombarded by experiences (perhaps this is the antidote to The One Room Hotel from my earlier blog entry). There are dirty browns, grey and beige (greige), a less is more aesthetic. There are leather pillows that are not too soft but not too firm. Here is manual calendar that you have to change the dates on yourself. There is a sink with handles. Luxurious not precious. Influences – Nick Gentry, scrabble letters, Helvetica.

Soul – A new beginning. A sexiness that isn’t contrived. Warm earthy tones, saffron, deep taupe. Yellows, reds, greens for nature. African references still evolving. Island life. Inspired by old issues of Ebony and Jet magazine. Fabrics and materials that have be laid out and bleached in the sun. Dry feeling materials, hand crafted. Exotic and eclectic but not ethnic. 

Influences – Janelle Monae , Parvez Taj, Bleu Nature . Techocraft – a combination of technology and hand crafted items like an LED light with a hand woven shade.  Tom Dixon and Marcel Wanders.

Manifesto – live out loud. Social but ‘look at me’. High octane glamour.  A feminine palette of soft pinks and black, another palate of zesty greens. The black, the colour, the slice of gold. Confidence. Its Bianca Jagger gets a role on Dynasty and throws a studio party for all her friends. Bright on bright on bright. Red is really important. Silhouette florals, sketchy print, satin sheets, metallic and Lurex.

Rebels – Sweet dresses with tattoo prints. Skulls, death. Matt lacquer and metallic working together. Boiled leather, wrapped and draped. Tattoo designs very important. Homemade tattoos. Influences- Scott Campbell who carves designs in dollar bills with a scalpel, Kwangho Lee , Kevin Francis, Rick Owens, Kuehn Keramik.

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Enlightening nuggets

A talk at 100% Design last weekend, from Rebecca Weir the head of a company called Light IQ is worth mentioning. It was clearly intended to be a basic introduction with a few nuggets of interesting information.

Lessons learned:

A sunny day affects your mood fundamentally.

Clients often aren’t even aware where north is in their house – yet this affects the light enormously.

Florence Nightingale first noticed that people near the windows in hospitals get better quicker. She designed finger shaped wards so that every bed would be near a window. Later high-rise hospitals meant that patients didn’t get enough light. Now new hospitals are designed with light domes and wells to ensure that patients get enough natural light.

Full spectrum lighting provides an even spread of colour temperatures, mimicking natural light. Not all lighting that advertises itself as full spectrum delivers what it promises.

Blue light keeps people alert.

Orange light is relaxing.

People like to watch the sunset because they enjoy the sensation of light changing*

Colour temperatures in excess of 6000 degrees Kelvin have a stimulating effect. In excess of 8000 degrees Kelvin has a negative effect (just found this interesting table of different colour temperatures)

RW doesn’t agree that you shouldn’t mix and match colours of light in a space. For example you might want to use it to pick out and complement different features – a red sofa, some blue tiles etc.

If you have a big glass window in a large space you are going to need artificial lights to balance the depth of that space which will look dark by contrast.

Some people can’t cope with fluorescent lights because they can detect the high frequency flickering. LEDS can now be used in their place.

RW has a bit in her talk about light therapy. RIBA made her take it out because it’s not proven. BIDA let her keep it in!

There are 16.2 million different colours of RBG LEDs.

If you shut blinds at night it reduces contrast and makes the room appear brighter.

*This reminds me of a talk I went to at the V&A a few weeks ago where Richard Seymour talked about the innovative light in BMW model that faded slowly as you shut the door instead of turning off abruptly. Apparently this was a huge hit with the punters. He reckons this was because of a positive association with the lights going up and down in theatres and cinemas.

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100% Decorex

Exhibitors at Decorex and 100% Design

I love the atmosphere of trade shows. Lots of people gathering together from all over the country and beyond in a huge aircraft hangar of a building to tout their finely primped, polished and buffed wares. I’ve never really been a bona fide visitor at the various shows I’ve been to and I’ve had to creatively ‘enhance’ my credentials to get trade access to events for boat buyers, bar owners, antiques dealers and, most recently for Decorex and 100% Design, interior designers. This enhances the whole experience for me, giving an illicit thrill to penetrating the inner sanctum of assorted trades, hobbies and professions.

100% Design last weekend filled Earls Court 2 with shiny furniture, futuristic home appliances, egg-shaped beds for cats and recycled composite workshops for kitchens. This felt like an event for the mainstream Interior Designer – not much especially challenging, bespoke or expensive, but an encyclopaedic array of contemporary design arranged in streets of display stands in the cavernous hall.

Coque for cats!

 I very much enjoyed the  Electrolux Design Lab which was a Tomorrow’s World display of improbable household appliances including a wardrobe that cleans your clothes, a miniature cooker that you can put on a saucepan (rather than vice versa), and an external solar-powered refrigerator.

Wow, space age! A fridge made of jelly that you can stuff your apple into..

After 100% Design on Saturday I headed over to the gardens of the Chelsea Pensioners for  Decorex on Sunday. The atmosphere was much more exclusive and expensive (posher) than 100% Design. Nina Campbell had designed a whimsical Alice in Wonderland theme for the entrance and loos. There was champagne and an espresso bar. The wares on display here were often breathtakingly beautiful and too numerous to list. The absolute stand-out most lovliest thing for me were the hand painted de Gournay wallpapers and especially the one on their stand which featured lots of little black monkeys climbing through foliage.

Things to remember:

I loved Kate Usher‘s wallpapers, which included a brilliant terrapin design, embellished with little sparkly bits (much more subtle than it sounds).

Surface view do large prints onto wallpaper (send your own image), printed roller blinds and printed pictures that can be stuck on and unstuck and moved around the room.

Camilla Meijer’s wallpapers – bold nature print designs, with unusual colour pairings

Early 20th c. Style lights

Light shades that look like wooden banana skins.

Worktops made from mashed up ceramics that look like the cross section of a raku glaze

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The rub test: A Moquette for London

Written 23 September 2010

Apart from trying to forget an urban myth* about the number of different animals and bodily fluids residing in it, I’d never really given much thought to the material covering the seats in the tube before. A Moquette for London at London Transport Museum last night, changed all that.

Three short lectures at the beginning of the evening gave an overview of the moquette upholstery, its history and a recent design competition to create a new ‘moquette for London’.

Mike Ashford the Design and Heritage Manager from London Underground spoke first about the history of the material which has been in use on the tube since the 1930s.

The second lecture was from Margo Selby who was a runner up in the moquette competition but has also done other work with LU and has done interesting collaborations with People Will Always Need Plates. She has a shop near the British museum where she works on a loom and she stocks a mixture of her own textiles and other designers work. ‘Textile Taxidermy’ on display in her shop at the moment looks curious.

The design duo, Wallace and Sewell, presented their winning design for the Moquette for London competition, where a series of seemingly abstract shapes actually represent London landmarks. It is quite fun picking out the shapes in the resulting design. Although they design together they have contrasting influences with one very inspired by Bauhaus and Paul Klee and the other citing a book she grew up around – Verneuil’s Etude de la Plante, which depicts art nouveau designs inspired by nature and looks lovely.

After the lectures the evening went downhill when a craft workshop was laid on, where you could decorate your own moquette inspired glasses using glass painting pens. Why they chose this medium I do not know. Glass painting always looks awful done with these pens – even when done by professionals and flogged in tourist shops. After my tartan design (inspired by an original moquette, itself inspired by tartan) turned out disgusting-looking I lost heart a bit and began to doodle trees and giraffes. There’s a laboured analogy in here somewhere. The thing is, to my eye, tube seats always look pretty bad but I think that has more to do with the context than the actual pattern. I’m more impressed now I know they are real wool and someone actually thought about the design but there is something about the dazzling shape and colour contrasts, the ugly lighting on the tube and the surrounding hard plastic surfaces (not to mention to fear of what the pattern and fur conceals among its fibres) that make them look slightly repulsive. Glass paint will always look wrong because its drippy, uneven, handmade appearance is an ugly constrast to the umblemished clarity and solidity of an industrially-produced glass. I have certainly never been tempted by the range of moquette homeware available in the shop at the London Transport Museum.

Lessons learned:

Moquette is wool, which was a surprise to me – I always thought it was some sort of horrible synthetic.

The plush, velvety surface is deliberately chosen instead of a flatweave, because it stops people slipping about.

They test the pattern repeats to check that they are not too ‘busy’ – specifically, Mike implied, to stop drunk people becoming mesmerised by it on a bumpy tube journey and throwing up. Patterns are also chosen to disguise stains, should the worst happen.

The colours are reversed on priority seats.

The seats on the central line are rotting because of water ingress.

The fabric lasts longer on the Victoria line because the trains are never exposed to daylight.

The moquette is expected to last 2.5 to 3 years.

A ‘rub test’ is used to test the durability of the material.

Names associated with moquette design – Dorian Marn, Micha Black, Christian Barman, Eddie Chapman, Enid Marx, Jack Thomson (tribolite design)

*this is not an urban myth. Always wash your hands after going on the tube.

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The One Room Hotel

The private view of the One Room Hotel provided a rare opportunity to step inside the world of interior designers James Russell and Hannah Plumb aka  JAMESPLUMB. After a frosty welcome on the door ‘Um, this is a private event?’ I entered straight off the street into the bedroom. The crowds of the opening event detracted from what would certainly be an atmospheric, perhaps haunting, space when deserted.  A shabby four-poster had tousled sheets and a gossamer thin canopy with tiny cut out shapes. Light permeating from above evoked cold autumn sun through the lace of a rotting leaf. A chest of drawers has vintage suitcases instead of drawers. The floors are rough-hewn wood. A range of superlative products for skin, hair and body is provided by Aesop… 

This vintage aesthetic (cabinet of curiosities meets Miss Haversham chic?), epitomised and perfected by JAMESPLUMB has been around for a while. I remember first noticing it in the mainstream while browsing in a Milwaukee branch of Abercrombie and Fitch in 2004, bedecked in dark woods with moody colours and moth-eaten stags’ heads displayed on the walls above the cashiers’ heads. So where next for desirable bespoke interiors, because we surely must be reaching the end of this?

Anyway, in complete contrast I’m now in Macdonald’s in Dalston (shame on me), which is kited out in colour-block primaries and jolly, friendly staff. Maybe this is where the future lies…

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Living Architecture

Written Sep 19 2010

Alain de Botton gave a talk on Friday night at the V&A about his Living Architecture project. This works on the Landmark Trust model but instead of restoring old buildings they have been knocking down old buildings and creating new ones. After publishing on architecture A de B is concerned that his books won’t change the world, so he started this project to effect real change. The idea is to allow hoi polloi an opportunity to experience good quality modern architecture and then demand it themselves in new buildings and the homes that they buy.

The project hasn’t been without its critics. In order to avoid the near impossible process of getting new building consent in desirable locations LA has been buying old ones and knocking them down, to the disgust of disgusted-of-Thorpeness et al.

There are a handful of buildings taking bookings now. De Botton says it is affordable for all but it only really becomes so if you can co-ordinate a group of 10 people to take a few days off work mid-week in the middle of winter to share the low-season costs. I’d love to, but I’m sure I can’t, having tried and failed to rouse groups of friends for events ranging from snorkelling in the Red Sea to the Oxfordshire Cheese Festival.

The buildings all look fun and quirky but not massively comfortable. The interior images for the only finished building – the balancing barn – look disappointingly like the children’s area in IKEA to me. They have a no TV rule (also like the Landmark Trust) which I think is a shame. If they are honestly trying to give ordinary people the opportunity to live in these buildings they should be allowed to kick back in them on a Saturday for a TV dinner and a spot of Strictly.  Instead they are expected to sit and gaze at the wonder of the walls.

I think the best one will be the Dune House, which has a bathtub in every bedroom and is right on the beach.  For anyone lucky enough to have a big group of obedient friends I definitely think they’d be worth a look-in.

Note: 20 Sep 2010

I emailed A de B about the upsetting no telly rule and this is what he said:
Dear Claire,
Your email is very timely indeed. We’re going to install TVs in all the houses!
So thanks to adding to our thinking.
And please come and stay.
All best
Alain

What a nice man! I hope I will..

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