Highlights from LDF 2016

I have been coming to London Design Festival for as long as I can remember, longer than I’ve even had a job in design. I’d write endless lists of events I wanted to go to and exhibitions I wanted to visit. I had to see everything.

These days I don’t really get to do the small shows as my boss sends me to bigger trade shows like 100% Design at the Olympia and Decorex. Design Junction is still my favourite, and I’ll always love Tent and Superbrands at the Old Truman Brewery. 

I am always a bit meh about design trends, though it’s a fairly standard and unspoken rule in interiors that we fall about a year behind high fashion. So if velvets and embroidery are coming down the catwalk, you can be pretty sure we’ll see an influx in these materials appearing at trade shows from the big names. This year very little lighting blew me away at the shows, though the upholstery game was strong and with those sweet, sweet candy colours appearing in velvet, felt, and natural textiles everywhere you looked.

Tent London

I love Tent. It’s an integral part of London Design Festival, in fact is IS the core of London Design Fair. What is different about this event is that most (if not all) of the makers and brands are emerging designers. Alongside developed projects available on the market, there are also design prototypes and fledgling ideas. There are sections devoted to China, South Korea, Scotland, Scandinavia, Ireland…it’s INCREDIBLE.

I was invited to the Private Showing on Thursday evening by an artist I’ve worked with at my gallery, and I’d spent the afternoon in a casual work meeting with my boss to discuss what it was the company was looking for this year with regards to materials and tech. Both of us can chat about design til the cows come home, so we lost track of time; a quick hour-long meeting turned into 4 hours of enthusiastic discussion about new printing methods and furniture production! By the time I wandered over to Brick Lane it was nearly 6pm. Thanks to that invite I managed to not miss a day of shows.

What stood out this year for me was craft, reworking of timber in interesting ways, and innovative techniques for casting. Details were a big thing. Bold colours, statement patterns, and using non-traditional materials such as resin mixes for furniture.

100% Design

This event is more of a trade show than the others, and along with Decorex is one the biggest of its kind in the UK. I have to admit that before I started at my current job, this was never a show I went to for “fun”. It’s a bit daunting. There were over 300 brands represented this year, with some brands having more than one stand. Oh and that’s not even counting the installations, purpose-built bars, and TWO FLOORS of global design. Eeep!

Even now I have been going to this event for three years, I still find it a bit overwhelming. I think also because my area of design ranges from interiors to research into green tech and sustainable materials, I don’t have a specific section of the show to zero in on. I have to cover it all.

For the first time since I started going to this particular show, I was most impressed with upholstered seating. There’s aways been a heavy leaning towards reworking mid-century shapes and simple lines, but the colours and patterns were spot on. Metallic and matte copper finishes cropped up again and again, which I guess is to be expected, but it’s a pretty solid trend and I much prefer this to the ubiquitous brushed steel from a few years back. The Scandinavians definitely impressed me at this one. Finland is one to watch for interesting interpretations of utilitarian minimalist shapes in natural materials.

Design Junction

If I’m honest, I enjoy this show the most. It’s got a chilled out vibe that is a welcome change from the frantic feeling around some of the bigger shows. Design Junction was held in Granary Square, with the smaller craft-led design items and product design in one building, and the furniture at Cubitt House around the corner.

I was a little surprised this year that almost all the exhibitors at Cubitt House were big name brands. I maybe saw a couple of lighting examples I absolutely loved in comparison to past years of this show; tech wasn’t as big as it has been as well, which was disappointing. Craft, interesting uses of stone and print were big at Design Junction this year, which was more useful from a design shop perspective than interiors. Stationary was big big BIG. Marble is still a trend in product design, but less so with furniture.


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