13 June 2016
Vivid Colours and Natural Textures Shine at 100% Design London
Brighter colour palettes were clearly the order of the day at 100% Design London, as was as a renewed emphasis on natural, eco-friendly materials, while East Europe also provided a strong showing of debut interior decor specialists.
London's 100% Design indicated a growing preference for brighter hues, while wood and stone-effect materials were also enjoying renewed popularity. There was also considerable interest in the more innovative items of furniture, especially those that offered increased comfort or seamless integration with modern electronic systems.
Exhibitor numbers were up 35% for this the 21st annual 100% Design Show, with the event also moving to London's Olympia for the first time. Given the increased exhibitor count, dividing the show into five dedicated sections – Interiors, Design & Build, Kitchens & Bathrooms, The Workplace and Emerging Brands – provided a distinct boost to visitor navigation.
Overall, an enthusiasm for utilising a vivid colour palette was in evidence in the installations of many of the contemporary designers showing at the event. It was, perhaps, only in keeping with this that many of this year's seminars focussed on the varying ways people react to certain colours.
One of this year's true show-stealers proved to be The Invisible Store of Happiness. Arriving in London courtesy of the American Hardwood Export Council, this undoubtedly striking sculpture memorably demonstrated the desirability of carbon neutral manufacturing.
Explaining the thinking behind the piece, David Venables, the Council's European Director, said: "It came about as a collaboration between Sebastian Cox, a maker, and a sculptor, Laura Ellen Bacon. The idea was to help discover and unleash the true versatility and potential of American cherry and maple."
Fittingly, the carbon footprint of this large wooden structure was said to be less than half of that resulting from the production of an iPhone 6.
Another devoted hardwood fan was Nick Dearden, a UK-based table designer who lays claim to be the founding father of the contemporary expanding table. A producer of bespoke capstan tables since the mid-90s, Dearden's output is available in a variety of veneers and hardwoods, as well as in re-enforced glass. His tables are all hand-made to a customer's specification and range in price from £6,000-£9,000 depending on the materials specified.
A somewhat different take on the manufacture of tables came from London-based Evoni Design. This father and son company aims to bring together quality craftsmanship and technology as a way of creating striking utility furniture.
Highlighting the company's new Chill and Charge concept, Sarah Antico, the company's Marketing Manager, said: "We have created a range of wireless charging furniture for both the domestic and contract markets.
"There has been a lot of interest shown in this particular range. Prospects can quickly see the opportunities within their own markets for the charging of mobile devices by their customers."
While the Chill and Charge seemed to find a ready niche, it didn't, perhaps, have quite the same fun quotient as the Berco rocking chair, a debut offering from Se7e Life Design, a Portuguese start-up company. Custom built to customers' specifications in terms of materials and finishes, this rocking cradle is currently sold online from around £4,500.
One company that was almost ubiquitous at the event was Lina, a Slovenia-based furniture producer. As well as its own stand, the company's colourful furniture took pride of place on the stand of a number of distributors and agents.
This year, Damjan Ursic, the company's General Manager, was particularly keen to highlight its Moon range of fun, modular furniture. Visitors to the company's stand were treated to Ursic's demonstration of how easily the separate components of the range can be rearranged to meet a variety of different furniture needs, including a stylish easy chair complete with a backrest. The company currently sells online and through selected specialist retailers, but is also on the lookout for international distributors.
Also representing Eastern Europe was Ply Collection, apparently Latvia's largest furniture manufacturer. According to the company's Founder, Janis Tilgass, this year Ply had looked to combine its manufacturing acumen with the work of a number of globally-renowned designers.
The upshot of this was the Zesty, one of the most dramatic looking chairs at the show. Based on a Swedish design and using Latvian birch plywood, the finished product had then been uniquely moulded to create a stacking chair. According to Tilgass, the company is now looking to bring these naturally formed chairs to a worldwide audience.
Based a little closer to home was the Boss Design Group, one of the leading suppliers of office furniture in the UK and USA. While showing a number of products at this year's event, Eve Fitzhenry, the company's Marketing Manager, clearly had a soft spot for one particular item – the Coza chair.
Explaining its genesis, she said: "Our research showed that four out of five people do not get adequate support from their task chair. Working with Martin Ballendat, a well-known furniture designer, we then set about creating the Coza – a chair that provides dynamic support without the need for adjustment."
This radical new chair is available in a variety of colours and retails at just under £300.
Moving away from the office environment and back into the home, luxury bathtubs seemed to be this year's must-have installation. Three, in particular, seemed to catch the eye of many showgoers.
The first was the Pearl, shining bright in its booth despite being largely fabricated from wood veneers. According to Thomas Lopfe, Owner of Alegna, the company behind the product, the freestanding Pearl is available in a variety of veneers, with the chosen veneer then resin-bonded to create a luxurious warm finish. The Pearl currently retails for around £18,000.
Another wood construct was the KHIS, a tub of simply gargantuan proportions produced by Estonia's Frants Seer. Marek Herm, the company's London Representative, said: "We hand-make all of our tubs from Nordic ash. The final colour is dark brown, a consequence of our 215°C thermal finishing. Each section is then bonded together using a unique rubber sealant, creating a permanent water-tight structure that is also suitable for outdoor use."
This classic bathtub can hold up to 400 litres of water and retails at around £3,500.
In complete contrast was the Tuscan splendour of Antonio Lupi's AGO bathtub, with its brilliant white eggshell finish in a classic Italian style. According to the company, the secret to this luxurious finish is Ceramilux, a composite created by the fusion of calcium carbonate, aluminium trihydrates and polyester resin. The result is a stunning material and product that commands a retail price in the region of £6,000.
Providing washing vessels on a smaller scale was a newcomer to the show – UK-based Kast Concrete Basins. With products available in a variety of shapes, colours and textures, Tim Bayers, the company's Founder, said "It's taken a lot of experimentation, design and development, but we have now created a range of 16 basins that combine the organic feel of natural stone with the flexibility of casting in concrete.
"Using tints and mixers, we can create a range of textures and colours. Our approach is also ideal for creating custom products for the architectural market".
Aside from individual companies, a number of countries had dedicated pavilions, jointly showcasing the design talents of a number of their foremost businesses. This year, it was the Argentinian pavilion that particularly stood out, largely on account of the quality of the finished products and luxury natural fibres it had on show, most notably from Patagonia and the Andes.
The Italian pavilion, meanwhile, proved to be a showcase for MADE-IT, a network of Lazio-based interior designers who jointly specialise in creating stunning interiors for major installations.
Over on the China pavilion – this year organised by the Shenzhen Industrial Design Profession Association (SIDA) – a wealth of unique designs and contemporary products were on show. There was, however, also an emphasis on reaching out to European designers in order to establish future co-operations.
100% Design was held at London Olympia. It featured some 400 exhibitors and attracted around 27,000 visitors.
David Wilkinson, Special Correspondent, London