Howard Sullivan: The Importance Of Origins In UK Design

Howard Sullivan: The Importance Of Origins In UK Design

Director of YourStudio speculates on trends at London's 2012 Design Festival.

Howard Sullivan, YourStudio
  • 28 october 2012

Following the 2012 Olympics, it is now design’s turn to take centre stage in London. An Autumn of cultural events kicked off with events from the Frieze Art Fair to PAD, with art and design on show from edgy and new to high end vintage.  London-based interiors practice YourStudio sent their trends team out and about during London Design Week to report back on the key emerging trends in furniture and design.


FALCON, Enamelware

The adage ‘necessity is the mother of invention’ could have been a phrase in the minds of many of the contemporary designers exhibiting at London Design Week 2012. Bloomsbury’s derelict ex-Post Office Sorting Office became the backdrop for Design Junction, an event which brought together new and established designers under its imposing industrial roof.

A host of designers created stunning designs which showed off pared back forms using imple materials and manufacturing processes. Designers started with the humblest of materials such as cork and steel to create classically beautiful pieces with clean lines and material integrity.

On the up: Product and furniture showing industrial processes: pulleys, levers and exposed mechanics behind products


Fritz Hansen, Craftsmanship

Just as we have seen an expression of care, quality and craftsmanship in fashion (beaded detailing for Prada), publishing (Fantastic Man | The Gentlewoman) and the slow food revolution, furniture was revealing a nod to the roots of its craft with many designers this year.

Consumers not only want to know where the product is from but how it is made. Thonet brought a giant steam bending press from their workshop in Germany which they used hourly to show how they formed the curved wooden frames for their furniture.Traditional skills were seen in pieces such as the leather Brogueing table by Grey andTurner. With traditional detailing and a sign of something crafted by hand, this nods to people moving towards purchasing furniture as investment pieces rather than quick-fix high street solutions.

On the up: Leather tooling, engraving in metal & wood, wood inlay and tapestry

Graphic Print

Ercol, Untitled

The catwalk’s obsession with African and Aztec prints has been embraced by the furniture and product world as evidenced at LDW. Big, bold and unavoidable, geometric and Aztec shapes are covering everything from fabrics to the forms of design itself. The graphic shelving by FAO at Design Junction brought Aztec patterns to life and Darkroom debuted African-inspired cushion fabrics. Applying these graphic patterns correctly and creatively gives a strong individual look so expect to see more of this in the seasons to come.

High End Vintage

Munna/Ginger & Jagger, Luxuriously padded and rich velvet upholstered armchairs sat with brass side tables

Whereas vintage furniture and accessories have been seen traditionally as a fairly inexpensive way to add character to an interior, the vintage market has evolved to reflect people’s increasing discernment as to what they’re buying. Design Junction dedicated one major section of the ground floor to vintage, and what was interesting was to see this as a reflection of the increasing segmentation of this sector. We used to see ‘vintage’ as a re-branding of ‘second-hand’ but it is fast shifting to become synonymous with the world of ‘antiques’ with dealers specialising in niche products such as 1950s upholstered furniture or 1960s industrial light fittings. Unsurprisingly the prices are rising fast to reflect this shift but this increased level of discerned curation will keep developing in line with contemporary design.

On the up: Dealers specialising in niche areas of vintage design Key 1970s pieces of design (think The Ice Storm not Sodastream)

Material Collision

Gareth Batowski, Petrified Wood and Cast Acrylic Cabinet

Unusual combinations of materials or familiar objects presented in unexpected finishes was a pronounced trend through LDW 2012. Through the prototypes and new designs on view at Tent, in London’s Brick Lane, it was clear that furniture, homeware and kitchen and bathroom fitting suppliers are seeking new ways of presenting their products and one of the ways they are doing this is by using new and sometimes unusual combinations of materials together. At the front of this trend is Gareth Batowski who mixes the most unexpected combination of thousand year old wood with clear acrylic. With a nod to Memphis, his furniture boldly combines age, texture, bright colours and unconventional juxtapositions of materials to create beautifully crafted one-off pieces of furniture. Despite the initial shocking and jarring look of these pieces, the beautiful touch of his work makes them heirloom pieces.

On the up: Crossovers from fashion to furniture, craft to product and a wider vocabulary of unexpected material finishes

Reprinted courtesy of Howard Sullivan / YourStudio

Research: Isobel Scott

Images via YourStudio

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