Design Heaven: from Clerkenwell to Chelsea30th May 2012
Last Wednesday was a bit of a design day for me! It started in Clerkenwell and ended in Chelsea (no, not Made in Chelsea!). Every year the furniture and design showrooms in Clerkenwell (and there are over 40 showrooms in the area making it a bit of a design village these days) join forces with independent designers to celebrate innovative designs, new thinking and craftsmanship. And as I am sure you know, every May we also celebrate the best of British garden design at the Chelsea Flower Show – an annual event in my diary for the past 25 years.
I love both gardens and furniture, an interest gained from my parents. My father was in the office furniture industry, so I have sort of grown up looking around furniture factories and showrooms and have represented many brands such as Herman Miller and events like Workplace and Designer Saturday. And today Flagship represents the industry’s livery, The Worshipful Company of Furniture Makers. So I am in my element wondering around showrooms, examining chairs or desks to see how to see how they have been made or looking at the latest materials and colours. And this year there was as ever, plenty of new products to look at, particularly in the Farmiloe Building where the smaller designers tend to have their stands. They even had a clay Jaguar car showing how the car designs are translated from paper to model.
But then it was on to some more corporate showrooms and I spent some time in the Haworth showroom – they always do something different; last year it was The Lunch Lab looking at wellness and this year they are exploring Human Performance to see what they can learn from drama and performance art to create more effective workplaces. The most interesting item was the Non-Existent Knight – a costume that seems empty but then moves on stage to explore ideas of existence and non-existence.
Steelcase is celebrating its 100 year anniversary and has undertaken in-depth research into the trends behind The Interconnected Workplace. It believes that there are 5 key issues that need to be tackled to create good working environments: property compression, collaboration, talent, brand and culture and wellbeing. I attended its lunchtime presentation and sampled some delicious 100 anniversary cupcakes.
I did not make it to the House of Detention but from all accounts it lived up to its reputation as a great backdrop for cutting edge design. Sadly I also did not make it to the many after-work parties that the furniture industry is renowned for, as I had a pressing engagement in Chelsea.
So from furniture to gardens and the other hub of great design but of the floral type – the Chelsea Flower Show. Some 90 years older than Clerkenwell Design Week and whilst its audience might be a little older than those at Clerkenwell, the designers are no less cutting edge. The show gardens are always ground breaking and I loved the audacity of Diarmuid Gavin in creating a sky-high garden but it was such a shame you could not experience it nor see the planting thanks to constraints imposed by Health and Safety.
There were some truly inspiring gardens such as that designed by disabled servicemen and women and the garden commemorating the 60th anniversary of the Korean conflict which showed immense attention to detail. And I particularly liked the Rooftop Workplace of Tomorrow (linking gardens and furniture!) which showed how to use this often unused space to make a working environment for individuals or teams, for collaboration or quiet time, combining calm planting with a very clean, simple and contemporary layout. It really challenged one’s perception of workplaces and offered an inspirational idea for the future.
Now I have an idea – how about a show garden at Clerkenwell next year? Or, having spotted a PR company sponsoring a garden, maybe Flagship should also get in on the act!