100% Design 2007

Trend specialists Cassie Isherwood and Tess Mansfield, from award-winning UK product design agency Seymourpowell, highlight some of the key trends and designer pieces on show at London's 100% Design.

F Broadhurst Horses.
F Broadhurst Horses.

As part of the ever-growing London Design Festival, 100% Design is now the most established of the events at the festival, in comparison to the new satellite shows, such as TENT and Designboom. Under the new creative direction of Tom Dixon, 100% is aiming to innovate too, with the introduction of, for example, the 100% Futures section, which features emerging design talent. Overall, we felt the show was rather predictable and unimaginative this year - certainly compared with Milan's Salone del Mobile, where more products are launched and stands are of course more expansive and glamorous, due to the larger budgets thrown at the event. However, this year at 100%, there were still some striking new interiors trends, furniture and lighting products, created by some of Europe's biggest-name designers and manufacturers.

The overriding theme of this year's 100% Design was sustainability, with many designers focusing their energies on providing new solutions, using sustainable materials or simply trying to market their pieces as ‘green'. One exhibitor at 100% Futures was ‘Made in Denmark', a group of Denmark's most talented designers and furniture makers, notable for their innovative techniques exploring the possibilities of timber. The crucial concept behind Made In Denmark addresses sustainability: ‘Prioritising ecologically sustainable types of wood, simplifying and minimising the use of durable constructions as well as resource conscious energy use and producing as little as possible pollution during the production process, in short, sustainable furniture production.'

Made In Denmark showed a selection of designers including Kaspar Salto's ‘Rocking Horse', a witty and minimal take on the traditional children's toy. Sustainability is clearly now recognised as a key design factor and incentive for consumer purchasing.

Hand in hand with the rising interest in eco-design came the widespread use of wood, natural materials and finishes, marking timber as a key trend this year. In addition to natural wood finishes were many examples of wooden ‘strata', a subtly striped wooden surface made from laminating layers of wood and cutting across their section, used on many different pieces of furniture. A good example of this was the Motley stool, in the new ‘08 collection by Channels. Multiple layers of Scandinavian birch plywood form rounded, tactile solid blocks, which are then turned on a lathe showing the vertical direction of ‘grain'. In a more colourful take, Sarah Thirlwell's Oval Vessels are one-offs. Batch-produced vessels take the traditional skill of woodturning combined with coloured acrylics to create a 21st Century approach to traditional craft.

Furnishings continue to reflect fashion trends as bold prints feature. The key look is highly decorative applied graphic prints to colourful rugs, furniture and wall coverings.

Beautiful reproductions of the much admired Australian designer Florence Broadhurst's original wallpaper designs appeared as the first collection of handmade rugs launched at 100% by Knots Rugs. As the Sydney Morning Herald wrote ‘... the golden age of Florence Broadhurst is just beginning'. These bold, unique patterns, include ‘Horses Stampede', a graphic repeat pattern of horses galloping which is surprising, striking and utterly delightful and makes a refreshing change to the plethora of baroque styles at all the shows.

Also applying graphic patterns in a different way is Susan Bradley, her work is becoming stronger by the year. Susan launched a new ‘Paisley' pattern of her award winning Outdoor WallpaperTM at this year's show. The paisley pattern adds vibrancy and detail to outdoor spaces. It is a curvaceous design inspired by Indian textiles and intricate Mendhi tattoos, and links this to similar themes of ethnic-inspired patterning seen earlier this year at Milan. Designed to be versatile, the elements of the pattern can be placed on the wall in many different configurations giving the user a creative input and ability to use it in an individual way.

High-backed chairs continue to use the padded feel and Robin Day-inspired retro forms were strong themes this year. We liked the clever combination of these two trends. James Design UK, two graduate designers at 100% Futures showed exactly that with their classically influenced ‘Hardwood Wingback' chair. This high-backed chair is manufactured utilising modern technology, but at the same time retains its hand crafted aesthetic appeal. In a retro take on padded seating ‘Karimoku 60' breathes new life to classic Japanese furniture design from the 1960s. In this range, a baby-sized chair captured our imagination with a business executive approach at nursery seating.

Like Karimoku, several Japanese design groups showed some great work at 100% such as Chiaki Murata at Metaphys. Murata's ‘UZU 12010' minimal vacuum cleaner impressed us with its cordless simplicity whilst the confusingly-named company ‘100%', presented ‘Magnet Tack Booooo!'. A powerful magnetised thumbtack with the concept of wall as storage. The powerfully magnetised thumbtack allows objects to appear as if floating whilst attaching and detaching easily.

Felt was seen everywhere on neat and petite sofas and chairs in rich colourways on the Ligne Roset stand. A stand-out example of this was ‘Glove' by Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby for Swedese, a felt easy chair with seat and inside back upholstered in fabric or leather. The Glove chair has been shortlisted for the 100% design Blueprint best product award 2007.

One of the highlights of the show was the award-winning feature exhibit ‘Shoal'. A breath-taking sculptural work by Dominic Bromley for Scabetti sees a swarm of finely cast, stylised fish circling around a central arrangement of strip lights. The two metre diametre circular curtain of ceramic fish captures the essence of the bait-ball phenomenon, where a mass of fish act as one to protect themselves against predators, created by their simple forms in duplicate, spiralling as one to dramatic effect. Each fish is originated from a delicate sculpted work in clay by Bromley and reproduced in fine bone china in the Potteries in North Staffordshire, central England. The natural translucency of the bone china body allows each fish to radiate with the hue of the light it circles, and adding to this the delicate sound of the ceramic as the air moves through it creates a theatrical effect.

The star of the show for us yet again was designer Helen Amy Murray, who puts hand-crafted leather to great effect. She uses her intricate designs to re-upholster Victorian chairs and most recently create wall hangings and wallpapers, each one as painstakingly intricate and remarkable as the next. One of this year's showpieces is a solid, contemporary cube-shaped chair with ribbon chrome legs, given a graphic effect with one of the new designs exploring perforated leather.

At satellite show TENT, the new furniture powerhouses such as Moooi and Edra, featured their ranges shown earlier this year at Milan but in the new industrial surroundings of the Truman Brewery on Brick Lane. Meanwhile over at the ever-provocative manufacturer Established & Sons, its exhibit featured the core range reworked in dramatic white Carrera marble and placed almost out of sight on sky-high plinths with dramatic theatrical lighting.

All in all the work presented at this year's London Design Festival was good but not entirely new. We felt our slight disappointment was perhaps a result of high expectations following a stellar year at Milan's furniture fair.


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