CDW designer round-up

There were hundreds of designers showing their work at Clerkenwell Design Week from 24-26 May. Kate O’Donnell reviews some of the top brands from each of the eight top exhibition venues.

Venue: Additions
What: The finishing touches – china, tableware, soft furnishings, accessories – that make a space liveable
Our pick: Jimbob Art
Why: Anthropomorphic jokes, japes and jollies in visual form

 Jimbob Art is pants. Bears in pants. Otters in pants. Badgers in pants. Just when it seems as if design can get too serious for its own good, Jimbob Art pops up to remind us all that it doesn’t hurt a space to add a sense of humour. Its shtick? That animals do the funniest things. Founder and freelance illustrator James Ward, who sells online and out of his studio/shop on Cheshire Street, expertly marshalls his hand-drawn animal charges like the conductor of an orchestra or the master of a particularly unruly circus. So you see things like cats in capes and bears in bikinis; squirrels on bicycles and racoons eating macaroons; moles and voles eating bacon rolls; all rendered on doormats, stationery, prints and plates. New for CDW2016 are updated cushion and ceramic designs, including ceramic cups that make cute (or unexpected) patterns when you stack them away; plus animal-character wall decals where larger-than-life hedgehogs or badgers helpfully remind you to clean your teeth or pick up your keys. After CDW2016, Jimbob Art is launching a range of animal-print clothing with Uniqlo. You’re not going to escape its charming critters this summer. Nor will you want to.

Venue: British Collection
What: Lighting, furniture and product design by emerging homegrown talent
Our pick: Pluck
Why: British-made, modernist-influenced kitchens in striking colours

“I am food obsessed,” says South African native Lloyd Touwen. “I spend most of my day thinking what I will be cooking and eating next. George and I are both really into our cooking.” George Glasier, Lloyd and Lloyd’s wife Leila are the foodie trio behind Brixton- based bespoke ‘modern kitchen furniture’ brand Pluck. Thanks to 10 years as residential and commercial designers with their company, 2MZ, what they don’t know about designing hardwearing, enjoyable kitchens isn’t worth knowing. Pluck’s kitchens are machine-cut to order from exterior-grade birch plywood that’s veneered in 3mm layers of sweet chestnut or 200-year-old London plane. They are watertight, and have beautiful grains that you don’t see everywhere (we’re looking at you, oak) that lend themselves to being paired with colour. Clients can ‘pluck’ from dark petrol blue, mint green, mustard yellow, turquoise, and, most thrillingly, dusty pink or khaki green. Its use of colour and grain, alongside all the practical considerations, is what sets Pluck apart. That, and a plucky attitude – and a parakeet as a logo. “Food is one of the big joys of life,” adds Lloyd. He’s too modest to say that Pluck kitchens are too.

Venue: Design Fields
What: British designer- makers plus outstanding international contemporary design
Our pick: Another Brand
Why: Superior flat-packed furniture that’s achingly stylish

“Many manufacturers at the whim of buyers are concerned about the level of resource they have to do to achieve commercial success,” says Another Brand founder Theo Williams, speaking with the retail expertise that comes from years working as creative director at Habitat and head of design at John Lewis Home. “As a white label or private label supplier you are always uncertain how the future will look,” he adds. “If your products are dropped it can create uncertainty. So if they don’t have a brand of their own it makes sense to create one and go straight to market.” Another Brand was his response: a stand- alone brand for collaborations between designers and manufacturers who are otherwise unconnected.
The financial, logistical and marketing pressures are shared but so are the spoils. Another Brand launches with two very handsome ranges designed by Theo and manufactured by Qualita: Tavolini, versatile occasional tables; and Cubo, storage, tables and seating that resemble art as much as design – surfaces are inlaid with wood off-cuts mosaic-style, or stained in blocks of colour Mondrian- style. All pieces can be modified to order and then carried home, ready to assemble, in a cardboard box. Which, by the way, is as cool as its contents.

Venue: Detail
What: Haute luxe craftsmanship with an emphasis on technique and texture 
Our pick: Ptolemy Mann 
Why: Hand-dyed and hand-woven rugs with an artistic pedigree

Ptolemy Mann is that rare beast: a designer who is alsoan artist. She is as comfortable creating “non-functional wall art” and large-scale installations as she is designing “practical textiles” like rugs that will be used day in day out (Karl Lagerfeld owns several). What connects them all is her considered use of colour. “When I was a student at St Martins, we did one day a week of colour theory for the first year. You really learn about colour,” explains Ptolemy. “I’ve realised a lot of architects don’t know much about colour. It’s amazing how often colour is chosen at the last minute. Instead of being an afterthought, colour should be considered right at the beginning.” The difficulty facing Ptolemy’s clients will be finalising which of her refined new rug designs to choose: the Gelim Collection that gives a chromatically minimalist twist to an elegant style of flatweave that originated in northern Iran; or her Mid- Century Modern Collection
of pile rugs, whose bold, joyful shapes, colours and forms were inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright, Johannes Itten and Paul Klee. Rug as functional totemic art and design? Count us in.

Venue: Icon’s House of Culture 
What: Top international brands spectacularly showcased in Fabric nightclub
Our pick: Resident
Why: Contemporary furniture and lighting design with a breath of fresh air

The design world can be very Euro- centric, making an honourable exception for Scandinavia and the occasional nod to Los Angeles. Well, we’ve been missing out on some great design. Established in 2011 by Simon James and Scott Bridgens to bring high-end contemporary New Zealand product, furniture and lighting design to a worldwide audience, Resident now has offices and designers in London, Auckland and LA, not to mention more designers in New York and Australia. Australia, by the way, had design-conscious hipster hangouts long before Portland ever did. Fresh in from being shown in New York, the new Resident 2016 collection – the Odin Chair and Volley Chair by Jamie McLellan; the California Chair by Simon James; the Echo Spotlight and Echo Pendant by Flynn Talbot; the Midnight Pendant and the Interstellar Dining Table by Resident Studio – will be exhibited as an installation called Windows Watching, whose rhetorical title plays on the act of us looking at Resident’s products through whatever ‘window’, in the flesh, in print or online. After London, the 2016 collection heads off to Hong Kong and Melbourne. The world is waking up to New Zealand design and it likes what it sees.

Venue: Platform
What: Up and coming designers displayed in a subversively underground venue 
Our pick: Baker street boys
Why: Functional, clever, sophisticated furniture that has a playful sense too

“Since we moved here many years ago, I became fascinated by the Industrial Revolution and 19th century London,” says architect Tomasz Danielec, the design half of the duo that makes up Baker Street Boys (Arek Glanowski is the management and marketing whizz). “It’s one of the most exciting periods in history.” What’s even more exciting is BSB’s response to that history. Its first furniture range, The Line, uses forged steel bases and 200-year-old natural timber tops, but the results are swooping, sinuous, sculptural and effortlessly modern. The time Tomasz spent working for Rafael Vinoly and Robin Partington has paid off. New for CDW is Pick ‘n’ Mix, which adds painted steel and Perspex bases plus black marble, white marble and cork tops to the line-up so clients can customise their choices to their heart’s content. Every piece is made to order, hand-finished in London, and then packed in hand-stamped hessian bags (we’re detecting a furniture packaging trend here …). “In London even premium spaces are fairly small,” continues Tomasz, “so we believe that these spaces need small statement pieces to make them special – almost like pieces of art. They need to be practical and clever too.” Job effortlessly done.

Venue: Project
What: Ultra-contemporary international design brands in a historic setting
Our pick: Palau
Why: Eco-conscious contract furniture that also looks wonderful in domestic settings

Contract furniture is very important and all that but it doesn’t usually have the glamour of domestic furniture. Well, forget all that because Palau, the Dutch manufacturer of modern modular furniture and storage, produces designs that cross over from home to business and back again so seamlessly that you would be hard-pressed to differentiate. For example, Rama, its swivel-based wing chair by Paris-based star designer Arik Levy, would look great furnishing the first-class lounge of, say, Cathay Pacific, but it would also look fantastic sitting in your home. Corals, a modular seating system designed by Robert Bronwasser is more obviously aimed at business users but, with its multiple opportunities for playing with colour, could fit perfectly in a directional loft apartment. Palau is a big believer in flexible workspaces that are minimal in design but friendly too. It’s also big on sustainability. The name Palau means ‘palace’ in Catalan; it’s also the name of a group of coral islands east of the Philippines, whose fragility inspires Palau to be ecologically responsible. It uses wood that is FSC or PEFC; its foam is made using castor oil; and its fabrics are eco or Cradle to Cradle. Green is good. Now it looks good too.

Venue: Detail Pavilion
What: Luxury finishes, fine craftsmanship and new spins on heritage
Our pick: Copper & Silk
Why: Glamorous lighting with a utilitarian edge and entirely made in London

Copper & Silk is only six years old but you’d never know it from the huge range of bases, bulbs, shades and fabrics that is entirely sourced and made in Britain. “I enjoy the theatrics you can create with strong directional light,” says founder and former furniture designer Daniel Fosbery. “It’s the fourth dimension when designing a piece of furniture. There’s another level when you add light to the design. The designs I create really come in endless forms.” Customers can choose from over 70,600 possible lamp base/shade combinations, yet there’s no minimum order. If you only need one candle lampshade, the artisans at Copper & Silk can make it. They can also use a client’s own fabric, though Daniel prides himself on his silks: “Silk makes beautiful lampshades. Thanks to the sheen it also looks great when the lamp is turned off.” CDW will see the launch of groovy ikat colourways designed by Ptolemy Mann, and two standout new lights: the Kew chandelier and Kew wall light. Made from brass, their design was inspired by magnolia trees. And that utilitarian edge? Daniel’s classic Factory lights are made from spun brass or spun copper: industrial lighting re-imagined in dazzling new way.