Style Guide | Max Fraser

Showroom shy? Clerkenwell-based design expert Max Fraser offers a quick and unintimidating tour of his local favourites

Over the past five years, Clerkenwell has attracted a number of new, branded furniture showrooms. With such a concentration of architectural practices in the area, it’s perfectly logical that these brands would choose to locate here. Many of them focus on the serious business of furnishing entire offices and are therefore of limited interest to the man on the street. However, there are

a handful that also deal in domestic designs for the likes of you and me.

Top name Vitra ( is one such example. The Swiss brand moved into a sizeable David Chipperfield-designed showroom on Clerkenwell Road many years ago. Here, it showcases its vast collection of truly iconic pieces for home and office, created by illust­rious talents from the past 60 years, including Charles and Ray Eames.

More classic designs can be found at the Goswell Road space belonging to Knoll (, such as the timeless wire seating collection by Harry Bertoia, the Tulip chair by Eero Saarinen and the much-revered Barcelona chair by Mies van der Rohe. Just before Christmas, the showroom changed to become more accessible to the public in a bid to attract retail sales as well as trade custom. (For more on Knoll, see page 24).

One such showroom to have always embraced the public is Viaduct ( on Summers Street, which moved into the area more than 20 years ago and has developed a strong rep­utation for its well-edited mix of furniture and lighting from multiple leading producers. While most of its business comes from contract sales, the friendly staff are more than happy to sit down with you to select the perfect item for your home.

Similarly, Twentytwentyone (, which has had a shop in Islington since 1996, offers a strong portfolio of furniture and lighting from its showroom on Clerkenwell’s River Street – it’s a tranquil space with its own courtyard.

Another noteworthy showroom is that of Italian brands Moroso ( and Flos ( – two globally known producers, of furniture and lighting respectively, that share a large space at 7-15 Rosebery Avenue. Both work with some of the finest designers in the world and have launched some iconic items over the years.

So, too, has Poltrona Frau (, another Italian company, whose showroom on St John Street houses contemporary gems from the likes of Cappellini and Cassina.

Newer, British companies in the area include furniture producer Modus (, which has built up a valiant business in less than a decade, working with top British and European designers. You can find its showroom on Great Sutton Street.

Then there’s provocative Glaswegian textile brand Timorous Beasties (, which has a tiny place on Amwell Street, where you can find fabric and wallpaper designs with more than the usual verve.

Finally, if none of the above means any­thing to you, pop into Magma (www., the popular design bookshop on Clerkenwell Road, where you can brush up on your knowledge via its wide range of books and magazines.

Max Fraser is a design writer and consultant, and the editor of the “London Design Guide 2012-2013” (£12, Spotlight Press). For information, and to buy it, visit