x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Celebrity-branded designs and leather lounging

Insider As we lunge into the 21st century with iPads and other accessories, one truism remains a constant: taste and money rarely go hand-in-hand.

Did you know that leather seating is one of the hottest trends in interiors right now? If leather sofas make you conjure up taste-free bachelor pads or naff waiting rooms - think again. Whether a special commission by the Candy brothers (the Qatari Diar-backed property developers who, before the recession hit, were designing some of London's most expensive new homes) or the Mies Barcelona chairs and banquettes dotted around DIFC, leather seating is everywhere. As a result, sales of leather sofas are booming, and furniture retailers are expanding their ranges. So why leather and why now? Because leather is perceived as an investment purchase, which is an attraction for the post-recession mindset: people are opting for furniture that will last, rather than throwaway items. But we must forget black and think white, which is not flash, but edgy. Hmm, it might work in a cool, contemporary corporate space but could verge on the chav in a domestic setting. Treat with caution. And reclining? Don't even go there.

This time last year, as retail sales were nosediving, Alessi made the bold move of putting a record number of new products into production. Unveiling them at the recent Maison et Objets show, Alessi made one of the biggest bangs, while signalling a resounding note of optimism that the global economy is poised for a rebound. I sure hope so. Highlights included Piero Lissoni's Trash Can - design at its best, the little bathroom bin has a hinged lid to hide the refuse and a ringed anchor to keep a removable plastic bag in place, and invisible. Nifty! Paolo Gerosa's Spaghetti Measuring Tool is a piece of kitchen jewellery. It can measure spaghetti for one, three or five people - perfect as a housewarming gift for those with style, who can also rustle up a spag bol.

So who doesn't know that Apple released its iPad tablet last week? But how much do architects care? Those who are fed up with the over-the-top Flash programming used on so many architects' websites - it may make them stunning, but also incredibly frustrating to use - have been Twittering with glee. The website Bldgblog summed it up nicely: "Part of me thinks that the iPad not supporting Flash is sweet justice for every architect's website that will now be unviewable on the device." No doubt web designers are relishing the prospect of lots of work un-Flashing those sites. Watch this space.

So what do you buy for the next generation of Sulaiman al Fahims (the former CEO of Hydra Properties and wannabe Donald Trump)? How about the just-released Monopoly: City Edition? The game scraps houses and hotels in favour of industrial parks, skyscrapers, stadiums, power plants and other urban icons. Apparently the rules state you don't need to own all the streets on one block to start building and you can build "hazards" (like rubbish dumps) next to your opponents' properties to devalue them. Could be fun. Monopoly has been one of the most widely played games on the planet since it was invented in the 1930s. There are Monopoly editions for almost every country - from Cuba to China - but what about the UAE? Dubai was apparently in the works a few years ago. Perhaps there aren't enough landmarks (or imaginatively named streets) yet.

So Victoria Beckham is apparently "mulling over" a £25 million fee to design a "fashion hotel" for Dubai's Isla Moda. More celebrity branded buildings? Enough already. How right was the fabulously conceptual fashion designer, Hussein Chalayan, when he publicly announced that celebrity-based fashion was "insulting" and "demeans all the training that designers have had" - a sentiment increasingly felt by architects and interior designers who must despair as developers and landlords fawn over the supposedly fashionable. Cue the tacky Cavalli Club and forthcoming Palazzo Versace Hotel. And who doesn't think the Fendi furniture in the lobby of Sky Gardens looks ill-placed and cheap?

As the UK's famously acerbic restaurant critic for The Sunday Times, AA Gill noted about Edinburgh's Hotel Missoni: "This place is an eye-jarring, migraine-inducing swatch of jazzy pattern. The fabrics crowd and collide ... with a hysterical mime of dazzling Tourette's. It's the most bilious dining room I've eaten in ... what were they thinking?" I guess it all comes down to taste. And money. Which rarely go hand in hand.

Yvonne Courtney is the co-founder of designtastic, a design/ publishing consultancy and ezine.