The writers and editors of House&Home share their choices of the remarkable people, places, products and events of 2011.
The best of House&Home 2011
1. Relicta Design
One of my favourite finds of the year was Relicta Design (www.relictadesign.com), a Belgium-based company that seeks out old, decommissioned aircraft parts and converts them into one-off pieces of furniture. You can't really beat that for sheer out-of-the box thinking. I love the new-age look of their desks, which are made out of wing pieces. I met the duo behind Relicta, Rosario Gallina and Tiziano Rutilo, during their recent trip to Dubai and got the distinct impression that we can expect lots of new and exciting ideas from them in the near future. I can't wait.
2. Danish delights
A trip to Copenhagen earlier this year rekindled my love for Scandinavian design and introduced me to a host of new Danish homeware brands. My favourite was Anne Black (www.anneblack.dk) who creates simple but incredibly cool ceramic products. The Black is Blue collection is a poster child for understated elegance. Luckily, two of my other favourite Danish brands are now available in the UAE, so I don't have to travel too far to get my Scandinavian design fix. Normann Copenhagen's products are sold on www.filini.com and Muuto products are now available from Kollektion & Co.
3. Meaningful design
In H&H's weekly trendspotting column, the team at Scarlet Opus have spent a lot of time discussing the idea of design becoming more meaningful. For me, this is the most important trend of the year. We are moving into an age that eschews consumption for consumption's sake, and we have to embrace our responsibility as consumers. That's why a table from Antika Dubai was my best buy of 2011. It's made out of wood that has been reclaimed from old houses in India, and has been remodelled by local carpenters working in a humane environment. It's also the reason why I'm such a fan of the Bahrain-based web shop Boxed Online. All of its products are 100 per cent handmade and I love this idea of rejecting mass-produced products in favour of more personalised, meaningful designs.
4. Khalid Sharan
We're always on the lookout for new and original interpretations of Arab design, so discovering Khalid Sharan's flamboyant chair collection was a real high point this year. Khalid combines baroque forms with bold, über-contemporary iconography, and uses Arabic imagery in new and outlandish ways. I love the way his Umm Kulthum chair pays homage to one of the Arab world's best-loved singers in a fresh and contemporary fashion. I was also excited to see that Nada Debs products are now also available in the Aati showroom in Dubai because her contemporary take on traditional Middle Eastern motifs deserves as much exposure as it can get. Here's hoping that we start seeing a lot more groundbreaking design coming out of the Arab world in the near future.
* Selina Denman
5. Sampling India: Of blind men and elephants, Empty Quarter, June 2011
You can take the girl out of India but you can't take India out of the girl! I really enjoyed browsing through this exhibition at the Empty Quarter in the summer. India defies an all-embracing view and could only be captured by a plurality of visions - through the lenses of six emerging photographers. The exhibition defined the very essence of contemporary and diverse India.
6. O'de Rose
This boutique store always has an exciting find. It opened in 2008 and has fast gained a huge fan base among designers and residents alike. It promotes local artists, as well as fashion and furniture designers from the region. To have a source for unique handcrafted furniture and accessories at our door step is the icing on the cake!
7. Finnish Blood in Me
There's something about Scandinavian design that I just can't resist. It's clever, functional and always looks natural. I saw this collection called 'The Finnish Blood in Me' by up-and-coming designer Sami Kallio at the Stockholm Furniture Fair this year. It includes stools with legs shaped like lolly sticks, a wooden chair with twisted steel backrest and a lamp with a metal shade hung over a bent wooden arm. It has a playful feel and much like the designer, it reminds me of my childhood.
8. New Hotel Athens
The most inspiring space I've been to this year is the New Hotel in Athens. Designed by the Campana Brothers in collaboration with architecture undergraduates from the University of Thessaly, their distinctive style of reusing and recycling is evident throughout the hotel. The walls and columns are clad in strips of reclaimed furniture sourced locally and the space has custom designed furniture made from recycled materials. It has certainly has that wow factor!
* Pallavi Dean
9. The return of craft
The handmade and homemade were an integral part of interiors this year, emphasising the current appetite for bringing the truly personal and unique into the home. It was great to witness amateur enthusiasts, such as the women at the quilting clinic of Jumeira's Craftland, working on their stunning creations made with vibrant contemporary fabrics, and see more small-scale independent designers and crafters (with such impeccably designed blogs) come to prominence. A personal favourite was the handcrafted creations of the Dutch paper and pattern designer Jurianne Matter (www.juriannematter.com), whose delicate, origami-inspired lanterns and decorations, influenced by mid-century Scandinavian design, were a delight to discover.
10. Bold & Noble
Their type map of Britain, in which the names of towns and cities formed a geographical representation of the country, is already something of a cult classic, and this year the British printmaking duo expanded their stunning collection of screen-print posters to include similar maps of the US, Canada, France, Japan and New York - international bestsellers that have brought them the wider acclaim they deserve.
11. Desert Garden Centre, Abu Dhabi
Even dedicated devotees of the Mina plant souq couldn't fail to be cheered by the arrival of the capital's first ever garden centre. The prices of plants may be markedly higher than those at the port, but their quality is undisputed, while their unrivalled selection of gardening essentials and feeds (including locally produced organic fertilisers) means that fruitless trips to Ace or the requisite treks up to Dubai are now a thing of the past.
12. Rockett St George
I think I must have browsed the RSG website at least once a week this year - in addition to making several satisfying purchases. Owners Jane Rockett and Lucy St George are like a cross between curators and trendsetters, continually unearthing exciting talent and unique products to build a wildly eclectic collection that's updated every time you visit. As a source for unusual home finds and gifts for the international shopper, they're hard to beat, and their personal, friendly customer service and swift delivery times make them this year's home shopping heroes.
* Helen McLaughlin
13. Nomad, by Sibella Court
The Australian stylist Sibella Court is always ahead of the curve. In the same way that her last book, Etcetera, tapped into the zeitgeist and embraced the trend for a look inspired by natural history - this title epitomises the current vogue for all things 'global'. Scouring Syria, India, Italy, Mexico and Japan for decorating inspiration, Court incorporated all her photos, mementos and design ideas into real interiors. The results are stunning. From doorknobs, street signs and vintage maps to interesting colour combinations spotted in old fabrics or on flaking, painted walls - it's all treasure to the self-styled "magpie", who shows us that souvenirs can be abstract as well as physical. A beautiful book designed in Court's signature scrapbook style - vintage-inspired fonts, layers of old paper and enticing ephemera - it's a coffee table essential.
14. Jonathan Adler
The American designer and pottery guru went international this year, opening a new shop in London and introducing countless new product lines to his already extensive online collections. His cheery 'Happy Chic' look, combined with his refreshingly fun designs, have provided a welcome tonic to the economic gloom currently dogging the interiors industry. With a refreshing outlook and charm that shines through in his collection, it's no wonder he has a rapidly-expanding empire at a time when other brands are going bust.
15. Sparrow & Co
The online shop of Glasgow-based Samuel Sparrow also favours a global aesthetic; an effortlessly stylish collection of products from around the world. The website launched this November, after a tantalisingly long social media campaign and a temporary Etsy store, which was featured in The National earlier this year. Sparrow has cleverly created a site that shows customers much more than stock - acknowledging that to succeed today, a brand needs a story and personality as well as good-quality products. New additions to the Sparrow & Co range include Indian hand-turned walnut candlesticks and elegant patchwork quilts stitched from vintage saris. It's a beguiling mix and right up my street and although there's not a lot to choose from (yet) this is a shop where "less" is most definitely "more".
16. Suzani quilts
I travelled to Turkey this year and was overwhelmed by the stunning home accessories I found there. Istanbul's Grand Bazaar was a warren of narrow passageways, crammed with small shops and stalls selling rustic hammam towels, pretty tea glasses, ornate metal trays and colourful imported Uzbek quilts. Although prices were high for tourists, there were bargains to be found off the beaten track (the shops behind the main market are much more reasonable). After some serious haggling - and a lot of unfolding and re-folding - I found the perfect Uzbek quilt, much to the patient shop owner's relief. Hand-embroidered with bold Suzani patterns - it had been sewn in the traditional way - large strips embroidered by different women, then stitched together to make a whole. The pattern doesn't quite line up in places, and the sketchy, Biro guide-lines are clearly visible here and there - but these endearing flaws are what make it so charming. It will be draped across my bed for many years to come.
* Ellie Tennant