x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Under Tent London, a modern fairy tale unfolds

We pick the hottest new themes, from chunky prints to enduring silhouettes, that emerged from Tent London at this year's London Design Festival.

Stoobles by Alison Milner. Courtesy of Steve Speller
Stoobles by Alison Milner. Courtesy of Steve Speller

One of the largest and most exciting features of this year's London Design Festival, Tent London consisted of more than 200 exhibitors presenting some of the most progressive and cutting-edge interior products on the market, from furniture and lighting to ceramics, textiles, materials and accessories. Now in its fifth year, the show took place from September 22-25.

Nostalgia with a twist

The trend for all things vintage-inspired was alive and well this year, with several exhibitors reinventing kitsch, retro designs.

The classic trio of flying porcelain ducks that was so popular in Britain during the 1950s and 1960s was given a makeover for 2011 by Sarah Blood (of Designed and Made) in eye-wateringly bright green neon lighting. Similarly, young potters from Kitty and Dude showed trios of flying pigs covered with floral designs and a range of china pineapple storage pots reminiscent of 1970s ice-cube buckets.

Another designer to put her own stamp on vintage pieces was the upcycler Zoe Murphy, who launched her latest collection of restored retro furniture including a chest of drawers plastered with seaside ephemera such as fish and chip receipts and nostalgic illustrations of the seaside town of Margate.

Flat-pack and economy

The global economy has inspired a generation of thrifty designers - there was a strong emphasis on economical and ecological materials such as ply, felt and recycled plastics.

Alison Milner presented her fun Stooble, a cross between a stool and a table that is made from sustainable birch plywood in mills that utilise the whole tree. It can be carried or stored flat in a string bag, so is spatially economical, too.

Flat-packed felt coat hooks were shown by the Japanese label Furnish, while Bebenny presented a set of occasional furniture called Whackpack - self-assembled furniture that is constructed using a wooden croquet-style mallet.

Colour blocking

The cheery colour blocking trend that has been huge in the fashion world this summer has seeped through to the realm of interiors. The furniture company Ercol exhibited a classic love seat piece with a bold stripe of tangerine paint splashed across it, while the trendsetters at Room39 showed bold, bright cushions with colour blocked triangles in 1980s-inspired hues: hot pink, cool aqua and zingy orange.

The potter Simon Pattison presented his range of colour blocked tableware (which he launched at Maison Objet in Paris earlier this year), a beguiling, playful collection with reflective surfaces and pops of bright, fluorescent colour.

New ways with wood

Utilitarian designs in raw wood were abundant this year, with sturdy, functional items that stand the test of time and celebrate the art of construction. Epha 3's Jae Min Kwon launched his stunning Crack Bowl Lights, elegant pendant lights made from sustainably harvested Korean elm with natural fissures and organic wood grain patterns. There were chunky, ridged beech stools from Obe and Co Designs, and clever pieces of furniture made from loose hazel and ash logs balanced and stacked together by the eco-innovator David Stovell of Stovell Design.

Flat Frame Systems used sustainable timber to create a completely wooden bicycle frame, which is practical as well as beautiful.

Artisan glass

Traditional skills and crafts were a strong theme, with many exhibitors demonstrating that despite advances in digital technology and contemporary manufacturing methods, old-school designer-makers have never been so in vogue.

The glass artist Heather Gillespie showed a beautiful new collection of mouth-blown copper-wheel-engraved glass lights, while the studio Curiousa and Curiousa exhibited stunning handblown Stem Chandeliers, elegant bell-shaped glass shades and stems in a rainbow of colours. The stall was crowded with admirers.

The Italian designer Chiara Onida (from Contemporary Lab) showed her range of drinking glasses and water carafes, which she makes using a Venetian technique called Incalmo in which two glass elements in different colours are joined together to create a single object. The results are both unusual and beautiful - and every piece produces a variety of sounds when liquid is poured into or out of it.

Folk and fairy tales

The presence of fairy tale- and folk-inspired designs was impossible to ignore. The mixed media artist Naori Priestly explored the tale of Little Red Riding Hood in her work, and exhibited appliqué cushions featuring blood-soaked woodcutter axes and sinister wolves. Her cute pom pom trims and boldly coloured fabrics are reminiscent of Uzbek folk designs, while her jagged, silhouetted wolves are akin to paper shadow puppets.

Another designer whose work reflected this trend is Asta Barrington, a recent embroidered textiles graduate of the Royal College of Art who launched her new range of birch wood platters for the Swedish brand Åry Trays. Her Folk Stripe range features colourful stitched-effect patterns, channelling Danish folk patterns and crafts.


Silhouetted shapes refuse to go away. Stag heads with antlers, galloping horses and zoo animal outlines were all on show at the Westergaard Designs stand. Meanwhile, the designer Jon Aspinall exhibited detailed silhouette bookends portraying an urban landscape complete with pigeons, dumped cars and litter bins. The minute details in his designs were a joy to behold.

Find out more about all the 2011 exhibitors at www.tentlondon.co.uk.