As trade shows go, in only it’s third year May Design Series is still a playful child, finding it’s feet, exploring the world and growing in confidence. To put it in perspective, the ICFF is in its 27th year. Making it a veteran compared to May Design Series. Running from Sunday 17th May – Tuesday 19th May I travelled to the Excel centre in London to take a look around. Monday was easily the quietest day of the event with exhibitors assuring me it would be busier for the final day, but what it lacked in bustle it made up for in inspiration.
As you enter the first of three halls dedicated to showcasing the best in worldwide design you are met with some of the most promising new design graduates, exhibiting an array of innovative and beautiful products. New Design Britain is a graduate program providing a bridge to 30 finalists of the award hoping to progress into the industry. My favourites from this exhibition included the Tension table by Charles Pardford-Plant. This is customisable, flatpack furniture at it’s most desirable. The clever design means there are no power tools involved in setting this table up and the table top is flippable to create custom looks that include natural wood and marble surfaces.
Harnessing the natural properties of materials and using clever angles and shapes to innovate is a running theme here. Camilla Lee creates smartphone amplifiers with a penchant for the past. Instead of using electricity to enhance the sound quality (or lack of) from the phone speaker she uses materials that the original instruments would have been made of in an attempt to infuse the recording with it’s original roots. You can also hide your phone away to avoid distractions! Something we could all use a little more of!
Another design that caught my eye here came in the form of my favourite decorative item: Lighting. Samuel Bellamy won the people’s award for his Moroccan Lamps on display at the show.
With an area dedicated to lighting this was my next port of call. With the show heavily promoting the need for more economical design through many of its seminars LED and modern lighting technology had pride of place. As you enter the commercial entrance to the show you are met with an interactive light tunnel which glows as you walk through. The perfect introduction to many new and exciting lighting options on show at the event.
A whimsical nuance was ever present throughout this area of the hall. Unusual materials were used to create tactile surfaces such as in the huge feathered orbits at Vita Living ApS. Or if that’s not fantastical enough for you then Temple and Ivy’s flamingo inspired lamps decorated with plume shades should get you smiling.
Statement lighting was a recurring theme. Flam and Luce featured many scaled up, oversized lighting featured creating an interesting array of styles and concepts. Each one different from the next.
Glass is still widely used to create hanging, fixed and standing lighting. This industrial aesthetic gives the bulb and filament centre stage creating air scribbles in these lights from Ebb and Flow.
By far the most popular trend I saw in the lighting section took opaque or unconventional materials for lighting and used them to highlight negative space around the bulb. We can especially see this in Massow Interiors teardrop pendants and the second display of moroccan lighting at the show from Moroccan Bazaar.
It was not only the lighting designers using the idea of negative space. Storage, screens and beds were all open. Doors were limited. There’s no hiding the clutter away. Your belongings are now all on display for all to see. This bedroom set by Mia Collections.
This is echoed in designs by Tomazou Furnishings like this room divider or headboard and Nudel, a cabinet designed by Georgina Walters, exhibiting with other up and coming talent at Fiera.
Of course no interior design show is complete without a vast array of furniture on display and with dedicated areas at both ends of the centre it did not disappoint. From high end, bespoke pieces to show discounts, all areas and tastes were covered.
Deep pastel plush cushions were combined with natural accents at Bow and Arrow. This soft yet modern ambience is warm and inviting whilst maintaining the light and airy feel.
Soap Designs takes the popular 70’s trend and adds to it a thick layer of gloss and shine. Colour accents brighten up the ethical and sustainable materials used in production.
The colourful and playful stand a Two.Six is a happy contrast to the emphasis on natural materials in the show. Bold colours and clean designs give this Portuguese brand a Scandinavian/Mediterranean cross over that’s delightful.
I felt that the kitchen area of the show was lacking a little in excitement and with so many of the expert sessions focussing on more compact living we saw very little of this in the exhibiting stands. The kitchen is a part of the home that can really benefit from innovative design and eco friendly ideas but there was a noticeable lack of companies representing these ideals in this department.
By far the most interesting exhibit from this area came from the more conceptual project Casamatera. Seven interior designers visited and collaborated with local entrepreneurs in the city of Matera, designing a series that is inspired by the city itself. The Cave Kitchen is a piece by John Pepe. The outer metal is rough and worn but inside the metal shines brightly. This represents the caves in the rock around the city.
This year the emphasis was on design in the workplace. I stopped in on one of the talks on improving our experiences and productivity with good design. It’s interesting to hear how our workplaces are changing in response to technology and the new capabilities we have to work remotely. Our workspaces are evolving and becoming more like our homes. As we’re working longer and longer hours we’re seeing a more comfortable space to work in, in an effort to improve happiness in the workplace and at home through design.