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Date published: December 12 2016

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Jim Evans takes a walk through 2016's must see interiors show

What makes an item for the home luxurious? Is it the hard-to-come-by materials? Is it a limited production quantity? Is it great design that is not reproducible en masse? All of the above, or something less tangible?

The focus for this year’s leading luxury exhibition in the UK was the Roots of Design. For many British based Interior Designers, September’s Decorex International exhibition on the edge of London’s Syon Park is the mustsee show of the year. The show exhibits the brightest stars of homeware with respected forum and seminar speakers showing us a glimpse of emerging design directions.

Yes, everything shiny and new we come to love and delight in each year was here in abundance, but the theme took us on an unexpected inspirational direction of integrity. A torch light on a lesser seen past, with a laser beam to the future.

Items once made by master craftsmen and appreciated for style, comfort and practicality, but no longer call to a modern luxury market, should not be allowed to dwindle into some lost art. Designers should feel responsible for championing these master skill sets and find new twists, collaborations and applications to reinvent and reinterpret, enlightening new generations to appreciate these arts as new luxury items.

Before we charge to the main halls with giddy anticipation to devour all the wondrous and luxurious distractions which beckon ahead, this year’s Decorex International exhibition forces us, quite rightly, to reflect on past design achievements of British craftsmen. With an engaging confrontation of select chair designs at this year’s entrance, furniture aficionado, Tim Gosling, sought to evoke British pride and appreciation for the art of chair design in a historical curation. He was aided by choices from eminent names not normally associated with the furniture industry: Sir Paul Smith, Anya Hindmarch, Sir James Dyson to name a few, making for a diverse interest.

The exhibition collated four areas for the Crafthouse theme: Eating, Sleeping, Bathing and Working, each given over to a growing network of British makers, The New Craftsmen, to collaborate and collectively redefine the value of craft.

In the Working area, basket maker Annemarie O’Sullivan teamed with Gareth Neal transposed a traditional wooden chair design with a contemporary stylised undulating back support. It updated a simple and honest classic to form a very modern silhouette.

The Bathing section drew from the masterly glass blower, Jochen Holz. His use of tough Borosilica glass to form imperfect everyday bathroom accessories, like hooks and towel rails, defied their delicate appearance. The simple U-shaped Helium Suspended light again of Borosilica was most impressive.

Trying to glean an emerging trend is not an easy task at this end of the market, but a few key points were popping up: Something we haven’t seen cycle around for a while but is now ready for a revival, is the fabric wrapping of solid furniture. Justin Van Breda is offering a gorgeous open weave texture in a number of colours that is then encased under a deep lacquer so the touch is glass-like. Whilst wood seems to be continuing the extremes of either keeping it raw and untreated as a natural beauty, or the still popular heavy glass-like lacquers are as popular as ever.

It was good to see the return of DOM Edizioni furniture who were getting attention from their new light honey tones with sharp slashes of black in their Albin Wood dining table and side cabinets. And in their twelfth year, Michael Northcroft’s glossy dining table is said to be available in any colour.

French semi-precious craftsman, Atelier Alain Elouz, made his inaugural appearance at the show and brought delicate creations of tables, bars and lighting manufactured using his wondrous trademark material, alabaster. Heathfield & Co lighting had three advanced prototype table lights (in contrast to their equally stunning colourful glass collections with patterned shade linings) with carved alabaster columns - soon to be in production, their designer assured me. Complemented with solid, aged brass fi ttings they’re surely set to be a classic.

Rose gold and now copper seem to be popping up as the new metal fi nish of choice stealing some limelight from aged brass and bronze which was used to creative eff ect lifting a 70’s style cue as twig stem framework on Munna’s concave bookcase.

Our friends at CTO Lighting have entrusted the skills of Larose Guyon to design a copper chain drop Otero light in both large and small, with an almost Art Deco necklace appeal. While Italian statement lighting company, Terzani, were in a more understated mood showing off new rose gold colour ranges of their simple seven metre-long wire form Doodle wall light. It is twisted by an artisan’s hand to a unique loose ball - simple elegance.

The coloured light collections and clear balls of newcomer, Giopata & Coombes, had bubble thin elegance. Serip, a fi rm favourite, showed the versatility of the modular metal leaf design which can traverse in great groups up walls to ceilings, or scatter playfully as individual wall lights.

Bold fabrics, with a hint of humour from Santorus and equally vibrant selections from Casamance, but it was the geometric patterns that were showing through strong, building on last year’s green shoots now in striking monotones too. Whilst over in the Suzy Hoodless designed VIP area, it was an African inspired ‘Designs of our Time’ grabbing headlines with fabrics
of a tribal authenticity juxtaposing the De Gournay hand painted wallpaper masterpieces.

So as Tim Gosling put it himself in a recent interview, is it that craftsmanship itself is becoming a luxury? Yes, there’s a positive to be said about bringing factory-made good design to the masses, but knowing there has been many hours of hand crafted love to hone a piece by a master craftsperson, surely makes the defi nition of a luxury item. Here’s to the rekindling of those age-old skills into new directions in the hope new generations get to appreciate masterpieces of a new kind. 

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