At last, a successful modern furniture show in London. In just 12 months the organisers of 100% Design have transformed what started as a crafty event into a refreshing showcase of largely British design talent, interspersed with work by a few Continental greats. There was still an element of the decorator’s art in the show staged at the beginning of this month, but the overall mix offered something for everyone, boding well for its third incarnation next year.
A big difference between this event and London contract show Spectrum – due for a fifth airing next spring – is that 100% Design is aimed as much at the consumer as the specifier. Witness the bold price tags designer Simon Pengelly put on his plywood pieces – not something you’d see in a contract show – and the presence of suppliers like The Conran Shop and Viaduct which combine contract with retail.
But 100% Design’s real strength is its youthfulness. You rarely see so many young UK designers showing in their own right at a big furniture event. And it is a formula that works, judging by the number of overseas visitors.
There aren’t many UK firms prepared to stick their necks out for young British talent, giving, in the case of SCP, a leg up to the likes of Jasper Morrison and Matthew Hilton before they become international stars. Nor do we subscribe to the Continental system whereby young hopefuls work for nothing for their heroes for the privilege of learning at the feet of the master.
What we do have is a plucky bunch who’d love to make it big, but who are prepared to go it alone to get their designs out there. A successful UK designer once said he’d chosen product design because there was no money in furniture. The new breed of furniture folk are keenly aware of this and are aiming for low production costs and affordable retail prices. This could mean more well-designed pieces entering UK households. All that is needed is a retailer with the vision of Ikea and its subsidiary Habitat to pick up the tab.