It’s easy to feel quite confused when wandering aimlessly through the sea of contemporary furniture, kitsch hand-designed cushions and lighting installations at this year’s designjunction. Although the sheer amount of stuff can be overwhelming, the space – featuring everything from small phone chargers to a massive replica Tube station – is a hub full of creativity that must be explored.
This year’s exhibitors are spread across two venues in Holborn – Victoria House and The College. The first focuses more on smaller things – graphic and product design – and the latter on the bigger stuff – lighting and furniture – with unique installations spread across both.
To peruse a herd of psychedelic elephants, head down to the “A Child’s Dream” installation – in aid of children’s charity Teddy’s Wish, it features 21 (quite adorable) designed elephants, by the likes of Terence Woodgate, Eley Kishimoto, Max Lamb and Raw Edges. You can also bid to buy an elephant online, with proceeds going towards the charity. Bids can be made at: www.jumblebee.co.uk/designjunction_achildsdream.
Camilla Barnard’s Wooden Tube Station is one of the most exciting pieces at this year’s designjunction. While, like many, I tend to associate the London Underground with lack of personal space, foot treading and the shudder-inducing stop-in-a-tunnel-for-four-minutes, Barnard has created a magical, serene hub, recreating everything from a full tube map to oyster card sensors and individual wooden copies of the Metro. Linked in with TFL’s Transported by Design scheme, it’ll create a wonderful nostalgia for every conditioned Londoner (minus getting your head caught in the closing doors).
You can also unleash your playful side at Kirkby Design and Jon Burgerman’s doodle wall. For a less hectic experience, visit Flame, LUUM’s sculpture-meets-light installation which cascades down the building’s stairwell leaving you with a distinct feeling of vertigo, or Knit – a unique installation created by Curver, which sees 3D plastic products created out of a knitting technique.
The product stalls are an explosion of colour, from pop art prints to pencil holders. Outline Editions is selling graphic art prints and illustrations from the likes of Noma Bar, Malika Favre and Morag Myerscough, while Danish brand Korridor bridges the gap between function and just-for-fun with its multi-coloured stationery range.
At first glance, Korridor’s products are Brutalist, industrial takes on your typical candle holder, storage box or lamp, moulded out of concrete or cement and then dyed (to give them a little more oomph). But designer and architect Henrik Ilfeldt says they have a double purpose. “There’s a corridor between what’s art and what’s commercial design,” he says. “It can function as a candle-holder, but can also be an art piece on its own.”
Smartphone accessories brand Native Union is also going for pretty-but-practical with its rubberised and wooden iPhone cases at just under £35 each. The rubber case has also apparently passed military grade – meaning you can drop your phone 100 times without it breaking (though probably don’t try that out). If, like me, you drop your phone 57 times a day, I’d visit this stand.
Layer’s redesigned collection boxes for Maggie’s charity get the balance between simple and innovative just right. They’re inverted, meaning they are easy to grip, and they tilt slightly forwards, a clever, playful design feature encouraging people to give subconsciously. With pretty much every other charity box taking the typical upright form, it’s an easy way to stand out, says Benjamin Hubert, creative director at Layer. “Regular charity boxes in shops disappear among the chewing gum and Chupa Chups,” he says. “There’s no more cost expensed in designing something ownable, and ultimately it’ll help to raise more money.” And the array of different coloured boxes makes for a pretty attractive installation, too.
Visiting Wallace Sewell’s stand is a treat, because you get to see the process as well as the finished product – specialising in woven textile design, the designers demonstrate exactly how they do it in front of you. Rather than applying their intricate patterns to scarves and bedding alone, there’s also a few signature collaborative pieces on show, including a “weaved” sofa and the patterns the company has created for seating on the London Underground.
Tylko’s work is all about collaboration – the company has a philosophy it likes to call “adoptive ownership”, meaning the designer creates the initial design, but the customer can then adjust it to their needs. Putting the power in the consumer’s hands, there’s an online system to choose exactly how you want your products – whether that’s the slant of your set of shelves, or the shape of your salt and pepper grinders. This sits alongside a clever little augmented reality app, which allows you to see what the piece of furniture will look like in the context of your home. Just don’t get carried away – it can’t magic you a new bespoke book collection to go with the cabinet.
Molo takes the use of alternative materials to a different level with its range of chairs created out of paper and felt. Although these are generally resources associated with birthday-card-making, the sleek designs are sturdy and comfortable, and appear to glow when subjected to a light source.
For light in strange forms, take a look at Arturo Álvarez’ collection, which recreates the typical shade into wirey, fluffy and jagged shapes. Basing his designs on a concept Álvarez describes as “emotional light”, it’s an interesting look at how shape can affect the way light travels and is perceived. Danish company Lindholdt’s Petite Machine also works with shape and size to create more geometric forms and ways to hang a light than you thought possible.
Designjunction runs until 27 September at Victoria House and The College, both on Southampton Row, London WC1B. For more information visit thedesignjunction.co.uk/london.