More Carefully Curated @Clerkenwell Design Week

IMG_3480There was so much to see at Clerkenwell Design Week, I could not see it all, but here are a few more favourite finds.

Firstly, a step into Forbo Flooring Systems who make linoleum, project vinyl, carpet tiles, and flocked flooring for commercial and residential customers.  With a clutch of environmental awards to their name, including BREAM, Cradle-to-Crade and Nordic Swan, theInfographic_April_2014y are proud of their commitment to responsible raw material procurement and manufacturing processes.  Forbo use Life Cycle Assessment to evaluate their products’ environmental footprint, before, during and after production.  The info graphic, Creating Better Environments shares some of the highlights.  For example, marmoleum (linoleum) is made from 97% natural materials with natural antibacterial properties, contains 43% recycled content, has total VOC 30 lower than the norm and CO2 emissions 50% than other resilient floorings.  It could soon be on the floor of the family bathroom! 

Instyle Textile WallI had to stop at Brands ,a few doors down, to hear about the “holistically reared sheep” (as pitched in the Icon Guide to CDW) whose wool is used for the LIFE textile range from Instyle.  LIFE textiles were developed along  Cradle to Cradle principles, made from 100% low-pesticide wool that is processed with biodegradable detergents, and heavy-metal free dyes.  Wool has many virtues, and this cloth, suitable for upholstery or screen use, is also recyclable through Instyle’s Revive programme.  Instyle Green Feel Bags LondonTo show the colours and weave to their best effect, the fabrics have been made into covetable backpacks by Cherchbi, a British leather goods company that prides itself on using the best natural raw materials such as vegetable-tanned English saddle leather and discarded wool from the ancient Herdwick breed.  The bags are a playful way to show the beauty and versatility of the LIFE Textiles and Cherchbi craftsmanship.

IMG_3479I had a quick perch on a (very comfortable) bed at Ensemblier London to hear from founder Emma Storey about the craftsmanship invested in their customisable headboards.  With designs inspired by the rich archives of the Victoria & Albert Museum, the headboards are handmade in small workshops in England using traditional skills and sustainable materials.

photoCraftsmanship and traditional skills were also in evidence elsewhere.  The beautiful copper and terracotta objects (pictured at the top)from Hend Krichen are the fusion of a London-based design practice and a network of craftsmen in Tunisia revealing the country’s natural resources and artisanal heritage.  The perfect complement to the kitchen I am coveting after seeing this bar (pictured right) at the Benchmark Furniture stand.

IMG_3495 IMG_3497I caught my breath with a perch on Neb Abbott‘s Geffrye stool.  The stackable stool is based on a commission for eight benches as temporary seating for the Geffrye Museum cafe. Neb is about to graduate from the CASS School of Art, Architecture and Design.  Alongside the stool stood the Wasp series of chairs.  The playful exploration with materials (my favourite is the webbing) belies the serious design consideration to providing lumber support.  It is seriously comfy!

allo_high1Studio 23, founded by Naori Priestly, a Royal College of Art graduate, works with the Allo Club in Sankhuwasabha, a small mountain village in eastern Nepal, to produce handmade fabrics from the Himalayan Giant Nettle (known as Allo). Allo grows naturally in forests above 1500 metres, helping to stabilise the fragile soil in mountainous areas.  Local peoples harvest allo, as they have done for generations, boiling and beating the stem bark and then spinning the fibres and weaving them into sacks, bags, jackets or fishing nets.  As a social enterprise, Studio23 aims to preserve the community’s skills, the landscape and provide another source of revenue.  The natural fabric is strong and durable.  It would look great as chair seat, or cushion, particularly the subtle herringbone weave. IMG_3481 Or cover a sofa, add a few hand-knitted cushions from Rose Sharp Jones (pictured left), and then relax…..

 

Photocredit: Brands Ltd; Forbo Flooring Systems for the info graphic; Studio23 and the rest are mine.

Related post: Design Factory @Clerkenewell Design Week

 

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Grand Designs & Green Heroes

VW-218Any trip to Grand Designs Live starts with a stroll down the Design Arcade, and inevitably I linger at the Vintage Wonderland Chandeliers stand (E7).  The chandeliers are sourced from France, Belgium or Italy and then restored with skill, knowledge and a great deal of love.  Those that are beyond repair are reborn as drops and pendants on new bespoke work.  The chandeliers are rewired to conform to British standards and supplied with ceiling bell and chain.   Alison can also work to create something bespoke to match a client’s colour scheme.    They create a magical atmosphere in a room. This is upcycling at its most glamorous!

BnNUX2zIgAE8CsVA few strides further, Green Decore Rugs, is a riot of colourful rugs made from 90% recycled polypropylene plastic.  Prices start at £42 for a 120x150cm rug that could be used indoor, outdoor, at the park or on the beach.  The bold patterns would brighten any gathering.  I wonder where they get their colour?

nestHappily the Design Arcade is also the most direct route to Kevin McCloud’s Green Heroes.  This year the selection is influenced by McCloud’s most recent series on Channel 4, “Kevin’s Supersized Salvage”, in which designers are challenged to repurpose or upcycle an Airbus A320. The Aircraft Workshop, set up by Harry Dwyer and Charlie Waller after working on the programme, have their quirky bird nesting boxes on display.  The weatherproof Aircraft BirdBoxes (priced from £110, pictured left) are made out of air ducting pipework with back plates made from cabin flooring and an entrance from wing fuel pipe connectors.  The resin-fibre duct pipe can not be recycled an would otherwise be landfill.  I also like their egg cups at a more affordable £22!

01Making good use of the things that they find are TING. They rework leather belts to create a glossy, subtly textured surface material for floors, walls or table tops (pictured right).  The vintage belts, of high grade leather are stripped of buckles, hand cleaned and then carefully made up into panels that balance their pattern and colour.  And if customers should ever fancy a change, then TING will accept the tiles back to recycle them.

From the dark to the bright white panels from 3DWalldecor.  The panels are available in eight distinct patterns and made of bamboo pulp.  Bamboo is often lauded as eco-friendly as it is fast-growing and can be cultivated without pesticides.  The panels are modular, paintable, and bang on trend. 

lightThe eye-catching ceiling lights from Willem Heeffer are upcycled washing machine drums that have been powder coated in a choice of six subtle colours from light pink to slate grey.  The lights are 35cmhx 48cmd, priced 310 euros and supplied with 2m of fabric braided cable.  A literally more domestic take on the industrial look.

bedTaking centre stage is the ‘Eleanor’ bed from the Wrought Iron and Brass Bed Company.  This elegant bed is built to last, by hand in Norfolk from part recycled iron tube and scaffolding junctions. The ‘William’ in a raw metal finish is closer to its industrial roots.  Prices start at £855 for a single bed, and it would no doubt withstand a lot of energetic bouncing kids.

For outdoors, Thomas Bramwell are showcasing their ECOLLECTION of modular outdoor seating, loungers, tables and planters made from 100% up-cycled plastics.  The contemporary furniture is chemical, UV and heat resistant.  It would make a striking addition to an urban garden.

From furniture to foundations.  It is often the invisible elements of site design and construction that have the greatest environmental impact.  Screed is what binds a flooring finish to the substrate and incorporates other flooring elements such as acoustic insulation or underfloor heating.  Isocrete Green Screed, from Flowcrete UK, does not contain Ordinary Portland Cement (OPC).  OPCs are a common ingredient in concrete, but at a high carbon price, accounting for 90% of the construction industry’s Co2 emissions, and the cement industry accounts for 24.9% of global Co2 emissions (source the Materials Council).  Isocrete Green Screed is also made up of 40% recycled materials reclaimed from heavy industry, diverting the material from landfill.  A heavy duty product with a lighter tread.  

Groundshield is a self shuttering, lightweight foundation system from Swedish company, Advanced Foundation Technology Ltd.  It is a slab foundation technique based on expanded polystyrene that eliminates the need for screed and is thermally very efficient, so suitable for low energy and passivhaus buildings.  In this context the durability of polystyrene is a benefit!

IMG_3349Good insulation is essential for energy-efficiency in buildings, and Inno-THERM  (pictured right) is an insulation made from 85% recycled denim and cotton.  It is non-itch and does not contain any chemical irritants. It has low embodied energy as it uses 70% less energy in production than conventional inorganic insulation, and can be recycled at its end of life.  It has a thermal conductivity of 0.039 WmK and very effective acoustic performance. 

And finally, a by-product of a favourite fuel, coffee. Bio-bean collect waste coffee grounds sourced from coffee shops and instant coffee factories in the South-East.  London produces over 200,000 tonnes of waste coffee grounds annually, and it generally ends up in landfill.  Waste coffee grounds contain up to 20% oil by weight, and Bio-bean have patented a process to convert this oil to biodiesel that conforms to EU standards. The residual grounds are made into biomass pellets and briquettes which are carbon-neutral and suitable for all bio-mass boilers. Oh and they produce a coffee aroma when burnt.

Grand Designs Live 2014 is currently on at the London Excel centre until Sunday 11th May.

Image credits: Green Decore; TING; Vintage Wonderland Chandeliers and the rest are my own .

SCIN deep

marbleI think I have met the ultimate materials girl.  Annabelle Filer, architect, journalist and founder of the SCIN Gallery (pronounced skin) is passionate about materials.  While working as an architect Annabelle developed a fascination, even addiction, for materials, their properties and practical applications.  While she continues regular contributions to FX Design magazine (and formerly Grand Designs Magazine), four years ago SCIN was launched to show and share this passion and encyclopaedic knowledge of materials.

SCIN source and advise on finishes for every surface inside or outside buildings of every scale. Working with materials experts sourcing from around the world, SCIN’s sphere of knowledge reaches to the limits of current research, and if SCIN can’t find what their clients are looking for they can work with them to develop it.  SCIN is committed to introducing more materials with ‘green’ credentials, and “fundamentally believe that environmental or sustainable design heralds a new era in architecture and design”. So after whetting my appetite at the Surface Design Show, I headed to the SCIN Gallery to learn more.

The ground floor is dedicated to new material design.  First to catch my eye were some bowls (pictured right) made out of ‘decafé’ a material created by  Raúl Laurí from used coffee grounds.  Alongside was Coleoptera, a bioplastic made from dead beetles, developed by Aagje Hoekstra.  The shells of the beetles,  a by-product of the animal food industry, contain chitin. After cellulose, chitin is the most common polymer on earth and, with a little chemistry, is transformed into chitosan which bonds better and is already being made into jewellery.  From insect to marine life and exotic leathers made from salmon, perch, wolffish and cod fish skins by Icelandic tannery, Atlantic Leather. solidOther exhibits included Denimite, a cotton fibre bio-composite made from recycled denim suitable for countertops and architectural applications and Soilid (pictured left).  Made from a mixture of soil, fungi and other natural materials left overnight at room temperature to “rise”, the mixture can then be poured into a mould and baked becoming strong enough sand, saw or drill.

ppThe first floor showcases architectural materials, such as Polluted Pattern (pictured right).  A concrete surface printed with a photo-catalytic white i.active cement based on TX Active nanotechnology that self-cleans and breaks down air-pollutants.  Over time, the printed sections stay pristine, while pollutants discolour the unprotected areas revealing the printed lace-like pattern, a metaphor for pollution wrapping our cities.  The material would be suitable for urban surfaces, pavements, facades.

fcThe installation ‘The Forest Commissioned’ displayed some leading wood products including Accoya, a high-performance wood created from softwood using a proprietary non-toxic acetylation process that gives it the dimensional strength and durability make its suitable for windows, cladding and other architectural uses.  Showered with eco-labels including FSC, PEFC,  and Cradle to Cradle™ to name but three, Accoya is made from renewable sources, fully-recyclable, and looks good to boot.  It is distributed in the UK by Lathams.  UPM Grada is a new thermoform able wood made from FSC or PEFC rotary cut birch veneers and non-formaldehyde adhesive.

ghInteriors products occupy the second floor. Marbelous Wood (pictured at the top of the page) and Green Hides (pictured right) were just two of the exhibits currently on display.  Marbelous Wood, from the Danish Snedker Studio, uses an old marbling technique to create an organic and colourful play on the natural grain of the wood.  A decorative reinterpretation of a flooring choice favoured by many.  Green Hides‘ Ecolife Italian leathers are processed with chrome-free, natural vegetable tanning  and solvent-free finishing methods to meet stringent technical specifications that mean they are suitable for home and contract clients.

neptIf the temporary installations are not inspiration enough, the basement is home to a permanent materials library.  The SCIN library is a colourful and tactile treasure trove with thousands of samples catalogued by material and property in bright orange boxes. Solid wool and paper stone I have seen before, but insulation made from seaweed was a surprise. NeptuTherm (pictured left) is an insulation material made from neptune grass seaweed that has become matted together into balls in shallow water.  Often considered a waste product, in fact,  without chemical treatment this material is naturally flame retardant, mould resistant and helps regulate humidity without degrading its thermal insulation capacity.  Seaweeds’ wonderful properties extend far beyond sushi and face creams!

organoidAnd finally a product that is simply joyful, if not immediately robust enough for a home with two small children, but if I could, I would find a place for some decorative Organoids panels (pictured right).  Natural fibres (in this case rose petals and rose buds) are ground up and mixed with a natural binder, then covered with a vacuum film, compressed and hardened to make a biocomposite that is 100% biodegradable.  The decorative panels are a sensual experience, the aroma of the rose buds, texture of the panel and visible rosebuds a reminder of the natural materials.  The process is entirely free of biocides, plasticisers and solvents and powered with 100% green electricity.

So whether wrestling with the refurbishment of a Victorian terrace house or in search of a supernatural material to make a car fit for James Bond, the library is a rich repository of innovative, practical and green materials.  Architects, designers and consumers are all welcome to have a rummage, by appointment.  You too could get addicted!

Picture credits: Raúl Laurí

Handmade in Britain – the CC edit

ELakelinI first lingered to admire the beautiful wooden vessels created by Eleanor Lakelin from British wood.  Eleanor studied cabinet-making, after a career in teaching, and was the first woman to win the annual Austin’s Prize for Craftsmanship in Wood in 1998.  More recently, Eleanor has focused on turning wood on a lathe to carve decorative pieces and functional objects such as bowls and food boards.

Eleanor’s vessels are sensory pieces that you need to see, feel and smell in order to fully digest their beauty.  The wood is from trees that have fallen or had to be felled, and each different species of tree has distinct characteristics and qualities as a wood.   There are ethereal sculptural forms created from the wood of a 300 year old horse chestnut that was turned, carved, sandblasted and bleached.  Sycamore lends a warm, golden hue to bowls carved with dimples that look almost aquatic.  Bowls made from olive ash have a tonal colour as the wood closer to the centre of the trunk is darker.  Each piece tells the story of its origin, and Eleanor’s sympathetic interventions using only the lathe, sanding, bleaching and scorching.

After training as a painter at The Royal College of Art, London in the early 1960s, Rachel Scott began spinning and weaving in 1976.  Initially a practical response to pressing need for some carpet, Rachel found great satisfaction in this new  medium for her artistic expression.  Her first loom was made from some boards salvaged from a skip, and her brother made her spinning wheel.

RScottRachel undertakes every aspect of product.   The fleeces come from friends who live on the Berkshire Downs and different breeds of British sheep. Rachel cards and combs the fibres before hand-spinning them into wool.  The wool remains undyed and tapestry woven on an upright wooden frame loom.  The rugs are bold, geometric designs in the subtle colours of the natural wool from different breeds. Black Welsh (black with rusty tips), Devon Longwools (cream), Manx Logthans (soft, pale brown), Shetlands (fine,brown, grey,black), Hebrideans (soft,black) and Herdwicks (pale and dark grey).  The rugs are approximately 150 x 75 cm.  They can standalone, or be sewn together to make bigger rugs, or stair carpets.  I love the contrast of the muted shades with the strong patterns.  And, of course, the wool is natural, renewable, hard-wearing, breathable, warm in winter and cool in summer!

I had a short pitstop at Offkut, to admire the sculptural lighting and furniture made from reclaimed industrial salvage.  They had lent a stool to a weary neighbouring exhibitor and she vouched for its comfort.  Their furniture is certainly built to last.  Then a mini-domestic emergency had me pedalling home, pulled away from admiring the marine and floral designs of Justine Munson‘s porcelain.

Rachel’s rugs will next be available at Pullens Yards Winter Open Studios, 6th-8th December.

Eleanor’s work will be available at the Cockpit Arts Open Studios, 29th Nov- 1st Dec.

 

Decorex highlights

PETDecorex International was the long tail of my London Design excursions.  A design show that is definitely established, decidedly high-end, and distinctly for the trade, I was curious to see what it offered for carefully curated.  The ‘feature’ entrance, designed by Kit Kemp, was worthy of the superlatives.  ‘Beautiful’, ‘stunning’ and ‘luxurious’ can be overworked in the Decorex environment, but they are were fitting adjectives for the the display inspired by the Silk Route.  I loved the hanging pendants from PET Lamp.  The clue is in the name, as the lamps are made from recycled plastic bottles and woven using traditional artisanal techniques in Colombia.

Once into the fray,  I was spoilt for choice. I went to admire the new designs on the stand of Fine Cell Work, the social enterprise that trains prisoners in paid, skilled, creative needlework to foster hope, discipline and self esteem, where a needlepoint demonstration was underway.   Another organisation with a strong ethical purpose is GoodWeave who are working to end child labour in the carpet industry and boost educational opportunities for children in weaving communities in India, Nepal and Afghanistan.  Their website has a directory to find rugs ethically produced by GoodWeave approved producers.

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Then onto textile companies, and the riot of colour of at Timorous Beasties (seen here on their Omni Splatt cushion, £144), was in glorious contrast to the cool, clean botanical prints at Ivo Prints.  Ivo Prints have been producing textiles and wall coverings under license to The Royal Botanic Gardens Kew at their small factory in west London since early 2011.

FABRICSThe Kew Collection also includes  home accesories, cushions, bags and other gifts and a share of proceeds supports Kew’s conservation work .  The collection is closely connected to its subject matter, with evidence of the seeds in the weaving as a reminder of the natural and plant based origins of the cloth.  Only water-based, non toxic pigment colours are used to print the collection.

Water-based paints and pigments feature highly at Little Greene.  Little Greene Dyeworks started in 1773 making dye solutions to the cotton trade.  Today, all their products are still manufactured in the UK, with a determination to produce high-quality paints and papers that are environmentally-friendly.  They use only natural, organic and safe-synthetic pigments.   Oil-base paints use vegetable oils, making them child-friendly.  And a contribution for every paint and wallpaper sale goes to English Heritage, with whom they have collaborated to develop a range of authentic historical paint colours.  I particularly liked their sculpture, pictured below, which reminds me of the children’s song, “we’ve got the whole world in our hands”.

hands

Elsewhere, I was drawn to the tactile display of woollen fabrics on the Moon stand.  Established in 1837 in Leeds, Abraham Moon & Sons Ltd, remains the only vertical mill left in Britain.  From fleeces to final dispatch, they control the entire manufacturing process with dyeing, blending, carding, spinning, weaving and finishing processes all taking place on one site.  Their Natural Wool collection makes extensive use of un-dyed wools.  As well as furnishing fabrics, Moon also produces throws and fashion accessories including cushions, baby blankets and scarves under their Bronte by Moon label.   N.B. Abraham Moon fabrics are used to upholster the Moonshine footstool from Galvin Brothers – see my Tent London post.  Gorgeous!

Other highlights were the reclaimed antique tiles from Bert and May.  Bert and May are also able to make reproductions of any tile in their antique collection or your own design or specification to complete a project.  Their new showroom is opening next month.   Finally, and relax, in the folding rocking chair made from sustainable steam-bent beech by Wawa.  It folds to 15cm wide, and weighs only 5kg.  Perfect for confined spaces!!

chair

Tent London & Super Brands highlights

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In the Scale of Carbon sat at the centre of the Super Brands event during the London Design Festival.  The exhibition, by the Materials Council, represented the volume of various architectural materials that can be produced for one tonne of carbon dioxide emissions.  Each of the materials was physically represented in a cube form and, the larger the cube the greater the quantity of that material that could be produced for the same volume of CO2 emissions, or ’embodied carbon’.  A literal measure of sustainability.  Carbon isn’t the only measure, but it is an important one.  The average new UK home releases around 50 tonnes of CO2 embodied carbon in its construction, that is enough carbon to drive around the earth 11 times!

Next door, Interface, a leading commercial carpet tile manufacturer, showcased its Net Effect products.  Net-Works is a partnership programme between Interface and the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and Aquafil to tackle the problem of discarded fishing nets.  Net Works takes discarded fishing nets from remote fishing communities and recycles them into carpet tiles, the Net Effect products.  The programme aims to collect 200kg of nets from each village every month.  The result, beautiful carpet tiles that capture the colour and texture of the ocean.

There was plenty more biophilic design on display:  Hand drawn wallpapers inspired by rural Shropshire from Katherine Morris at Earth Inke.  The teasels in cream tea were developed using natural clays from Shropshire; Abigail Edwards had sky, seascapes and owls adorning her wallpapers printed with hand mixed non-toxic water based ink; and the english countryside are the chocolate creative’s inspiration for theirnew English Romantic Collection of cushions.

gyo_eg_product_thumbnailBold & Noble‘s collection of wallpapers and screen prints cherish a connection with nature with depictions of trees or birds around Britain, a ‘Grow your Own’ calendar or reminder to Bee Kind referencing bee-friendly plants (£43, 50x70cm).

I loved Daniel Heath‘s antique wall mirrors, and reclaimed Welsh slate tiles engraved with an Espalier (fruit trees growing horizontally) design complete with jays perching between gnarled apple branches ripe with fruit.

Recycling and upcycling was in evidence at Furniture Magpies, GalapagosSukie’s recycled papers and cards, and the vibrant textiles of Parris Wakefield on furniture from Out of the Dark, a charitable social enterprise that recycles, restores and revamps salvaged furniture.  Chunky knits were used  to great effect as upholstery by Rose Sharp Jones and Melanie Porter.

Design and craftsmanship were plentiful at the Galvin Brothers, nominees for Best British Designer at the Elle Decoration British Design Awards, 2013. Their Moonshine footstool was a hit.  All of Sebastian Cox‘s work is made frothumb.phpm British hardwoods from well managed forests.  The ‘Rod’ desk lamp is made from  compressed hazel fibres for the shade and steam bent hazel for the rob.  It has an LED bulb, and R.R.P. is £175.  The hazel is hand coppiced in Kent.  I also liked the Suent, lightweight chair with its woven seat.

Finally,  Studio180° launched their eco modular sofa and horsehair mattress.  The sofa is made of the highest quality natural materials with out glue or steel coils, and the “Cradle-To-Cradle” circular economy model is at the heart of the design.  All the materials used, except zips, are either biodegradable or recyclable and free from toxic flame retardants and harmful chemicals.  The chaise-longue element is provided by a full mattress made of horsetail hair.  Horsehair, with its natural springiness, has been used in bedding for centuries, and is still used by premium brands such as Vi-Spring.   I could have lingered for a long time on the Sen sofa, but duty called!

 

What a corking idea

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The Progressive Extension of the Field of Individual Development and Experience installation at the Victoria and Albert Museum is a collaboration between FAT architecture and Amorim, the world’s largest producer of cork.  A walkway up in the Medieval galleries has been covered in a series of tiles in a geometric trompe l’oeil pattern inspired by the cellular structure of the cork.

Sean Griffiths, an architect and director of FAT, stressed that cork “really is a 21st century material which is highly sustainable. Using cork has allowed us to work in a very different way, starting with the material as generator of the concept. Cork has a very natural appearance which is supported by an intricate geometric structure and the main idea of the design is to capture the relationship between these aspects of the material. The design also makes use of the strong visual acoustic and tactile qualities of the material.”

I had been striding down the marble floor of the gallery with the clip of my heel ringing out, and then when I stepped on to the installation the cork softened my stride and absorbed all the sound.  I wanted to reach down and stroke the smooth surface.

As well as the tactile properties of cork it is also a great thermal insulator, do not absorb dust and are resistant to bacteria and fungi, so an environmentally-friendly flooring for kitchens and bathrooms.  Cork floor options are more varied than you might remember from the 70s and 80s!  Watch this space for more.