Following March’s incredible theme ‘Legends and Collaborations’ my expectations for the Design Centre during this year’s London Design Festival were high.  I could not have been more delighted on hearing that their theme for Focus/18 was going to be a celebration of colour. As a lifelong colour fan, who’s lived through the recent years of grey and neutrals, the resurgence of colour has lifted my spirits and design mojo to new levels!

Focus 18 Design Centre

The Design Centre, once named the “Interior Design world’s Mecca” by Vanity Fair, continues to live up to this perfect description.  The moment you enter this colossal space containing countless phenomenal world leading brands and industry experts, inspiration surges around your entire being.  Add to this the enormous list of industry experts and an events calendar curated by the best in the business, it really is a place that demands you stand up and take note!  And once more, they have blown all expectations out of the water with Focus/18 and here is a very brief canter through my highlights.

gilded cage

This year’s Centre Dome installation “Freedom of Creativity” was, for me, the best yet. The simplicity from a far: a beautiful bird in its gilded cage surrounded by butterflies.  Then as you wound your way up the staircase, the details: the passementerie and trimmings making up the tail of the peacock with its exotic feathers and adorned wings, the vibrancy of the colours, the patterns on each of the butterflies, each completely different yet working so perfectly together.

Amazing shot by Georgie Marsh of the Freedom of Creativity

Conceived by Arabella McNie with the butterflies representing a symbol of metamorphosis is exactly how I feel about the current changes in design. There is certainly a sense of a new beginning, a change from the old and a head first, speedy collision course bang into the new exciting unknown world of colour and exuberance. What a brilliant tone to set, not just for this special week, but also for British design moving forward.

There was the most incredible atmosphere filled with excitement and anticipation as we all wandered from room to room.  I want to comment on every single showroom at the Design Centre and I have included as many as I can to really try and demonstrate how wonderful Focus/18 was.

Sanderson Paint Colours

Sanderson Paint At The Style Library launched their 50 new paints to the collection

Akin to a military operation, I planned which of the extensive talks, workshop programmes and events I wanted to attend.  Which in itself wasn’t easy given the sheer number of talks, workshops, expert chats and general interactions available!  Like I suspect most visitors there, I had a few key suppliers whose showrooms are based at the design centre who I was keen to touch base with.  For designers based outside of London, the opportunity to actually see everything under one roof is a hugely important part of the week.

I was lucky to stumble across a brilliant colour workshop in Julian Chichester as I was admiring their colour popping pieces.  It was a real delight, perfectly on theme and full of uplifting inspiration, as well as some really interesting technical details about how and where we are seeing colour within interiors and fashion. I also managed to catch Sophie Robinson’s colour psychology presentation for Sanderson at the Style Library. Again, brilliant, engaging, informative and so enjoyably focused on colour. It seemed to me, although my love of colour may mean I’m bias, that designers and consumers are ready to start embracing colour. Both parties seem bolder and more confident when it comes to considering them.

Workshops DCCH

As a huge fan of colour, I have long been shouting about the joys colour can bring to your life.  In fact, one of the sentences I regularly tell my clients is “living with the right colours makes your life joyful”.  I was fascinated to see, under one roof at Focus/18, the different ways designers are using colour particularly how many of the fabric houses who wouldn’t traditionally be associated with colour have managed to incorporate and reimagine colour into their new season’s collections.

Muted but colourful at the Fox Linton showroom.

There was even a huge variety of colours creeping in at the more muted end of the spectrum. Where before you would only have seen shades of grey there were pale violets, pink blushes, yellow taupes and even some sky blues and apple greens being used. It appears there is no excuse now, even for the most ardent of neutral lovers, not to be tempted into a more colourful pallet.

The other themes catching my attention at Focus/18 were global travel, motifs and pattern, craftsmanship and quality and more is more.

Global Travel 

It may be the use of colours slightly tricking the senses, but it seemed many were turning to the East for their inspiration.

Vaughn Designs stunning new range of hand sewn lampshades made from individually sourced fabrics from the Far East and brought back to the UK.  Notice how each and every shade is unique.

GP & J Baker newest collection “East Meets West” inspired by their archives in homage to intrepid traders traveling to the East.

The jewelled colours at the forefront of another traditional favourite, Turnell & Gignon, offering a taste of travel and adventure with their use of pattern and colour.

Evitavonni using a subtler take on global influences.

Motifs & Patterns

It was wonderful to see patterns and prints everywhere.

Lewis and Wood, always champions of pattern.

Matthew Williamson’s new (and old) collections for Osborne & Little emphasising how pattern can be used everywhere, as long as you use the right one. These two show rooms showed how to make pattern the king, but not in a way that over powers or diverts from the space.

For me, one of the most exciting new collections, very much about motifs and patterns, came from Cole & Sons. I was lucky enough to be visiting when their in-house artist ably demonstrated the painstaking design process that goes into each design. It was fascinating to see each pencil mark and brush stroke and then to see the final wallpapers up and in the showroom. Such detail was not only mesmerising, but makes you appreciate the craftsmanship that goes into this wonderful industry.

Craftsmanship & Quality

Be it the painted artwork producing timeless wallpapers, or the tireless skill and patience that goes into Samuel & Sons trims, there was a champion of hand crafted quality resonating with British design at every corner.

Samuel & Sons at DCCH

David Seyfried’s fabulous work of traditionally trained upholstery

Jaw dropping lighting from Porta Romana.

Bespoke painted furniture at Julian Chichester.

More is More 

The impact of layers and textures and colour is really coming into its own again.

For me, the Kit Kemp pop up shop in the Tunell & Gignon showroom in the North Dome magically summed up Focus/18 and the direction of travel for design.  It was a triumph of pattern and colour, maximalist as well as top notch design and quality. As a long-time fan of Kit Kemp’s work, the “Caribbean Suite” was the one. Having previously listened to Kit speak, I was immediately conscious of the layers at work in the room. You could see how each area had been created to form a complex, but perfectly formed space that was full of life and energy. It didn’t matter that there was texture and colour and pattern at every turn because the proportions were spot on and the vision executed and it all worked seamlessly together.

Focus/18 is full to the brim of colour, it’s in every corner from top to bottom. But so much more than that, this year it felt like Focus/18 was the culmination of so many wonderful designers, artisans and craftsmen all involved to create a perfectly on trend, timeless and meaningful vision of how interiors should be. The future is certainly bright and I for one can’t wait to see how it unfolds.

Spectacular light installation by Moritz Waldemeyer where the lights on the wall changed to reflect the colour placed on the lamp.

If you have a chance to visit Focus/18 I would grab it with both hands and dive right in. It’s impossible to not leave inspired.