Exotic London Design Week

Prepare your senses for a riot of colour as one of London’s top interiors shows goes tropical
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More than 70 showrooms go public on the new decor trends for 2008 at London Design Week, 9-14 March. At the world-famous Design Centre at Chelsea Harbour, tropical is topical, and the hottest designs are a jungly riot of petals and leaves.

Such new-look flowers and foliage are unquestionably spring’s big story. “London loves florals because they bring nature into the city and we all feel very comfortable with that,” says Karen Beauchamp.

She is the dynamic creative director of Cole & Son and has catapulted this old archive-based firm into the 21st century. But don’t think of florals as girly and coy. “Today’s big bold blooms often have a masculine edge — dramatic, graphic and brilliant,” says Beauchamp.

Richard Smith, design director for the exotic Thai brand of Jim Thompson, says: “Florals are instantly cocooning. Flowered curtains can add romance or drama to our urban existence, framing street views in an altogether more poetic way and adding colour all year round.” Bang on trend is Lelievre, with furnishings from Kenzo, the famous fashion brand.

‘This season the look will be very hot, and these mouthwatering brights make stunning statement prints’



Predictably a catwalk excitement surrounds the new Amazonia collection, inspired by the beautiful and bizarre plants of South America. “This is where nature turns into dreams, colour and enchantment,” says Kenzo’s creative director Antonio Marras.

Kenzo does the fashionable layered look with ease, combining a vivid statement cotton floral print with embroidered linens, metallic jacquards and the full-on shine of Lurex. Underpin your scheme with velvet and stripes and filter all through a new-style vibrant voile, where silhouettes of jungle flowers are in hot pink, acid yellow or white.

Tropical palette sofa fabric and cushions from the Kalaya collection by Harlequin, from £26 a metre
Tropical palette sofa fabric and cushions from the Kalaya collection by Harlequin, from £26 a metre
Today’s bouquets are outre and OTT, as at Harlequin where design director Claire Vallis masterminds affordable yet chic mass-market prints, weaves and papers. Currently she’s using a luscious tropical palette, splashing fuschia, lime, aubergine and kingfisher all over new Kalaya fabrics.

Exuberant hot-house flowers are jumbled up with jungly leaves — definitely more rainforest than a walk in the woods. “Yes, this season the look will be very hot,” Vallis confirms. “And these mouthwatering brights make stunning statement prints.”

Even Nina Campbell has gone global, citing the Amazon and New York’s botanical gardens as her design influences. Flower power this spring has a new-millennium metallic twist and will actively up the style ante of any London home.

Campbell does metallics with aplomb, keeping carefully this side of vulgar. Her designs and much more are on show at Osborne & Little, whose spacious showroom (in King’s Road, SW3) is also part of London Design Week.

As is Designers Guild (on the corner nearly opposite O&L), where a softer, more romantic look prevails, harking back to 18th century France and the court of Marie Antoinette. Here is the Florimund collection, by the inimitable Tricia Guild, a riot of romantic rococo, all scrolls and curlicues and overprinted with watercoloured rose heads. Shimmering silks and rich, cut velvets add opulence and depth.

‘These new design trends are certainly not for the faint of heart. With the new florals, you must go all the way’



Back in the Harbour, Lelievre has adapted designs from a 300-year-old silk company called Tassinari & Chatel. Choisy is a patterned “chair panel” created in the 18th century for Marie Antoinette’s private chambers in the Château de Choisy. Fabric printed specifically for the seat has a garlanded bouquet of roses, carnations and lilac. On the back, more old-fashioned roses are cradled in a wicker basket. A charming co-ordinating fabric sports pretty ribbons and gracious garlands.

Callisto wallpaper by Maggie Levien, exclusively for Sanderson (£33 a roll)
Callisto wallpaper by Maggie Levien, exclusively for Sanderson (£33 a roll)
Textile designer Maggie Levien has a new collection of stylised florals for Sanderson. She also feels that “globalisation” is influencing current trends. “We are getting cross-fertilisation from other countries — witness the more severely simple modern florals which definitely have a geometric Oriental feel,” she says.

Sanderson’s design manager, Rebecca Craig, says solo “statement wallpapers” are still going strong but people are once again combining fabrics and papers, adding stripes and modern geometrics.

The Russians are London’s newest “ritzy riche”. At The Silk Gallery, Kathryn Thompson’s Russian clients want glamour and richly embellished homes.

“They adore the lustre and opulence of silk and go for damask, large-scale florals and jungle themes,” she says. Then, succinctly, Thompson summarises the season: “These new design trends are certainly not for the faint of heart. With the new florals, you must go all the way.”

Tips on working with prints


* Mix large-scale flowers with bold stripes
* Highlight tropical prints with brightly painted walls and toning paintwork
* Team hot-house blooms with roughly woven linens and natural bamboo, cane and straw.
* Add plain coloured fabrics in several shades.
* Layer the look, with voiles and textures
* Highlight tropical prints with brightly painted walls and toning paintwork
* Stand a patterned sofa against a matching wall

Where to see the show


London Design Week starts on Sunday 9 March at Design Centre, Chelsea Harbour, SW10, and at showrooms in the nearby King’s Road.

Sunday to Tuesday, 9 to 11 March, is restricted to trade (interior design professionals) but readers are invited for the following three days from Wednesday to Friday, 12 to 14 March (two more days than in previous years).

Admission is free, as are courtesy buses from Sloan Square Hotel (via King’s Road) to the Harbour and back again.

Meet design-specialist authors at the Harbour’s RIBA book shop, with talks by Tricia Gould and Paula Pryke.

For more information, and the full programme, call 020 7225 9101, or visit www.designcentrechelseaharbour.co.uk.

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