Anyone who cares about design will love this year’s Clerkenwell Design Week. It’s fascinating, fun, friendly and mostly free.
Next week, from Tuesday to Thursday, it will offer insights into architecture and street art as well as design for the home and workplace.
Lining the streets are 80 streamlined showrooms for international design brands, competing for attention where traditional jewellery, book-binding, printing and watch-making workshops still flourish.
Design Week colonises local churches, a nightclub and the subterranean cells of a Victorian prison, along with specially erected pavilions and dozens of showrooms.
Follow a “design trail” in your lunch break, or why not head over after work? Many of the shows keep going until 9pm. You’ll come across an arty surprise at every turn, from patterned pavements and walls, to a Corian cloak for the archway of medieval St John’s Gate, and a giant climbing frame of yellow scaffolding. Just register at clerkenwelldesignweek.com and print out a badge.
Many showrooms are for “contract furniture” so the programme favours architects and designers who kit out offices, hotels and so on. But filling in the gaps is stunning stuff for your London home, plus talks, walks, and workshops.
DESIGN CULTURE IN A NIGHTCLUB
Kick off at Fabric nightclub at 77A Charterhouse Street, where Icon Magazine is taking over to present Icon House of Culture. Chilly brick vaults that were once meat stores for Smithfield Market house contemporary furniture and lighting.
Seek out the sculptural wooden shelving by Samuel Chan for British design firm Channels, and blown glass pendants in a new blush pink from Curiousa & Curiousa.
Head next to St John’s Lane, and through the arch to a compact pavilion called Additions. Designers await, fronting their quirky smaller brands. See the arty new bespoke encaustic tile from Alhambra Tiles by Supermundane, aka illustrator Rob Lowe, and an animal menagerie on a heap of exquisite silk cushions by Emma Shipley. Artist Claudine O’Sullivan also does animals, but as pulsating pencil prints, while Glasgow’s Laura Spring spreads bold patterns over chubby bolsters.
Beatrice Larkin brings low-key modernist cloths woven in Lancashire, and artist Amalia Sanchez puts exquisite London drawings on to placemats, £10 a pop.
In St John’s Square, visit Craft Central at No 33-35 and find Helen Yardley’s vivid abstract rugs made in Britain with wool from native sheep such as Swaledale and Hardwick.
A shared pop-up at 21 Clerkenwell Green sells hand-embroidered cushions and rugs by Ciara McGarrity of Waffle Design (waffledesign.co.uk) and elegant planters by Conpot, each with a story around the stone it’s made from (conpot.co.uk).
Dive into the Church of the Order of St John, now filled with design, with its brilliant stained glass. Explore the crypt if you can. Outside, by contrast, is a black undulating cabin assembled by London designer Giles Miller with 8,000 pieces of plywood for Shinola, a US brand for high-quality craft.
Now go north, through Jerusalem Passage, where the crypt at St James’s Church is filled with the British Collection. You will love this quiet, good-looking furniture and lighting. Think handmade joints, solid blonde woods, terracotta and a fine finish.
This display is brilliant for a new dining table and/or chairs to treasure always and pass down, with work from the likes of James Burleigh, deVOL and Very Good & Proper.
EDGY NEW WORK
Take a break in the nearby garden, where the double-decker Project pavilion has mainly contract furniture, but don’t miss Platform at 12 Sans Walk. In this spooky basement of a 19th-century House of Detention, intrepid designers show edgy new work.
Look out for chunky brutalist wooden chairs and tables by Richard Lowry (lowrylondon.com) and a charming crane lamp with a concertina fold-down action from Animaro Design. Frances Bradley (francesbradley.net) creates live-edge reclaimed and resin tables complete with original bark.
Onward to Clerkenwell Close, where a walk-through pile-up of blue and white triangles marks the route. The Design Fields pavilion terminates Northampton Road, with back-to-back talks and seminars.
Light sparkles through a multicoloured 25ft Perspex Tower of Babel — climb its staircase for an airy view. Feeling tired now? Commandeer a little Twizy electric courtesy car to whiz you round the route.