Ultimate Christmas gift guide for design fans:Design Museum curators and top designers reveal what's on their wish lists

Leaders of the design world including Sirs Paul Smith and Terence Conran as well as the Design Museum’s top people put the spotlight on their design heroes and favourite products.

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The Design Museum has opened at its new home in the old Commonwealth Institute in Kensington High Street. Architects OMA and Allies and Morrison and engineers Arup restored the roof and façade of the Sixties building, while minimalist architectural designer John Pawson restored the interior.

There’s a free permanent exhibition space, two temporary galleries, a restaurant and, in the soaring atrium, the museum shop, packed with design books, magazines and design classics.

We asked senior members of the museum team — plus Pawson and design aficionado Sir Paul Smith — to pick their favourites for their Christmas list — mostly available at designmuseumshop.com.

SIR PAUL SMITH
DESIGNER

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How apt that Smith, an advocate of colour and wit in fashion, should have picked this whimsical kettle, designed in 1983 by Richard Sapper for Alessi. Sapper said kettles should be fun. It’s not in the museum shop, but you can buy it at alessi.com for £99.95. It features a whistle that plays a melody when the water boils.

Smith’s choice of the 1970 Boby trolley in egg-yolk yellow (£400) also mirrors his taste for the fun and funky. This multi-purpose storage unit, by Italian designer Joe Colombo, is a classic example of postwar pop design whose appeal endures. Buy it now.

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Smith says: “Today this use of moulded plastic seems common and familiar to us but when it was first introduced, it had never been seen before.”

REBECCA HOSSAIN
MUSEUM HEAD OF RETAIL

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The red Spun chair by Thomas Heatherwick for Magis (£335) is a favourite because it reminds me of spinning around as a child, only in an object of design! Buy it now.

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And the Vitra wooden doll No7, designed by Alexander Girard (£85). I can relate to her curves and expressions. In fact, I am collecting the whole set. Buy it now.

SIR TERENCE CONRAN
MUSEUM FOUNDER

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This alert-looking wooden bird (£130) is a reproduction by Vitra of one once owned by 20th-century designers Charles and Ray Eames. It instantly reminds Conran of the Eameses, his design heroes.

“This curious bird was an artefact they treasured…and stood in the centre of their living room for over 50 years,” he says.  Buy it now.

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The Brown Betty teapot (from £12) might seem an unlikely design classic but, as Conran recalls, it was “one of the first, and most successful items sold at Habitat”, which he first opened in Chelsea in 1964. “It symbolised Habitat’s philosophy — cheap, utilitarian, unpretentious and cheerful.”

Conran also picked this copper bowl (£1,010), from John Pawson’s 5 Objects homeware collection. “This collection is elegant, quiet and luscious.” Buy it now.

DEYAN SUDJIC
DIRECTOR OF THE MUSEUM

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Sudjic’s choice of an Anglepoise light was partly influenced by nostalgia. “The first piece of design I bought, as a spotty teenager, was an Anglepoise — a Seventies design in a mustard shade.”

This is a Paul Smith 2014 interpretation (£160) of the Type75 lamp originally created by Anglepoise design director Sir Kenneth Grange in 2005. Smith picked out its various components in pastels or acid-bright hues. Buy it now.

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Sudjic also chose a crystal decanter (£700) and tumblers (£95 each) by Austrian brand Lobmeyr, created by modernist architect Adolf Loos. Buy the decanter | Buy the tumblers

JOHN PAWSON
MUSEUM DESIGNER

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This year is the 80th anniversary of Finnish architect and designer Alvar Aalto’s iconic glass vase (£46), first produced in 1936 for Finnish brand Iittala. Its softly billowing form, inspired by the fringes of lakes, marked a departure from the hard-edged modernism of the Twenties.

Today, just as they were then, the vases are mouth-blown at Iittala’s factory. Pawson says: “I went to Finland and stayed in the Villa Mairea, designed in the Thirties by Aalto, and remember driving past the lakes that inspired the vase.” Buy it now.

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The graceful contours of the Butterfly stool (£467), which fuses two pieces of bent maple wood, mimic a butterfly’s wings — hence its name. It was created in 1956 by Japanese designer Sori Yanagi. Pawson has been a fan of his ever since buying a Yanagi-designed Sellotape dispenser in the Seventies.

JUSTIN MCQUIRK
CHIEF CURATOR

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Of McQuirk’s choices, we zeroed in on this practical yet stylish stool in blond wood with a black lino-lined seat (£180) — an Alvar Aalto creation. The first version was made in 1933 for Aalto’s Viipuri Library in Finland.

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McQuirk describes this stackable stool as an “ever-handy, modest classic”. It’s a piece that has proved perennially popular: being stackable and space-saving, it’s perfect for all homes.


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