The very latest in design

London is the design capital of the world. Barbara Chandler finds the most exciting ideas from the shows going into the shops
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London shops are filling up with the fabulous ideas seen at this autumn’s design shows.

Receiving well-deserved praise, the best ideas were largely British, with a big emphasis on the sharp and stylish translation of eco products into fashionable homeware.

From a lovely nettle fabric at 100% Design to The Greenhaus stand at Tent, there is a great aesthetic move towards sustainability, forging new technologies, materials and forms as they go.

'The best ideas were largely British, with a big emphasis on the sharp and stylish translation of eco products'

At the Lighten Up show, there was sparkle, humour and allure. This was an impressive installation of more than 60 specially designed lights that save energy or are made from recycled or sustainable materials.

Organisers Sarah Johnson and Jason Allcorn, of [re]design, are two of London’s most effective eco warriors. Allcorn used a long polytunnel covered in a blackout mesh to create a mysterious ambience, in which lamps shone magically. Here, designers literally reinvented the light bulb.

Jennifer Newman
Sculptor Jennifer Newman's work trolley, from £4.50. (
Nicholas Roope of Hulger has reformed those ugly CFLs (compact fluorescent lamps) into luminescent stand-alone loops that don’t need a shade.

SKK in Soho has devised the flexi-bulb, a smart new form of LEDs (light emitting diodes) that can be “customised” with lenses to alter brightness and beam angle.

And Nick Rawcliffe has bent aluminium strip into circles, like rings around a planet. A continuous strip of LEDs give this fitting an ethereal yet powerful light that could last for more than 20 years. Details of these are on

And, as an energy-saving bible, get the detailed Lighten Up book for £24, including postage. The “sound of light” table lamp can be downloaded in DIY form from the internet.

Matthew Plummer-Fernandez, a student at the RCA, has encased fluorescent tubes in 50 jagged profiles cut from clear acrylic sheets. You can get instructions for cutting out this design for £1 from the new KithKin website,

Snow Baby table light by Angus Hutcheson
Snow Baby table light by Angus Hutcheson (
Then take your computer file to a laser-cutting company, commission your kit of components and finally glue them together. Try Hamar Acrylic in E2 (020 7739 2907; Plummer-Fernandez estimates a cost of around £200.

Elsewhere, designers pushed the boundaries to harvest new materials from the natural world. Soft and strokable nettle fabric - appropriately called Sting - was designed by Penny Lovatt for Camira in West Yorkshire in eight subtle shades, including a deep berry purple. It deservedly won 100% Design’s sustainability award.

Further afield, in Thailand, British - and Architectural Association-trained - Angus Hutcheson is fashioning cloud-like lamps from silk cocoons and a sheet material from tapioca.

Back in London, interior decorator Amanda Hutson has designed elegant furniture to highlight the beauty of waste coconut shells. This material, developed as woven and mosaic panels by Australian Peter Aquilina (for Omarno) has all the beauty of fine marquetry.

A long, low bench with a surrealistic seat made from 1,625 small pink pencils was surprisingly comfortable - must be the rubbers on the pencil ends. But why? “Well, why not?” say its makers, brothers Will and Sam Boex.

Pack-flat furniture saves transport space, and therefore fuel and energy costs. But battling with screws, nuts and bolts, Ikea-wise, can be baffling and beastly. Rupert McKelvie’s clever chairs simply unfold.

Sam Johnson and his Net chair
Sam Johnson and his award-winning Net chair (

Barely there chair

Time was when a table had four legs and that was that. But now under-structures get ever more outlandish. Freshwest design company creates bewildering timber scaffolds with angled, crane-like outlines.

Engineer George Rice, of Formtank, has cut a support folded into place from a single sheet of metal. Viewed from above, Limahl Asmall’s circular glass top looks like a massed assembly of that old game Pick-Up-Sticks.

These artefacts for extreme dining are ultra-exciting - but won’t tucked-in feet rather muddy their aesthetic?

Metal puts furniture on a diet, with wire and sheet reducing bulk to barely there. Sam Johnson’s Net chair for Mark is like a large and rigid cat’s cradle and was an award-winner at 100% Design.

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