Join us in saluting the designers and brands whose innovative creations herald an exciting new decade of British design. Drum roll please...
DESIGNER OF THE YEAR: JASPER MORRISON
British designer Jasper Morrison is notoriously understated. Speaking to ELLE Decoration in 2017, he described himself as ‘a chair designer who does a lot of other things, too’. This certainly rings true for 2019, with his creative endeavours ranging from an exquisite collection of tableware for Finnish brand Iittala to a pared-back set of stools for Mattiazzi and a limited-edition collection of cork furniture.
Morrison’s refusal to shout, either in his work or the way he discusses it, belies the influence he has had on the global design scene for almost 40 years. Critical acclaim came early; a year after completing his masters at Royal College of Art in 1985, his ‘Thinking Man’s Chair’ was presented at a show by Zeev Aram, where Giulio Cappellini saw it and put it into production.
Morrison’s ‘Super Normal’ design signature was conceived when he encountered a stool by Japanese designer Naoto Fukasawa at the 2005 Milan FurnitureFair. Morrison described it as ‘so discreet that nobody was paying it much attention’ – yet this became the seed that inspired the two men to create a whole new genre of everyday objects. It’s telling that his recent ‘Zampa’ collection of stools for Italian company Mattiazzi continues this exploration: a simple but utterly beautiful solution to the human need to find somewhere to sit.
‘I don’t ever design anything to be “Super Normal”,’he says, ‘but rather work to give things a similar set of qualities: familiarity, longevity, being discreet but having atmospheric presence. As with this year’s “Corks” exhibition, though, sometimes, for the sake of doing something different, I ignore the issue completely!’
Exhibited at the Kasmin Gallery in New York last summer, Morrison’s first solo show in the US featured numerous pieces – even a fire surround – sculpted entirely from cork and reminiscent of his 2004 ‘Cork Family’ stools for Vitra. Cut from blocks of remnants from wine bottle cork production, the furniture is particularly timely given its ecological credentials.
In spite of the diversity of his output, Morrison still stands by his original ‘chair designer’ description: ‘We always seem to have about five or six chair projects on the go,’ he says. What does receiving this award mean to him? ‘I’m very grateful,’ he says with characteristic humility. ‘Not being a designer of flashy stuff, I don’t expect the attention, but it has come as a welcome surprise, so thank you!’ jaspermorrison.com
Interior Designer of the Year: Bryan O’Sullivan Studio
Last year, one of the most Instagrammed spaces in London was undoubtedly The Snug, a glamorous private salon for 10, which is part of The Berkeley hotel’s new bar that opened in June. This cosy space seduced all with its dusky pink palette and swirling mural of beatific muses by New York artist TM Davy. Such a prestigious hospitality commission was the highlight of what was an exciting 2019 for London-based agency Bryan O’Sullivan Studio, one which helped it scoop our Interior Designer award.
‘I am honoured and bowled over. Thank you so much for the belief in our work. What a way to start 2020!’Irish-born interior designer and founder Bryan O’Sullivan enthuses about the win over email from India, where he’s on honeymoon with husband James O’Neill, also the studio’s commercial director. ‘We’ve just opened aNew York office and are working on a residential project in the Hamptons,’ he adds.
Schemes with the Maybourne Hotel Group have also snowballed into suites and bedrooms at Claridge’s, while other plans on the drawing board of the 25-strong team include another Mayfair hotel bar, residences in Catalonia and Portugal, a yacht and a hotel in Dublin. All impressively global for an agency just in its seventh year, but then O’Sullivan learnt from the best, having enjoyed stints with David Collins Studio, Annabelle Selldorf, Martin Brudnizki and Luis Laplace before starting his own venture.
O’Sullivan is particularly talented at orchestrating hospitality spaces, it’s in his DNA. As a young boy, his first taste of design was sketching toy houses with his grandfather; a builder, hotelier and self-taught draftsman. Closer to home his parents ran a restaurant, coffee shop and bar in Kenmare, County Kerry. ‘When they were opening a new bar I got really involved, designing everything down to the teacups. I also used to chef there during the summers,’ he says.
Luckily, business wasn’t everything though. O’Sullivan’s mother collects contemporary Irish art and visiting exhibitions and drawing and painting was always encouraged. ‘We had a jotter pad and crayons anytime we went away as kids. It must have worked, I studied architecture and my brother is a graphic designer.’
Eileen Gray was an early design hero and O’Sullivan cites recurring influences as 1940s and 50s French andItalian design. ‘I love the clean lines and unashamed glamour of it all,’ he says. ‘This era is a constant source of inspiration for our work, which I would sum up as considered, simple and fabulous.’ The next step for the studio is to launch a line of its favourite custom-designed pieces, potentially to be sold alongside curated antiques in a dedicated commercial gallery space.
So, what’s the secret of his success? ‘The team. Without their dedication and creativity, we wouldn’t be anywhere. I’m lucky enough to have two founding members,Evelyn Conway and Paul McHale, still by my side, keeping the show on the road.’ We look forward to more entertaining spaces in 2020. bos-studio.com
Young Design Talent: Lucy Kurrein
Being fearless is clearly an invaluable virtue when it comes to pursuing a design career, and Lucy Kurrein has it in spades. As she says of her Docklands-based design studio’s debut year in 2013: ‘I didn’t hold back. I approached two established manufacturers, London-based SCP and Spanish manufacturer Capdell, who commissioned my ‘Panel’ chair on the spot during Salone del Mobile. That was my big break, and the work has been relatively constant ever since.’
Upholstery is her forte, with a roster of sculptural pieces already created for the likes of Offecct, SCP, Molinari Living, Joined + Jointed and, most recently, Heal’s with her ‘Isola’ range. It’s a raft of partners she very much appreciates, as she says, ‘Bringing new design to market is a risky business, so this award means everything tome and the brilliant producers I work with.’
Kurrein built an impressive pedigree prior to going solo, from roots that run deep in both form and function.‘I grew up in a leafy 1980s housing estate in a suburb in Leeds,’ she says. ‘My mum was into antiques, so the interior was a mixture of art deco and the set of Murder, She Wrote! Dad worked in printing, but had studied industrial design, so he kept a workshop in the garage.’
From these beginnings, the drawing-obsessed young Kurrein headed off to study an art foundation course, but wise tutors set her on a different path of 3D design, which culminated in a contemporary furniture degree at Bucks University. Her prototypes for a student project with Ercol were spotted by Matthew Hilton, and an apprenticeship with the leading British designer followed graduation. ‘Matthew taught me how to sculpt, how to move on from primary shapes and how to be daring,’ she says. Expanding her experience beyond the domestic, between 2009 and 2013, Kurrein worked for London design consultancy Pearson Lloyd on projects from retail to transport, but ultimately seating proved to be her passion.
Now she is a solo enterprise, one of her biggest champions is SCP-founder Sheridan Coakley, so what has he taught her? ‘Among many other things, how to throw a good party!’ she laughs. For 2020, Kurrein says she is working on wooden pieces in a slight departure from her usual projects. As for advice for any other aspiring young designers, just three words imparted by designer Michael Young have consistently spurred her on: ‘Do good work.’ lucykurrein.com
Lighting: ‘Earth to Sky’ collection, Doshi Levien
For Nipa Doshi and Jonathan Levien, 2020 is all about creative freedom.‘It’s thrilling to be recognised like this for something that we had complete control over – from the designs all the way through to the small details, like creating the invitations for the launch,’ says Nipa. The couple’s first lighting range, ‘Earth to Sky’ is a very personal endeavour, which has seen them stretch their creative potential and, in Nipa’s words, ‘truly experiment’. To realise their vision, the pair contacted craftspeople who used machinery designed for creating the bodywork of Jaguar cars. The finished pieces area perfect blend of art and function. Prices on application, doshilevien.com.
Bedroom: ‘Ocean 1’ bed, Bill Amberg for Savoir
Two pillars of British craftsmanship, leather maverick Bill Amberg and heritage bed makers Savoir, joined forces this year to create the elegant brass-framed, leather-upholstered ‘Ocean I’ bed. The collaboration followed a visit by Amberg to the Savoir factory, which is close to his north-westLondon studio. ‘When I called in, I was in awe of the quality of the work.It got me thinking about sleep and my perfect bed, the transition from dark to light, and how we might realise that,’ he says.
Of the two resulting designs, ‘Sky’ and ‘Ocean’, the latter wins our award. Incorporating a Savoir No.3 bed, it’s inspired by the notion of swimming from the depths towards the surface at daybreak, and originates from Amberg’s artworks – a combination of marbling and spraying – which were enlarged and digitally printed onto leather used to upholster the bed, with suitably dreamy results. From £47,000 billamberg.com; savoirbeds.com.
Fabric: ‘Lisbon’ collection, Designers Guild
For 50 years, Designers Guild has influenced the nation’s interior design habits. Now, the brand is embracing the move towards eco-friendly fabrics with its new collection, ‘Lisbon’, woven from yarns recycled from the fashion industry. It’s estimated that between10 and 20 per cent of fashion textiles end up as waste, when around 95 per cent could be recycled.
‘Sustainability is hugely important to us, andI think it will only continue to gather momentum,’ says Tricia Guild, the brand’s founder. ‘Each design in the“Lisbon” collection is simple and usable.’ The weaves are available in an array of earthy neutrals, as well as vibrant shades. £45 per metre, designersguild.com.
Outdoor: ‘Meteo’ collection, Konstatin Grcic for Kettal
When Konstantin Grcic launched the original ‘Meteo’ parasol for Kettal in 2018, it was lauded for banishing the cumbersome base that characterised so many designs. Now, with this new update to the collection, Grcic has cleverly made use of the dead space below the sunshade, creating a sleek daybed, table and planter that can be attached to the base.
Not content with unleashing the parasol’s design potential, with the ‘Meteo’ collection Grcic has also tapped into the zeitgeist for adaptable and customisable pieces. The space-conscious designs are equally as suited for hotels and resorts as they are for private gardens or patios. Naturally, each of these components come in a wide range of finishes, and are available in all of Kettal’s cheerful, pigmented colourways. From £1,471 for a steel planter base kettal.com.
Furniture: ‘Tenon’ tables, Daniel Schofield for Ercol
Not one for superfluous details, Daniel Schofield’s ‘Tenon’ tables for Ercol are a perfect example of his neat and considered process. ‘Everything about the design has a reason,’ he explains. ‘Starting with a solid, conical base, material is removed where it’s not needed, leaving the base weighted and stable, while also naturally creating the joint for the top.’
The visible tenon joint (from which the table takes its name) on the top is an inspired detail that celebrates Ercol’s rich craft heritage. ‘Being able to tap into their wealth of knowledge and manufacturing capabilities was amazing,’ says Schofield. ‘I learned a lot.’ From £545, ercol.com.
Bathroom: ‘Clyde’ collection, Porter Bathroom
Comprised of a freestanding vanity unit and bath tub, the ‘Clyde’ Collection stood out for its timeless quality, fusing minimal lines with natural stone, making it fitting for both classical and contemporary homes. So as not to distract from the bath’s monolithic form, hardware is discreetly side-mounted, while the surround is available in a variety of stones and marbles.
The vanity unit, meanwhile, was an existing design, but is now available as a freestanding option, allowing for a more flexible bathroom layout.Fettled and formed in the UK, its metal framework comes in a choice of antique or polished brass, silver nickel or polished chrome. Bath tub from £6,900; freestanding vanity from £7,794, porterbathroom.com.
Kitchen: ‘Brookman’ by Smallbone
Hand-built in the same Wiltshire factory used by Smallbone of Devizes, Brookmans by Smallbone shares the same principles as its sister brand.Quality craftsmanship, design integrity and regard for materials are all present, but it has been developed to meet a more accessible price tag.
‘We wanted to evoke a sense of craft while being attainable to the middle market,’ explains Iain O’Mahony, ideation director of Lux Group Holdings, the parent company of both brands. In November, Brookmans launched its showroom in Heal’s in London, where its two kitchen designs are installed:‘K1’, a riff on a classic Shaker, and ‘K2’, a more contemporary model, which O’Mahony describes as ‘a gentle nod to Terence Conran in the mid-1970s’.
Both models are available in 20 shades and include a broad array of customisable details. ‘This award represents our optimism for the future of high-quality British design and manufacturing, and we are very proud this has been recognised by ELLE Decoration, the authority on British design,’ says O’Mahony. From £25,000 brookmans.co.uk.
Tableware: ‘Accidental Expressionist’ tea set, Martyn Thompson for 1882
Inspired by designer Martyn Thompson’s childhood inStoke-on-Trent – the heart of the British pottery trade – the ‘Accidental Expressionist’ tea set is at once nostalgic and thoroughly modern. Made in collaboration with 1882 Ltd, it can be mixed and matched to suit your style – an idea that came from days Thompson spent with his grandmother: ‘In Nana’s house, there was a huge cabinet full of china. I used to take it out onto the floor and mixup all the patterns – that is the spirit of this collection.’Each piece’s speckled glaze is applied by hand, meaning they are all true originals. From £27 for a sugar bowl, 1882ltd.com; martynthompsonstudio.com.
Wallcovering: ‘Pearwood’ collection, Cole & SonThe latest collection of wallcoverings from British favourite Cole & Son pays homage to the brand’s 140-year history, with 10 stunning designs based on block-print patterns from its archive. Its name,‘Pearwood’, was inspired by the wooden blocks that were used in the wallpapers’ creation – due to its hardness, pearwood proved to be the most durable and therefore produced the finest pattern details.
‘This means a great deal to us. The collection features designs that remain faithful to their original form and colouring, such as “Woodvale Orchard”, a traditional wood-block design for which we still have the original print blocks,’ explains Cole & Son’s design director Carley Bean. ‘Others have been inspired by elements across different pieces found in the archive.’
It’s surely testament to the quality of the brand’s wallpaper patterns that, with just a few artful tweaks, they are every bit as relevant and appealing today as when they were originally produced. From £120 per roll, cole-and-son.com.
Seating: ‘Latis’ chair by Samuel Wilkinson for The Conran Shop
Launched last September during London Design Festival, the ‘Latis’ chair– a new take on the 19th-century Viennese bistro chair – was designed by Samuel Wilkinson exclusively for The Conran Shop. Made in Italy using a combination of traditional and modern manufacturing techniques, the chair’s timeless appeal and ability to suit a variety of contexts was at the heart of its design. ‘The aim was to make something that would look as good as it does now in 10 years’ time,’ explains Wilkinson. ‘It was a labour of love for over two years, so I am very happy to be recognised – it means a lot,’ he adds. The chair’s steam-bent frame can accommodate both canework and a number of upholstery options, including Kvadrat fabrics by Raf Simons. From £795, conranshop.co.uk.
Floorcovering: ‘Backstitch’ rugs, Raw-Edges for Gan
London-based multidisciplinary studio Raw-Edges’ collection of rugs with Spanish textiles brand Gan celebrates the art of embroidery and all its flaws. The pieces extol and showcase the messy underside stitches found on textiles, putting them unusually at the forefront of the design.
‘The “backstitch” has a hidden beauty to it,’ say the duo. ‘Our aim was to understand the language of it and incorporate that into our rug collection, focusing on colour, rhythm of patterns, tactility and craftsmanship.’
The three designs in the collection each represent a stage in the process – the first, ‘Calm’, is a loose, abstract arrangement; ‘Busy’ is a steady flow of stitches; while ‘Composition’, the most complete, features an outline of a house. From £985, gan-rugs.com.
This article was featured in the March 2020 issue of ELLE Decoration.
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