As the London Design Festival hits town this 18–26 September, planning an itinerary can feel a near-impossible task. We’ve selected the hits and the highs across the capital that are must-sees during this 9-day whirl of design and creativity, from new design districts to the hottest launches.
The festival’s reach is bigger than ever this year as it welcomes three unique new Design Districts to the fold, bringing the total number up to 10.
Park Royal Design District in west London will see makers, musicians and filmmakers throw open their studio doors to visitors; Southwark South Design District will showcase the creativity of Peckham, Old Kent Road and Camberwell, while Design District at Greenwich Peninsula is set in the newly developed area’s dazzling block of 16 buildings – don’t miss its architecture tours led by Open City. londondesignfestival.com
Now in its third year, the King’s Cross-based design show dedicated to ‘reconnecting people and spaces to nature’ is truly hitting its stride. For 2021, the offering is larger and more ambitious than ever with three sections; ‘Natural Living,’ ‘Botanical Market’ and ‘Sustainable Design’, including ‘Green Grads’, a showcase of over 30 design graduates focusing on issues of sustainability. It will also be the world’s first zero-waste design event, meaning every element of the build and show will be recycled or reused.
Expect a high calibre of ethically-minded exhibitors including Out of the Valley, Nikari, Benchmark, Another Country and Naturalmat. 23–26 September, planted-cities.co.uk
Featuring smiley faces, psychedelic patterns and acid brights, you can’t miss the references to 1980s and 90s rave culture in Henry Holland’s eye-popping new collection of rugs for Floor Story. See the designs in all their day-glo glory at the rug maker’s east London showroom as part of the Shoreditch Design Triangle trail. 20–26 September, floorstory.co.uk
Set in the artfully faded grandeur of a Georgian mansion, Design House is an exhibition bringing together a diverse roster of makers and brands including sustainable furniture maker Sebastian Cox, product design studio Tiipoi, glass artist Jochen Holz and collectible design purveyor The Wrong Shop. Isokon+ will also be taking part with the launch of ‘Iso-lounge’, a new cantilevered chair designed by Jasper Morrison. 18–26 September, 14cavendish.com
London Design Festival 2020 Emerging Design medal winner Yinka Ilori will be transforming various pedestrian crossings in Camden and the City of London into outdoor works of art with his signature kaleidoscopic designs. The aim of the project is to improve safety, revitalise public spaces and engage local communities with activities such as street painting. londondesignfestival.com
This year held within the City’s grand Royal Exchange building, the Makers’ Market is a chance to shop design-led homeware, jewellery and art. Highlights this year include Blackpop’s velvet cushions, wallpapers and silk lampshades, graphic textiles and Sussex-made furniture from Rye & Moor and sculptural accessories from Rekha Maker (pictured), an architect who turned product designer in lockdown. 20–24 September, londondesignfestival.com
Making a convincing case for the Baltic countries being a hotbed of design talent, this showcase of creativity from Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia will present 18 contemporary design projects by established and up-and-coming names. As a region with a deep cultural connection to nature and craft, the exhibition in Dray Walk Gallery, Shoreditch, will highlight the sensory aspect of Baltic design via furniture, jewellery, textiles and lighting.
Look out for Vita Vaitiekūnaitė’s ‘Waves’ collection, made using a unique Lithuanian technique where hot ceramics are soaked in bread leaven, and rugs by Agnė Kučerenkaitė that repurpose industrial and food waste. 18 September–3 October, tactilebaltics.com
With its trumpet-topped tentacles and primary colour palette, the latest instalment at Mayfair’s Brown Hart Gardens looks like something Willy Wonka or cartoonist Heath Robinson might have dreamed up. In fact, this multi-sensory sculpture hails from the vibrant imagination of sound artist and designer Yuri Suzuki (in conjunction with curator AlterProjects) and is intended to foster post-lockdown moments of connection.
Entitled Sonic Bloom, it absorbs the sounds of the environment and invites visitors to record their voices via its stems, creating a soundtrack to the city that can be listened to through its oversized horns. Until August 2022, mayfairldn.com
Hotel group Inhabit is once again partnering with long-term collaborator Goldfinger, a sustainable design studio and social enterprise, this time for a panel discussion on responsible design. Held at its Paddington hotel and moderated by our very own Editor-in-Chief Ben Spriggs, it includes Inhabit co-founder Nadira Lalji, Goldfinger CEO Marie Cudennec Carlisle and Richard Holland of Holland Harvey Architects. No pre-booking required. 6.30-7.30pm, 21 September, inhabithotels.com
Formerly known as 100% Design, the UK’s longest running design trade show returns this year with a new name and a new state-of-the-art home on the Greenwich Peninsula.
Held at Magazine London, Design London will bring together a curated selection of international brands, an engaging programme of talks (Yinka Ilori is the headline speaker), pavilions showcasing emerging Portuguese and Scandinavian talents, plus, in true festival spirit, street food vendors and bars run by Campari. 22–25 September, designlondon.co.uk
To celebrate its brand-new collections and exclusive pieces, The Conran Shop has enlisted the talents of French artist Damien Poulain to transform its iconic Fulham Road store windows into a canvas of colour. A large steel grid featuring bold shades and graphic shapes plays backdrop to new season highlights, including Magnus Long’s ‘Cross Leg’ collection of seating and the ‘PP126 Rocking Chair’ by Hans J. Wegner for PP Møbler. theconranshop.co.uk
Though not strictly part of the festival, those heading east would be remiss not to have a nosey around a design exhibition held at the former home of late artist and dancer Ron Hitchins. So named for this London Fields address, it's something of a stake in the ground for new transatlantic design partnership Atelier LK – aka Ruby Kean and Lisa Jones – who have deftly mixed 20th century gems from their own collection with pieces by contemporary makers like Fred Rigby and Dea Domus. Until 3rd October by appointment only, @atelier_lk_
A reflection on our ever-merging working and living spaces, All Our Working Lives presents new pieces that explore human centric design. The line-up of collaborators is impressive, including Matthew Hilton, Reiko Kaneko, Terence Woodgate and Ilse Crawford & Oscar Peña, who have worked with SCP for the first time on the 'Bruno' chair (pictured).
Alongside this, special exhibition ‘SCP x Ishinomaki Laboratory: 10 Years Later’, marks a decade since the Great East Japan earthquake and tsunami with new furniture designs from Ishinomaki Laboratory, the Japanese DIY furniture company founded in the immediate aftermath of the 2011 disaster. For LDF, 12 designers have been invited to create a piece of furniture made from stock board widths. 18–26 September, scp.co.uk
In a first for the festival, each of the Design Districts will be marked by a unique sculptural ‘Designpost’ this year to welcome visitors and convey the character of the neighbourhood. To create these wayfinders, the American Hardwood Export Council and British furniture makers Benchmark have teamed up with 10 talented design students and graduates, giving them a platform to showcase their creativity and skills. 18–26 September, americanhardwood.org; benchmarkfurniture.com
Curated by Edinburgh studio Local Heroes and part of Brompton Design District, this innovative show asks how designers can best serve the flexible ‘hybrid home’, where boundaries are blurred and spaces have to work harder than ever. Fifteen emerging Scotland-based makers are in the spotlight, presenting forty new design objects between them – think everything from lighting to collectible craft. Don’t miss fluid concrete furniture from Myatt-McCallum and shelving by Studio Walac (pictured). 18–26 September, localheroes.design
Earlier this year, five contemporary makers were invited to spend a week at Norfolk’s historic Holkham Hall as part of The New Craftsmen’s biennial ‘A Portrait of Place’ residency.
Inspired by the 18th-century estate’s craft-rich surroundings, Alfred Newall, Arjan Van Dal, James Rigler, Laura Carlin and Mac Collins have created a collection or piece in response to the stately home, drawing on everything from its decorative plasterwork ceilings to the blacksmithery found on its grounds. The results are exhibited at the Mayfair gallery. 18–26 September, thenewcraftsmen.com
Finnish furniture and homeware brand Vaarnii will make its UK debut this LDF at Twentytwentyone’s Clerkenwell showroom as part of the design destination’s Back + Forth exhibition. With a raft of reputable designers already onboard – think Mac Collins, Cecilie Manz, Philippe Malouin and Max Lamb – the sustainable brand is already making waves for its pioneering use of native pine and ‘brutal yet sophisticated’ aesthetic. 22–26 September, vaarnii.com twentytwentyone.com
Jan Hendzel Studio and design curator Fels present Against The Grain, a collaborative exhibition in Peckham’s Copeland Gallery as part of the new Southwark South Design District. Showcasing the work of designers and studios creating beautiful objects in unexpected mediums with sustainable principles, the exhibition includes the work Attua Aparicio, Dirk van der Kooij, Hot Wire Extensions, Marco Campardo and Studio Furthermore, as well as Tom Dixon. 18–27 September, janhendzel.com
As founder of contemporary art rental agency Modern Art Hire, interior stylist Laura Fulmine is well-placed to curate this exhibition of artists that put the making process front and centre. Hackney’s Yorkton Workshops provides the backdrop for Fulmine’s selection, which includes totemic ceramic sculptures by Abigail Ozora Simpson. 18 September–1 October, shoreditchdesigntriangle.com
The Victoria & Albert Museum will play host to one of the festival’s landmark projects, Medusa: Architecture + Reality. A collaboration between leading mixed reality studio and developer Tin Drum and Japanese architect Sou Fujimoto, the Mixed Reality installation will see natural and architectural visuals morph in response to the movement of audiences in the space, creating a living design that evolves over time.
The work aims to prompt thoughts about climate change and the role of nature – a pertinent theme ahead of the UK hosting international climate summit COP26 in November. 18–26 September, vam.ac.uk
The design emporium has long championed newcomers, and its annual ‘Heal’s Discovers’ event has been a fixture at LDF since 2004.
This year’s launch features mouth-blown recycled glass vessels by Lea Randebrock, artworks by Print~Sisters, Annabel Cucuz’s hand-sculpted vases, African- inspired textiles by Amechi and stem-bent Scottish elm mirrors by Kieran Letts. Heal’s will also host its first open-call as part of LDF, giving aspiring designers the chance to pitch their products to the buying team. heals.com