We recognise the designers who have created revolutionary and inspiring work that has defined the style of our homes...
DESIGNERS OF THE YEAR: Doshi Levien
This prolific, multitalented pair impressed us this year with an array of cross-discipline designs
Infusing the industrial with the sensibility of the handmade is the ethos behind Doshi Levien, the design studio set up by Nipa Doshi and her husband Jonathan Levien 18 years ago. Whether designing a sculptural seating collection for Moroso, geometric outdoor Jacquard fabrics for Kettal or a series of rugs based on tribal folk embroidery for Nanimarquina, the creative duo has an unerring ability to interpret the individual design language of each company they collaborate with.
This year that includes B&B Italia, for whom they have created the shapely ‘Bay’ collection of woven outdoor furniture, and two upholstery textiles – ‘Raas’ and ‘Lila’ – for Kvadrat. ‘The project for Kvadrat started with colour research,’ says Doshi. ‘We looked at sources as diverse as Chinese porcelain cups, 17th-century Indian miniature paintings, Corbusier murals and Sèvres ceramics. Then we mixed around 150 shades in the studio and gave the mill our hand-painted samples to match to the yarns.’
This layering of research and a hands-on approach is typical of the pair. ‘We sit opposite each other and I sculpt with wire and card; Nipa draws, paints and makes collages,’ explains Levien. ‘The result comes from the dialogue between us and our different processes.’ Alongside work for global brands, the couple also find time for explorative projects: a collection of limited-edition, organic-shaped lights based on traditional Japanese hairpins is due to launch next year. ‘This is our fourth ELLE Decoration Award but our first from Britain, so it feels really special,’ concludes Doshi.
NEW DESIGNER: Yinka Ilori
This designer’s colourful, Nigerian-inspired designs wowed us with their joyful storytelling
Yinka Ilori began upcycling chairs nine years ago for a university project inspired by Martino Gamper’s ‘100 Chairs in 100 Days’ (for which Gamper revitalised 100 old broken chairs). Since then, each of his chairs – identifiable by their colourful painted legs and Dutch wax fabric seats – has been given a parable-themed narrative. Yet while these pieces have become his calling card, the past year or so has been a turning point for Ilori, who is now in demand for larger-scale architectural projects. ‘My background is furniture making, but I want to create more context,’ he explains, citing as examples his ‘Estate Playground’ installation at the entrance to the CitizenM hotel in Shoreditch – based on childhood memories of a London playground – and another at the Africa Centre, where four sets of stairs represented different walks of life.
The next 12 months look set to be just as busy for the designer. Not only has he won an ELLE Decoration British Design Award but, together with Pricegore architects, he has won the commission for ‘The Colour Palace’ – the summer’s Dulwich Pavilion, which is inspired by textiles in Balogun market in Lagos. Plus, he will be reimagining Battersea’s Thessaly Road railway bridge into an interactive space called ‘Happy Street’. ‘My design is based on research I did into how there are 16 types of happiness,’ Ilori says. ‘I want to use colour as a catalyst to make people feel good.’
FABRIC: ‘Arco Geometrics’, Kirkby Design
Creative director Jordan Mould talks us through the winning designs, which celebrate 1970s glamour
Over the past nine years, Kirkby Design has made a name for itself with fabrics that often nod to retro opulence. The latest collection, ‘Arco Geometrics’, features architectural references gleaned from trips to Milan and London, which have been translated into patterns such as ‘Mirror’ (shown on cushions, above), with its distinct 1970s feel. ‘It is half matt and half shine,’ says Mould of the fabric, which can be used for upholstery and curtains. ‘We added satin viscose with a lustrous metallic effect to subtly contrast with the cotton, which means it catches the light really well. We like the use of actual metals in interiors, and “Mirror” ties in nicely with that.’
Describing the ELLE Decoration British Design Award as ‘an honour’, he believes that it is important for the company to continue to push boundaries within the industry. ‘We don’t want to rest on our laurels; we try to keep the brand fresh and bring something new to the marketplace.’ This love of innovation has fuelled collaborations with the likes of Eley Kishimoto and Tom Dixon (for the latter, at 2018’s London Design Festival, Kirkby Design manipulated photographs of textured surfaces, such as foil and hair, into five hyper-realistic designs digitally printed onto cotton velvet and scoured linen). As for 2019, expect ‘textural designs in the spring, followed by colourful, bold patterns’.
Hubert’s eye for innovation and sustainable design solutions has led to an impressive range of seating
Industrial designer and problem solver Benjamin Hubert took inspiration from a snowboarding jacket for his latest partnership with Italian furniture brand Moroso. ‘The idea was to design an item of upholstered outdoor furniture and find a smart way of constructing the textile panels,’ says Hubert of the ‘Tape’ collection. His solution was to apply the tape that traditionally protects the seams of sports clothing to a modular sofa made from pieces of textiles that would otherwise go to waste. ‘It seemed obvious that using this tape on the seams would give us something functionally more intelligent, with its own visual appeal,’ he continues. ‘Moroso has stockpiles of offcuts, so we decided to create panels within each modular block, and then play with the finishes and colours of the tape.’
Three years ago, Hubert (who says of the win that ‘it’s nice to be appreciated’) rebranded the design studio he founded in 2010 and renamed it Layer, aiming to broaden its scope. With his team currently working on a mix of projects across ‘furniture, apparel, transport and technology’ for next year’s Milan Furniture Fair, it’s a strategy that seems to have paid off. ‘The way we are set up, it doesn’t matter if we’re designing an interior space or a wristwatch, the process is similar. The challenge with furniture is that the problem of sitting comfortably was solved years ago, so now we need to look at areas such as sustainability and performance.’
Matthew Williamson’s fifth wallpaper collection for Osborne & Little is named after the coastal village in Mallorca where he has a home. ‘The light is very sharp and crisp, and there’s such natural beauty all around,’ he explains of the resulting ‘Deya’ range, which launched in the autumn. ‘I’m drawn to nature in most of what I do, so I focused on the flowers that were in bloom there at the time.’The star of the collection is ‘Deya Meadow’ (pictured), a whimsical landscape of wildflowers, butterflies and blue sky, designed as three panels from photographic prints. ‘I’ve had the idea for a long time to create an immersive wallpaper that makes the owner of the room feel as if they are in a magical garden,’ says Williamson, citing floral artist Rebecca Louise Law, who he worked with on a courtyard installation for Blakes hotel in London three years ago, as inspiration.
Williamson, who says he is ‘flattered and very proud’ to win an ELLE Decoration British Design Award, had his first homeware hit in 2003 when he partnered with The Rug Company. Since then, his signature use of colour and pattern has transitioned seamlessly from the catwalk to the home (including room fragrances and candles, which were also released in the autumn). ‘Alongside the products, I’m keen to develop the interior design side of the business; my main passion right now is being able to express my style within a space.’
There is always a story – and specialist craft – behind Bethan Gray’s work, whether she’s designing an ombré maple cabinet using marquetry techniques inspired by the Nizwa Fort in Oman, or the ‘True Thinline Studs’ watch for Rado, made to look like wood catching the light. When she was asked by Editions Milano to marry the skill of Italian makers with a British tradition, a marble tea set that celebrates the age-old ritual of drinking tea seemed like a good choice. ‘I hadn’t designed anything like it at the time,’ says Gray, who is pleased to be winning an ELLE Decoration British Design Award, ‘so I did research in the V&A’s ceramics archive’.
Hence the tea set – which encompasses a teapot, milk jug, sugar bowl, cakestand, dessert plate, teacup and saucer – is called ‘Victoria’ in a nod to the museum’s name. ‘I’ve always had a love of marble, and when I saw the work of the master craftspeople in Tuscany, I was wowed. I’m always blown away by what someone can make by hand with such a hard material.’ Each piece of the set has been hand carved from arabescato marble and features a relief so fine as to be almost translucent – the collection now also includes lighting designs. Furniture collaborations in new materials will be revealed next year– something Gray is excited about. ‘I like the process of working with people who are experts at what they do and developing an idea – that’s what’s interesting.’
Designed for both indoors and out, this design duo’s smart modular furniture is effortlessly adaptable
When Edward Barber (above left) and Jay Osgerby were thinking about designing their second collection for German luxury outdoor furniture brand Dedon, one of the key considerations was how the furniture could be used in modern homes. ‘In so many tropical countries, people have indoor spaces and outdoor spaces – plus that undefined area in between,’ says Barber. ‘We wanted something that could be used in all three. It had to be elegant, so it looks good indoors, and also lightweight so that people can carry it effortlessly outside.’ Both were achieved in ‘Brea’, a modular lounge system made from a metal tubular frame and accessorised with cushions that slide over the back and side rests, allowing them to be easily removed. ‘There is no Velcro, no ties – the idea is that the cushions can be taken off in a matter of seconds.’
Over the years, the discipline-spanning Barber & Osgerby have designed everything from the London 2012 Olympic torch to the ‘Tab’ lamp for Flos and architectural sofas and lounge chairs for Knoll. More recently, they have launched a new office system for Vitra, which, if it catches people’s imagination, could revolutionise the workplace. ‘Instead of traditional chairs and desks, the future of the office is based on a sofa. It’s an upholstered modular system at chair height, which we’ve been working on for a number of years,’ concludes Barber.
INTERIOR DESIGNER: Fran Hickman
Since she set up her practice in London’s Notting Hill in 2014, interior designer Fran Hickman has garnered a reputation for her use of clean lines and striking colours. There’s Goop’s pop-up shop on Westbourne Grove decorated in a palette of light gold and deep blue; the show apartment at White City’s Television Centre with animal prints, rattan and a dark aubergine living room; and the Notting Hill townhouse that has a statement staircase (above) inspired by Barbara Hepworth’s curving Pelagos sculpture. ‘We wanted to keep the stairs light, with a simple play on materials. They reveal vistas of the house you might not ordinarily see,’ explains Hickman, who is ‘absolutely thrilled’ at winning an ELLE Decoration British Design Award.
Her current projects include Locket’s wine bar at the Smithsons’ Economist Plaza in London (‘the brief was that the space should feel quite feminine, which is interesting for a Brutalist building in a characteristically male neighbourhood,’ says Hickman). Then there’s the East Hampton home of stylist Elizabeth Saltzman, designed by architect Richard Meier for her parents. ‘It was decorated in full 1960s maximalist style, and Meier is known for his strict Rationalism – the two aesthetics make the house really special,’ says Hickman. ‘Over the years, its look has been watered down, so we’re taking it back to how Elizabeth remembers it as a child.’
BATHROOM: ‘Spot Surface’ lighting, Tom Dixon
Authentic materials and minimalist silhouettes combine in Dixon’s striking bathroom lights
The old adage ‘if you can’t find something you like, design your own’ is true of Tom Dixon’s new range of lights. ‘When we’ve designed bathrooms for hotels, it has been hard to find anything waterproof that has a bit of character,’ he explains. ‘We wanted to make something functional but also decorative that would add oomph.’ The result was three lights: ‘Stone Wall’, carved from white morad marble (‘there is a marble ring around the bulb, which plays on the idea of floating; it looks like a magic trick’); ‘Plane Surface’, which consists of two interlocked square brass-plated steel frames around a glass sphere; and the award-winning ‘Spot Surface’, which has a thick glass lens designed to refract the light of the LEDs.
‘I like to take elements that already exist and exaggerate them – in this case, an optical lens,’ says Dixon, as he quips about polishing his ELLE Decoration British Design Award. The designer has been experimenting with lights for longer than he can remember. ‘I realised very early on that people were happy to be less conservative with lighting than with other forms of design, so it became a vehicle for expressing ideas and materiality,’ he recalls. Today, he considers lighting as one of the most ‘forward moving typologies in interior design’. Next up, he’ll be experimenting with ‘electro analogue’ lights that celebrate elements such as circuit boards and transformers.
BEDROOM: ‘Moreau’ bed and ‘Elan’ armoire, Pinch
Since setting up furniture brand Pinch in 2004, husband-and-wife design team Russell Pinch and Oona Bannon have been repeatedly asked by clients to include a bed in the collection – and, last year, they finally did. ‘We curate as we go, adding pieces where we see gaps,’ explains Bannon of the long-awaited ‘Moreau’ bed, which continues the couple’s signature clean-lined aesthetic. ‘The reality is that many people thought we would design a timber bed, but when you upholster a bed it brings movement to a fairly simple form.’ At the same time, they produced the ‘Elan’ armoire – a maple wardrobe that puts a dynamic spin on the classic cabinetry technique of marquetry. ‘There are many beautiful veneer colours and tones to choose from; by playing with scale and building an organic pattern from large veneer sections, we were able to bring a fluidity to Russell’s first pattern sketches and full-size paintings,’ says Bannon.
The bed and the armoire can be seen in rotation with the rest of the collection in Pinch’s showroom in Pimlico, London, which opened in 2017. On winning an ELLE Decoration British Design Award, Bannon concludes: ‘working as a couple with a small team, we could easily find ourselves going down a rabbit hole designing furniture that doesn’t have any resonance, so it’s heartening to know that what we are doing is appealing to people. We feel supported in putting creativity first and bringing things to market that come from the heart.’
The natural patterns of rock have been elevated into Wood’s brilliantly bold, eye-catching rugs
For the past nine years, multidisciplinary designer Bethan Laura Wood has been working on her ongoing ‘Super Fake’ series. There were the ‘Moon Rock’ tables, inspired by the solar system, which used marquetry to celebrate laminates; ‘Particle’, a range of furniture in which faux wood creates surface patterns; and the ‘Hot Rock’ cabinet, which added bolder tones to her distinctive pale palette.
In 2018, for the first time, she translated this rock motif into a series of hand-knotted rugs for CC-Tapis, made by Tibetan craftspeople. ‘CC-Tapis fell in love with my rock drawings, and they were so excited about bringing them into the language of knot and weave,’ says Wood, who made digital versions for the weavers to work from.‘The artisans broke down the different laminate layers and rebuilt them with layers of yarn.’ Himalayan wool, pure silk, linen and recycled silk from Indian saris were used in various thicknesses: some layers were translated with super-delicate yarns, others with thicker fibres. Wood is particularly excited about receiving this ELLE Decoration British Design Award: ‘It’s my first collaboration with CC-Tapis and I loved it so much.’ Looking ahead, she has produced an immersive sculpture in collaboration with Maison Perrier-Jouët for Design Miami and teamed up with porcelain brand Rosenthal on a project for next year based around the Bauhaus movement.
KITCHEN: ‘The Quantum Kitchen’, Linley
Time-honoured cabinet-making techniques have been a Linley trademark since the company’s beginnings 33 years ago. So, when founder David Linley tasked the design team with reinventing an English oak kitchen for the refurbished showroom in London’s Belgravia in 2016, they decided to explore how marquetry could be developed using technology to create a 3D rippled effect – a first for cabinetry. ‘We’ve been playing with these ideas for years, trying to combine traditional craftsmanship with 21st-century ideas,’ says Linley, whose team took inspiration from ‘The Quantum Screen’ they had designed for the Masterpiece London art fair a few years earlier. The outcome is ‘The Quantum Kitchen’ (‘the James Bond reference is someone’s joke about my lifestyle,’ he says). The upper cabinetry has light oak veneers, based on classical parquetry and angled at 45 degrees, while the lower section showcases 3D quilted cabinetry.
The kitchen also features ‘The Quantum Bar’, which has a charcoal oak and copper exterior and mirrored interior to reflect crystalware. Linley, whose key criteria in a kitchen are ‘simplicity, elegance and sophistication,’ says it is ‘rather extraordinary’ to have won an ELLE Decoration British Design Award. ‘A kitchen has to be comfortable and not too complicated. It needs to be a place you can feel at home and relaxed, but also somewhere a chef can use with great pleasure.’
Two years ago, architecture and design studio Foster + Partners teamed up with furniture maker Benchmark to produce a bespoke oval kitchen table as part of a project for the Maggie’s Manchester cancer centre. ‘It was immediately apparent that everyone loved the table; no-one could walk past it without reaching out to stroke it,’ recalls Benchmark founder Sean Sutcliffe (above, far left). ‘We discussed with Foster + Partners whether we could develop the essence of this table into a range of products.’ The defining quality of that initial design – namely the gently rounded surfaces – is apparent in ‘Ovo’, a range that includes several tables, a bench, a stool, shelving and a pair of sideboards.
‘We wanted to create furniture that has tactile, soft and visibly crafted surfaces,’ agrees Mike Holland (above, second from right), head of industrial design at Foster + Partners. ‘Working with Benchmark, who are highly skilled craftsmen, we were able to refine the design into something very simple, but which people are drawn to.’ More ‘Ovo’ products are in the pipeline (‘variants of the stool, possibly a chair – it’s all in the early stages,’ says Sutcliffe) but, for now, both are delighted that the range has won recognition. Sutcliffe concludes: ‘Many awards feel commercial, but the ELLE Decoration British Design Award is truly authentic.’
LIGHTING: ‘Eclipse’, Lee Broom
Broom’s celestial lights – inspired by a night of stargazing – are stellar in both senses of the word
Product designer Lee Broom has returned to his roots with his first lighting collection for two years. ‘Lighting is how I started and it’s the thing I always go back to,’ he confirms. The new ‘Observatory’ collection – which includes the ‘Orion’, ‘Aurora’, ‘Tidal’, ‘Lens Flair’ and ‘Eclipse’ ranges – began with prototypes of spherical silhouettes, before an evening spent stargazing with a friend in the Cotswolds prompted a more focused look at halos of light and the idea of creating constellations that could be connected.
‘Eclipse’ consists of a ring of LEDs hidden within the circumference of an acrylic disc, which emits the light in a halo effect, much like the moon. The circles of light (the number depends on whether the light takes the form of a pendant, chandelier, table lamp or surface light) interact and dissect with a polished stainless-steel disc. ‘As you walk around the piece, the polished metal acts as a mirror. There is a reflection of the whole circumference of the light before it disappears, halos and appears again. It’s a very contemporary yet quite playful design: initially, you’re not sure if you’re looking at clear glass, so there is an optical illusion to it,’ explains Broom, who will be revealing new collaborations next year, one of which will be another lighting range. ‘These pieces are challenging to produce, so winning the ELLE Decoration British Design Award is an honour for the team, who all work really hard. It’s great to get a seal of approval.’
The ELLE Decoration British Design Awards have championed some of the biggest and best names in British design. Take a look at past winners.
This feature appeared in ELLE Decoration January 2019.
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