Green is the new Black

Green is the new Black

You’d be hard pressed to go a day in design circles without coming across numerous references to biophilic design. As globalisation fuelled dramatic urban growth over recent decades, changing how we live and work, we were for a time kidded into thinking we must make a choice between our modern built environment and nature. We’ve since had a green awakening.

In our cities and workplaces the removal of trees and greenery ‘in the name of progress’ produces a negative effect on how we feel, reducing our sense of wellbeing and ultimately our performance. Inhabiting cities without trees and workplaces devoid of plants or natural light is not a pleasant thought. Perhaps we needed to be reminded of a simple fact we had forgotten: Nature makes us feel good.

Highline, New York

Now that the penny has dropped, the race is on to correct our mistakes with the mass introduction of biophilic design and green architecture. And there have been notable successes. New York’s Highline is a case in point with visitor numbers off the charts. Notably, this project is 98% funded by community group ‘Friends of the Highline’ and has had a huge positive impact on surrounding areas.

Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay (below) sprawls over 250 acres and confirms the city’s place at the head of the Biophilic table. Featuring metal clad solar powered ‘trees’ covered with tropical flowers and with raised interconnecting walkways, the park comes alive at night with a light and sound show.


Thomas Heatherwick Studio received both acclaim and criticism for their New York and London schemes. Both are now set to go ahead, with London’s Garden Bridge (main image above) heckled along the way. With the proven successes of New York and Singapore, I fail to see how such a positive green addition can be anything other than a huge benefit to a large modern city.

Heather wick’s Pier 55, NYC – 

Many of us lucky enough to attend Saloni Milano will have noticed Stefano Boeri’s Vertical Forest, combining high density living with as many trees as a hectare of forest. These modern buildings challenge the perception that urban green spaces should be either horizontal or disruptive to the financial yield. The integration of greenery into the very fabric of our buildings has become a sought after addition to our living and working spaces.

Vertical Forest, Milan


Vertical greenery also translates to interior environments. A leading trend at last year’s Orgatec saw industrial open modular shelving units providing a home to lush greenery in the workplace, acting as a calming visual barrier whilst improving air quality. Combine this with natural materials and natural light and its no surprise that the ’employee experience’ is much more positive and productive.

Etsy, Brooklyn NY. Image credit: Garret Rowland

Recent years have also seen a rapid growth in the use of living walls in the workplace. Based on the same principles, this approach can add much needed greenery to an expensive floorplate with maximum efficiency. If you look carefully you might even find David Bellamy and a couple of squirrel monkeys in there somewhere.


In a recent interview Danish starchitect Bjarke Ingels commented “All humans inhabit the same amount of real estate: Earth. We have the power to adapt our physical surroundings to life – imagine what we can do… Once you’ve accepted that there’s no way we (humans) can be here without having a very significant influence on our planet, we should take it as a positive. Instead of having unanticipated negative social and environmental side effects, we should design our world so we have positive social and environmental side effects.”

If we apply this theory not just in terms of the wider built environment, but also in terms of our immediate interiors and the micro-architecture with which we come into contact on a daily basis, it is also very valid indeed.

The idea of ‘shared space’ (or real estate) as a communal facility is more relevant today than ever with sprawling tech work ‘campuses’ being built and the rise of transitional spaces currently used for coworking. These interior environments and our performance within them is a science. If we make a list of what humans need to survive it begins with oxygen, water, food, shelter and sleep. As we work down the list beyond healthcare and clothing etc, the points become less ‘obligatory’ and more ‘optional’ – but important to our performance nonetheless. Where would you put wifi, good coffee and friendly colleagues on the list for example?

Mankind adapts to its modern environment

In a micro but measurable way, the conditions in our immediate surroundings influence our productivity, well-being and performance. Just because we have MacBooks and Ugg boots doesn’t mean we can ignore our basic needs. Each tick in the box results in an improvement. And some score more points than others. Adjustable lighting: tick. Ergonomics: tick. Acoustic screen between you and shouty loud bloke: tick.

As interiors people we aim to positively influence and improve these environments. We should all be encouraging our clients to integrate plants, natural materials as well as spaces to walk, sit and relax among them into interior schemes. Let’s make micro-parks within our offices, gardens in our public libraries and small forests in our lobbies. Let’s put nature back into our cities, workplaces and lives.

What could possibly go wrong…?




Tech Interiors of Future Past

Tech Interiors of Future Past

I enjoy reading about the future. Future cities, future cars, future office. Who doesn’t? The implications of technological advances are debated online with readers in awe and fear at what may lie ahead. I published Office 2030 and Smart @rse articles earlier this year on this very subject.

Mark Eltringham wrote a great article last month for Workplace Insight suggesting our limited human grey matter cannot fathom where this is going. He’s right (well my limited bonce can’t). IT, AI and VR amongst other technological advances are accelerating at such pace we’re lagging farther and farther behind, our puny imagination unable to digest the far reaching consequences as speed of progress is infinitely redoubled. And redoubled.

Computer says yes. Brain says ‘erm wait… gimme a second…”

Great Scott…….

Eltringham quotes Stewart Brand’s ‘How Buildings Learn’, “describing each building as consisting of six layers, each of which functions on a different timescale. These range from the site itself which has a life cycle measured in centuries, through to the building (decades), interior fit out (years), technology (months), to stuff (days). The effectiveness of a workplace design will depend on how well it resolves the tensions that exist between these layers of the building.” Very well put. And with our future workplace needs so uncertain it is clear that flexibility is vital.

Yet as advances continue apace, the very style of our commercial interiors is stripped back to basics. Check out my last post on Factory Office to see what I mean. Swathes of furniture and interior design has become utilitarian in appearance. Exposed beams, ceilings and plywood are rife. Coincidence? Perhaps not.

Google King’s Cross Office

AHMM Architects recently unveiled Google’s King’s Cross Office, complete with ‘Jack’; a meeting room which is reconfigurable and portable within the building. Plug and play. Effectively the rooms which come with built in video conference equipment can be hacked to suit requirements – something that no doubt appeals to the IT crowd.

Dr Kerstin Sailer, a lecturer at University College London commented “The inflexibility of space has become particularly problematic in the 21st century business environment. It could be argued that Google is now making a move towards a more profound workplace innovation.”

Again the scheme’s overall interior style is very ‘coworking’ flavour, stripped back, typically tech. The IT industry that has led the coworking interiors style revolution are perhaps more aware than most of why commercial interiors should be simple, flexible and updatable. Perhaps these IT folk that live in dark cupboards snacking on pot noodles and energy drinks think of the building floorplate as a mother board onto which updates should be regularly downloaded in order to maintain its effectiveness.

Google Jack meeting room

Away from tech-focused desks and meeting furniture, we’ve seen the rise of young edgy breakout furniture firms with playful, retro and ironic styles ripe for Palo Alto. The likes of Facebook and Twitter have had cuddly soft breakout spaces with rocking chairs and old school sofas for years. The antisocial nature of technology itself perhaps promotes the need for good old fashioned chat in a space that feels safe and warm. But stripped back ceilings and plywood doesn’t necessarily feel warm you say. Ah yes, but it feels basic.

Deadgood at the Office Group, London


There’s the ‘everyone wants to be a start up’ factor. A leaning towards personal, approachable ‘low tech’ human service. “Hi I’m a friendly human. Let’s sit on a sofa, drink coffee and chat business.” steering clear of the high tech server stack that is beeping, whirring and being cooled by air-con in the back room.

And we’re now seeing not just the return of bent metal utilitarian furniture, but a number of other materials formerly linked with granny’s front room are popping up. We’ve had mid century design and Scandi lounge settings re-appearing. Marbles and velvet too. But who would have thought that handwoven wicker, the antithesis of technology, would be making a comeback anytime soon? But here we are. And here it is.


Perhaps it’s part of human nature to dig our heels in. As IT races on at light speed, keeping our interiors ‘real’ gives us echoes of days gone by. A visit to old Aunty Beth’s for a cuppa and some custard creams. If people feel good, they are happy and productive, remember? Whatever the key driver to this trend is, it’s ironic that as IT progresses to new found heights, our interior style is going backwards. And nowhere more so than in the tech industry hubs themselves.






Factory Office

Factory Office

As this year’s Orgatec comes to a close and local airports shepherd battle-hardened armies of salespeople and creatives back to their respective hubs, I reflect on some themes from this year’s show.

20406721The Office: a place of industry.

Vitra have been presenting an industrial feel for a couple of years with Jean Prouve and the Bouroullecs leading the way. This show very much continued where they left off. Unfinished metal frames, warehouse style plastic doorflaps to divide spaces, metal mesh side panels and screens hanging from pulleys that would usually be found on a factory floor. The ‘start-up feel’ is still flavour of the month as everyone wants to work at a coworking desk wearing jeans and trainers with no socks, whilst sipping lattés and eating carrot cake…

The industrial feel echoed through the fair this year with many brands acknowledging a factory floor setting, either with a new modular mesh shelving product or simply with the backdrop of their set design. If the Hacienda was still around I’d tell Tony to stick some big ply desks on one side and a coffee barista next to the DJ booth and Fac51 would become a coworking mecca.


An important feature in architecture and interiors; the ability to create a grid format of interchangeable blocks allowing users the flexibility to increase or decrease in line with changing requirements. The latest modular trends at Orgatec include space dividing screens suspended by a ceiling mounted rail system, allowing screens to be slid around continuously to carve up spaces (see my Office 2030 blog). Black metal styled storage systems such as Wiesner Hager’s Cage product (below) and boxy storage modules with integrated desking, acoustic panels, soft seating and other features industrialised an office planning theme made familiar by Herman Miller’s Living Office, where soft seating peels off desks, which in turn peel off a modular storage system.



The use of modular systems on exhibition stands (whether product or prop) firmly illustrates a desire to split up a large open plan commercial space with towering high storage as both a feature and a facility.



In general, workplace furniture fashion is beginning to look like commercial exposed ceilings: stripped back to bare boned essentials, bolts and fixings proudly on display rather than hidden from view. Solid, rigid, mesh and modular. Carefully considered, then intentionally styled to look a bit rough round the edges. A bit like Jason Statham.

And Tom Dixon’s getting in on the act, with his first foray into the workplace. Aside from a promising chunky wooden trestle-legged team desk, his Boom task light makes no secret of its industrial DNA.

tom-dixon-office-furniture-tables-chairs-lights-accessories-british-design-london-uk_dezeen_2364_col_13Soften the blow

With all this harsh, technology driven metal framed office furniture, we need some softness to compensate. And following in the footsteps of Verpan, Walter Knoll – and more recently Gubi, there was a lot of dark opulent velvet upholstery and mid century vibes. Buzzispace seemingly had a personality transplant and you’d be forgiven for thinking their stand was actually of Danish heritage, with wooden framed easy chairs and muted velvet fabrics, long curtains and screens. Large numbers of plants and foliage are also needed to offset all that tough metal, so expect even more biophilic integration in the new wave industrial workplace.

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In spite of a return to metal frames, there’s still a strong appetite for wooden furniture. Soft linoleum (or linoleum effect) meeting table tops with wooden underframes are as popular as ever, with huge numbers of wooden frame breakout chairs, tables and bar stools launched. Hussl quietly slipped in a nice family of wooden framed chairs and barstools with a rather unique linoleum backrest. Nicely done.

The Scandinavians are still doing what they do best: beautiful wood and hand stitched leather combinations, with Fredericia looking the part. Meanwhile Poltrona Frau impressed with exquisite quality leather meeting and waiting furniture for high quality interiors.


Swoon chair in velvet

Walter Knoll displayed a range of succulent leather and velvet furniture, with a great new linking meeting table system. In addition they tapped in to another theme which was large executive V shaped electric sit stand meeting tables, perfect for group discussions and ideal for video conference.


Aside from these themes there’s still plenty of marble, black chrome, copper and brass – plus a wave of 3D style fabrics, tiles and textiles sweeping through. As ever, halls were awash with hundreds of clever stacking, folding, flipping and collapsing solutions- and the race is well underway to embed ever smarter data gathering hardware within furniture. ‘Millennials’ and ‘Digital Nomads’ are mainstream topics now and brands like Samsung, Google and Swisscom are developing IT products to optimise the way current and future generations use buildings and furniture.

But that wraps up my general thoughts on Orgatec this year. Ultimately wellbeing, communication and technology remain centre stage in the modern office and the stripping back of office design only emphasises that. With the fourth industrial revolution looming, it’s ironic that office design chooses a factory style design backdrop to personify itself. The creation of the Factory Office, the rise of smart tech, metric data harvesting and coworking means the future of the workplace is cool, edgy and exciting. And definitely not dead.








Stripes, Industrial Chic and Zebras

Stripes, Industrial Chic and Zebras

As I work on projects searching for the right products, trends can gently (or sometimes not so) present themselves. In the run up to joining over 50,000 trade visitors at Orgatec in Cologne next week, I’ve recently felt my ‘furniture nerd antennae’ twitch to a couple of design styles which I’ll share with you.


There’s a movement within certain design circles of simple, chunky legged, childlike design. Mathias Hahn has developed a number of pieces for Zeitraum in this style and I like the playfulness of it. He makes it look easy and effortless, but the proportions are very carefully considered and well executed.

Okapi chair by Perez Ochando for Missana

Meanwhile Missana recently launched the Okapi chair, designed by Perez Ochando. The design studio based in Valencia describe ‘the front side of the chair reminding us of a giraffe and the back of a zebra’. Ok. That’ll be last orders at the bar guys…

Bla Station have been on this theme for years, with tele tubby forms, oversized upholstery buttons and simplified shapes. Sometimes our subconscious is drawn to a design style as it reminds us of something. If we have an inner child, then Bla Station have been waving Kinder Eggs and Alcopops at it for a while now.

Bla Station

But there’s another theme that has caught my eye. A more grown up theme, based upon simple clean lines, 3D shapes, industrial materials and graphite shades. And I have a feeling Orgatec – and 2017 – will be awash with it…

Zeus: Slim Irony

Zeus have been creating cool iron furniture for decades. Their ‘Slim Irony’ range is a culmination of their time-served expertise. They call it ‘Industrial Chic’. With a blend of minimalism and urban Milanese cool, the range includes rusted top finishes and a glass option that reminds me of school windows… Rusted metal finishes have been a regular feature in external architectural design for some time – perhaps they are finally creeping indoors.

Zeus: Slim Irony

But that’s not all Zeus are known for. During Milan Design Week the lovely food served in their showroom (a converted car garage tucked away in an unassuming Milan side street) has also gained notoriety. So much so that old folks from the local neighbourhood suspiciously shuffle through the showroom doors en masse around lunchtime, hoping for a free bowl of risotto. The lovely folks at Zeus usually oblige.

Back to what Zeus do best – furniture. The pure, simple form of Slim Irony is nothing new as far as shapes go. But this cubic semi transparent ‘3D’ linear theme is something we’re going to see a lot more of.

Zeus: Slim Irony

“Handcrafted furniture from the Industrial North…”

From downtown Milan to down the Toon (that’s Newcastle, UK if you didn’t know). Nestled amongst and inspired by faded crumbling industrial heritage, a furniture brand called Novocastrian is emerging with a style of their own. Acknowledging modern trends, with hints of art deco and inspiration from the industrial revolution, a group of metalworkers, designers and architects with a self-confessed obsession with metal are steadily growing their furniture collection. And fanbase.

I love how Novocastrian present themselves: Handcrafted Furniture from the Industrial North. In an era of Brexit, declining industry, fear and propoganda, this is a brand bursting with northern grit to turn it all on its head. Go on lads and lasses.

Novocastrian’s Straiths Unit – inspired by industrial architecture

Aside from a growing product collection, Novocastrian turn their hands to one off commissions and bespoke products. Whilst retaining their flavour and classic style, they deliver unique elegant forms echoing Charles Rennie Mackintosh, in fabulous materials such as blackodised or bronze patinated steel.

Novocastrian tables (above and below)

Light years ahead…

But this theme of dark lines and stripes isn’t exclusive to furniture. In recent years we’ve seen lighting designs hit the trade fairs, perhaps illuminating (sorry) this dark linear trend. Michael Anastassiades’ String lights (below) were inspired by electricity wires as seen through a train window…

A recent favourite of mine is Arik Levy’s playful Wireflow collection for Vibia which adds a decorative Gothic touch to a project. Great for a large reception space or gallery. This would look really cool over a bespoke Novocastrian Blackodised steel boardroom table.

Wireflow by Arik Levy

In both of these lighting collections, the clever twist is that the actual light itself isn’t the main event. The power cord cuts a stripe in thin air, allowing a 2D or 3D shape to be created and make its presence known.

Another related example is Lee Broom‘s Opticality exhibition from LDW last month. With 80’s undertones, Broom plays with the senses to present his latest lighting product ‘Optical’. This is where the playful linear trend crosses over to 3D graphic design, visual perceptions and perhaps even fashion.


Once you tune in to these themes it’s hard to stop noticing them and I could literally go on and on throwing related products at you. But I won’t. If like me you’re jetting off to Cologne next week for Orgatec, look out for cubic linear shapes, black stripes, 3D frames and industrial black metal. Oh and keep your eyes peeled for the occasional zebra or giraffe lurking in the background…

Keeping your cool: Perfection v Ambition. (part one)

Keeping your cool: Perfection v Ambition. (part one)

Apologies for the long pause – I’ve been busy. But hey, you don’t pay subscription fees, so… (mutters inaudible comments under breath).

Ok. My current topic is often pondered. Small ‘start-up style’ design firms are edgy, nimble and free to pursue their passions without apology. But as they grow, gaining stakeholders, employees and advisors, the ship can become more cumbersome and difficult to steer. If they aren’t careful, the result can mean the design style they set out to deliver is watered down or lost in a world of spreadsheets and corporate compromise. From being quirky, coworking backpack-wearing indie underdogs, they then find themselves re-categorised as the mainstream default option, providing middle of the road design proposals rather than the leftfield style that once defined their brand.

Roger Stephenson OBE of Stephenson Studio (Manchester) has spent nearly four decades designing award winning architecture as founder / partner of several leading studios, whilst retaining his own progressive modernist approach. I asked him for his thoughts on big business versus small independents.

Roger Stephenson O.B.E. (Architect)
“It is an acknowledged phenomenon that often as people get promoted they move further away from their expertise.” explained Roger, “This is made worse in the case of designers because the inverse is also problematical. It would be hard to find a good business manager who understands anything about running a group of architects.”

An interesting point. The growth of a business necessitates more supervisory roles, particularly for creative founders who may not excel at recruiting, teaching and supervising – and who may in fact be better placed at the drawing board with chunky bits of crayon and a Spotify playlist.

“I believe there is a limit to how far the developed culture can be stretched before the accumulated knowledge is spread so thinly as to be of no use.”

Roger continues “It is clear to observe; the bigger design firms get, the more they approach competent mediocrity. This result is only to be expected: design is very personality based, starting off with a few enthusiastic participants, a language develops as well as an underlying philosophy, resulting in the work of one studio being recognisable from that of another. This is not ‘house style’ but the results of a like-minded approach to problem solving. If successful, the group will grow. I believe there is a limit to how far the developed culture can be stretched before the accumulated knowledge is spread so thinly as to be of no use.”

As for the commercial challenges faced by Architecture firms large and small Roger adds, “I do not think there is any way to avoid the uncertainty of income which comes with the territory. I only know of 2 architects who have stayed small and controlled their workflow: Peter Zumthor and Glenn Murcutt, who have order books way into the future and tell people they can do their project if they are prepared to wait 3 years before they start…”

Eloquently put – and by a renowned Architect with a trophy cabinet that would make Sir Alex Ferguson shuffle with embarrassment. But in todays world of globalisation and mass production, does this theory apply to other related design sectors or is it unique to Architecture? Is it possible to scale up a craft furniture company for example to achieve its commercial ambitions, whilst staying true to its roots?

We head to Marylebone, London…

Paul de Zwart, Another Country
Another Country are quality British furniture designers and makers. Founder Paul de Zwart muses the commercial aspects of growth, “My take on this is two-staged and it depends on the business’ ambitions…. small is all those things: creative, innovative, flexible, nimble, but a point comes with any business – as it grows – where deeper pockets are required to reach the next level.”


“This is both true from a commercial point of view, e.g. marketing, R&D, batch production, but also because relative lack of cash can slow down growth and can be a huge distraction. It also depends on whether the business is essentially a means to an end, i.e. a way for a maker to make and sell, or whether the end – growth and success – requires different means.”

Very true. The ambition and drive of the business founder is a key pace setter that may ultimately define its very DNA. As companies evolve, their experience grows and they learn to respond to changes in the marketplace. The first phase is to establish, survive and turn a profit. Once these boxes are ticked, an increase in appetite often follows and the next stage beckons.

So where does that put Another Country after six successful years? “We have come through that initial (not always relaxing!) startup / launch phase and I would say we were ready for the next one.” enthuses Paul.

But will an acceleration in commercial growth not potentially jeopardise ‘craft appeal’? Are the two mutually exclusive, I ask?

“If the founders remain in charge then the vision can be maintained. If, however commercial imperatives completely supersede brand / creative ones then you run the risk of losing that identity.”


“…there is also great value in doing things well and more efficiently on a larger scale…”

“The matter of small, craft handmade is exactly the point that one shouldn’t romanticise.” Paul continues, “One cannot make a difference and do good on a larger scale by only making things by hand. It (handmade) needs preserving… and plays an important role in the overall chain of production, but there is also great value in doing things well and more efficiently on a larger scale. I would hesitate to move production to Asia and toss sustainability to the wayside for example, but would instead scale up to bigger manageable batches with a short EU based supply chain and excellent quality control. Retaining tight control over the scale of production also allows you to stay more creative and not take huge commercial risks when introducing new designs.”

Could it be that for furniture companies, cleverly managed growth, effective use of modern production methods and firm grip on quality and founding principles could actually promote creativity and design freedom rather than stifling it? Hmmm….

Part two of this article will be out shortly, with insight from a leading UK interior designer, plus opinion from a fast moving British furniture company making big ripples on the other side of the pond. Design versus big business: Can you have it all…?



Zaha Hadid: Interior Motives

Zaha Hadid: Interior Motives

With the untimely passing of such an influential figure in global Architecture, it feels appropriate this week to write about Hadid’s contribution to the wider design world. Whilst Architecture is undoubtedly her most revered legacy, her unique design portfolio is not restricted to buildings alone.


Let’s start at the beginning. Having previously been dismissed as too dynamic and too original with her unique futuristic style, Zaha Hadid’s first major built project was the fire station on the Vitra Campus. Vitra owner Rolf Fehlbaum took a leap of faith and commissioned Hadid to design the facility following a disastrous fire at the factory in 1981. The result was way more ‘Pow!’ than ‘Public Service’ (undoubtedly Fehlbaum’s intention) and the building served as Hadid’s career launchpad following its’ completion in 1993.


There are 360 degrees, so why stick to one?

It’s a great building to photograph, but many visitors become a little wobbly-legged on entering, as their brains desperately try to make sense of the optical illusions contained within. Angles and perspectives are set ever so slightly ‘out of sorts’, resulting in dizzy spells for unsuspecting design enthusiasts. Zaha’s magic is at work.


Hadid returned to Vitra to design the Mesa table in 2007. Comparing it to “the way water lilies sit on a pond, flat mats supported by an unseen, complex and organic structure underneath.” Four ‘place mats’ sit snugly together but are attracted by an ‘invisible gravitational force’. Plastic, elastic, fantastic.


Vitra Mesa Table

The first time I saw a Zaha Hadid designed piece of furniture in the flesh was at an Established & Sons event in London back in 2005. Her Aqua table was like nothing I had seen before. Throughout the course of the evening, my colleagues and I were repeatedly drawn to this sculptural piece of art. I remember arguing over what chair you would partner with it. We could never agree on a worthy winner.


You can draw similarities with Zaha’s Serac Bench, designed for Lab23. Part bench, part great white whale, there’s clearly a common design language. The concept behind the bench was inspired by ‘a block of ice formed by intersecting crevasses in a glacier’. All Zaha Hadid’s furniture designs play with the idea of form and function; art with a purpose. In the case of the Serac bench, the sculptured glacial fin acts as a backrest.


“Few Architects manage to cross the threshold into the furniture hall of fame…”

Many Architects have turned their attention to furniture design during their careers. Few however make the leap into the furniture hall of fame to rub shoulders with Jacobsen, Saarinen, Le Corbusier and Mies Van Der Rohe. These legendary figures created both architecture and furniture legacies that are unmistakably theirs. Although she didn’t design the ‘classic’ iconic lounger or dining chair, Hadid will certainly be recognised as not just one of the great Architects, but one of the great Designers of the 21st Century.

Moon System for B&B Italia

“The Zaha Effect”

Hadid’s inimitable style transcended her buildings, furniture, objects, lighting, jewellery and fashion. Each Zaha design was a newly penned poem, using a literary language of her own creation. The inclusion of a Zaha Hadid piece of furniture in an interior scheme sets the tone. Or as others have said, gives a space the ‘Zaha effect’. The recent launch of her Georg Jensen jewellery collection is an extension of just that. And in true Zaha style, it was presented to the public within an interior setting she designed herself.



Queen of the curve

Too often the experience of a building’s interior is disconnected from the architectural exterior: You leave the wow factor at the door as you cross the lobby. Zaha Hadid provided the complete experience: she created her own universe. And within this universe are complex, wavy, organic natural forms, mimicking the growth and evolution of plants and living things. It was this approach that earned Zaha the nickname; ‘Queen of the Curve’.


“Would they call me a Diva if I were a guy?”

Hadid was uncompromising and at times controversial. Considered fearsome by many and often misunderstood. She was a strong voice for gender equality in a male dominated profession, a RIBA Gold Medal winner, twice Stirling Prize winner and a Pritzker prize winner. Dame Zaha Hadid smashed boundaries. And as with all trailblazers, there are those who find fault with her design style, citing it as offensive or inappropriate. I’m sure that gave her a great deal of satisfaction.

Aside from the futuristic style itself, I appreciate the continuity she managed to develop: Her furniture designs are buildings. Her Jewellery designs are furniture. Her building designs are objects. Her fashion designs are art. Her entire portfolio is an evolving concept. Ask yourself – who else can do that?



London Aquatics Centre
Serac bench

And now for the Global Architecture and Design community begins a period of mourning – alongside a period of suspense. A large number of Hadid’s current and unreleased projects are currently in progress. Some will not be realised for a number of years. The true value of her works will take time to settle and be fully digested, but it is already very clear that the world has lost a hugely talented and uncompromising visionary whose life’s work will be studied for decades to come. My condolences go to her family, friends, students and colleagues. Zaha, you will be missed.

From Stockholm with love (sequel)

From Stockholm with love (sequel)

Welcome back!

Following part one‘s review of Form Us With Love, Barber Osgerby and my personal struggles with the colour burgundy, what have I got for you in part two I hear you ask?

Are you sitting comfortably. Then let’s begin…

Trend: pastels and zing!


The HAY stand was packed – their growth continues at pace. They went with another colour trend at #2016sff: pastel colours, muted greys and salmon pinks, with sharp accents of day-glow reds and luminous yellows. The kind of bright colours that when worn in Manchester people say ‘well you won’t get knocked down wearing that, love.’ It creates a nice fresh feel and I would have taken more photos if some women in ponchos hadn’t gotten in my way. Pfft.

BAUX – fantastic acoustix

Those clever chaps at Form Us With Love are at it again. They discovered a manufacturer called Traullit producing a simple yet sophisticated material they describe as ‘Wood Wool’ – made from wood, water and cement. Inspired by an old ceiling tile system and a belief that functional design can also be beautiful, FUWL formed a joint venture to develop a modular wall mounted acoustic tile system. Baux was born. There are a number of size, shape and colour options allowing architects and designers to create pixellated, textured 3D murals individual to each scheme. I absolutely love it; the possibilities are endless.

They recently commissioned Swedish electronic music artist Smutskatt to play around with the Acoustic 3D pixel. Check out the cool vid below:


Designer DIY

Form Us With Love are part of a growing movement of designers taking products to market themselves. Pioneers like Tom Dixon have done this for years (he just sold his business by the way). Increasingly, today’s designers are unleashing entrepreneurial talent in a bid to retain complete control over how products are designed, developed, manufactured and distributed.

Form Us With Love even have their own watch collection

The financial risks of going it alone are high – so are the potential rewards – as many larger manufacturers look to acquire successful new brands in order to expand collections (e.g. Fritz Hansen and Lightyears). Meanwhile 3D printing and open source designs mean manufacturing is more widely accessible than ever.

Back to the fair…

Bla Station

The Swedes best known for wacky design, Oppo cement chairs and the Innovation C swivel whatsit had a great stand that hummed with visitors. I almost got into a tussle with a Swedish bloke equally eager to try out the new Honken chair. He backed away from the Honken when I threatened to bonk him on de conken. I’m kidding (love the name though).

Honken Chair

A great design with mesh backrest, removable upholstery and the option for a work table and ottoman. The sustainably minded Swedes designed the chair with longevity in mind. Metalwork can be repainted and cushions replaced if you wish to spruce up your tatty old Honken after years of faithful service. Ok I’ll stop now.

chilling on his Honken

Bla Station also celebrated 30 years (wow already?!) with the launch of the Ahus chair. I like the continuous line of the metal frame on this chair – lovely touch with the perfectly proportioned marble side table too. Nicely done.

(((Acoustic overload)))

I attended a talk chaired by Dezeen editor Marcus Fairs, who drew attention to the sheer volume of acoustic products on display throughout the fair. And the sound quality in there was so good I heard him perfectly, without any reverberations whatsoever.

Seriously though. There are so many hard surfaces being specified in modern interior schemes that noise reduction has become an industry of its own. We know it takes 15 minutes to regain full concentration after an interruption in the office. We know noise equals stress. We know stress equals time off work. So good acoustics makes us happy right? Don’t believe me? Ask the guy with his head in the Darth Vader style acoustic pod above. He can’t hear you but he’s smiling.

And for dessert: Menu

Last but not least is Menu. This cool young Danish company showed a really tasteful range of typically Scandinavian style furniture, lighting and beautiful objects. Very delicate curved black metal frames, with lovely upholstery, side tables and lighting. Timeless and elegant.


Their first chair collection, designed by (and named after) another Stockholm design studio: Afteroom, has echoes of Jacobsen and Le Corbusier. Other pieces in Menu’s collection such as the easy chair and day bed nod towards Thonet and Carl Hansen respectively. And that’s quite a compliment.

Well that’s all that’s on the menu for today (sorry). I hope you enjoyed my little tour of Stockholm Design Week. If you did, all I ask is that you share my blog. You can also sign up to get the blog straight to your inbox. Cool eh?

See you Monday!

PS. and they say sequels are disappointing… pah!