The London Design Festival: outdoor inspiration

by Rhiannon James

Fernando bench from Julian Mayor

All eyes were on design this month as the annual festival of creativity and craft arrived in the capital for its tenth year. Although shows such as 100% Design, Tent London and Designersblock cover everything from wallpaper to whirlpool baths, there was plenty of inspiration for outdoor spaces and this is our pick of the themes.

Outdoor origami

Metal folded with the precision normally reserved for paper made for some interesting, multi-faceted forms.

  1. A Red Dot design award winner in 2012, the aluminium Edge chair is stackable, has adjustable feet to deal with uneven surfaces and is available in six colours. It costs £385 and will be available from UK retailers by the end of next month but can also be bought direct from from October 5th.
  2. The Takeshi table and chair (edition of 20), designed by Julian Mayor, are made from powder-coated steel and can be used both indoors and out, £900 each from
  3. The Trestle Table and T-Benches from Jennifer Newman Studio have birch ply tops and steel legs, price on application,

Sustaining habitats

The homes for wildlife on display at this year’s shows aimed to be sustainable in their production as well as their purpose. Catherine Verpoort’s handmade urban insect habitats, which have been designed for ladybirds to hibernate in, are made from organic, fair trade cotton and rubbed with beeswax (from London bees) to waterproof them, a traditional technique that’s also used for waxed jackets. Bird houses crafted from super-sustainable cork were on show at Colour Design Concept while the Greenroom Ideas Cooperation is working with the Jenju Village Community in Taiwan to produce feeders for city sparrows made from rice husks and stalks, waste products from the local paddy fields.

  1. The Cubic bird house is available in both natural and burnt cork, from £115,
  2. The Urban Insect Habitats, which include designs to put in pots, hang on walls and knot around a tree or trellis, can be left outdoors for several years but they need to be re-waxed and filled with new straw each autumn. Each kit comes with instructions, thread for hanging, beeswax and the first bundle of straw. Prices range from £40-£70 depending on size and custom pieces are available, contact for details.
  3. There are four different Rice Design feeders available, £110 each including shipping to the UK, from Greenroom Ideas Cooperation, from next month.

Precious metals

Forget about industrial-style iron and tin, the metal on show this month was all about adding rich colour, texture and form.

  1. The heat of the manufacturing process used to craft the Fernando bench, which is made from mirror-finish stainless steel, creates unexpectedly colourful effects, £2,500 each (edition of eight) from Julian Mayor,
  2. You can make your own mark on Endesigns’ Record collection. The imprints of people or objects are captured in a soft modelling compound and then cast in aluminium to create the finished products. Prices on application,
  3. The metallic-effect Valletta ceramic tiles from the historic Zsolnay porcelain factory in Hungary were inspired by the textures of the walls of the Fort St. Angelo in Malta. Prices are still to be confirmed but will be in the region of €1,000-€2,000 per square metre,

Live and let live

Plantable furniture has come a long way since the days of two pots plonked at either end of a bench. These pieces aim for a true union of foliage and furnishing.

  1. Using some complicated modelling, Ian Spencer and Cairn Young transform standard domestic plumbing pipes into something altogether more exciting. They are currently experimenting with planting their Osma design, £3,700, with grass,
  2. The sunken top of the Credenza O, £6,200 plus VAT, is filled with ceramic vessels – a stunning way to display indoor plants. Made to order by JiB design studio,
  3. Valentina Gonzalez Wohlers’ piece has a design inspired by the classic porter’s chair but is made from branches gathered in the woods of San Jose del Pacifico in Mexico using traditional craft techniques. Plants twined in and around the wood add another dimension to the chair’s beautifully organic form. Each Wild Bodged Chair is made to order and individually crafted, price on application,

Stand up and be counted

Plenty of sculptures end up in elevated places but at this year’s shows, it was time for the small things to get put on a pedestal. A collaboration between designers Jan ?tvrtník and Petr Mikošek for Plastia has produced some beautiful combinations of pots and plinths while DesignK has created stands for a single saucer, perfect for keeping a tea cup close at hand. The Big Bloom vase, meanwhile, holds up a magnifying glass to a single flower, revealing the detail of every petal.

  1. Jan ?tvrtník and Petr Mikošek’s range for Plastia includes the Calimera pot, about €25 plus VAT, and the Triangolo stand, €150. Both products have won a Red Dot design award and will be available from from next month.
  2. The Tea For One table is crafted from ash wood and waxed cotton string or leather and is fitted with a ceramic plate (suitable for occasional outdoor use), £120 from DesignK,
  3. The Big Bloom vase was designed by Charlie Guda for The Cottage Industry, £30 from Amazon


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