From lively Brixton south of the river to trendy East End Shoreditch, the capital’s design output is as varied as its postcodes — as you’ll see when the London Design Festival hits town later this month.
The festival spans nine “design districts” and what they’re putting on couldn’t be more diverse.
Catch the late nights with designers and makers out in force and join parties on the pavements. Watch out, too, for colourful London Design Festival rickshaws offering free guided rides.
CHELSEA DESIGN QUARTER
The far end of King’s Road is solid with design showrooms, all vying to impress during festival. A poetic leaf sculpture highlights rugs at Deirdre Dyson, while Crucial Trading demonstrates its signature natural flooring fibres.
At Drummonds, King’s Road: Martin Brudnizki’s Wandle bath
John Cullen flashes the latest LED and OLED lighting, and The Rug Company celebrates 20 years with new designs by Paul Smith, Alexander McQueen studio and Vivienne Westwood. Delcor covers sofas with Christian Lacroix, and Guinevere Antiques parades the exquisite elegance of antique Chinoiserie.
The upmarket antiques dealers and interior designers here are doing festival for the first time. Pinch, Rose Uniacke, Jamb, Ochre, Cox London and Soane demonstrate new lines, while Linley trumpets the beauty of bespoke.
Light up: in Pimlico Road, Promemoria Italian luxury furniture and lighting studio marks 10 years in London during design festival
Veteran dealer Christopher Howe at 36 Bourne Street tells great fabric stories of rescuing patterns from old furniture and samples.
Late night September 18; @thepimlicoroad
SHOREDITCH DESIGN TRIANGLE
Fast and furious with a good track record, Shoreditch Design Triangle has been doing festival since 2008. Go for a couple of hours and stay the day. Dive into Lee Broom’s sophisticated all-black fantasy in Rivington Street, then chill in a nearby pop-up pavilion.
Wild Wood: designer Bethan Laura Wood is exhibiting at Oneroom in Shoreditch ()
Find flashy mirrored lighting in two restored arches at 347 Old Street and Indian graphic design at Rich Mix in Bethnal Green Road. A plant-packed pop-up café is by Darkroom, while furniture by Bethan Laura Wood is as crazy as its designer’s outfits.
Late night September 19, with open house at 40 venues.
BROMPTON DESIGN DISTRICT
This is the cultural heavyweight, targeting serious design devotees. It’s anchored by the Victoria & Albert Museum, the festival’s official “hub” with a dedicated information desk. Pick up a little red guide book and a map of the numerous V&A festival specials, from a bionic chandelier to a room of coloured light, plus tours, talks and workshops.
Design classic: Gio Ponti armchair. See a film about the Italian designer at 245-249 Brompton Road
Elsewhere, esteemed area curator Jane Withers tells “Other Stories” of how imaginative design production can benefit marginalised local communities. In Cromwell Place, cult fashion designer Peter Pilotto fills a home with wacky furnishings by his designer pals, and Skandium unveils its new townhouse showroom in Thurloe Place.
A film for design junkies profiles Italian architect/furniture designer Gio Ponti (1891-1979) at a Molteni&C Dada Kvadrat pop-up in Brompton Road. Finally, see 13 designer dolls’ houses at Harrods.
Late night September 21.
BANKSIDE DESIGN DISTRICT
Find buzzing galleries and studios on Bankside, from Borough Market to Oxo Tower. The mood is typographical. See “live lettering” in ancient Borough High Street with quotes from Chaucer, Dickens and Shakespeare taking shape on windows and hoardings in fancy types.
Putting design on the map: Oxo Tower Wharf on Bankside
Follow Bankside Low Line walkway through the Victorian railway arches, now full of arts, crafts and food. Walk on art as you cross Southwark Street, and to a secret garden at citizenM hotel in Lavington Street.
Late night September 20.
BRIXTON DESIGN TRAIL
This is the fun one, where everyone goes crazy and weekends are the best time. Brixton’s joyous multi-racial celebration has as its motto Love Is Power.
Ambitious group beano: Crafty Fox Market and Brixi curiosity shop will stage a Design Circus
The numerous local creatives are in overdrive, populating a neglected railway walkway in Atlantic Road and hosting an ambitious group beano in The Department Store in Ferndale Road, where Crafty Fox Market and Brixi curiosity shop will stage a Design Circus.
Fashion and design duo Eley Kishimoto are “customising” pedestrian crossings. Artist Sam Furness and his partner designer Toni Hollis’s flags hang from gables of Brixton Village Market. Plonk yourself down on brightly decorated Razzle Dazzle bench.
Late night September 22.
CLERKENWELL DESIGN QUARTER
With its cobbles and courtyards, EC1 is dense with architects’ offices and design showrooms. Ceramic workshops and demos are at carpet showroom Milliken in Berry Street to launch new book Urban Potters.
The one Modernists love: Eames chairs at Vitra
There’s new design at Viaduct, and impressively sculptured concrete tiles at Porcelain Gallery, while Vitra in Clerkenwell Road celebrates the chair the modernists love — a little number with infinite variations designed by Charles Eames in 1950. Check out a serious talks programme.
Late night September 19.
ISLINGTON DESIGN DISTRICT
A quirky programme, though not a large one, Islington’s design stores and cafés are in a walkable cluster.
Urban Jungle: wallpaper by Timorous Beasties at Islington Design District
Visit Smug, twentytwentyone, Aria and Timorous Beasties.
Late night September 19.
MAYFAIR DESIGN DISTRICT
Mayfair — in for the first time — covers one square mile from David Gill Gallery in St James’s to The New Craftsmen in North Row.
Creativity and craftsmanship: Gae armchair by Mayfair Design District’s Achille Salvagni
Sip designer cocktails at Sketch and see new talent at Carpenters Workshop Gallery. Call by Galerie kreo for Hella Jongerius; Achille Salvagni Atelier for Kyoto-culture interiors and Front for art rugs.
Late night September 18.