London Design Festival 2014: Fresh Staples

Exciting happenings found at the annual event's reliable design venues

Our previous look at this year’s London Design Festival highlighted a few select newcomers for 2014, but equally exciting are the shops, satellite fairs and institutions you come to count on during any city’s annual design week. Below are some of the new collections and exhibitions that caught our eye at venues we always enjoy visiting.

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Mint Shop

Founded in 1998, Mint is a reliable source for high-end home furnishings and accessories that may not be within everyone’s budget, but certainly at the top of any design enthusiast’s wish list. The shop’s cutting-edge inventory—which often includes items seen only on display at Milan Design Week just months before—had no shortage of covetable wares, but we fell hard for a Lorenza Bozzoli‘s elegant “Sushi Kart” for the young Italian label Colé, as well as for Edinburgh-based designer Wael Seaiby‘s colorful PLAG vessels, which are upcycled from plastic shopping bags (a material called HDPE).


Victoria & Albert Museum

Those keeping a close eye on LDF this year wouldn’t have missed the buzz surrounding Barber & Osgerby‘s stunning mirror installation in the V&A’s Raphael Gallery, but as the official LDF hub, the museum was home to several specially built works and exhibitions. The design trio behind Candela—product designer Felix de Pass, graphic designer Michael Montgomery and ceramicist Ian McIntyre—pooled their talents to create the mesmerizing rotating display, which uses superluminova (the material found on glowing watch hands) and LEDs to illuminate a continuous stream of patterns.

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The Wish List was another V&A highlight, which is a project jointly created by Sir Terence Conran, Benchmark and the American Hardwood Export Council. They asked 10 “design legends” to name one thing they truly wanted in life (made possible out of wood) and then tapped 10 budding designers to work with AHEC carpenters to fulfill those desires. Not only does the project support rising talent, but as Conran explains in an interview with AHEC, it promotes “the importance of craftsmanship and practicing sustainable, ethical design.”

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East London design stalwart SCP is always a festival highlight, and each year the shop’s founder Sheridan Coakley plays host to a new overarching concept. While last year looked across the pond at designers from Brooklyn, this year SCP traveled further to Japan, and co-curated the show “Simplified Beauty” with British-Japanese designer Reiko Kaneko. The SCP collection includes a range of traditional kitchen wares as well as furniture from Ishinomaki Laboratory, but the ceramics from the town of Mashiko—which are developed according to the principles of the Mingei movement, or “hand-crafted art of ordinary people”—and the noticeably thin and desirably delicate glasses from former lightbulb manufacturer Shotoku Glass Company definitely exemplified the show’s concept of effortless aesthetics.

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Tent London

The multi-story design fair Tent London, located in the Old Truman Brewery off of Brick Lane, offers visitors a range of things to check out—from furniture to ceramics to this year’s catwalk-inspired AfroditiKrassa Bar. But new for 2014, Tent added an interactive section that called on Japanese artists and designers in a show called “Tokyo Imagine.” We spent far too much time playing around with Hiroki Mitsuyasu’s “Selfie Jam“—an installation that allowed you to record a selfie video to your Oyster card and play it back on a mountain of televisions by striking various keys on a keyboard.

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Two other installations within “Tokyo Imagine” that grabbed our attention were Birdman’s “Zen Toilet“—a high-tech toilet (albeit non-functioning at the fair) designed to “clarify your mind as well as your body”—and YKBX‘s Oculus Rift-enabled music video “Dance In The Rain,” which allowed you to completely immerse yourself in the pop song as the singers danced around you, coming from all directions.

Images by Karen Day