Monthly Archives: March 2011

Trends in surface design

When we talk surface design , most people think of wallpaper. Well there is so much more to it than that.

At the Surface Design Show in London a wide range including stone, wood, ceramic, leather and glass were on display in addition to the expected fabric and paper.

Giles Miller

Giles Miller’s corrugated cardboard relief pieces showed an interesting use of a traditionally lowly material. Corrugated cardboard has been proposed for furniture but not  for walls where I’m sure the insulation properties could be put to good use.

On a more commercial note I loved the textured stone effect walls by Decorative Stone Panel Ltd. Yes, it’s cladding but this works for me as an internal finish rather than on the front of my house.

It is called PANEL PIEDRA, a registered brand name for resin and stone powder mix – so much lighter than the real thing.

I also liked Tabu’s FSC approved wood veneers (sorry, no photo here). Apart from looking good they also meet LEED*** standards: so very important these days.

Fellow NEWH members VESCOM presented some glamorous wall coverings. Vinyl is very much in demand in the contract sector but still has some way to go before being called environmentally friendly.  Vescom assure me that they are making headway on this and, given their general environmental credentials, I believe them. I look forward to hearing more on the progress of that one.

Artwood Floors have a range of oil, lacquer and paint finishes for their wooden floors with this dramatic one on their stand. There were lots more good products but I can only talk about a very few here.

The Vintage Furniture Flea on Sunday 27th March

Isn’t it typical? This is one I can’t get to but that’s why I’m telling you about it. I love having a rummage around retro and pre-loved furniture and accessories, all ripe for the picking  and here it is all in one place. Not only that but they also have live music and lovely teas and snacks.

Anything organised by the Judy’s Vintage Fair team is always worth looking at and I make a point of going to the London ones.

It’ll be at York Hall in Bethnal Green London E2 9PJ from 11.00 till 16.30.  It’s a great event but as I still haven’t figured out how to be in several places at the same time I’ll miss it.


Watteau drawings at the Royal Academy

Some people find Watteau’s paintings a little sugary; I can sympathise with that  but strongly recommend this exhibition of his drawings which reveals more depth. I was amazed at how small some of them were with such precision and lightness of touch.

His use of only 3 colours: red, black and white might seem restrictive in theory but is so expressive in practice. Look at the way he depicts the stripes in this dress below.

It is said that Watteau preferred drawing to painting as it was more immediate. I have to agree with him there.

Yohji Yamamoto at the V & A in London

Exhibition image

I used to think that fashion was a bit over-rated and still can’t buy in to the frenzy surrounding some aspects but…you know some things are simply beautiful and uplifting.  Future Beauty at the Barbican last year (I can’t believe I didn’t report on that one – I have the pictures too!) was stunning as is this Yamamoto exhibition now on at the Victoria & Albert Museum.

This man has the attitude, very close to my heart, that you have to listen to what the fabric  says. It dictates much of what you can do and by respecting that it is willing to be persuaded to visit new places.

The space between body and garment is dynamic and garments are made to move with us as the wearer. In fashion as well as other creative fields the “gaps” are as essential as the objects. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be able to try the clothes on in an exhibition? I would long to do that with some of these pieces, the only risk being that I’d want to keep them.

V & A exhibition. Photo by Ronald Stoops

Visiting the Four Seasons Hotel Park Lane

Yes, London is seeing a veritable rash of luxury hotel openings and relaunches: we had the Savoy last autumn then the Four Seasons and the new W in Leicester Square (already up for sale). Later this year the much anticipated St Pancras Hotel will finally re-open. I already love the interior of the Searcy’s restaurant opposite the Champagne Bar on the platform: it makes me feel I’m half-way to Paris even before leaving London.

OK, back to the Four Seasons on Park Lane. It was almost an entire rebuild: a new floor has been added for the spa as well as a facade giving much more outside space to the “prow” of the building. The partnership of architects ReardonSmith  and interior designer PierreYves Rochon (PYR) has produced a very different result from  their previous work together on the Savoy, demonstrating how different sites and briefs dictate the response from a professional team.

I’ll concentrate on the public spaces as they are what most of us will see with the assured luxury and very high quality of finish apparent as soon as you walk through the door.

The stunner for me is the double-height mural by Michelle Letang. You can see some of it in the photo above. She often works with PYR and hasn’t yet seen this in the flesh so to speak but told me she’s pretty happy with her parkland scene. I’m glad she signed this piece , something she hardly ever does.

Red is the predominant colour here: the photos can’t reflect the richness and depth of the different tones which really hit you as you enter the all day dining area, Amaranto. This consists of a range of seating areas , all with a subtly different feel to them. Guests choose where they want to sit and then order what they like:  quite a revolutionary idea for a hotel.

The private dining room  is an intimate cocoon of padded walls; very sensual with a touch of decadence.

Domestic compost bins in India

I saw these compost bins whilst staying with a friend in Bangalore.

They have been designed by Poonam Kasturi in order to reduce domestic food waste, a large component of landfill. The NGO is called Daily Dump  (remember this is Indian english!)

I love the fact that they can just sit outside the house and don’t need to be placed on soil. Composting is pretty fast due to the climate and they are sturdy enough to deter rats & other small animals from breaking in.  You get the kit which includes a lemon grass spray to reduce any smell and flies if the mix isn’t quite balanced.

You put in your food waste, including cooked food, meat and fish (no bones), add some leaves or shredded newspaper then pop the lid on. Eventually it rots down to compost and you can then use it in your garden or for your plant pots.

Different sizes are available depending on the size of the household.


Delhi posting again – carpet at the airport?

The first thing you notice on landing (and leaving ) Delhi airport these days is the carpet. I had already been told about it but didn’t realise the magnitude of the impact until witnessed directly.

I know it was a great contract for the company who supplied it ( no names) but why oh why put carpet into such an environment? Apart from the aesthetics, surely hygiene must be a consideration? This must be the only airport in India to have carpet.

Anyway , it’s here for a while at least and continues to bemuse me amongst many others.

By the way, that buggy isn’t carrying the buddha head – I just liked the shot.

Back in India – the Delhi metro

As some of you know I’ve been in India for a quick trip.

The geography of Delhi has changed so much since I was last here with the metro system revolutionising urban travel. I love the ease and speed of this new  option: for example I could get from Gurgaon back up to South Delhi in 35 minutes instead of over an hour by road and my friends didn’t have to worry about accompanying me.

There is a ladies’ carriage at the front of each train which comes in very useful. The signage for this is a tad stereotypical – ah well, I suppose it means that most people recognise it. Men do regularly invade the space, particularly at night. I wish I had been able to take photos of a clearing out session by the rail guards the other evening…