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London Design Festival Highlights Part 1: Decorex & 100% Design

London Design Festival Highlights Part 1: Decorex & 100% Design

Today, I was going to share some highlights from the London Design Festival with you. But, having gone through all my photos, catalogues and brochures, I’ve decided that I need to make this a two-part post instead!

As I mentioned last week, September was a pretty happening month in London for anyone who loves or is involved in the design industry. There were loads of exhibitions, events, installations and seminars all across London, all part of the London Design Festival.

Just to give you a little background, LDF was co-founded by Sir John Sorrell and Ben Evans to create an annual design event that would promote London (and the UK’s) creativity, innovation and design. It started in 2003 and has massively grown over the years - as you'd expect from such a hub of creativity and an obviously design-conscious and savvy London audience!

London Design festival now encompasses several design hubs including large events and installations at the V&A and Somerset House. Then there’s Design Destinations, which is basically all the trade and consumer fairs and various Design Districts which take over some of the coolest part of London like Shoreditch and Bankside. And loads more but I’ll stop here – you can read all about the London Design Festival on their website.

So which events did I attend you ask? Well, my aim as always is to find brands & products and to meet designers so I focused on the exhibitions. With my most comfortable shoes on, I went along to Decorex, 100% Design, Design Junction, Tent London & Superbrands. Phew…those were an active couple of days!

There was loads to see and I will write about some of the lovely brands and designers I met in future blogs posts. But for today - Part 1 - here are my highlights from Decorex and 100% Design.


Decorex has been around for years and is probably the smartest and most elegant fair of the London Design Festival, although it was around way before LDF was born! I remember attending my first one over twenty years ago as a young interior design graduate.

These were the days before the Design Centre Chelsea Harbour became London's hub for designer interiors fabrics and wallpaper, so Decorex was all about fabrics and wallpapers back then. But now Decorex is full of high quality brands presenting furniture, lighting, accessories, textiles as well as some decorative fabrics and wallpapers.

The focus over the last of couple of years has been very much on the handmade nature of many of the premium brands and talented designers exhibiting there. And you know that's music to my ears and a feast for my eyes - and yours I hope!

My arrival at Decorex in a muddy field

Ok I know this isn't what you expected but I have to share this funny moment with you! Decorex takes place at Syon Park near Isleworth and the car park is in a field - and it was pouring...And a lovely lady in the car park was running from car to car handing out these snazzy little shoe covers. How sweet was that!

An artist making wallpaper for de Gournay at Decorex 2015

There were several display areas at Decorex called 'Making Luxury', each showcasing experts at work in their own specialist fields. This talented man was hand-painting these amazing designs onto wallpaper for luxury brand de Gournay. What skill! I really enjoyed seeing him patiently at work.

Paint tubes and paint brushes used for making wallpaper for de Gournay

Tools of the trade in the de Gournay 'Making Luxury' display area

A wooden bowl by Eleanor Lakelin at Decorex 2015

Another section of the show was called 'Future Heritage' and featured some of the leading designer/makers around at this time. I thought the vessels from London-based Eleanor Lakelin were amazing! She uses a lathe and carving tools to make her gorgeous pieces. Wouldn't this look lovely on a large coffee table or sideboard?

Handmade wooden spoons by Nic Webb

Also featured in a 'Making Luxury' installation was Nic Webb who works in wood as well as metal, stones and other materials to create a collection of beautiful sculptural and practical items for the home. I just loved these quirky and fun spoons!

Abigail Ahern's book called Colour at Decorex 2015

There is an excellent programme of seminars at Decorex. I don't normally have the time to attend any but I made sure I did this year. I was very curious to listen to the very popular Abigail Ahern in conversation with the Executive Editor of Homes & Gardens, Giles Kime. I'm sure you've heard of this talented and dynamic designer who seems to be featured everywhere at the moment. Her creative and innovative use of colour is very exciting and I did treat myself to her new book called simply 'Colour' (and which kindly signed for me too!)


100% Design has also been around for many years and now forms part of the LDF Design Destinations. It has seen some dramatic changes as well! When it first launched, it was almost like a graduate show, featuring many young designers and makers.

Now it could practically be called 'Design & Build' or 'The Contract Show' because if focuses a lot on materials, commercial lighting and the latest building materials and finishes. Don't get me wrong, it's still a great show but with a very different purpose.

For me, the most interesting thing about 100% Design was the lighting on display. There were some lovely lamp collections on show, made by some very talented and creative designers with nice stories to tell - more on that in a future blog post though :).

Olympia during 100% Design

100% Design took place for the first time at London's Olympia which is one impressive venue!

Various brands and products seen at 100% Design 2015

There's a big focus on building materials, finishes, contract furniture and creative products particularly suited to the contract and commercial markets. Here is a wooden (yes you read that right!) from Swiss brand Alegna; the latest textures and colours from Formica and fun chairs from Mexican brand Silla Acapulco.

Bone china pendant lights by Original BTC

I loved this range of bone china lamps from British lighting brand Original BTC. This fine material creates such a warm glow and looks beautiful. I particularly liked them hanging in clusters like this.

Pendant light by Tom Raffield at 100% Design 2015

Tom Raffield is a British lighting designer/maker whose pieces I have admired for a number of years. He uses bent wood and creates the most fantastic shapes and silhouettes. It's a lovely collection and this is one of his most recent styles called Urchin.

Made by Hand book seen at 100% Design 2015

This book 'Made by Hand: Contemporary Makers, Traditional Practices' by Nick Warner and Leanne Hayman is definitely one I need on my bookshelf soon! It was lovely and truly inspiring.

Red Bus Cafe at 100% Design 2015 at London Olympia

This fun old red London bus was sitting outside the main entrance to 100% Design selling coffee and cake - what a lovely idea to use one of these lovely old double deckers! I can't remember the cafe's name though! Might you know what it is?

Next time on the blog, I will round-up my London Design Festival with highlights from Design Junction and Tent London & Superbrands.

'till then...

Photos by Nicole Antar (most via Instagram) // Logos for Decorex & 100% Design from their websites


Oct 30, 2016

It sure was Barb :)

Nicole Antar
Oct 30, 2016

Wow! This looks like it was a blast! Thanks for sharing.

Oct 30, 2016

Thank you so much Gilly for your kind comment. I’m so glad you found inspiration and enjoyed your virtual tour of the shows. They are a crucial part of my work and luckily one I thoroughly enjoy! The next series of trade exhibitions is in January and the London Design Festival will be back next Sept.

Nicole Antar
Oct 30, 2016

nterior design is not something I have ever paid much attention to beyond my own home. I would never have thought about visiting an exhibition such as this one. However, since reading this and part two, I can see how worthwhile it would be in terms of finding interesting items to photograph and find inspiration in. I really enjoyed reading both of your articles and seeing the images – it felt a bit like a virtual visit to the event. I would like to go to the next one for real.

Gilly Maddison
Oct 30, 2016

Thanks Robyn!

Nicole Antar
Oct 30, 2016

What lovely design elements, but I think my fave were the show covers! ?

Oct 30, 2016

It was great fun Sacha and I did feel inspired ?

Nicole Antar
Oct 30, 2016

This looks amazing, fun, and Inspiring. I bet you felt great when you got home that day.

Oct 30, 2016

Thanks Karen!

Nicole Antar
Oct 30, 2016

Love the images that you’ve put up. So much creativity in one room.

Karen Brown

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