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Design Date

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Artist and designer Luke Edward Hall’s work has a carefree, nostalgic quality that has found a ready audience and attracted the likes of high-profile collaborators such as Burberry. As well as selling his own-designed ceramics, cushions and prints – adorned with motifs that include prawns, Greek statuary and prowling tigers – he also works as an interior designer. He is taking part in a discussion at Focus/16 that delves into the creative secrets of a panel of industry insiders.

Conversations in Design: The Art of Style, 11.30am, Friday 23 September

How do you view the relationship between art and interiors?
Art for me plays a very important role in interior design – when designing an interior, pictures and prints are as important, say, as the furniture and choice of paints and wallpapers. Like books and flowers, art brings a room to life. Over the past couple of years I’ve started building up a small collection of art with my partner Duncan – it mostly consists of prints and old exhibition posters at this point, but I’m looking forward to watching it grow. Like our books and our furniture, our collection of pictures reflects our tastes and interests.

Ashley Hicks has chosen your work for Focus/16’s ‘Art & Interiors’ exhibition – have you worked with him previously, or was it out of the blue?
Ashley and I are friends, we haven’t worked together previously but I’ve been a fan of his interiors and the furniture and objects he designs for a while.

What projects are you currently working on?
I’m working on interior design projects in London and the countryside, several artwork commissions and a few other exciting projects including an exhibition which I’m staging at Christie’s South Kensington. It’s called Young Hearts and it’ll be open from 24-29 September.

Have you had any favourite commissions? 
I very much enjoyed working with Burberry this past summer. I did illustrations of their clothes and bags, which formed part of their global campaign, we did installations in their shops and my drawings featured on billboards around the world. It was exciting to see my work used in lots of new ways, and on a huge scale.

Your style is quite nostalgic for the early 20th century – what’s the appeal of that era? 
I always love reading about the interwar period and people such as Cecil Beaton, Rex Whistler and Oliver Messel. I suppose for me the 1920s and 30s represent a lively, romantic, elegant, eccentric and glamorous time. Researching and getting inspired by this period for me is a sort of antidote to the intensely digital age we live in. Looking at pictures from that time, everyone and everything always looks so stylish…

What do you collect, and why? 
I particularly enjoy collecting ceramics – old and new – usually funny things like dishes in the shape of vegetables or animals. My current favourite item is a bowl we picked up recently in the shape of a crab, complete with claws. It’s good for serving olives.

Now that you’re working as an interior designer too, has it been hard to meld your own personal style with someone else’s taste?
It’s going to be an exciting challenge. When working with a client, the end goal is to end up with an interior that primarily reflects the client’s taste and personality, guided by me.

Where do you feel at your most creative? Do you sketch out-and-about, or prefer the comfort of home? 
I like both – at home I can put on music, get my books out for inspiration, relax and crack on with what I need to do, but it’s also fun to be outside, sketching things as they’re happening. On holiday in Italy this summer I took a sketchbook with me everywhere we went and would sit and draw people at the beach, on the rocks, in the water…

How do you like to re-charge, away from work? 
Cooking! We have an excellent greengrocer near our home – my perfect way to unwind is to go and stock up on produce and spend a weekend afternoon at home with Duncan, cooking and making our way through the newspapers. I like to escape London often too. At least once a month we’ll drive down to Wiltshire or Somerset, go for lunch, stay overnight in a pub, walk and rest.

Art & Interiors, Third Floor, North Dome and Second Floor, Designer Walkway

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Architect Thomas Croft heads up TCA, which he established in 1995. The practice is known for its links with the art world, having designed many commercial galleries (including David Gill Galleries and Timothy Taylor Gallery in London, and Ordovas Art in both New York and London), as well as art-filled private homes for leading gallerists and other collectors. He is taking part in a panel discussion at Focus/16 hosted by FT How To Spend It that discusses the blurring boundaries between art and design, and the ways in which art affects his work and life.

Conversations in Design: Art and Design: Crossing The Boundary, 11.30am, Tuesday 20 September

How has the rise of art collecting among private clients affected how you work?
Maybe it’s just the sectors we’ve worked in but we’ve always found art is a crucial component of lots of our projects. The architects who I worked for between leaving the Royal College of Art in 1985 and starting my own office in 1995 (Richard Meier, John Pawson and Rick Mather) always did both galleries and houses for dealers/collectors. So doing the same sort of projects for my own clients was a natural progression of that.

When you’re accommodating amazing artworks in a home, how do you balance the softer domestic side with the need to show off the art to its best?
So long as the art is well lit, then it can usually look just as good in a home or in a gallery. We’ve done three projects in recent years for the New York art dealer Per Skarstedt –two galleries and one home – and the same art looks equally good in both without any need for accommodation in terms of design.

You’ve also designed private galleries – what’s influencing the design of such spaces?
The air conditioning specifications keep going up – these days most commercial galleries require museum-quality air-conditioning and humidity control. This can be very expensive to achieve and it’s something that the top private collectors will probably want to start installing at home as well, in order to keep pace with insurance requirements etc.

A further development is the need for drastically reinforced floor structures, to take very high sculpture loadings wherever they might need to be located in the future. We’ve done this in several collector’s homes already.

Do you collect art yourself? What sort of thing?
We are lucky enough to have two homes and they have quite different art. In London we have all contemporary works by artists like Richard Hamilton and Gary Hume, plus a lot of long-term loans from Nvisible Museum’s collection.

In the country it’s a house I originally designed for my late parents and it contains a lot of family pictures from the 17th to the 19th centuries, mostly portraits of previous Crofts (we used to own the Anglo-Portuguese port wine house Croft Port). It’s nice to see the old family members at the weekend but it’s equally nice to be able to leave them behind and get back to modernity.

What is your earliest ‘design’ moment, the one that perhaps set you on your path?
The architects I met when I was a child seemed like nice people.  Going to school in the precincts of Canterbury Cathederal for five years probably had an effect also.

What projects are you currently working on?
The new Skarstedt gallery in London, which opens on 1 October, and three new houses for the Howard de Walden Estate, behind RIBA HQ off Portland Place, which just started construction. A new building for the Royal Yacht Squadron in Cowes on the Isle of Wight is on the drawing boards.

Do you have a design mantra?
No, we’re very undogmatic and like to stay flexible.

What do you obsess over in your work?
The world seems complicated enough and we always try to simplify as much as possible, even though there might be a lot of background complexity required to achieve that simplicity.  Obviously the lack of visual clutter is a must for all gallery spaces and consequently we spend a lot of time obsessing over trying to control & reduce a plethora of air conditioning, lighting, fire, CCTV and PIRs that always conspire to disrupt that simplicity.

Who would design your perfect house?
I’d be pretty happy living in a Richard Meier-designed house. However there aren’t currently many to choose from in the UK; at the age of 81 he’s just built his first, outside Henley, for the actor Rowan Atkinson.

Madcap-Cottage-Portrait

Interior designers Madcap Cottage – Jason Oliver Nixon (left) and John Loecke (right) – have a style that is defiantly maximalist (think wallpapered ceilings, vintage furniture, and riots of pattern and colour). They’ve poured all their audacity and creativity into a new collection of fabrics for Robert Allen @ Home, called Into the Garden, which includes exotic palm-prints, embroidered stripes and polished cotton florals. Jason explains more about their exuberant style below.

How did your collaboration with Robert Allen come about? The Madcap Cottage gents have always wanted to pursue a fabric collection: we are mad collectors of vintage fabrics and are constantly pulling out our iPhones when we visit historic houses to capture unique patterns that are tucked under the stairs or used on a dining room chair. So when Robert Allen, a favourite source for us, approached us about developing a pattern-centric prints and woven collection, we jumped at the opportunity.

Does your collection fill a gap for your interior work – something you could never quite find? Absolutely! We wanted to create prints and wovens that would be an essential part of our interior design tool kit that would also be accessible to the trade and the consumer. Our collections are storylines with multiple entry points, which work together seamlessly – from neutrals to florals, stripes and novelties, with colourways that tie the whole together. Plus, we were craving chintz, so we added some polished cottons into the mix. It’s time to banish the beige and neutral and bring pattern back to the forefront.

Were there any unusual sources of inspiration for fabrics? English country houses are amazing sources; India is always revelatory, and we are like paparazzi in Jaipur and Jodhpur snapping away furiously to capture the gloriously insane colour juxtapositions and patchwork perfection. We also love vintage design books, classic movies and rooting about the Bienenstock Furniture Library, the world’s largest design library (which happens to be housed in our hometown of High Point, North Carolina). Vintage magazines such as Look, Holiday, and Flair are also important go-tos for our visual lexicon.

Is there a British influence in your interiors work? We are diehard Anglophiles: I spent all of my childhood summers in England, and John has read every book about every Mitford and dollar duchess, and Syrie Maugham and Nancy Lancaster, ever written. We are in London at least six times a year, and spend two to three weeks in the summer exploring English country houses. If Nancy Lancaster had had a fling with Billy Haines, we would be their heirs apparent.

Your interiors are highly decorative, but are they practical too? Our homes are uber functional: we drink red wine, have pups who like nothing better than sitting on a down sofa, and we like to put our feet up, so we create similar environments for our clients. Who wants to live in a home where you cannot curl up on a sofa or have spontaneous disco dancing while sipping a Montepulciano with the pugs?

Do you have a favourite interiors project that you’ve worked on? We are currently working on a 13-acre, 20,000-square foot estate in Virginia that calls to mind an English country house with a layered, collected and accumulated sensibility. When complete, the home will have a glittering music room that will feel like a repurposed ballroom, a lacquered den, a garden room that nods to Nancy Lancaster’s sitting room at Kelmarsh Hall, and a foyer that feels very William Kent.

Where do you visit in London for design inspiration? The Victoria & Albert Museum is always a first stop; I have been tempted to try out the Bed of Ware, but John has held me back, happily. Fortnum & Mason is heaven (we love eau de nil) then we might hit up Leighton House, Eltham Palace, Kew Gardens or Syon Park. And we will probably round off the day at Rules or Ronnie Scott’s.

Zoe-Bradley-PORTRAIT

Paper artist Zoe Bradley has worked for international names including Christian Louboutin and Alexander McQueen, and created retail displays for the Smythson, Louis Vuitton and Mont Blanc; her breathtaking designs are commissioned by leading magazines and have been exhibited internationally. For London Design Week 2016 she has created a floral couture-inspired gown made entirely from paper. With a skirt shape that echoes the Design Centre’s famous domes, this spectacular two metre artwork (Ground Floor, South Dome) features 400 exquisite flowers: there are wild roses made up of 2,500 petals, chrysanthemums with 1,188 petals, cherry and apple blossom, as well as 3,500 leaves made with 17,500 folds.

How did you become a paper sculptor? Did it require any training? I’ve always been fascinated with form and texture. I trained as a fashion designer and went to work as an apprentice at Alexander McQueen in 1997, which is where I became aware of using other materials other than fabric to create dramatic silhouettes. This set my interest on working in new challenging ways with paper instead of fabric. Whether it’s a newspaper, magazine, notebooks, letters or reading books, I love to be challenged by materials and scale!

Did you have a big break? It would have to be the showpieces I created for the AW 05/06 collection for Michiko Koshino. I produced three pieces in paper – a pleated swimsuit, an oversized pleated mohican head-dress and a hand stitched ruffle dress on a wicker frame. It was the first time I sculpted paper into a wearable garment, and the show got a standing ovation.

Describe your installation for the Design Centre. An explosion of over 400 flowers in all shades of blue. I was influenced by the angular interior sets that feature in the London Design Week campaign, and drew upon a range of flowers and leaves that would echo this, playing with symmetry and folding. I was also influenced by the work of Wedgwood and William Morris prints, for the bold flower designs for the textile of the dress.

What sort of temperament do you need for what you do? A lot of patience! Paper is a wonderful medium to work with, but its also fragile. Symmetry and mathematics play a large part in the sculptures.

Do you work on your own? I have a very good team who work alongside me to help me realise the finished spectacle. My work is very intricate and there is a lot of attention to detail. I am a perfectionist, so detail is everything! The sculptures are hand sculpted using various tools for curling and scoring the paper. However, with larger installations that require thousands of petals, we have to use technology: laser cutting and die cutting.

What are the advantages – and frustrations – of working with paper? The advantages are that paper is endless and can be sourced in abundance and that it can be so easily found. The disadvantage is that the sculptures can dent and tear easily. It’s ultimately a very delicate and fragile medium to work with. In most of my work I use a paper with a metallic quality. It keeps its form in the pleating and moulding I do, and it has a real lustre, like silk, and a luminous quality.

What do you enjoy most about your work? Creating something that should be so temporary into intricate, long-lasting pieces: if they are kept in the right conditions or behind glass, they are timeless. I also love the fact many of my pieces surprise people, when they realise its made out of paper. Creating the unexpected is a great motivator.

Where do you feel at your most creative? I need to have a clear head, so the stillness in early morning or last thing at night is when my mind is at its most creative. I’m surrounded by rural landscape both at home and in my studio, so they can be great thinking places.

Do you have a passion for interiors as well? I do have a real passion for architecture and interiors, and some of our latest collaborations are leading more into this design area. Zaha Hadid and Frank Gehry are two of my favourite architects: they have created some of the most inspiring silhouettes in architecture. I also love the organic forms and craftsmanship that go into the lighting at Porta Romana. I’m also a fan of Kit Kemp and how she mixes print and colour in a very modern way.

Portrait: Misa Watanabe

Twitter: ZBDesign
Instagram: zoebradleydesign
Web: www.zoebradley.com
Facebook: Zoe Bradley Design Ltd

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Kit-Kemp-portrait

Kit Kemp is the design force behind Firmdale Hotels, a collection of eight boutique hotels in London and one in New York: with their focus on craftsmanship, individuality and a style that is recognisably English yet refreshingly global, they have elevated the notion of what hotels should look like. Her talk at the Design Centre delves into how collaborations with artists and a playful approach to fabric and colour conjures up inviting spaces that have distinct personalities all of their own.

Conversations in Design: Every Room Tells a Story, 11.30am, 15 March.

Your look is very distinctive – do you think your approach is different to that of other designers? I hope it is different and I know it is distinctive! The detail is very important but basically I love colour and a carefree feeling in my surroundings. I am a designer and love lots of other styles and appreciate all the different modes of achieving it.

Where do you head to first at the Design Centre? All the fabric houses! Then I go to lighting and then I go to the furniture. The Design Centre has a cornucopia of beautifully designed fabrics.

Is craftsmanship an important factor for you? Everybody wants something tailor made for their home. Something that says something special about them or their family. I think people can be more individual and this is a great opening for creative craftsman and furniture makers in our industry.

In my latest book, Every Room Tells a Story, I talk about my design alliances with craftsman and artists around the world. The design world is always moving and evolving and we like to push it in a different direction.

What’s your style at home? Is it a testbed for new ideas? Hairdressers always have the messiest hairstyle, architects always have an unfinished home and my interior designs are usually in the workplace and not at home, where I don’t want to see another builder! Having said that, new colours and styles always keep creeping in.

Where do you feel at your most creative? When I’m travelling and somewhere I don’t know very well. I think your mind is open to new ideas, and one bit of inspiration can lead to another.

Megan Hess

Megan Hess is one of the most in-demand international fashion illustrators, and has worked with luxury brands including Chanel, Dior, Fendi, Rolex, Cartier and Bergdorf Goodman. For Focus/15 she brought her talents to the Design Centre with a specially commissioned illustration. This artwork, along with others from her portfolio, is on display on the Walk of Fame on the third floor.

What was your brief for the illustration you created for the Design Centre? My brief was really to capture the entire inside of the Design Centre, both with all the interesting people that would be walking around Focus/15 and all the interesting interior objects on display. And it was very complex to create, just in the sense of scale, showing every level of inside mixed with the actual scale of people and objects. That was a little bit tricky but often the most challenging illustrations are the ones that are the most successful in the end.

How did your style evolve? My style definitely evolved over the years: I think that’s something that happens naturally to anyone who draws. The more you draw, the more your style evolves. I always say to students who ask me how they find their style, “keep drawing and your style will find you.”

Do you have a passion for interior design as well? I think fashion and interiors very much influence each other. When I was working on my book, Fashion House, I was interested in the way that people within fashion often have homes or interior spaces that reflect their personal style. I think Coco Chanel is a great example of the way she dresses with her tweeds and minimal lines and her colour scheme, it’s almost a mirror image when you look at her interiors.

What’s your style at home? Very clean and airy. It’s quite white, as is my studio. I think that’s because I often work with a lot of colour, pattern and texture. So for living and working, I really like to keep things very fresh and white – it almost feels like a blank canvas.

How do you work? I draw everything freehand, and I use a bespoke Montblanc pen, called Monty. It’s then scanned into my computer, which gives me the flexibility to move things around within an image.

Where do you feel at your most creative? I think I really get inspired when I travel: I’ll often bring my sketchbook with me and depending what country I’m in, I’ll perch myself in a busy coffee shop and just watch different people, sitting having a coffee, walking in and out. I’ll notice what people are wearing, the way they are walking and talking; all of those types of elements are inspiring to me.

Did you have a big break? Yes, definitely. It was when Candice Bushnell’s publisher in New York contacted me to illustrate the cover of her next novel, which became Sex and the City. At the time, I was working full time as an illustrator but not with the really great luxury brands that I’d always dreamt of, but when I was contacted by her publisher, it opened up my work to a really big field of people. When her books were realised, and all the covers I’d illustrated were on billboards in New York and buses, and everywhere – that was the first time it went from no one ringing my phone, to a lot of amazing companies and fashion brands, which I’d never actually dreamt of working with.

Do you have a favourite moment in fashion history? I do love the past and I am very inspired by Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly and Sophia Loren. I think there were a lot of amazing, iconic styles in those eras, although I do love modern fashion and illustrating that, so I mix it up. Depending on what I’m working on, I’ll tailor the fashion to that – for the Design Centre, I wanted to really capture that quirky, chic interior designer look.

Megan Hess illustration

 

Jocelyne-SibuetJocelyne has run Maisons & Hotels Sibuet – a collection of some of the finest and most innovative hotels in France – for 31 years. From the Alps to Provence, each hotel brings out the history and character of the building as well as the wider traditions of the area, meaning that a stay is an enticing delve into the design history of the region (and a place of supreme comfort). Jocelyne joins Condé Nast Traveller‘s publishing director Simon Leadsford on Tuesday 22 September to talk about how she weaves a story into every property she designs.

Conversations in Design: Creating Character – Hotels with a Difference, 11.30am, 22 September. Tickets are £10: book here

How did you become a hotelier? I have always been oriented towards wellness and beauty, and that has served me well in the hotel industry. We were the first ones to bring this idea of spa and wellness to the mountain hotel industry in France in the early 1990s, and our flagship spa in Megève at Les Fermes de Marie was the first of many.

How do you instill a sense of place in each hotel? The story of each our hotels exists, I just seek to bring a clear narrative to life. In each hotel we seek to connect with the original spirit, to share its roots, to find harmony in the setting and to cultivate an authentic luxury. It’s not showy or ostentatious, it’s not ‘bling-bling’; rather, it seeks beauty in simplicity.

We take the history of the locale and let it provide a narrative for our hotels. For example, in the hotel Mont Blanc in Megève this meant concentrating on its historic past – an artist’s hangout where the energy and ambiance inspired great poets, singers, songwriters, sculptors and artists. Le Lodge Park was originally in an Art Deco style and I wanted to bring to life another vision of the mountains in Megève – ­one inspired by lodges of the world, with touches of leather, fur, rough-hewn logs and kilim fabrics. But further south in Provence this decorating philosophy means something completely different: at the Bastide de Marie, it means bringing an authentic polish to the stones of an 18th-century farmhouse, nestled among the vineyards; it means baroque chairs reupholstered in denim from Nîmes and of course being inspired by the wonderful antique markets in the area, Isle sur la Sorgue, with old chemist jars, or portraits and paintings that I have found along my travels.

Does that idea of a sense of place go further than the decor? We go beyond interior design; we design an experience that our clients will enjoy. At the Bastide de Marie we offer a quintessential stay in Provence. Experiences include truffle hunting, riding bicycles through lavender fields, visiting the market with our chef followed by an intimate cookery course or offering the traditional 13 desserts of Provence at Christmas time.

Your hotel interiors are very convivial, but how do they differ from a home? We seek to make our spaces functional and practical, but it was never the goal to make them feel like a hotel; we want to create a second home for our guests. With our dedication to creating each place in harmony with its history and with its setting, a guest should feel like they have come home.

Your most challenging project? The biggest challenge is to take the time to listen to the story of the building and of the destination, and transform that into a place that inspires, that lets you breathe in calm, wellness and relaxation.

Where’s your favourite place to source antiques and vintage pieces? My daughter teases me that I have a gift for shopping (I was born to shop). She is right that I am always on the look out for the little details that bring a room together – whether that is in an artist’s atelier in Provence, an offbeat shop in London or an elegant boutique near my apartment in Paris.