Round-up of Clerkenwell Design Week 2023

Stepping out of the train and into the Clerkenwell sunshine, rose-tinted glasses aside, the trademark pink stripes were unavoidable and led the way – winding through the district punctuated by design statements, creative inflatables and some fairly regular Aperol Spritz stations! Writer Pauline Brettell looks back at some of the highlights of the week…

inflatable telephone booth at Clerkenwell design week by artist Steve Messam

The statement pink street markings were out, the showroom doors were open and the design and architecture community were released from their studios for Clerkenwell Design Week 2023 (CDW 23). With more exhibitors than ever before, the UK’s most-raved-about design festival was ready to put on a show for this year’s edition that stretched across the entire EC1 London district. From May 23 – 25, more than 160 showrooms came together to deliver more than 600 events and thousands of installations and product launches.

For Hotel Designs, a proud long-standing media partner for the festival, following an engaging press preview, the action started at the Atlas Concorde showroom where Editor Hamish Kilburn hosted an exclusive roundtable with architects and designers, putting the ‘language of biophilia in surface design’ under the spotlight. The conversation, which was born from the surface brand’s recent partnership with HBA to create five new looks to the Marvel Travertine collection, went on to resonate in other events and surface in many talking points throughout the week.

Continuing on from the debates that took place over the 2022 editon of the design festival, biophilic design and issues around sustainability remained high on the agenda, but what was apparent is that designers and studios are all digging a little deeper to come up with answers, and in some cases more questions, to these concerns.

An aerial image of Marvel Travertine from Atlas Concorde

Image credit: Atlas Concorde

After an appropriately strong espresso with the Atlas Concorde team it was time to follow those pink stripes, which in this case led to Old Sessions House – a beautifully curated space that provided the perfect backdrop for the launch of the hotly anticipated unveiling of the new EDITION 28 collection from Chelsom, designed in-house by Robert and Will Chelsom.

contemporary lighting design with black structure and round glass shades by Chelsom against a terracotta background

Image credit: Chelsom

Continuing to trip the light fantastic, it was time to go underground and explore Light. The lighting exhibition housed in the subterranean House of Detention is always a favourite, as this former Victorian prison provides a wonderfully atmospheric backdrop for the products on display. First past the door, Lladro, known in the past for its more traditional ceramics, showcased its Soft Blown collection, the result of a collaboration with Nichetto Studio. The bold designs in bright colours reference the playful world of balloons and inflatables while being made in the finest handmade porcelain in the Lladro tradition. In the spirit of the week, visitors could have a bit of creative fun with the elements making up the whole and assemble their own take on a Soft Blown table lamp.

porcelain shapes in earthy pastels make up the parts of the Hand blown chandelier by Lladro

Image credit: Lladro

A few more steps deeper into the dungeon was Studio Lloyd, a very much younger studio based in Cape Town South Africa. The studio was founded in 2016 by industrial lighting designer Ashlee Lloyd and each piece emerging from the studio, is delicately made by incorporating the traditional technique of crochet into modern lighting, while focussing on creating bold sculptural statement. Each fixture develops organically and is unique to a project. This youthful studio is committed to striving for diversity within the handcrafted lighting design scope, while creating unique and functional pieces of art.

hand crafted and crocheted light sculpture in black fibre by Studio Lloyd against a grey industrial style wall

Image credit: Studio Lloyd

Moving from lighting to the world of all things bathroom, the day ended in the perfectly curated new Bagnodesign showroom by Sanipex, where, Hotel Designs hosted another roundtable conversation with leading interior designers and architects who took on the task and the topic of ‘translating trends in hotel design’. The designers debated various trends emerging in the hospitality industry along with the more fundamental shifts in hotel design. With the serious bit being done, the conversation continued over prosecco opened and canapes, as architect Neil Andrew took to the decks, to provide the soundtrack to this CDW takeover party. Designers, architects, hoteliers and developers were able to peruse the new collection while doing a little informal Clerkenwell-style networking!

blue wall and black freestanding bagnodesign bath in london showroom

Image credit: Bagnodesign

Sustainability questions and credentials wound through the week and the furniture designs and collections were not to be left out of the conversation. On display in the Morgan showroom, the recently launched Aran collection, developed in collaboration with British textile designer and manufacturer Camira, features a lounge chair that champions sustainability as it is designed to achieve maximum comfort through minimal use of material.

Morgan showroom in Clerkenwell London with furniture places in front of large statement contemporary art pieces on a white wall

Image credit: Morgan

Continuing to fly the sustainable flag, another interesting conversation on sustainability took place in the Fritz Hansen showroom where, alongside launching the new Skagerak by Fritz Hansen outdoor collection, Morten Lund Petersen, Sustainability Manager, took on the task of giving us a deeper insight into questions and concerns around the process of specification. Putting the questions directly to the audience, the conversation took us through the process of how a design brand calculates its environmental impact with the aim of assisting designers and clients to make informed decisions in specifying the most sustainable products where there is clearly no single or simple solution.

a selection of three outdoor chairs from Fritz Hansen placed on the grass

Image credit: Fritz Hansen

With an overriding emphasis on surface design, natural colours and organic shapes taking centre stage across the show, the wallcoverings by Arte on display in the Details exhibition space seemed to tick all the boxes. These wallcoverings come into their own when seen up close, being all about texture and tone. The Kharga range transports the viewer into nature via the dunes of a desert and the tactile designs certainly answer in part, the biophilic brief that echoed through the festival.

striped grey and brown tones of illustrated dunes with palm trees in the Arte Zerzura wallcovering in the Kharga collection

Image credit: Arte

Clerkenwell Design Week is always an energising event, but CDW 2023 felt like it had a particularly organic edge of positivity – maybe it was the sunshine, maybe it was those aforementioned rose-tinted spectacles that obscured my view, but the shift in the tone of the conversations as the creative design industry is both talking about and taking steps towards a brighter future, felt palpable and was the thread that connected the dots between those pink arrows.

Main image credit: Sam Frost