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The Future of Design: Highlights from Clerkenwell Design Week 2024


31st May 2024

On this page

  • Clerkenwell Design Week 2024 overview
  • Soft textures & tactile finishes
  • A romantic take on earthy tones
  • Embracing nature
  • Wood
  • Design for good
  • Sustainable certification
  • Stacked Lighting
  • Exploring multi-disciplinary design through collaboration
  • AI in design

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2024 marked the 15th year of Clerkenwell Design Week, which has established itself as one of the UK’s most anticipated design events. With a reported 20% YOY increase in registrations, this year featured more global talent than ever. With new dedicated spaces for British, Italian, Danish and German design, exhibitors demonstrated an openness to international design and multi-disciplinary practice through exciting brand collaborations.

With more architect firms per square metre than anywhere else in the world, Clerkenwell is a creative hub and plays host to over 600 events organised by CDW’s 160+ exhibitors. We have collated our top trends from the show.

Soft textures and tactile finishes

textures have grown in popularity over the last few years, and quickly become a mainstay in interior and product design. Its perennial appeal was established at this year’s show, with looped bouclé, feathers and luxurious velvets taking centre stage.

Tactile surfaces were embraced throughout the show and particularly for bedroom, living room and office furniture. Anna Hayman Designs debuted luxurious velvet fabrics in her signature Art-Deco inspired prints, and several brands including Dovetailors and SCP embraced trending bouclé fabrics to complement seating design.

Look (up) to fluffy ceiling lights by Umage, whose iconic feathered lampshades stole the show at Old Sessions House.

A romantic take on earthy tones

It’s hard not to draw comparisons with Milan Design Week, which took place only a few weeks earlier in mid-April, plus other shows where global trends are interpreted in different ways. The adoption of romantic, earthy tones is an example of that; however, whereas in Milan we saw designers reveal warmer tones with a 1970’s influence (vibrant oranges and rich browns), exhibitors at Clerkenwell brought a more romantic twist on the trend. Think neutral tones in the form of pastel pinks and dusty reds, with soft blues and greens also appearing as a recurring theme for bathroom design.

Bert & May and Henry Holland’s tile collaboration predominantly featured earthy colours – Mineral Blue, Rust, Rosemary, and Purple Brown. Elsewhere, Barber Osgerby collaborated with Mutina Ceramics on ‘Time’, a richly-coloured tile collection also heavily inspired by the colours and textures of natural surfaces.

Kirkby Design embraced darker burgundies and earthy yet vibrant reds against a backdrop of graphic pastel green checkerboard fabric, a stand which sat opposite a pastel pink display from Coat Paints. Marking an evident shift from the hot pinks and neon ‘Barbiecore’ hues that dominated 2023, installations by 2LG and Peter Morris also embraced pastel pinks in their respective exhibitions ‘Stay Playful (When No One Feels Like Playing)’ and Possible Impossible Pavillion.

For the office, Fora Form created inclusive and welcoming workspaces through circular design enhanced by soft fabrics in pastel pink hues.

Embracing nature

When it comes to materials, natural resources were at the fore. We noted that designers were embracing rather than manipulating, which resulted in emphasised natural colours and textures. This appeals to an increased consumer demand for authentic finishes.

Wood in particular was a dominating material seen throughout the show, with designers often also emphasising their commitment to sustainability by positioning eco-friendly sourcing practices as a crucial element of their design. British designer Matthew Burt’s pieces stood out thanks to beautiful and intricate design that enhances the natural features of wood, which is sustainably sourced from local suppliers and fallen trees.

Also prioritising the natural qualities of wood, Anslem Fraser’s wooden bath is inspired by boat building techniques and made from steam bending wood, allowing for the grain to flow uninterrupted and take centre stage.

Design for good

Sustainability continues to be a dominating factor when it comes to design decisions. From locally sourced wood to upcycled materials, designers were putting sustainability at the fore when it came to stand and product design.

We noticed a number of brands exploring new ways to upcycle and re-work discarded materials, particularly Wehlers, whose chairs are made from recycled fishing nets, insulin injection pens, and computer keyboards and old car parts. Also, flooring company Unilin, whose collection is made of 100% recovered wood, exhibited the world’s first recycled MDF.

Elsewhere, Schotten & Hansen, who has been developing and producing  renewable wood surfaces since 1984, collaborated with Minnie Kemp on colourful wood furniture that embraces its natural grain. Central to the brand, all the wood was sourced exclusively from sustainable forests.

If it’s sustainable, put a certification on it

Coat Paints was amongst several brands promoting their B Corp certification, which has become an increasingly important goalpost for many brands as they continue to prioritise eco-friendly production. Coat is also Butterfly Mark certified – a newer accreditation available for luxury brands making lasting and impactful strides towards meeting high sustainability standards, and proof of the growing consumer demand for sustainable luxury.

Stacked lighting

Lighting design at House of Detention was dominated by stacked design and sculptural arrangements. Embracing colour as well as texture, Lladro Lighting’s porcelain table lamps offer a variety of models and stackable lamp base elements that gives consumers license to create distinctive lighting . With a similar approach to unique and personalised pieces, Glow Lighting debuted its Glow Signature Collection of handblown bespoke baubles in a range of colours to allow consumers to create one-of-a-kind pieces, a sign of rising demand for personal design as well as a bolder approach to interiors.

Then again, look to Formagenda for a more minimalist approach to stacked design: the Pearls table and floor lamps offer a more pared-back aesthetic, with design that values a simple and geometrically reduced style reminiscent of a pearl necklace.

Exploring multi-disciplinary design through collaboration

With designers increasingly looking beyond their own practice in order to innovate and stay ahead, we noticed a number of brands and designers looking outside their own disciplines through collaboration. In a talk for Conversations at Clerkenwell, the artist Simone Brewster outlined the importance of working across different disciplines and taking inspiration from a variety of practices to create work that is truly unique.

Henry Holland’s tile designs for Bert & May saw his signature marbled aesthetic, inspired by nerikomi ceramics, adapted into a fluid ceramic tile design through innovative production techniques. Clearwater Interiors called on London-based artist Emily Forgot for their collaboration, ‘Apricity’, which featured a bath decorated with a geometric pattern of cosy autumnal hues in Forgot’s distinctive style for Clearwater’s AW24 collection.

As the design world becomes increasingly competitive, and standing out becomes more difficult, collaborations will become an effective way for brands to discover new ideas.

The trend that needs no introduction: AI

An increasingly important consideration, Egger hosted a talk on the future of AI as we look to answer the question – how will AI impact the design industry? With a focus on what we can do and the direction of Generative AI, Egger revealed that 33% of UAE’s workforce uses AI daily, compared to 1 in 10 UK workers.

As we look to utilising AI more, Egger highlighted how users will be able to use cameras in real time to gather data and analyse – for designers this means they could use the tool to visualise what would work in the space, map out and imagine what is possible. It would also enable users to identify any issues within the home quickly, avoiding delays and later work requirements.

Despite fears that AI could replace jobs, the overarching message was to consider AI an ideation tool. Its seemingly infinite possibilities present new perspectives, colour palettes and dimensions that could build new and cohesive layouts for the future.

Author: Cecily Cohen

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