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5 of the biggest design trends at London’s Clerkenwell Design Week 2023

With more than 160 showrooms, 600 events, and thousands of products showcased alongside creative installations, Clerkenwell Design Week is a highlight of the annual design calendar. Effect Magazine uncovers the biggest trends from the 2023 edition.

Clerkenwell in the London borough of Islington is renowned as one of the city’s most creative districts – and reportedly is home to one of the highest concentrations of architects and creative businesses in the world. Each year, this vibrant neighbourhood hosts Clerkenwell Design Week, a three-day festival that celebrates the creative industries. With more than 300 design brands and makers represented this year, the event showcased everything from contract furnishings for the workplace to luxury design and craft. A thought-provoking talks programme featuring some of the UK’s leading creative talents – including Morag Myerscough, Philippe Malouin, Nipa Doshi of Doshi Levien, Yuri Suzuki, and James Patmore of Soho Home – completed the line up.

“We’re thrilled to be back with Clerkenwell Design Week,” says Marlon Cera-Marle, Design Division Director of Media 10, the company behind the event. “Clerkenwell Design Week is always known for being one of the key destinations for specification – as well as discovering new talent and ideas for architects, interior designers and creative minds alike.”

Effect Magazine delved into this year’s edition of Clerkenwell Design Week to discover the most salient trends, from lush biophilic design that brings greenery inside, to characterful lighting and a splash of colour.

Old Sessions House offered a spectacular setting as one of the hubs at this year's of Clerkenwell Design Week - Effect Magazine
Old Sessions House offered a spectacular setting as one of the hubs at this year’s of Clerkenwell Design Week. (Photo: Sam Frost)

Playful lighting

To discover the best new lighting at Clerkenwell Design Week, visitors had to venture underground to the subterranean House of Detention, a former Victorian prison that was transformed into an exhibition space for some of the most exciting international lighting brands.

Playful statement lighting was the major trend to emerge this year, with highlights from British brand Curiousa and iconic Spanish porcelain brand Lladró. Pretty pastel colours, abstract compositions of rounded forms, and gentle lighting characterised the offering from both brands. The result? Joyful lighting that injects a sense of fun and play into interior settings.

Raw beauty

The beauty of natural materials will always have a place in luxury design – and at this year’s Clerkenwell Design Week, there was a clear focus on celebrating craftsmanship and reinterpreting natural materials in new ways.

British brand Benchmark has long championed the value of craftsmanship and this formed the basis of their elegant exhibition that was the star of the British Collection in the crypt of St James’s Church. Life-size photographs of the brand’s workshop in Berkshire adorned one wall to visually extend the vaulted space, and pieces were exhibited alongside sketches, prototypes, and woodworking samples. Benchmark used this evocative space to launch the AYA collection by Foster + Partners, a collection of tables and seating crafted from FSC-certified British Ash designed to demonstrate Benchmark’s circular approach.

The AYA collection by Foster + Partners for Benchmark includes strikingly minimal stools and a high collaboration table with integrated light, all crafted from FSC-certified, British-grown Ash timber.

Another highlight was Recork, a brand known for its sustainable cork flooring, which debuted a collection of Sugo cork rugs, woven from cork, linen, wool, and cotton. The innovative use of cork in this way is not only beautiful but has myriad wellbeing benefits, from acoustic dampening to improved air quality.

Biophilia

Biophilia – a theory that humans seek connection with the natural world – has long been shown to have benefits when applied to interior design, most notably in reduced stress levels and improved mood. So, it’s no surprised that Clerkenwell Design Week was awash in flourishing greenery – think lights that double as plant pots and are activated by touching the leaves from Bioo, green walls from Plant Designs, and even an edible table landscape by Estonian design and experience studio Heiter X.

British workplace furniture brand Moventi is betting big on biophilia, with a new collection of office storage with integrated planters, including the C2 Mobile Planter Units and the Edyn planters. These practical mobile stations can be moved around an open space to create different zones, and have the added benefit of improving productivity.

The C2 Mobile Planter units by Moventi are ideal for displaying plants and breaking up open-plan spaces.

Reimagining the workplace

In recent years, the workplace has changed dramatically – and has forced organisations to think differently about how the physical space is set up to attract employees back to the physical workspace. Contract furniture brand KI offered an elegant solution with the new ClubHouse, a sleek pink pop-up installation set against the beautifully patinated interior of Old Sessions House. This flexible system is ideal for creating dedicated zones within open-plan spaces, and KI has an ambition to “revolutionise the way we work and interact in shared spaces”.

British design studio Duffy London is known for creating playful furniture pieces that challenge our preconceptions – and for Clerkenwell Design Week, they pushed the boundaries of workplace design with two installations in Design Fields Park.


The studio’s popular Swing Table received a colourful makeover by artist Lois O’Hara and gave visitors a chance to catch up on work al fresco; while large-scale installation Pause – a collection of monolithic mirrored seats in the park – offered another space to sit and gather. Both pieces respond to recent changes in the way the workplace is perceived and offer new solutions that go beyond simply work-from-home or traditional office-based locations.

Pause is a large-scale installation by Duffy London comprising a collection of multifaceted, megalithic structures that rise up in a circle that evokes Neolithic standing stone formations and monuments.

Colourful collaborations

Colour is back in a big way – and at Clerkenwell Design Week it was the defining feature of the most impressive large-scale installations. Headlining the CDW Present programme were two bold inflatable works by British artist Steve Messam, who is known for reimagining the everyday. Gateway was perhaps the most impressive – a hand-sewn blue sculpture measuring 6 metres high with 27 enormous spikes that takes over the St John’sGate of the Order of St John.

“Gateway offers a dynamic and unforgettable sensory experience,” explains Messam. “While the spikes tower above the public as they pass through the gate, the bespoke piece traces the internal space between the arches before bursting out beyond the bounds of the building.”

Tile brand Domus was also awash with colour, with a debut collection by upcoming British designer Yinka Ilori. The designer famously draws inspiration from his British-Nigerian heritage to create vibrant patterns and colours that promote optimism. The two ranges, Glaze and Screen, capture the dynamic, geometric lines and shapes used in traditional African patterns and architecture – and if this edition of Clerkenwell Design Week is anything to go by, we can expect to see this kind of joyful expression making an impact in interiors soon.

Read more:  Design Fairs | Design  | Art | Interior Designers I Interiors | Biophilic Design | Sculptural Lighting | Sustainability | London

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