Clerkenwell Design Week 2019

10 years of design inspiration

Clerkenwell, an area of central London, is home to more creative businesses and architects per square mile than anywhere else on the planet. Every year, over three days at the end of May, Clerkenwell Design Week attracts 1000s* of people to showroom events, exhibitions, installations and talks. This year marks the 10th year of the festival and Kate and I once again made our way to London to see what’s new…

We hopped off the tube at Farringdon, grabbed a guide and lanyard**, found a café and planned our route. This is where we ended up going:

Clerkenwell map

You can find the full map here.

It doesn’t look far (4-5 miles), but there’s so much to see that it’s slow progress – that, and that CDW generally seems to be blessed with roasting hot weather.

We took a different route to normal, heading out towards Design Fields first, rather than hitting the major showrooms in the centre. In hindsight, it probably meant we missed quite a few showrooms – but it makes up for the years of focussing on those and not getting out to less familiar brands.

First Stop – The Vault, a selection of different brands inc. Cantarutti and James Tobias. Then on to Gresham, which we’ve used at Monkton Park and Corsham Digital Mansion. Our next stop was Verco, which was a new brand to us, as was Fedrigoni and the People Powered Press (where we swooned over their modular paper-sized sofas). Our final stop on Clerkenwell Road was Creatif, who have a huge range of acoustic products (We particularly liked Adaptif and Constructif) where we even played a round of golf!

Gresham, Verco, Fedrigoni, Creatif

(L-R: Gresham, Verco, Fedrigoni, Creatif)

We then headed north to Design Fields, stopping at Naughtone en-route. There are too many stands in the pavilion to list them all, but it’s a great place to see international brands (although there were a few home-grown brands too, like Bute). After that we went to Platform at the ‘House of Detention’, an old subterranean prison (and escape from the heat), which is home to new talent and smaller brands.

L-R, T-B: Naughtone, Thonet, Tacchini, Montbel, Silent Lab, Bute, Ondarreta, Olenka, The House of Detention

(L-R, T-B: Naughtone, Thonet, Tacchini, Montbel, Silent Lab, Bute, Ondarreta, Olenka, The House of Detention)

Next up was Project, three pavilions set in the grounds of St James Church. The Sven chairs on the Chieftain fabrics stand raised a smile and we tried our luck at winning a rug from Eaton Square.

Left: Sven’s Happy Rocker; Top-Middle: Sixteen3; Bottom-Middle: Agilita; Right: Social Spaces

(Left: Sven’s Happy Rocker; Top-Middle: Sixteen3; Bottom-Middle: Agilita; Right: Social Spaces)

After all of those pavilions, the heat was starting to get to us so we took refuge in Altro’s showroom for a 90s-themed pencil case workshop! We put together our creations whilst drinking incredibly pretty (non-alcoholic) cocktails, eating Ferrero Rocher and listening to Ace of Base. I’d say that the Memphis-inspired designs we were asked to create were a little more 80s than 90s, but apparently Saved by the Bell ran until 1993 – and these would’ve been right at home on set!

Pencil Cases

We finally headed back to the most concentrated area of showrooms – Great Sutton Street. First stop was Connection, then on to Shaw (where we tried to win another rug!), Tarkett and The Gallery before dashing back to Mark for a talk (see more below). It was starting to get late and showrooms were beginning to prep for their evening parties, so we just managed to catch Vitra and Boss before finishing up at the brand-new Ideal Standard showroom, where I settled in for another talk – Phew!

L: Connection; Top-Middle: The Gallery; Bottom-Middle: Boss; Right: Vitra

(L: Connection; Top-Middle: The Gallery; Bottom-Middle: Boss; Right: Vitra)


Tiny Habits

Mark hosted a talk by Mike Coulter of Habitualise on the importance of ‘Tiny Habits’. Mike discovered Tiny Habits, a behavioural change programme developed by Prof BJ Fogg, when he wanted to make changes to his lifestyle to make sure he could be the best creative he could be. It’s all about taking baby steps to make it easy for you to incorporate new habits into your daily routine. Find out more about it here:

The (un)Gendered Loo

Libby Sellers, design historian, gave a fascinating talk on gender politics in washroom design at the newly-opened Ideal Standard showroom. Our eyes were opened to the ‘Urinary Leash’ (how far people will travel away from toilet facilities) and how the lack of public facilities kept Victorian women at home and out of public life. There was also a discussion about improving inclusion in public WCs and how the clumsy application of gender-neutral signage can cause more problems than it solves (cough, Barbican, cough) with the ‘Superloo’ (individual rooms with loo and basin) appearing to be the favourite solution in the crowd.

The theme for this year…

There are often noticeable trends that run through various brands and give you a lasting impression of the show. Last year Biophilia seemed really strong, and was still present this year, but the standout trend seemed to be a general move towards softness – in colour, texture and shape. There were lots of shades of muted colours, particularly pink / blush; curvy shapes; tactile finishes; gathering details and flat privacy panels giving way to curtains.

This years theme - soft

(L-R, T-B: Gresham, PP Møbler, Création Baumann, Attica, Verco, Piaval, Soundtect, Calligaris, Casalis)

This could be a reflection of the homification of the work place, but more likely a general desire for comfort in these uncertain times (!). The organic shapes, textures and colours also work well with Biophilic design and the art-deco influenced styles we’ve been seeing over the last couple of years.

Rebecca’s favourite product

The product that really caught my attention was SilicaStone. We spotted it on a coffee table in the Gresham Showroom and then came across it again at the Panaz stand (Panaz is the official UK distributor), so it was great to find out more about it. SilicaStone is made in Lancashire from 98-100% recycled materials (post-consumer glass, pre-consumer vitrified ceramic and mineral waste). The production process doesn’t use chemicals or resin binders making it fire and heat resistant as well as recyclable at the end of its life cycle. Although it obviously has excellent ‘green’ credentials, the glazed, textured and honed ranges available provide great-looking finishes – so there’s no sacrifice in the style department.

Silica Stone

Find out more about Silicastone here: and here:

Kate’s favourite product

My favourite product was Adaptif by Creatif. Adaptif is a range of panels all designed with a different function in mind; to name a few, Float – agile moving panels, Solo – Acoustic operating walls and Clarity – Super-slim glass moving walls. Personally, I found Float the most interesting as you could mix the design up with a moss wall, whiteboard, pinboard or even cover the panel in fabric to help with acoustic properties. They all run on a rail system that can be flush with the ceiling and have a lock-in-place function to help stop the panel wobbling. I think these are a great way to break up and zone different spaces to make them more versatile and interchangeable.


To take a look at all Adaptif moving walls please click here:

Hope to see you there next year!

Tips if you plan to visit:

  • Look up the talks and events ahead of time so you can choose the best day to go (plus some events require registration).
  • Wear comfy shoes and clothes and bring shades, water, business cards and a phone charger.
  • Sit on / interact with products – this is a great chance to feel how things work, rather than just seeing images online. You can spec with more confidence if you’ve seen a product in real life.
  • Try to say ‘no’ to leaflets and brochures – you’ll be completely weighed down at the end of the day. Ask for info to be sent to you if you really want it, but I find photos are the best way to keep a record of what I’ve seen (remember to take the brand name, not just the product).
  • Expect to have a strange, varied and drawn-out lunch as you graze your way through the showrooms. You’ll also be offered a lot of drinks – pace yourself.
  • Prepare for a deluge of emails on your return, there’s a reason why they zap your pass everywhere you go. Once you’ve been, you’ll get loads in the run up to the next one too – and probably a few VIP invites, so pay attention.
  • Go for more than one day if you can – it’s huge!

To see all the photos from our visit, follow this link:


*34,060 in 2018

**It was really good to see that hole punches have replaced plastic wallets and the lanyards no longer have dates on – meaning you can save them for next year.

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