Exploring Clerkenwell Design Week 2016

3rd June 2016

By Collette Black


Last week I stepped out of our Clerkenwell showroom into a flow of happy people, the sun beating down from clear blue skies and my ears filled with the distant sound of jazz and excited chitter-chatter. The buzz of Clerkenwell Design Week is all-encompassing, the whole area has a new lease of life, and for me, it will now always signify the start of the summer. Grey skies and rainy days may have already returned to London, but looking through the copious amounts of pictures I took, I’ve been reliving all my favourite parts and so wanted to share them with you…

I loved exhibiting down in the church’s crypt this year. As soon as you walked in, the low glow from our squirrel cage bulbs and the subtle smell of star anise from the Izola candles transported you to a totally cool and unique space, completely authentic, something you can’t recreate, the perfect atmosphere to match our urban rustic design that is just so different to all the other popular kitchens at the moment.


Another benefit was that we were directly below the beautiful old church that housed top British designer, Tom Dixon’s, installation. I was really intrigued to see what they’d done with the space, especially when I heard that they were donating most of the furniture to the church so that the vicar could transform the building into a communal workspace for locals, a nice idea that I felt really reflected  the festival’s community spirit. We were actually a little bit eager, apparently it didn’t open until 11, but we couldn’t resist sneaking in for a little look around. When I returned a little later in the week I found out we missed some majestic music that maybe added to the atmosphere, but it was still really cool to see. I love this shot that I took of the impressive central chandelier, it looks almost space age.

More beautiful lights filled the historic building, flowing rounded shapes made of warm coppers with fiery orange bulbs. It felt very modern in such an old establishment, but the warmth of the materials made it kind of fit. The lights were really cool but I have to say my favourite thing, and possibly my favourite thing out of everything I saw at CDW, were these amazing hexagonal tea light holders, beautiful copper and brass cases etched with these cool designs. If anyone’s thinking of getting me a house warming gift, one of these would be very much appreciated.


Next up, my reigning favourite exhibit… Platform. For me the atmosphere really makes the difference, a showroom setting or white tent partitioned into stands just doesn’t do it for me. Descending into this eerie basement you couldn’t help but feel excited. Iron gates once used to detain the prisoners of Clerkenwell now flung open to unveil the dank sells filled with products from a bunch of fresh faced and innovative designers. As with most of the exhibits, there were A LOT of lights, but it worked particularly well in the dark bare-brick tunnels. I really liked these industrial up-cycled designs using old piping by JamJar Lights, and I thought these cool signs by Archie Proudfoot were a really refreshing addition.


It was also great to see a bit of colour. Rubertellidesign returned with their wrapped string lights that remind me of making spirograph drawings as a kid, and this rainbow- lit corridor soon became my favourite passageway.


The best thing I saw in this exhibition wasn’t actually a product, but the way textile company WLE London displayed their work. Projected on the crumbling brick walls was this really cool video of the designer making her pieces. I found it mesmerizing to watch, it was so interesting to see how their products were made, a method that involves mathematically calculating the exact amount of material needed in order to have zero waste. It was just so different, what a great idea, and a great use of the space!


Another one of my favourite exhibits was Icon’s House of Culture. This year it was the turn of London’s famous clubbing destination, Fabric. I still haven’t been yet, so I was keen to check it out. I have to say I thought the futuristic toilets were pretty cool, although I felt I couldn’t really take pictures in there. I also loved this huge lighting installation by Catellani & Smith. The mixture of the industrial arched ceiling and such a luxe metal statement piece was really interesting to look at, a very cool alternative to the classic disco ball.


Throughout the exhibit I liked the clever use of mirrors and metals creating interesting shapes and optical illusions. Another highlight for me was the psychedelic curved carpet wall by Limited Edition, a piece so strangely satisfying that I think it would probably work quite well as a permanent installation, à la Berlin’s famous Berghain club.


The exhibitions were great but there was so much more to see! This year there was a clear focus on the art of making which, I was pleased to see, meant lots more demonstrations of various crafts. As a non-maker, makers fascinate me. To be able to create something so beautiful must be so amazing! At our stand our collaborator Sebastian was telling me about this theory by Richard Sennett that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become a skilled craftsman. It seemed a little excessive to me, surely it’s a skill you’re born with? The idea is, that it takes that long for it to become completely natural like a habit, almost mechanical. I have to say, watching the craftsmen who demonstrated around Clerkenwell working whilst chatting away really gave the theory some backbone, it was almost like breathing, they didn’t even have to really think about what they were doing. It was just incredible!


Whilst we stood watching this chap [re]make a chair from old discarded materials, we suddenly clocked the Airstream caravan on the other side of St Johns Square. It was really cool and surprisingly big inside, big enough for the ‘material museum’ Ultrafabrics had installed in it. And it just so happened that the team was handing out cold pints and free hot dogs. So we took the opportunity to chill out in the sun and chat to the other exhibitors…well it would’ve been rude not to!


Clerkenwell Design Week will always be a very special festival, it is the home of our first London showroom, where we launched our award winning Sebastian Cox Kitchen and, for me personally, where I spent my very first week at deVOL. We’ve already started planning next year and I already can’t wait to show you what we’ve got up our sleeves….

– You can check out Zoë’s blog all about our beautiful Sebastian Cox Kitchen display at this year’s festival here

– For more information about Clerkenwell Design Week, visit their website here

Need any help?

Cotes Mill
- 01509 261000

St. John's
- 020 3879 7900

Tysoe Street
- 020 3837 5900


Need any help? Please email:

Cotes Mill - 01509 261000

St. John's Square - 020 3879 7900

Tysoe Street - 020 3837 5900

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Cotes Mill, Nottingham Road, Cotes,
Loughborough, LE12 5TL.