SpaceInvader announces appointments and promotions to strengthen team

(UK) - SpaceInvader Founder John Williams has announced a number of new appointments and promotions at the Manchester-based interiors agency that will strengthen and boost the firm’s senior management team.

The changes involve the appointment and promotion of two new Associate Directors and five new Associates across the different parts of the studio.

"As we emerge properly out of the pandemic and face the future with a burgeoning order book," John Williams comments, ‘it was definitely the moment to make a strategic investment in the future of the agency by appointing a strong new level of senior management. These key appointments will help take the company forward as we continue expanding from our solid workplace design base and into more hospitality and developer-residential schemes. We are bringing new talent into the company, as well as rewarding and promoting some of the strongest players in the existing team, whilst also expanding their roles to help the studio stay ahead of the game on some of the major challenges the industry is facing, particularly around sustainability and technological change."

Former Associates Nathan Lindley and Sarah Dabbs have now been made Associate Directors, having first joined SpaceInvader in 2015 and 2019 respectively. Lindley's new responsibilities will include "overseeing the perfection of our technical delivery across all projects as well as nurturing some of our key client partnerships, such as Manchester City", whilst Dabbs' will cover "the management of processes and systems, including sustainability-reporting on projects, as well as providing an increased presence in the management of client relationships".

The five new Associates include Interior Designers Imogen Woodage, who joined SpaceInvader in 2015 and Regina Cheng, who came on board in 2017, as well as Graphic and Branding Designer Jenny Crossland, who joined in 2019 and Principal Designer Tad Kolakowski, who joined in 2020. "We are one of the only dedicated interiors agencies, certainly the only one we know of, with a dedicated Principal Designer on its books. This brings our in-house knowledge to another level," adds Williams.

The final new Associate is a new hire – Jon Waldron, an Interior Designer with a background in high-end residential and marine, who previously ran his own practice and will bring expertise in managing larger and more complex projects through to delivery.

Two new appointments at director level for Istoria Group

(UK) - Istoria Group, the Bristol-based collective of creative agencies, has announced two new Group-level appointments.

Silka Mitchell is the new Group Creative Director, while Bryn Isaac has been named Group Financial Director.

Istoria Group, which became a B Corp last autumn, is comprised of exhibition and events specialists Ignition, known for being sustainable pioneers and as recipients of The Queen’s Award for Enterprise in Sustainable Development 2020-25; hospitality and retail designers Phoenix Wharf, known for its work for regional operators such as Yeo Valley, The Bristol Loaf, Better Food and Spicer + Cole, as well as for national retailer SpaceNK and Apprentice winner Harpreet Kaur - and purposeful digital transformation experts Tiny Spark, whose virtual exhibit expertise during the pandemic helped Istoria Group survive the period’s challenging business conditions.

"Creative Director at Group level was an important role to fill and it was proving difficult to find the right candidate," says Sam Rowe, Istoria Group’s CEO. "We were delighted therefore to be introduced to Silka Mitchell, who brings not only top London agency experience as a former Director of both Brinkworth and Neu Architects but also broad international experience, delivering projects in the commercial and public realms across Europe, Western Asia and China. Silka is German-born and has lived and worked in both Germany and the UK. Her languages and multi-disciplinary, cross-sector experience will bring fresh energy and a new level of design sophistication to our studio."

Silka Mitchell adds: "My ambition is to help Istoria Group grow and develop an even stronger 3D identity, becoming known for creative originality and excellence. I look forward to unlocking the further potential of the talented studio and to bringing in the next generation of talent to complement my vision. I further hope to instil creative leadership, inspiration and motivation and improve processes and the working environment through creative intervention and dialogue. I’m really excited to be working with a business with such a wealth of knowledge, strong ethics and a truly sustainable ethos."

New Group Financial Director Bryn Isaac is Bristol-born and bred and brings great expertise in and knowledge of regional markets and business to his role. Isaac joins Istoria Group after eight years as Financial Director of We Are Fearless, an integrated marketing agency specialising in sports, culture and music sponsorship and partnerships. He has also worked with both start-up and group-owned agencies previously, including TBWA/Worldhealth, Momentum Worldwide and Given London. For Istoria Group, Isaac will provide the financial lead within the business across all the agencies in the Group and will manage financial planning covering both opportunity and risk.

"I aim to use my experience of young and dynamic businesses to update processes and modernise systems at Istoria Group to help all parts of the business become more efficient and productive," Bryn Isaac comments. "I’m looking forward to working alongside the leadership team to plan future strategic business growth, both operationally within the internal team and externally as the business grows in size."

"I am delighted that Bryn has joined us as Finance Director," adds Rowe. "Bryn’s relevant knowledge and experience are vital as we continue our ambitious plans to grow and develop sustainable creative solutions for clients. As a B Corp, our ambition is to grow in the right way – with the right clients and the right team in place. These two new senior appointments are a huge leap in the right direction."

[d]arc thoughts, Chelsom 2023

[d]arc media's Managing Editor Helen Ankers chats with Will Chelsom, Managing Director of Chelsom in the UK. The British lighting brand launched its new Edition 28 collection at Clerkenwell Design Week 2023, along with three new in-house sub-brands; Home, Restore and Studio C.

Nemo Lighting opens new showroom in Copenhagen

(Denmark) - Nemo Lighting opens a new showroom in Copenhagen on the occasion of 3daysofdesign and presents for the first time in the Nordics the entire 'Masters' collection, a unique selection of lamps designed by 20th-century masters such as Le Corbusier and Charlotte Perriand.

Nemo continues its developing trend by adding a showroom in order to display and interact with architects and professionals in the vibrant Copenhagen.

On display for the first time are a new design by Le Corbu, the Lampe Cabanon, and a unique project by Perriand, the Lampe de Bureau. The exhibition will also be complemented by a series of original sketches and historical drawings.

Considered one of the main precursors of Modern Architecture, Le Corbusier remains the most important figure in the complex landscape of 20th-century architecture, while Charlotte Perriand stands out for revisiting the concept of design and its aesthetic values, reviving contemporary design through timeless, iconic and authentic objects that bear witness to modern times.

The Masters collection, realised in collaboration with the Le Corbusier Foundation and the Charlotte Perriand Archives, is based on original sketches and unique hand-drawn prototypes. The collection showcases the extraordinary vision and design sensibility of these two figures in modern architecture and design.

LAMPE CABANON | Le Corbusier

A preview presentation of a previously unpublished project and a philological journey to comprehend the foundations of Le Corbusier's product philosophy.

In 1952, on the shores of the French Riviera, Le Corbusier built "Cabanon": the absolute archetype of essential living. The project, executed according to the rules of the Modulor, is found just a stone’s throw away from the sea and served as a refuge for the architect in his final years. Lampe Cabanon, named after the inspired microcosm, represents a symbol of architecture, design, production, and essential living. The lampshade, made from tracing paper that the architect used, was crafted from a wartime artefact - a mortar shell carrier - found on French beaches. The lamp, for which numerous sketches and designs exist, represents a moment of rebirth in the post-war world.

Tala achieves B Corp

(UK) - British lighting brand Tala achieves B Corp.

Tala scored 89.7 in its first B Impact assessment, exceeding the industry-certified average of 87.1 and becoming only the sixth UK-based lighting company to join the B Corp community. The score addresses the entirety of a business’ operations and covers five key impact areas: Governance, Workers, Community, Environment and Customers.

Tala was founded on the premise that "good design can help mitigate climate change". Since its inception in 2015, it have promoted the vital role that efficient, low-energy LED technology can play in the global move to zero carbon, and are proud to have played a small part in making this technology ubiquitous across the globe.

Looking ahead to the next step in its journey, the brand is working in harmony with its founding sustainability values, and can now collaborate and align with over 6000 like-minded B Corp businesses to offer greater clarity and engagement to the community.

There are currently more than 6,200 B Corps in 161 industries and 89 countries across the globe.

"B Corp is more than a stamp of approval. It is an objective framework for us to build a profitable business that works for both people and the planet. It gives us the language and tools to share our story with the wider world. It raises the bar for us to reach and it helps us to articulate our journey towards becoming the world’s definitive zero-carbon lighting brand. One light at a time," says the brand. "Becoming a B Corp wasn’t easy and the hard work doesn’t stop here. We look forward to achieving an even higher score when we re-certify in 2026."

Registration opens for London Design Fair

(UK) - Registration has now opened for London Design Fair, which is making its return on 21 – 24 September 2023 at the iconic Truman Brewery in the heart of Shoreditch.

New for its 2023 edition and consciously curated by stylist, writer and consultant Roddy Clarke, London Design Fair in collaboration with the UK’s sustainable business community Blue Patch, will present ‘Homes with a Heart’. The area will feature a sustainably styled home that demonstrates there is no compromise on aesthetics when opting for responsibly produced and manufactured products for the home.

The first edition of London Design Fair’s new initiative Design Alumni Pavilion will showcase and support emerging talent within the design community. The exclusive selection of new talents will consist of recent graduates who have recently begun their career within their chosen practice of design. Confirmed exhibitors include Ian Burnell, lamunlamai. Craftstudio, MESEME Studio, Jenna Gillinger, Coleccion Estudio , Samia Hilal and Emily Hatton Surface Design.

The sold-out British Craft Pavilion is an exhibition of high-end crafts, exclusively designed and produced in Great Britain. This exhibition will showcase products from a spectrum of disciplines, with a spotlight on the very best in collectable design. All those exhibiting in this area are presenting work that was designed and produced in the UK with a majority of British materials. Confirmed exhibitors include James Design, Barbara Gittings, Wallpaper by Deborah Bowness, Pamela Print, Remi Dubois Design, LUX Pottery, Jason Lock Wood Turning and Jane Cairns.

London Design Fair has garnered a reputation for being a leading destination during the Festival to discover cutting-edge work and inspiration from across the world. The 2023 edition will once again feature many international pavilions including Made in Sweden (supported by the Swedish Embassy) showcasing a collection of Swedish designers exhibiting work with strong sustainable credentials, including Stamuli and Swedish Ninja. Many other international collections are to be announced over the coming months.

The LDNdesign Talks Theatre will feature an inspiring line-up of industry figures and designers – curated with the support of the design community. LDNdesign Talks Theatre offers four days of talks and workshops specifically targeted at both trade and consumer audiences. The programme will feature sessions curated by partners including Architonic, darc magazine, TrendBible, Mix Interiors, Design Council, BIID, as well as exclusive designer talks and interactive workshops.

This year London Design Fair is also launching a new feature area named the Sustainable Materials Showcase. This is an exclusive selection of materials used and repurposed in an innovative way that contributes towards a global mission to better the environment. The Sustainable Materials Showcase gives London Design Fair exhibitors the chance to show their raw material, shine a spotlight on the material’s environmental credentials, and tell a story about the production process and thought process behind their finished product. Visitors will then be led back to the exhibitors' stand space to see the finished and more polished product.

Register here (tickets are free for trade visitors) here.

Robert Sonneman

Sonneman - A Way of Light celebrates its 60th anniversary, with Robert Sonneman still at the helm leading the studio to success.

darc’s editor, Sarah Cullen, sat down with Sonneman to briefly discuss his history with the brand, but to also discover how the world of lighting and indeed business has evolved over the last six decades.

Born and raised in Manhattan, NYC, Robert Sonneman was fortunate to experience a blend of both public and private education. “Even when very young, if I chose not to show up at school on a winter day, I would often seek the warmth of one of several museums that were accessible along the route,” he reminisces.

Sonneman was also lucky enough to be surrounded by art as a child, and actively encouraged by his father to seek out inspiration in everyday life. “I got to grow up around art,” he says. “Encouraged by my father to explore my early interest in art, I took weekly classes at the art students league as an early teenager. I was always building something, from model aeroplanes to boats to bicycles. But my models were not built to the instructions, even when they were available. Somehow, I always sought out another approach and wanted to build it differently. They often didn’t work the way they were intended to, but I still wanted to do it another way and I guess I still do.”

Sonneman had a brief spell with the Navy before leaving at the age of 19. It was at this point he first found his way to the world of lighting. “I answered an ad for a job in a little shop on Madison Avenue selling European modern lighting and home accessories. The name of the shop was George Kovacs. I was the only employee and when I wasn’t selling or sweeping up, I was figuring out how to make something that a customer might have described from something they liked in the store but wanted it to be different in some way.

“George introduced me to European modernism in architecture and design. His introduction to the straightforward approach to the modern aesthetic and the integrity of minimalism immediately clicked with me and became foundational to my life’s focus and point of view.”

After graduating from Long Island University a few years later, Sonneman opened his first factory, at the age of 22. From there, he took Kovacs to market selling the modern lighting pieces he created. “One of my first designs was the Orbiter, on exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art and when people told me “You’re a great designer,” I thought to myself what’s a designer?  But as I pursued my creative path little by little, I realised that a designer is what I was becoming.”

Despite his early successes, Sonneman has gathered a wealth of knowledge and experience through various job roles. “My career has been varied and challenged through several changes, stages, and iterations of experience.   

“Almost everything that I have done I did because I didn’t know that I couldn’t.

“Sonneman - A Way of Light was founded because of events that coalesced around a simple idea. When George Kovacs sold his company, I owned the patents and legal rights to the products that I designed for him.

“In 2003, at the urging of the sales reps to go back into manufacturing and at my reluctance to do so, I called David Littman, my long-time friend who immediately came to my studio. In that period, I was designing and licensing products for about six to eight other companies and felt that I would do the same with his companies. David, Sonny Park (Executive Chairman), and I sat in the office to discuss another possible license deal with Hudson Valley. After only a few minutes of David’s thought, he looked at me across the room and said: “Robert I will do this deal with you on one condition and on one condition only: We will manufacture these designs under the Robert Sonneman name, and we will do it as 50-50 partners. I looked across the room at Sonny for her assessment and approval and when she indicated her willingness to go forward, we agreed and launched Contemporary Visions, which matured into Sonneman - A Way of Light.”

Looking back at some of the more significant moments in his career, Sonneman struggles to select standouts as there have been so many. “There were so many significant moments along the odyssey of my career that it is hard, in reflection, to single out which were more important than the others. Sometimes small decisions or happenings led to significant outcomes that proved to be larger, grander, and more impactful than I could have imagined or planned for. But without a doubt, there have been critical inflexion points that changed our destiny. One experience that changed our trajectory was in November 2011. I was sitting in the studio conference room with my partner Sonny and with Nicolas, Vice President of product development. Gazing at the renderings tacked on the wall of the new products that I had designed and were ready for release for a January show, I said: “This line stinks. It’s just not good, not important, and not the best we can do and it’s my fault”.

“I worked through that weekend reimagining what lighting should be about and what was important enough to bring to market and the realisation that it was not about decorative configurations but rather about what we could achieve with the new technology of LED. It changed everything. We had to become a technology-driven company.

“I did the conceptual drawings and a week later the solid works models were in the factory. Nicolas and Christian, our engineer, were on a plane to make the concepts work and to build them in time for our January show. They did it and we opened to the “oohs and aahs” of our dazzled customers. The very first sale of our new design was from a national department store that placed an order for one million dollars.

“The refusal to accept mediocrity and the courage to admit and accept responsibility for who we were and what we should be could have easily been lost in the pressure of the moment and the acceptance of the mundane.

“The entire direction of the company changed, and we began to build out our team and our vision for the future toward a single objective: Illumination from the art of Technology.”

Sonneman has been fortunate to witness and play a role in the changes of product design over the last few decades, witnessing the evolution of LED technology and manufacturing efficiency.

“When I began designing lighting products in the 1960s, lighting was looked upon as an accessory to the interior design and less as a focal point defining the utility of a space. The creative process during that time was all manually executed, supported by hand-drawn sketch concepts and mechanical drawings. Even our study models were hand-crafted in metals, wood, and paper.

“In its early stages, designing lighting was often the contrivance of creating decorative or modern forms, to support shades and glass shapes, to hold electric light bulbs in various positions. The functional side of lamp and fixture design was defined by the target markets of the client. The idea of providing an illuminating object was much more about its aesthetic appearance than about achieving lighting performance per illuminating standards.

“In my years of designing home products and small appliances, the focus was to provide functionality repackaged to project a technical or performance advancement. Make it more modern, make it sleeker and make it look like the latest in innovation in the small appliance space.

“As a modernist, I designed furniture in the context of an architecturally modern period or school, i.e., Mackintosh, Bauhaus, Prairie, or Functionalism to name a few. It was an interesting experience that I enjoyed but it did not hold my attention with the same passion and inquisitiveness that I experience designing lighting. It is a marriage of art and design with the innovation of the new frontier of technology.

“Today we continue to draw quick sketches in sketchbooks but immediately go to 2D and 3D CADD to develop and visualise the creative concepts modelled with details with 3D printing and other digital renderings and modelling.

“I am a modernist driven by simplicity and functionality designed from an intelligent point of view. My style is rooted in the pathos of modern functionality of the mid-20th century and has grown with the evolution of modern architecture and design through the last six decades. I have remained committed to my minimal approach and to executing design with simplicity and the integrity of purpose. As Modernism evolved and morphed into genres of style, my vision and my approach expanded but I still adhere to the core principles of Functionalism. Certainly, technology has altered what is now possible but if anything, I believe that it has allowed us to execute innovative design with even more functionality and simplicity.”

When asked what some of the most frustrating elements of working with design are, Sonneman describes any creative process as “driven by the passion of the creator engaged in the struggle to innovate creatively.”

“Imagining a vision for a specific purpose or from the abstract space of experience always challenges the creator to think differently. Design does not usually appear in its resolved state but rather in stages of development that the creator moves through to evolve as an approach to realising a vision.

“With the literally thousands of designs that I have created over the past 60+ years, I have developed an approach to the process that I have found effective but certainly no less challenging. I don’t look at a reference of another competitive product while I am trying to conceptualise a project. I look at other categories of other products constantly but when I sit to draw, I want to see nothing but a white page and I let my memory and my imagination bring lines to paper. There are lots of times that are frustrating and unresolved but there are also times when new imagery emerges from my imagination. I always seek a point of view and when I find it, the rest is an easy exercise in developing and resolving that approach.

“Advancing technology in many disciplines will change the development and experience of lighting product design. Integration into the architectural utility, form and design will continue to evolve the unity of lighting as a system within the presence of building environments. Conceptually, the imagination of the built environment will include lighting as a dynamic component to the environmental experience of a space.

“More so than ever, you will see and experience what you light.”

Sonneman believes that technological developments, alongside science, can be enablers of art and design. “Technology has enabled a dramatic shift offering a new universe of imagination and possibilities.

“Electronically generated illumination is a wave in the spectrum of energy and as such we can control, direct, and manage illumination as a component in a broad-based integrated system of energy.

“Coupled with the performance, efficiency, size and optical options, technology has changed the design, application, and utility of illumination.

“If there is a downside to technology impacting design, we have not found it. All the applications that we have applied to the design of our LED products have proven superior in performance. We have found technology helps us expand and improve our product design and development. If we use high-quality diodes and high-quality controls, we have found the shift to LEDs a positive enabler of our product offering.”

When asked whether the lighting industry has moved in a direction he anticipated over the years, Sonneman references the developments in international manufacturing. “In the 1960s, lighting was less about illumination technology and more about the fabrication of materials like metals, glass, ceramics, and stone. Lighting was locally made in factories with manufacturing resources all available in the New York area. As regulations like OSHA took over, and labour unions took hold, the costs of operations and materials rose past the market’s acceptance. Manufacturers began to move west to California for Mexican labour and to European manufacturers in Spain, Italy, Hungary, and Poland. As time passed, Taiwan became a manufacturing centre with great skills and low prices. Over the next 20 years, manufacturing began to move to Hong Kong and then to mainland China where it is now centred with extensive facilities and a huge supporting infrastructure. We are now on the cusp of seeing the potential for change again, but the lighting industry has yet to locate into a next collective region specifically and has spread out into numerous locations in Asia and around the globe.

“Today, lighting is about packaging technology for performance, efficiency, and integration into building systems. Form factors have changed to accommodate technology and creative potential has expanded in shape and scale with new materials and new fabricating processes.”

The business world has also evolved drastically over the course of Sonneman’s career, so much so that he cannot summarise it in its entirety. “The profound changes in the world of business over the last 60 years is too overwhelmingly huge in scope for me to address but I can certainly identify some of the evolutionary changes in doing business in our segment of the lighting industry.

“Aside from the overarching transactional digital technology that is universal to all business, lighting’s changes occurred in all the areas from conception to manufacturing and from sales and distribution through a local independent dealer network to online access to the world’s lighting products.

“Six decades ago, most lighting manufacturers fabricated their products in-house. Today, there are some who still do but many more that use foreign facilities to build their products. Lighting now exists in a global market, accessible online.

“Professionally, educationally, and creatively, we have grown and evolved as an industry to encompass new insight, technology, illuminating capabilities and applications that are expanding the world of lighting across new frontiers.

“Despite the universally dramatic changes and advancements, many things about the lighting industry remain in place and are consistently similar to the practices of past generations. We still rely on people to work with and build relationships with showrooms, architects, lighting designers, specifiers, and national clients. Great people with product knowledge, experience, talent, and commitment are still the essential element of success within the lighting industry.”

“Lighting is universally essential, creatively challenging, complex, and infinitely interesting. My father’s advice was “Find something that you love to do and do it well. Allow your passion to drive your ambition. It will become your life’s work and define your identity.”

ICFF + Wanted Design returns with new highlights

(USA) - Under the direction of co-brand directors, Odile Hainaut and Claire Pijoulat, ICFF + WantedDesign Manhattan returns to the Javits Center May 21-23 with a more cohesive and interactive event, better attendee experiences, and newly designed spaces.

Some of the highlights include:

Designed Spaces:

  • NEW: At the Crossroads of American Design: Celebrating the Established and the Emerging. Created by David Rockwell and his firm Rockwell Group and Editor/Co-Curator Pei-Ru Keh, The Crossroads is the new heart and showpiece of the fairs this year. This playful and immersive environment is an ode to two pillars of Americana - the great outdoors and the American home.
  • NEW: Welcome Area designed by Moooi
  • NEW: Restaurant featuring products from members of Be Original Americas and Mecho Shade
  • NEW: WDM Café x Caesarstone with the support of Heller, Fyrn, Tala, Turf, and Mohawk
  • Oasis: The location of intimate panel discussions and furnished by Normann Copenhagen, FilzFelt, and Kasthall.
  • Wanted Interiors Lounge featuring David Weeks Studio, Kasthall, USM, and Ligne Roset, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the iconic Togo.

ICFF + WantedDesign Manhattan Talks:

The programming for the 2023 Talks includes design leaders and innovators such as Snøhetta, Patricia Urquiola, David Rockwell, Young Huh, Sasha Bikoff, Giulio Cappellini, Jerry Helling, Jamie Derringer, Karim Rashid, Ayse Birsel, Todd Bracher, Mavis Wiggins, and 2022 Designer of the Year Kia Weatherspoon, among many others.

Over the three days, nearly 100 designers, changemakers, and emerging talent will cover topics such as the spirit of American design, the power of mentorship and collaboration across generations, the metaverse and interior design, ethical design, diversity in design, trends that will shape the design industry, ECO Solidarity designers share their insights and work, the Emerging Designer Showcase, Look Book Live, innovation and original design, a conversation with the ICFF Interiors Awards 2023 Designer of the Year and so much more.

Chelsom to launch new collection at CDW

(UK) - Following their 75th anniversary in 2022, the team at Chelsom announce its brand-new collection, Edition 28, which launches on May 23rd 2023 at Clerkenwell Design Week.

The product launch incorporates a complete makeover of its existing lighting collection as well as a brand new website, new sub-brands and an accompanying new catalogue. The new collections are made up of an array of different decorative lighting styles, designed specifically with global hospitality, marine and residential interiors projects in mind.

Designed entirely in-house by Robert and Will Chelsom, the new collections will be on show at Clerkenwell Design Week within an exclusive and private exhibition space. This will be the first time Chelsom has exhibited at this London design event.

Clerkenwell Design Week adds to strong line-up

(UK) – Multidisciplinary artist and designer, Yinka Ilori, is the latest name added to the exciting line-up for Clerkenwell Design Week 2023, joining the likes of Sebastian Cox, and Nipa Doshi of Doshi Levien.

The 12th edition of the festival returns on 23-25 May with its biggest programme yet, featuring a total of more than 600 industry events.

Ilori has teamed up with Domus to launch his debut tile collection – Yinka Ilori x Domus, which will launch at CDW. To mark the occasion, Ilori will present a window display installation demonstrating the creative potential of the new collection. The installation will be on view at Domus Clerkenwell on Great Sutton Street.

Elsewhere, Sebastian Cox is launching his first lounge chair made in British-grown wood and upholstered in entirely natural, sustainable, and non-toxic materials. Nipa Doshi, meanwhile, will close the talks programme, Conversations at Clerkenwell, on 25 May (15.00), speaking to Kaye Preston, Editor of OnOffice, about her recent projects and the significance of colour in design across a client base that varies from furniture and accessories to textiles.

In addition to some of the best names from the industry, this year’s festival welcomes more than 300 design brands and makers exhibiting across 11 temporary venues and six design destinations.

Together with a network of over 130 local showrooms, they offer architects and specifiers, interior designers and the general public alike the opportunity to experience everything from new furniture and lighting to kitchens and bathrooms, materials and surfaces, decorative accessories, and more.

A range of decorative lighting products will be on show in a dedicated exhibition located within the subterranean House of Detention, a former Victorian prison. While Spark & Bell will launch a handmade, long bone China shade named Kinvara, Studio Lloyd, a Cape Town-based lighting studio led by designer Ashlee Lloyd, will exhibit at CDW for the first time – with some of its custom-made crochet statement sculptures including Amoeba and Sayari.

Also new to the festival is Pablo, the brainchild of industrial designer Pablo Pardo. The brand will showcase Totem, a new LED lighting system of blown opal glass shades designed around a modular platform – alongside other pieces such as T.O and Bola Lantern.

From Spain, Aromas will present its newly launched ranges, Elma by Jose Fornas and Elli by JF Sevilla; while Bioo, founded by entrepreneur Pablo Vidarte, will introduce its award-winning Bioo Lux, the world’s first lamp that can be switched on and regulated through human contact with a living plant.

Visitors to Light will also find a variety of decorative and architectural lighting designs from the likes of Lladro, Jonathan Coles, Abalon, Tom Kirk, Studio Haran, Franklite and Erco, among others.

Meanwhile, exhibiting in both Light and British Collection, Curiousa will show its new Wave chandelier made up of five hand-formed glass vessels threaded onto beams of light. Chelsom, new to the festival and one of the show sponsors, is set to unveil its brand-new collection, Edition 28, in Old Sessions House – following its 75th anniversary in 2022.

The 12th edition of Clerkenwell Design Week takes place across EC1, London from 23 – 25 May 2023.

Sabine Marcelis & Henrik Most

Sabine Marcelis has launched her latest range of lighting and accessories in a collaboration with Ikea. Varmblixt is a range that features decorative lighting prominently, as well as glassware, tables, rugs and accessories.

Henrik Most, Creative Leader at Ikea, and Dutch designer Sabine Marcelis give darc further insight into the new collection and their collaboration.

Most has been working with Ikea since 2010 but has a rich past in the design world. After completing a master’s in Art in Design from Copenhagen University, he went on to work as a design curator and lecturer in design. He also has experience working as a cultural journalist and theatre dramaturge.

As Creative Leader at Ikea, Most works on the design, development, and collaborations for the brand. “I am inspired by contemporary art and design and connecting with people through new mediums. I have led previous collaborations including the Art Event, the launch of Markerad with the late Virgil Abloh, and the most recent collection with Marimekko, Bastua,” he says.

“I love contemporary art that has a strong link to what’s going on in our world, particularly regarding important cultural and social topics that touch and affect people. I’m curious about art that discusses these questions in an open and interactive manner. Modern design and architecture are major inspirations for me.

“I was inspired by the Ikea brand’s strong social vision, which really wants to make things better and fundamentally improve people’s lives, so that a better life– no matter who they are, where they live, and how they want to live – is attainable.”

Every day is different in Most’s field of work. “It’s a great aspect of working for a dynamic brand like Ikea. My days range between meetings with colleagues, to looking at prototypes for upcoming product launches, and everything in-between,” he explains.

When asked about Ikea’s designer collaborations, Most describes Ikea as a “curious company”. “[Being] open to new ideas and siding with different people in collaborations is a way to learn, develop and make things better for the everyday life at home,” he says. “When we collaborate, it always starts with a topic, something we are curious about, a challenge or a problem we want to solve. Then, we look at who we could explore this with. We expect these collaborations to be a journey of new learnings, sharing knowledge, exploring together and that in the end, we come up with something new and useful, which responds to people’s needs.”

Marcelis first worked with Ikea as part of the Art Event Collection. This event saw Ikea invite five visionaries working across art and design to create works of art that double-up as useful household objects.

“From our initial collaboration, I learned a lot about her style expression and form language,” says Most. “At the same time, we were looking to make some shifts in the lighting range to make products more emotionally in-tune with our spaces. From there, we were inspired to continue working with Sabine to explore the possibilities in creating the Varmblixt collection.

“We have an entire business area at Ikea of Sweden (Global headquarters responsible for design and development) that is responsible for the lighting. Anna Granath, who is the Range and Design Manager for Lighting, was heavily involved alongside her entire team of talented product developers and engineers.”

When Marcelis was first approached by Most to collaborate, her initial response was one of hesitation. “I got a phone call one day from Henrik asking if we can work together on this collection. At first, I was wondering whether this was a good idea. Do I really have something to bring to this kind of project? In the end, the reason I really dove in was because it was such a nice opportunity to broaden the availability of my design,” she explains. “At the end of the day, my limited-edition pieces are very expensive because they take so much time, and the materials and the processes I use. I really wanted to explore what happens on the reverse side of that, in the more mass-production world of Ikea, without losing any of the quality.”

The collection took two years in total to go from design sketches to prototypes, to products on shelves in Ikea stores. For Marcelis, who is known for creating collectable design pieces that are limited edition, unique, and site-specific, this was a new challenge in order to translate that into products that can be placed in multiple homes.

“That was definitely a big thing for me, to create objects - not only lighting - that are really stripped back to the essence and void of any decorative elements. It’s very much about letting the light be the hero of these pieces and using very minimal materials but with maximum effect,” she says. “[They are] items that have my design language or signature on them, but at the same time, they’re anonymous enough that they can be at home in many types of interiors, which have different aesthetics and scales.

“For the lighting pieces, I normally get to work with materials that are very lush with their own characteristics like cast resins and layered glass. But these materials don’t make sense to use in a mass-production. It was clear from the very beginning that these items wouldn’t have the luxury of relying on the lusciousness of the material to carry the object. So, all the lighting is either made from glass or metal.”

Most adds to this: “From a sustainability point of view, it was not solely to rely on the lusciousness of materiality, but to strip everything back to essentials and with a singular gesture to make it gain its desirability.

“Sustainability is a pillar within the democratic design philosophy at Ikea. It is part of looking at the entire value chain to ensure we design to fit an optimised production process from when products are created, shipped and available at the retail touchpoints.”

One of the things Marcelis was really looking forward to was the interpretations of her pieces in peoples’ homes. “It’s going to be very interesting to see how people will apply these designs in their homes. It was really important for me to also empower the customer to be creative with these objects.”

One of the lighting pieces that demonstrates this flexibility in curation is the “doughnut” lamp. Marcelis clarifies that it is inspired by her love of the shape, and not the food. This lamp can be used as both a table and wall light. “It was quite a task to be able to allow it to be both,” she explains. One of the challenges was ensuring the wall mounting system was not visible when it’s sitting on a table.

Speaking of the doughnut, Marcelis explains her love for the round shape further: “I think it’s just such a beautiful, complete shape. It has an interior curve and an exterior curve. It’s also infinite; there’s no beginning and no end. I love that because of this interesting shape you can really highlight different material qualities. For the Ikea collection, I turned one into a bowl. It’s transparent so you can see through into that interior curve, and because it’s sliced in half, it becomes a vessel. At the same time, the same shape is also a light. I really love to highlight the beauty of materials by repeating form language.”

Another piece that highlights the collection’s versatility is the wall mirror, presenting itself as a usable wall accessory and sculptural light. The mirror lamp consists of a single sheet of glass that has been partially mirrored and tinted in a warm copper-like tone. “The light is placed behind it, which creates this depth when looking through the non-tinted, non-reflective element through the light. At the same time, it’s also interacting with its surroundings because of its reflective front. I love that tension of an object that is extremely simple yet has so many layers because of its materiality,” she says.

Duality is an overall important theme that Marcelis worked into the Varmblixt collection. “I think it’s an absolutely wasted opportunity whenever lighting is designed, which is not really beautiful and sculptural when it’s not in use because you’re going have to have it visible in any case,” she explains. “So, when it’s turned off, it should also be as interesting as when it’s turned on. It’s such a nice opportunity to be creative within that.” Referencing the white circular wall light, Marcelis describes it as a “sculptural element that is activated when the light is turned on”.

“Just like the mirror, it also has a single surface but when you look at them, it has the illusion of a folded surface. That’s purely because there is a difference in colour or a gradient in colour happening on it, which is as if there is light shining on it. So, even the illusion of light still activates the flat surface in that sense.”

Most elaborates on Marcelis’ points, adding: “As part of a long-term goal, Ikea is looking to encourage a shift in the perception of lighting as simply functional to lighting as emotional. It is designed to inspire a new interest in how light can transform the look, feel and atmosphere of our homes.

“Lighting in general is a fundamental aspect of the home and for Ikea, we want to continuously design with purpose. Lighting has always been and will continue to be a core part of the Ikea range.”

During the prototyping phase, Marcelis describes herself as being very “strict” on the Ikea team. “I have to give them so much credit,” she reflects. “We kept prototyping and prototyping until those details were up to standard. I think the design process started in February 2021, and it moved very quickly.”

Marcelis had assumed that from her initial presentation of designs to the Ikea team that approximately 20% would be selected. “That’s not at all what happened. The Ikea team accepted all the ideas that I proposed and now what’s available in the stores is 95% of that presentation. There was a lot of great enthusiastic energy to make those products come to life.” Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, a lot of the prototyping journey was completed remotely for Marcelis, with designs and 3D prints being posted back and forth and lots of good communication. Marcelis is, all things considered, “super-proud” of the end results.

“I think all the products are beautiful, with really well-considered details and smart and effortless mounting systems. They’re packaged in a crazy way as well. That’s something I still cannot get my head around. The chandelier, which takes up a significant amount of space when it’s hung on the ceiling, flat packs down into basically the size of two pizza boxes. So, hats off to the packaging team.”

Marcelis’ overall aim for this new collection was for it to be timeless. “I think my worst nightmare would be if looking back at this collection five years from now people think “Oh, that’s so 2022”, or “Let’s get rid of it and re-do the home with something more modern,” she says. “The pieces are super minimalistic, and I hope that these are designs that can fit in a student’s home but continue to work in the home for that same student when they’re an elderly citizen. Maybe the only trend if you will or change of lifestyle [we’ve observed] that we considered [when designing] is the fact that people are spending more time in their home. So, these objects are really there to enhance that experience.”

Trying to answer an impossible question, Marcelis chooses the doughnut lamp as one of her favourites from the Varmblixt collection, as it was one of the most difficult to produce. “It was really tricky to be able to get a nice equal cover of colour that looked great when the piece is not turned on. But when you turn on the light it needs to give a beautiful glow and a good colour. That took a lot of prototyping to get right, so it’s just so satisfying to see it now - I’m so happy that it worked out.

“I cannot wait to see how people incorporate the pieces into their homes. I think that’s going to be the most rewarding part of this whole project. I love it when people tag me if they have a piece in their house. This collection is so open to interpretation.”

For Most, he too is a fan of the doughnut shape, but particularly the green glass bowls. “To put it simply, it is a collection that celebrates art and design,” he says. “My favourite pieces are the signature bowls - I love how the natural light reflects the colours and the overall versatility of the item.

“We’re all excited that Varmblixt has launched and has been embraced by many people, which is a fantastic feeling.”

Wayfinding the Future

John Williams, Founding Director of Manchester-based interior design studio SpaceInvader, discusses the future of hospitality design and the role lighting has to play in it.

For interior designers, lighting is one of our greatest tools, perhaps nowhere more so than in hospitality design, where lighting’s ability to conjure a particular mood, tone or atmosphere is unparalleled. Light, the core element of any artist or photographer’s craft, is certainly one of ours too when it comes to ensuring a scheme has impact, not only when a customer enters a space but also from the outside too, acting as a beacon to draw customers in, aiding wayfinding or serving instantly to establish the personality of a brand or offer.

What are the main trends in hospitality lighting right now? Well, we could talk about micro-trends, such as using layered lighting with three or more types of lighting at once, for example, but we’d rather pull the lens a little further back and focus on some of the challenges we’re facing currently, as well as looking to the future and particularly to the major driver of sustainability.

In the hotel sector, we’re seeing increasing client demand for artful ways to strip back, re-purpose and be imaginative with existing buildings and interior fabric. The result will be that lighting design plays an increased role as a theatrical element in the form of sculptural pieces or installations, with simple and adaptable wall and flooring surface textures playing host to exciting and controllable dramatic lighting, more akin to what we see in event spaces.

The converse major trend is about less, rather than more, and relates to upcycling. Hoteliers, hospitality operators and developers - at the sharp end of ‘selling’ spaces to consumers - are looking to speed up their sustainability credentials and reporting. When it comes to refurbishing an existing space, the onus particularly falls to interior designers, while we in turn look to consultants and suppliers for help. Would it be unfair to say that lighting design and manufacture - beyond the easy win of using LEDs - is one of the disciplines that has responded least to this to date? Flooring manufacturers are definitely the pioneers in our industry, followed by those producing wall coverings and textiles, with both furniture and lighting design lagging behind.

We still want to bring new and bespoke elements to our projects of course, so we’re not talking about the simple, automatic reuse of existing lighting. Could lighting manufacturers instead collect pieces stripped out of old projects and give us more reuse options that way? Or could we alter the lighting temperature and brightness on existing fittings via new control elements that allow for increased flexibility? We’d also like to see much more information supplied on the materials and processes used in manufacturing each fitting, as well as hard pledges on end-of-life recycling.

In terms of energy usage, great advances have been made in daylight-balancing lighting, which emits lower lighting levels near windows and prevents a space from being over-lit, as well as colour temperature control fittings. Cost, however, remains a huge barrier with the latter, with these types of lights one of the first to be value-engineered out of schemes. Could the lighting design industry help make these solutions more cost-effective and also provide research on long-term cost benefits, to help us win the argument on client investment?

As designers, one of our greatest bugbears in hospitality spaces is where the food and atmosphere don’t match. Think of a tapas bar where the lighting is cool and white, for example, instead of warm and rich. A great recent example of a scheme really getting it right in terms of both the type of food/drink being served and a different kind of sustainability - business longevity - is Foodwell/Firefly in Manchester, whose offer transitions from Foodwell - a bright, soft and airy Californian brunch vibe in the daytime - to Firefly, a glamourous cocktail bar, at night. This is achieved mostly through lighting and music, without compromising on two very different atmospheres.

As a studio, we’re also always on the lookout for the cross-fertilisation of ideas across sectors. The shifts in the post-pandemic workplace saw the design of offices moving ahead of the game, certainly in the provision of zonal variety within a single space to accommodate not only different personality types but addressing neurodiversity and age inclusivity too. Lighting is a key element here. We’d like to see more variety of lighting by both interior designers and lighting designers within single hospitality spaces to address different audiences beyond the median or generic.

Integrated lighting and materiality is a really interesting area right now, especially with the possibilities afforded by 3D printing. We recently created a feature wall in a wellness space, for example, which interacts with light settings - particularly the colours of dusk at the end of the day, when the effect is mesmeric. The relationship between light and materiality is another area we’d love some industry help on. When we pull together a palette for a hospitality scheme, we use natural lighting to get the truest colours. Ideally, we’d like to represent exact lighting conditions to show how materials will look in the final space, relative to the proximity and temperature of proposed lighting, especially when we’re creating CGIs. This is very difficult to achieve digitally. It would be amazing to have a physical testing space – perhaps in a showroom location? – where we could test various different material samples under a number of lighting conditions. Is that a realistic request or will we have to await programmable lighting in order to alter and refine lighting on site to achieve true fidelity to our original vision?

When we’re busy with projects, we tend to be too close to the task at hand to do more than select the best lighting currently available. It’s great sometimes to step back and think about future needs too, seeking out possibilities for improvement, evolution and innovation. It’s always a conversation. Let’s continue to talk!
Image: Pip Rustage