Clerkenwell Design Week Highlights

June 6, 2024

Now into its 13th year, Clerkenwell Design Week boasted a 20% increase in registrations, solidifying its position as one of Europe’s leading design festivals. Despite the wet weather and grey skies, thousands from the design community flocked to the EC1 neighbourhood to uncover the latest innovations and trends in design. Clerkenwell has become a key destination for the lighting industry, where brands meet designers amidst the highest concentration of architectural firms in the area. It’s no surprise that notable brands like J.Adams&Co, Bert Frank, and Zero have established showrooms here. At [d]arc media, we anticipate this event each year, from hosting our lighting design talks to exploring showrooms and discovering new products. Below, our online Editor, Ellie Walton, shares her curated highlights from this year’s show. 

 Bert Frank’s elevated range 

With 160 showrooms in the area, Clerkenwell is a specifier’s dream. Thankfully, our focus was on the lighting brands—the most glamorous of all design sectors. The day began perfectly with a breakfast invitation to Bert Frank’s showroom on Farringdon Road, where a stunning brunch spread awaited us. Above the table hung a beautiful octagonal chandelier finished in antique brass, casting a soft, warm glow. This chandelier is a reimagined version of Bert Frank’s Colt Pendant Triple light, featuring a textured black spine holding three cast brass grills with slotted opal diffusers. 

Bert Frank’s approach to showroom launches this year embraced a philosophy of “in with the old, out with the new.” The showcased products were from existing collections but with slight modifications, such as new sizes for the Bide alabaster wall lamps, allowing for various configurations and bespoke options, and added details such as decorative leather on the Rinato stands. These updates came from the company’s collaboration with creative director Silvia Doria, who has infused the existing ranges to give a feminine edge. 

Zero Lighting debut pieces 

The Swedish company Zero debuted a new wall lamp named Sprinkle, designed for its delicate diffusion of light. This metal wall lamp features three-layered discs available in bespoke colours; the display model was presented in orange tone, casting a natural, warm glow onto the wall—hence the name “Sprinkle.” 

Also showcased in the showroom was the Curve Cluster ceiling lighting, designed by Front Studio. The design features three sprouting handles resembling tree branches. Two styles were displayed: one with a copper finish and glass bauble shade, and the other entirely metal in a dark forest green finish. Sebastian Gill, Export manager and Lightering Designer, at Zero explained that multiple lights can be purchased and configured together to create large, bespoke centrepieces. The designers at Front, a Swedish company, emphasise sustainability, ensuring that the Curve Cluster is durable and practical enough to stand the test of time. 

Fritz Fryer debut pieces 

It would be hard to go to Clerkenwell and not drop by the Fritz Fryer showroom with its glorious glowing store front beckoning passes by to come in. It was a delight seeing the showroom in its glory and plenty of exclusive products on show for the CDW visitors. The standout piece had to be the Parlour Linear Pendant light made in collaboration with Inglias Hall Kitchen makers. The pendant’s industrial style stood out among the glittery glass pendants, slender shape that emits a surprisingly soft and ambient light. Engineered completely from brass with a slim piece running underneath the light to creating the right amount of bright and warm glow.

Lighting Exhibition product highlights 

Clerkenwell’s House of Detention truly glowed in a warm beacon of light over the three-day festival. Showcasing an array of stunning brands, including some good friends of the magazine. One of the familiar faces that immediately caught my eye was Nordlux, situated situated at the entrance of the Victorian prison, drawing in groups of visitors to look at its  Aludra garden lights. In the decorative lighting section, sleek and contemporary outdoor lighting is hard to pull off, making Nordlux’s collection stand out. The Aludra lights create beautiful light and shadow effects from its glass fluted structure, explaining why the product garnered so much attention. 

Another standout at the show was Spark and Bell’s innovative Onyx wall and pendant lights. Responsibly made and purpose-driven, these beautiful fixtures are crafted from surplus CD cases rescued from landfill and transformed into a lustrous, marble-like material in the company’s Brighton workshop. Founder and designer Emer Gillespie was inspired by her neighbour, a local record dealer, who provided her with unused and broken CDs. This creative reuse not only showcases stunning design but also emphasises what responsible design and local craftsmanship can achieve. 

Elsewhere, Fabbian’s cell caught my eye with sparkling light emerging from its doorway. The reflective light came from the Amulent Pendant, made of clear crystal with hammered edges and a painted brushed metal in gold, rose gold and anthracite. Designed by Bernhardt & Vella who spent time studying the unique effects that LED light produces when penetrating a polished cast crystal plate to create this unique downlight and twinkling affect. 

Light and Sound installation  

Tucked away at the back of the House of Detention, visitors were treated to a captivating light-sound installation from London-based artist Ben Cullen Williams, titled ‘Grid System’. This piece delves into the impact of grids in physical spaces, immersing viewers in evolving light patterns that map grids onto them, making them part of the installation. The work resonated deeply with its environment, a historical site known for entrapment, as two rotating scanning lights shone through mesh metal, casting fragmented shadows reminiscent of lighthouses and searchlights. Collaborating with musician Harrison Cargill, the installation incorporated soundscapes recorded across the UK, manipulated into sonic grids, which added to its eerie and transportive atmosphere. This striking installation stood in stark contrast to the decorative displays in the rest of the building, offering a haunting and immersive experience. 

[d]arc thoughts programme 

In its third iteration at Clerkenwell [d]arc thoughts returned hosting three-days of lighting focused content on subjects such as luxury lighting, sustainability and the future of hospitality design with Design LSM’s Hollay Hallam. The series also included Q&A sessions with interior designers Monique and Staffan Tollgard of Tollgard Design Group; Anna Burles and Chris Trotman of Run for the Hills; and Samuel Edmonds of HLW who all took a closer look at projects and design trends. Additional speakers that took the stage included lighting designers from Rock & Soar; Into Lighting; Nulty+; Michael Grubb Studio; and Equation Lighting Design, as well as interior designers, Dara Huang of DH Liberty and OIga Alexeeva of Black & Milk. There was also a special collaboration with the ILP for the latest instalment of the ‘How to be brilliant series’ – where designers Melissa Byers, Abbie Hill, and Anna Freiesleben of Michael Grubb Studio discussed how to curate a concept and how to break the rules when approaching to lighting.   

Check out the full talks programme, which can be watched on our Vimeo page, here: 

Clerkenwell Design Week. 22/05/2024 Photograph by Sam Frost.