Birmingham Interiors Design Exhibition 2011

GCD went to the Birmingham Interiors Design Exhibition 2011 this week to keep an eye on latest trends on interior design and associated product design.  It is UK’s biggest show and features retailers, interior designers, architects, and contractors amongst its exhibitors.  Our focus was on new designers and trends pushing the envelope so we headed to the ‘Thinking Space’ Pavillion featuring Designersblock, New Designers, and Birmingham City University.  Across the board there was an emphasis on nature themes, from the use of natural materials to graphic elements inspired from nature to literal translation from nature to product.

One pivotal seminar we attended was called “Psychology and Trends : What colours we will be looking for at home in SPRING/SUMMER 2012 and why?'” by Justine Fox - Director, Creative Projects/Materials Editor for Global Color Research.  You can read her forecasts in depth on our coverage in Trends.  At the show itself we identified three trends for 2011: TRI-angle,  Hybrid Redux, and Paradisiac, and Regenerate.


The triangle as a shape is a very difficult one because it is a symbol of tension, sometimes good sometimes bad.  It is representative in this day and age because it reflects economic tensions and uncertainty in society, a theme that touches other trends as well.  Ironically the use of this shape, a shape that occurs in nature, was a favourite of Buckminster Fuller, the inspiration of many a designer!  He once said in his book, Comsmograhpy, that "The triangle is the only flex-cornered polygon that holds its shape: ergo, it alone accounts for all structural shaping in the Universe."  That said the triangle could be considered the most efficient shape, making it also the most ecological…just a theory of course.

At the show we saw several example of triangles.  The most essentially light and natural wasHarry Parr-Young’s RSM 1 (Rattan Splice Mark 1).  In his own words he says it “…addresses the conventional style of rattan furniture, re-creating the perceived association with its exotic and outdoor context, with the final outcome of creating a range of rattan furniture, that sits logically in the contemporary furniture market and domestic setting.”  Indeed!  If you see Harry’s collection you will appreciate that it is far more artistic than that and his whimsical precise approach to design makes him one to look out for in the future.  He must be a Bucky fan.

Elsewhere examples of triangulation could be appreciated in Hulger’s Plumen, in Penelope Jordan’s 3D Textile Art, and Laura Perryman Constructlight.  The Plumen, ‘First Designer Energy Saving Light Bulb’, is a beautiful play on form and light now available for sale in the UK only.  Made by a company with a sense of humour. the light-hearted yet inspirational take on the light-bulb not only makes it a new super eco-qualified product but brings back emotion to this ordinary but often inspirational product.  Penelope Jordan takes felt to another level with the use of colour, form, and with her felt textiles, the patterns mimic natural triangles that could be found in the heart of an orchid.  Finally Laura Perryman’s Constructlight not only uses the triangle shape in form but also in a recycling spirit as they are made from re-worked plywood, plastic, and aluminium often using laser cutting to minimise waster and maximise effect.

Hybrid Redux

This trend comes from the increasing use of recycled materials coupled with new processes to create innovative products.  Hybrid alludes to the mixture of materials and process and Redux alludes to revisiting an old idea in a new way.  A trend that not only can be seen in architecture such as regenerated glass but also in product design and textile design with a focus on the environment, inside and out.  We all remember when Coca Cola bottles were turned into Polarfleece for the first time, or when the inner tubes of tyres were used to make backpacks.  Well this combination of alternative manufacturing with low-tech materials is alive and well with new twists of light and colour in the interiors world.

Examples ranged from the handmade, Sarah Turner and her eco products made from everyday waste, to the industrial Eluna and their recycled glass bricks.  Sarah Turner’s pieces, Cola 10, Cola 30, 2-litre, and Oasis, are all made from using old Cola bottles, cleaning them, sandblasting them, and then hand cutting their lyric shapes.  The results are really eco guilt-free lighting fixtures that are not only delicate but well made, available on her website.  Eluna makes products from ‘glass, and nothing but glass’…100% recycled glass for that matter.  The difference in their products is that they imbue their glass with pure design to create beautiful surfaces and textures for interiors and exteriors.  The most high profile design application was in Foster+Partners Kamakura House.

Hendzel and Hunt, one of our show favourites, crossover the Hybrid Redux trend and the next, Paradisiac.  In as much as their pieces are ‘designed and built with sustainability in mind’ their unique range MADE IN PECKHAM takes materials found in their streets and yards and ‘up-cycle’ them into luxurious pieces of furniture.  They use traditional cabinetmaking methods without the use of metal fixings, ‘au natural’.


This last trend addresses two trends in one idea, escapism and natural worlds.  With economic strife, social uncertainty, and environmental woes clearly shaping people’s decision-making and tastes there has been an increase in escapism, fantasy, and paradise worlds in design.  It can be seen in Chanel’s new collection harking back to better care-free days, in the whimsical poster design for the upcoming Geneva Motor Show, and now we have seen it at the Interiors show in Birmingham.

Two of this year’s winners, Alex MacMaster and Elaine Ng Yan Ling, exemplify this trend in different ways.  MacMaster’s piece Iris Pendant brings the concept of a flower hanging in the jungle into one’s home with whimsy, lightness, and precision.  Although the expression is literal the execution is technical making his product luxurious and easily accessible to the consumer.

Yan Ling’s pieces are the opposite in composition, fluid and living, breathing colour and space, her pieces are all about free-form.  What ever your mind can project into what is going on in her pieces is what is happening.  Her collections of Techno ‘Naturaology’, nature and technology, are truly inspirational; she calls them her ‘Present Thoughts for the Future in Architecture’.  Although she won in the Surface Coverings category her pieces are much more than coverings.  They are expressions of space and movement; in her own words “The movement of the textile becomes an exchange between the urban space and its environment resulting in architectonic movement.”  Using wood and textiles and programming them with shape memory she can evoke natural movement, affected by light and temperature, rigidity and flexibility to create miniature manmade worlds that mimics nature.  Her pieces like the bed of a coral reef breathe and move, to appreciate it you need to see the video…pure beauty.

Other pieces that inspired other worldly voyages were Tortie Hoare’s Butterfly Chair with exotic butterfly and occasional bugs in lively vegetation covering, Lazerian’s Modulator Light-Shade that feels like a spider has taken up the negative spaces of a chandelier, and we even enjoyed Jean-Paul Gautier’s new collaboration with Roche Bobois Group.  To celebrate Roche’s 50th Anniversary Gaultier designed the Ben Hur Chair, a humorous reference to the chariot races in the film Ben Hur.  This more than any other piece speaks of a need to go on an adventure leaving all worries behind…even if it is only in your living room!