House & Garden | Need To Now

A summer showcase of art and design

It’s open house weekend at west London’s largest studio complex

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A summer showcase of art and design

June 30 2011
Dominic Lutyens

The Great Western Studios, a 55,000sq ft complex of 104 artists’ and designers’ studios under London’s Westway flyover, flings open its doors to the public twice a year – in December and in the summer. Its upcoming event, Summer Open Studios Weekend, on July 2 and 3, will sell art, fashion, jewellery and homeware by more than 100 artists and designers.

The event blends education with festival-like frivolity. You can attend inspirational “architects’ surgeries” to glean clever design ideas for your home (£35 for a 30-minute consultation) and buy artworks, all measuring 10in x 10in, for £50 each – or simply partake of barbecues, Pimm’s and cake, with DJs enhancing the carnivalesque vibe.

Size matters when it comes to this Notting Hill institution (founded in 1994). “It’s the largest studio building in west London,” enthuses director Nick Kirkham. “This is our biggest ever event.”

Even much of the design is big and substantial – pieces that you could furnish, rather than simply accessorise, your home with. Take Martha Freud’s arresting chandeliers made from real branches – rather gothic-meets-Scottish baronial – (£1,800) or swarming porcelain butterflies (from £1,200). “I enjoy taking a single form that’s often overlooked but beautiful and multiplying it to make something special,” she says.

And there’s William Warbrick’s one-off, custom-made furniture: a sofa incorporating a bookshelf complete with a woodgrain-pattern cushion which riffs on the grain of the sofa’s wood frame (from £2,200) and a walnut, Chinoiserie tallboy (first picture, £2,900).

There are more portable, modestly priced items, too, such as Melissa Hunt’s arty, rather retro silver photo-etched pendants featuring ghostly images of a modernist chair (£80) or a teasel (second picture, £140).

The event promises to be as festive as its pre-Christmas counterpart, albeit in a carefree, high-summer way.