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It takes a big building to hold this much design

A cornucopia of great design, all under one ‘tent’

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It takes a big building to hold this much design

September 21 2011
Dominic Lutyens

In the fashion world, the word “tent” might be derogatory, connoting as it does unflatteringly amorphous clothing. But for Tent London, one of London Design Festival’s main attractions, the sprawling nature of its main venue, the Old Truman Brewery on London’s Brick Lane, is very much an asset. For this huge building can show an equally huge variety of homeware – and much of it’s for sale.

One of its strengths is its international scope: “Tent London is one of the festival’s most international events, with work from Australia, Mexico, Chile, Korea, Singapore, the Czech Republic and Hungary, among other countries,” says founder Jimmy MacDonald. Highlights will include an exhibition of 25 pieces by Slovenian designers, another called Design Island showcasing Irish design and a third spotlighting work by Kingston University MA graduates.

There will be eye-catching installations, too. One called Remastered will see artists and designers reinterpret classic paintings using, for example, digital technology.

Despite the magnitude of products displayed, conveniently many of them can be seen under one roof. And anyone who completes the circuit is rewarded with a handy overview of all the latest trends. This year, these include a contemporary reinterpretation of the cosily retro Windsor chair, exemplified by Ercol’s Love Seat (second picture, £625) half-painted in Heinz tomato soup orange; pale wood – take ALP’s 102 stool with turned beech legs (£226); folksy pattern, as in Ary Trays’s Folk Circle trays (from £6 each); geometric pattern – witness Sonya Winner’s kaleidoscopic After Matisse rugs (third picture, from £1,995); and primary-coloured metal, reminiscent of 1980s high-tech design, such as A+Z’s powder-coated aluminium Pillhead table light (from £250).

Not that Tent London is just about spotting trends. Another design, Curiousa & Curiousa’s glass pendant lights in boiled-sweet shades (first picture, from £210 each), aren’t obviously hip but, like many of this event’s wares, they’re simply gorgeous to behold.