The House of Peroni

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With so many events and festivals happening throughout London during the summer, it’s hard to keep up with everything sometimes. But one of the interesting places to visit throughout July is The House of Peroni set inside a beautiful building at 41 Portland Place.

The house showcases contemporary Italian culture, featuring art, design, film, fashion, as well as talks and interactive activities that take place every evening. There is also a terrace bar and restaurant serving food prepared by Michelin-Starred chefs The Costardi Brothers.


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There are many interesting art installation throughout the house, I especially like the Italian visual and light artist, Carlo Bernardini‘s optic fibres installation throughout the house. I also managed to see several artists/ designers from Neon working on a house installation made from thread, which will be used as a DJ booth for the upcoming events.

The staff there are especially friendly and helpful, and I was told that they will be back in November again with new installations… Cool!


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The House of Peroni will stay open until the end of the month and it is free to visit during the day.

Museum of the year: William Morris Gallery

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I have been wanting to visit the William Morris Gallery in Walthamstow for a while but never seem to get a chance… Last month, the gallery has been awarded the winner of the Art Fund Prize for Museum of the Year 2013, and so I was determined to pay the gallery a special visit.

I have been to this area about three times before, twice to visit a friend and once to see dog-racing! The visit to the gallery has also given me an opportunity to explore this rather multicultural part of London.


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The William Morris Gallery is housed in a grade II* listed Georgian house, built in the 1740s and set in Lloyd Park in Walthamstow, home of Morris‘s family from 1848 to 1856. The historic house was fully refurbished in 2012, with new collection displays on the ground and first floors, along with a learning and research centre, a tea room, a special exhibition gallery and a collection store.


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The collection includes old photographs, furniture, stained glass, wallpaper, textiles, tiles, sculptures, prints, drawings and books etc. Walking around the house, it is hard not to be inspired or impressed by Morris‘ wide range of skills, and most importantly, his evolutionary ‘design thinking’. As a leading member of the Arts and Crafts Movement, Morris’s passion for quality craftsmanship, natural materials and a simple way of life ( reflected in his designs) was said to be anti-industrialisation. His ideas and thinking ( including his socialist ones) is more relevant than ever in our Western society today, so have we gone full circle after all these years? Interesting…


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 The art of embroidery: Nicola Jarvis and May Morris exhibition


I think the architects and curators have done a brilliant job in the refurbishment, curation and arrangements in the gallery. Even the gallery’s tea room in a conservatory is bright, airy and welcoming. I also love the back garden, which is connected to Llyod park, it not only enhance the visitors’ overall experience but it is very much appreciated by the local residents too.

As much as I enjoy the larger museums in town like the V & A and British Museums etc, I am often put off by the number of tourists there esp. in the summer. The fact that this gallery is not so touristy and it provides activities for families makes this more of a destination for Londoners who want to be inspired but preferably in peace without the chaos! The truth is that with or without the tourists, this wonderful gallery still rightfully deserves to be the Museum of the year!


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The Art of embroidery exhibition ( Wednesday to Sunday ) will continue until 22 September 2013.


Summer fashion accessories from Asia

I rarely write about fashion here because I am not a fashion blogger, nor do I follow the current fashion trends. These days, I would rather buy less but spend on quality items that are well-made, timeless and slightly unusual. As a huge fan of all things Japanese, I am surprised by the lack of choices for independent Japanese fashion brands here ( and I don’t mean Uniqlo or Muji), so I would splash out more than usual when I travel to Asia.

I love canvas made fashion accessories because they are light, durable and functional. The Japanese are especially well-known for their canvas designs, and so they are almost essential in many Japanese people’s wardrobes.


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During my trip to Asia, I discovered the Japanese shoes brand Tokuyama and immediately I fell in love with their colourful and beautifully made canvas shoes and slippers! I couldn’t find an outlet outside of Japan selling them, so I contacted them directly. In the end, I decided to order their Tote and Tote sneakers designed by Mag design labo./ Keita Hanazawa after exchanging a few emails with the company ( something that I rarely do).

I was quite excited when the shoes arrived because they both came in lovely shoe bags! However, the Tote were slightly too tight and I had to exchange them, but the company was helpful and did not charge me for sending the second pair. I have been receiving many compliments whenever I am out in my Tote sneakers, but more importantly, they are really comfortable thanks to the soft microfibre insole material.


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Bag n Noun is a fashion accessory brand set up by Takeshi Ozawa, who draws inspiration from European military and work wear. His colourful and functional bags are all made in Osaka and are extremely well crafted. I love my mustard toolbag, because it is roomy and very functional. There are several UK stockists here that carry this brand, but for something more unique, the only way is to go their shops in Japan. I bought this lovely two-toned blue bag in their small shop near Tokyo station, it can be stored flat but is surprisingly roomy when you open it up. There are 4 vertical outer pockets, so apart from looking good, it is extremely functional too!


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Japanese industrial designer Naoto Fukasawa‘s name is often associated with Muji, but he is also the design director of ±0 ( or ‘plus minus zero’). Just like Muji, the brand’s products are simple, minimal and functional that are suited for contemporary living. Their cute sole bag is inspired by the rubber soled shoes worn by school children throughout Japan. On the surface it looks like an average canvas bag, but the bottom is shaped like a shoe, so the bag can stand on its own on the floor! How funny and cool!


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I haven’t bought a new watch for years, but I was tempted when I discovered boat or ‘be optimistic and thankful‘, where customers can customise their own designs from an extensive array of options. I love the fact that each watch’s sealed wax face is stamped individually, it definitely makes the watch more special. Hong Kong designers Leo Chiu and Siu Man are the brains behind this wonderful concept, the watch resembles Uniform wear but it is much cheaper ( at 85 USD) and more fun. It is hardly a watch for the connoisseurs but it is certainly good enough as a fashion statement.


Dalston House by Leandro Erlich

I missed Barbican’s Rain room installation earlier in the year because there were always long queues outside ( 12 hours was the record!) and I lack the patience for queuing… Luckily, the new outdoor installation supported by Barbican is most accessible, and it is perfect for this hot July!

Dalston House is an interactive and fun installation created by Argentine artist Leandro Erlich. It resembles a theatre set, featuring the facade of a Victorian terraced house on the historical Ashwin Street opposite Dalston Junction station.


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A few days ago, my friend and I went to an evening performance by Japanese artist Rie Nakajima and musician David Toop. The performance was about exploring sounds, so various unlikely objects were used to create different sound effects. The performance took place all over the site, outdoor and indoor, so we were constantly moving from one spot to another.

The performance was perhaps a bit too experiemental for our taste, and I struggled to hear most of the time due to the overground trains passing by. The concept of moving around the site sounded good on paper, but it was rather confusing… as much as we enjoyed the setting, perhaps it was too ‘arty’ ( or ‘Dalston’) for us.


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The installation is free to all and there will be free film screenings and workshops taking place here until 4th August. Check it out before it ends!

New designers 2013

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Main: Part 2 of the New designers 2013 at Islington Design Business Centre; Bottom left: A table for two by Daniel Liss


I have visited the New designers shows a few times and it is always a good event to spot new design talents from the U.K. This year, I visited Part two of the show which featured product and furniture design, spatial Design and visual communication by design graduates from universities across the country.

With so much work and not much time, it was hard to cover everything ( I certainly couldn’t), here are just some of the ones that caught my eye at the show:


“A table for two” ( see above) by Daniel Liss is a simple idea that allow users to convert a basic dining table that accommodates six, to a complete workstation with fully retractable drawers and a surface divider for two. It is not a ground-breaking invention but it is a clever solution that is practical for contemporary living.

Right next to this was Tyrone Stoddart‘s “Boxed” ( see below), a piece of multi-functional and adaptable furniture, which can be a coffee table, a desk, two stools and a lamp. These parts can all collapse back down to their most basic form, to be returned to a case that can be carried around. Cool!


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Top left: Boxed by Tyrone Stoddart; top middle: Tyrone Chan’s Interactive dab radio; Mihaela Ogarca’s lighting; bottom left: Sean Bunton’s flat-pack bicycle



Mihaela Ogarca‘s ( see above) lighting collection won her the New Designers John Lewis Award for Design Excellence and Innovation. These lampscan be free standing or used as pendants. Through laser cutting, the usually stiff plywood material, used for the lights, becomes springy and curvaceous whilst allowing the light to pass through it. The shades can also be assembled and disassembled by the user and be carried as flat packs.


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Top left: The tea manifesto by Shumaiya Khan; top right: Lilian Hipolyte Mushi; Main: Stephanie Jedek; bottom right: Giho Yang’s foldable cylander



Giho Yang‘s foldable cylander “Water-drop” ( see above) is a long overdue redesign of a kitchen item that often occupies a lot of space in the cupboard. This simple and clever design solves this problem and allows the colander to fold and be stored flat in the cupboard. This is so functional and I would definitely purchase it if it comes out in the market!


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Left: Jack Fisher’s 180 series; Right: Egg cup by Michal Mojduszka


Being a stationery lover, I often get excited when I see beautiful stationery still being made these days ( esp. when technology seem to dominate our lives). I love Jack Fisher‘s “180 SERIES”, a set of contemporary stationery made from a unique blend of ceramic and brass. The triangular shape provides a unified identity and is based on its ergonomic advantages.

I also like the simplicity of the “Egg cup” by Michal Mojduszka, which is a basically a ceramic container for an egg. You break the egg shell simply by shaking it, a fun product/ project.


Nick Brennan‘s “Sound pegs” can turn anything into a musical instrument! By attaching the unit to a computer running music software or an electronic instrument, then attach the pegs to different objects. Sounds will be triggered in the software/instrument when drumming on those objects, so even your shoe or pen can create different sounds. Fun stuff!


Charles Holden’s iconic underground stations

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Arnos Grove station designed in 1929 and opened in 1932


Most Londoners have a love/ hate relationship with the Tube/ underground. While it can be efficient and convenient on some good days, it can also be crowded, hot, disruptive with long delays on many bad days and most of us seem to experience the latter more ( or we feel as if we do).

What we have forgotten is that London’s tube system is the oldest in the world and it was never intended to carry one billion passengers daily! In the early 1930s, the extension of the Piccadilly line took place and subsequently, a string of iconic stations were born thanks to Frank Pick ( the managing director at the time), and the two architects: Charles Holdenand Stanley Heaps.


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Oakwood station, designed in 1929 and opened in 1933


Last week, I joined an afternoon walk organised by the London transport Museum to explore the area of around Southgate, and to learn about how its history, development and architecture including the three well-known tube stations: Oakwood, Southgate and Arnos Grove.

The most iconic of all is the Arnos Grove station, a Grade II listed building which was chosen by archi­tectural critic Jonathan Glancey as one of the 12 “Great Modern Buildings” by The Guardian in October 2007. Inside the station, there are even newspaper clippings and original architectural drawings of the station on display, which shows the ‘significance’ of this station.


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 Southgate station, designed in 1929 and opened in 1933


Simplicity and functionality are key elements in Holden‘s designs, with a strong influence from European architecture especially by the work of Willem Dudok and Erik Gunnar Asplund. His buildings are often symmetrical with large windows that allow plenty of daylight to penetrate into the spacious ticket hall. Traditional English brickwork was combined with smooth concrete, along with metal window frames and glazed tiling. Even the signage or typefaces were developed and designed specifically for these stations.

The most surreal one though has to be the futuristic or spaceship-like Southgate station ( also a Grade II listed building) which even has a beacon on the roof ( I am especially keen to see it at night)! The station was renovated in 2008 but has preserved many of the original features including the escalators. I love the bronze lighting, paneling and tiles, all very art deco! Another interesting feature here is the circular station parade ( a bus station with shops) built around the station for commuters to interchange between the tube and buses, the two designs complement each other very well.


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Main and bottom left: Southgate station parade designed in 1929


Holden has designed many other underground stations in different parts of London, this walk was a taster for me which has triggered my interest to explore more of his other stations in the future.


RCA degree show 2013


Darwin building in Kensington: Enfatung (unfold/expand/develop) by Jule Waibel


Being one of the top art and design colleges in the U.K. ( if not the world), the annual RCA degree show is where you will find the design stars of the future. Out of the two sites, I only visited the Kensington one where they exhibited products, fashion, textiles, vehicle, design interactions, innovation design engineering, visual communication and animation. It took me several hours to wander through the two buildings, and there are many fresh and inspiring work to be found throughout.


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Top left: Emma Sheldon’s experimental textiles; top middle: Georgia Dorey; top right: Wonseok Jung’s The Bird; Bottom left: David Steiner’s In House; Bottom right: Shruti Grover’s Gu Bank


Here are some of my favourites from the show:

David Steiner‘s “In House”: this is a very clever and wonderful project/ experiment that utilises found materials and appliances at home to create new objects and tableware. Watch the video to find out the designer’s home production process:


In House from David Steiner on Vimeo


Wonseok Jung‘s work explores mechanical systems and its relationship with the users, with a particular interest in the perception of time. I was really intrigued by his “Time Slicer”, a time measuring device that measures time via the process of pencil sharpening! The mechanical device continuously sharpens the pencil until it disappears completely, which will take one month, so 12 pencils will take 1 year!

His other work, “The bird” ( see above) is an interactive lighting device that alters the perception of time and space. Each bird flaps its wings at different speeds, which manipulates the viewer’s sense of time.



Top left: Chris Nott’s Multicultural London English: Innovation starts inner city; Sam Ashton’s illustrations; Main: Stevens Building


Sam Ashton‘s illustrations ( see above) are simple and earthy with a strong folk art influence. I especially like the illustrated zodiac symbols.

I love Giulia Garbin‘s linocut print and letterpress book, The street of ink ( see below). It is a nostalgic print book ( accompanied by audio sound) on Fleet Street, its people, print-making and its glorious past.



Top left: Jeff Gough’s Jeff Gough; Giulia Garbin’s The street of ink; Main: Pippa Murray’s Moulding our woodlands; Bottom left: Ju Yeun Kim’s Ubran picnic; Bottom right: Nathan Burr and Louis Buckley’s Suicide walk


Pippa Murray is a designer and maker who creates bespoke furniture from locally sourced and sustainable Cumbrian hardwood. For her “Moulding Our Woodlands” project, she designed a table with legs that are made of compressed greenwood shavings ( great idea!) and you can watch the video here:


Just Wood – Moulding our Woodlands from Dom Bush – Land and Sky Media on Vimeo.


Yosuke Ushigome‘s project, “Commoditised Warfare” is rather unusual, it proposes an alternative world where spectacular events are custom designed to replace traditional warfare as a means of solving seemingly chronic conflicts. A stadium-ship will be sent to intervene North Korea’s dispute with South Korea, Japan and the US via a synchronised Baseball game. A competition with a bizarre ceremony will be held across the border between India and Pakistan, and another one will take place in the Falkland Islands between the British and Argentinian to blow up as many mines as possible via unmanned devices and penguins as camera operators. Sounds bizarre? Yes but perhaps some humour and lighthearted approach is necessary to solve the mounting conflicts between countries these days.

Last but not least, Suicide walk is a collaboration project between Nathan Burr and Louis Buckley. The duo conducted a 100-Mile Conversation to explore the relationship between landscape and suicide, discussing the subject on route with over twenty people, including archaeologists, historians, Samaritans, paranormal investigators, writers, psychologists, musicians, artists, a therapist, a protester, and a sociologist.

I find the concept very intriguing especially because suicide and death is not a topic that people in the West often want to discuss in public ( yet it is happening around us all the time). They are also involved with the Death cafe ( it’s for real!) based on work of Swiss sociologist and death cafe pioneer Bernard Crettaz. It is free event where people can enjoy tea, cakes and discuss death…  how sweet! Now I am really curious…