London design festival 2017 at the V & A museum

london design festival 2017


After visiting Paris design week, I came back to London just in time for the London design festival. The scale of the festival is much bigger than the Paris one, which makes it harder to cover, hence I decided to focus on the main venue and the trade fairs.

My first stop was the V & A museum, where visitors were given maps to navigate through the maze-like space and hunt for various design installations by the hottest designers working in the industry today.


Patkau Architects Ice-Skating Shelters

Patkau Architects’ plywood “Ice-Skating Shelters” in the courtyard


One of the most striking installations is Rachel Kneebone‘s five-metre-high “399 Days” porcelain sculpture. The monumental sculpture does not look out of place among the masterpieces in the V&A’s sculpture court, and it will be on display until January 2018.


Rachel Kneebone  Exhale' Bionic Chchandelier by Julian Melchiorri

Rachel Kneebone

Top left & bottom: Rachel Kneebone’s “399 Days” sculpture; Top right: Julian Melchiorri’s “Exhale” Bionic Chandelier


At the side entrance of the museum hangs a less conspicuous but fascinating installation: “Exhale” Bionic Chandelier by design engineer and entrepreneur and CEO of Arborea, Julian Melchiorri. I encountered the designer’s highly-innovative bionic leaves a few years ago; and here, he has used the bionic-leaf technologies to create the world’s first living and breathing chandelier, designed to purify the air and remove air pollutants. In my view, this is what design innovation is about, and I strongly believe that the industry needs more collaborations between designers and engineers in order to create advanced products that would make our world a better place.


'While We Wait' by Elias and Yousef Anastas  'While We Wait' by Elias and Yousef Anastas

“While We Wait” by Elias and Yousef Anastas


Another towering structure is a meditative installation While We Wait” created by Bethlehem-based architects Elias and Yousef Anastas. It is made of over 500 modules of stone from different regions of Palestine, fading upwards in colour from earthy red to pale limestone. The architects have been using local stones and working directly with factories and artisans in Palestine to optimise energy consumption and create a more sustainable way in contemporary architecture.


‘Reflection Room’ by Flynn Talbot  ‘Reflection Room’ by Flynn Talbot

An immersive coloured light experience by lighting designer Flynn Talbot in the “Reflection Room”


'Transmission' by Ross Lovegrove

Ross Lovegrove‘s 21.3 meters long fluid sculpture of folded material “Transmission” in the tapestry room


'High Tide for Carmen'

'High Tide for Carmen'

'High Tide for Carmen'

“High Tide for Carmen” installation reveals the design process of the opera. Stage design by Es Devlin and video design by Luke Halls.


'Evocations' by Petr Stanický

'Evocations' by Petr Stanický

Two intriguing sculptures “Evocations” by Czech glassmaker Petr Stanický


On the top floor of the museum, I was captivated by Lubna Chowdhary‘s “Metropolis”, a multi-object work of over 1000 handmade miniature clay sculptures. The installation charts the material culture of our urban environment, reflecting the complexity of the man-made world and human production. The work was shortlisted for the Jerwood Ceramics Prize in 2001 and Lubna has continued to build on it over time, adding new objects to the original installation. It is truly wonderful.


'Metropolis' by Lubna Chowdhary,  'Metropolis' by Lubna Chowdhary,

‘Metropolis’ by Lubna Chowdhary


chair bench by Gitta Gschwendtner

Gitta Gschwendtner‘s cool “Chair bench”


Contemporary Korean Ceramics

Contemporary Korean Ceramicsdsc_0410-min

Contemporary Korean Ceramics exhibition


I also enjoyed seeing the work of 15 emerging and established artists from Korea at the Contemporary Korean Ceramics exhibition. The different styles and techniques employed by the artists reveal a diverse and enthralling Korean contemporary ceramic scene today.


plywood exhibition

plywood exhibition

“Plywood: Material of the Modern World” exhibition


In conjunction with the festival is the free exhibition, “Plywood: Material of the Modern World”, which focuses on the flexible material that has been widely used in the modern age. The exhibition will end on 12th November.


Open house 17: Hampstead garden suburb

free church central square

Free church and Central square


I have long wanted to explore the Hampstead Garden Suburb, and so I was quite excited when I saw a guided walk of the area listed on Open House London. With the housing crisis in London worsening, it is time to review what went wrong and examine ideas and schemes from the past to see what could be learned from them.

Described by American historian, sociologist and philosopher, Lewis Mumford, as ‘a masterpiece and an artistic triumph’, Hampstead Garden Suburb was founded in 1907 by the social reformer, Dame Henrietta Barnett. It was an ambitious and ground-breaking social experiment and town planning for that period.

After setting up Hampstead Garden Suburb Trust Ltd, the Trust bought 243 acres of land near the Hampstead Heath Extension from Eton College, hoping to transform it into a beautiful, healthy, and friendly neighbourhood that accommodated all classes of the society. The planning was created by Raymond Unwin and Richard Barry Parker (both were involved with the Arts and Crafts movement), emphasising on nature, community and harmony.

Despite the project’s initial utopian and noble intention, the aim to create a neighbourhood for all classes somehow failed; and now, the area with over 5000 properties is one of London’s most affluent areas.


Free church

Free church

The Grade I listed Free church was design by Sir Edwin Lutyens in 1911


I guess there were many curious Londoners like me who wanted to explore the area, because the walks were oversubscribed, but our guide (a resident of the suburb) was not too bothered by this. We started off at the open and tranquil Central square, where the two Grade I listed churches are located: St Jude’s church and Free church.


St Jude's church

St Jude's church

St Jude's church

St Jude's church  Walter Starmer at St Jude's

Walter Starmer at St Jude's

The Grade I listed St Jude’s was also designed by Edwin Lutyens. Building began in 1909 and did not complete until 1935. The murals and paintings were done by Walter Starmer


Opposite the Free church is the former house of Dame Henrietta Barnett, and there is a memorial nearby (see below) which is also Grade II listed. On one side of square stands another grand building designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens. The Henrietta Barnett School is a voluntary-aided state grammar school for girls founded in 1911 – during a time when educational opportunities for women were severely limited. As part of her master plan, Dame Henrietta Barnett built the School on the principle that education should be open to girls from different backgrounds to study and learn together and from each other, regardless of social, economic, cultural, ethnic or religious background. Now the school is considered to be one of the best schools in the country.


The Henrietta Barnett School

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dsc_0206-min  dsc_0241-min


Top: The Grade II listed Henrietta Barnett School; 2nd row left: Henrietta Barnett memorial


After the introduction, we spent the next two hours walking around the quiet and leafy neighbourhood, passing by many interesting houses built in the arts & crafts style.


Hampstead Garden Suburb

Hampstead Garden Suburb

Hampstead Garden Suburb

Hampstead Garden Suburb

Hampstead Garden Suburb

Hampstead Garden Suburb



One fascinating aspect of the suburb is its hedges and trees. Henrietta Barnett insisted on using hedges to mark boundaries, so they play an important role in the area. Every house also had two fruit trees planted in the garden (what a wonderful idea!). Consent is required by residents for significant changes to gardens, erection of garden sheds, removal of hedges and felling or pruning of trees.

We also visited two hidden community allotments in between the houses; but more surprisingly, two ancient woodlands – Big wood and Little wood – that have existed for over 1000 years.


Hampstead Garden Suburb



Hampstead Garden Suburb  Hampstead Garden Suburb



The suburb’s rurual countryside atmosphere, big houses, and proximity to Hampstead heath have turned it into a popular residential area for the wealthy. It is a far cry from Henrietta Barnett‘s utopian ideal, which is a shame. However, we can still appreciate her paradigm and determination, and how it may help us to re-evaluate the housing problems that we are facing today.


Hampstead Heath extension

Hampstead Heath extension

Hampstead Heath extension

Hampstead Heath extension


After the walking tour, we had just enough time to visit the nearby Grade II listed Waterlow Court, which was designed by the renowned A British Arts & crafts architect Mackay Hugh Baillie Scott in 1904 and completed in 1909. The development was a project of Sir Sydney Waterlow‘s Improved Industrial Dwellings Company, and was initiated at the request of Henrietta Barnett. The fifty flats (vary in size) were designed for single working women who would not be able to keep servants, but would benefit from some degree of co-operative living. The co-living space included a communal dining area, a communal kitchen, a small common room, and servants’ (including a housekeeper’s and porters’) quarters. Before this visit, I have never heard of this place before, but I find the concept very intriguing and I think it could still work in this day and age.


waterlow court

waterlow court

waterlow court

waterlow court


As soon as I walked through the lychgate, I was immediately impressed by dark timber-framed roof and the arts and crafts style lighting. The next thing I noticed were the round arches that are featured throughout the compound, and they create a ‘cloister’ effect which resemble a convent or monastery or Cathedral. The covered walkway leads to the quadrangular building with a large courtyard in the middle.


waterlow court

waterlow court

waterlow court


Our guide first gave us a tour of the back garden, which features not only some cool hedges, old trees and interesting plants, it also houses an air raid bunker.


waterlow court garden

waterlow court garden

waterlow court garden

waterlow court garden  waterlow court bunker

The garden of Waterlow Court and the entrance to an air raid bunker


Nowadays, the flats are no longer limited to females only, but the community spirit still thrives. We spoke to a few volunteers/residents on the day and they all seem to enjoy the tranquil setting and the friendly co-living atmosphere. However, most of the complaints were related to the tiny kitchens (probably because the working women didn’t cook much back then) and either tiny or oversized bathrooms.


waterlow court   waterlow court

waterlow court

waterlow court

waterlow court   waterlow court

The corridor and a flat at the Waterlow Court


Accommodation is arranged in three to five room flats, designed with plank doors, mullioned windows and some open fireplaces. The original fittings, door and window furniture were made by J Pyghtle White of Bedford for Ambrose Heal of London. A resident kindly opened up and showed us her flat, and despite its small size, it is functional, cosy with original features are rare to find in London these days.




Corringham Road


I believe that the example of Hampstead garden suburb and Waterlow Court can provide us with some indications on how to strike a balance between nature, architecture and community. Aside from this balance, the housing needs to be (really) affordable… sadly, I can’t see this happening in the near future. Perhaps we need another visionaire like Henrietta Barnett to instigate and implement changes, changes that we urgently need.

Open House 2017: Highgate

omved gardens

Highgate’s hidden gem – Omved gardens


Honestly, I am finding it harder to enjoy London these days, and it is partly due to the city being overcrowded. The worst time is June and July when tourists and school children from abroad flock over here – it is a nightmare. September used to be pleasant, but not anymore. Once upon a time, the Open House weekend used to be a well-kept secret, but now it has become a major event in London where every ticketed events are sold out weeks in advance.

Hence I decided to focus on neighbourhoods outside of zone 1, hoping that I would not have to spend hours queuing or being turned away when I arrive. On day one, I headed up to Highgate village to visit a well-hidden and delightful Omved gardens, which is not normally open to the public.


omved gardens

omved gardens

omved gardens

omved gardens


A few years ago, the sloping site of a former garden centre was bought by developer Omved International hoping to convert the site into luxury homes, but locals protested and the council later rejected the plans (thank god!). Later, London-based architectural firm Hasa Architects was hired to transform the six derelict glasshouses into a multi-functional events venue.

This garden project aims to explore the possibilities of a forgotten piece of land, and how it could be rejuvenated. It was a collaboration between architects, structural engineers, landscape architects, artists, artisans and craftsmen; and the result is very impressive. Besides the glasshouses, the community garden is lovely as well, and it offers a nice view of the local area.


omved gardens

omved gardens

omved gardens  omved gardens

A temporary exhibition at the Omved garden focusing on the architecture in Highgate and the planning and building process of the garden


Built in only 6 weeks, the architects have retained the frame and construction of the original building. They used birch plywood panels for the platforms, joinery and walls for the space, as well as sliding doors, while the original metal frames and glazing of the structures have been restored.

The truth is that London actually has a lot of derelict buildings and lands, but instead of regenerating these wastelands, the local councils and property developers are constantly gentrifying areas in London that do not require it. I think London desperately needs more innovative projects like these rather than the current social cleansing projects that are ruining the city and pushing out poor Londoners from their homes.


highgate school

The nearby Highgate School


My second destination was 8 Stoneleigh Terrace in Highgate New Town, a social housing estate that I have always been curious about every time I passed by it. In recent years, I became interested in London’s post-war social housing, and I have visited several estates at the Open House in the past like the Alexandra and Ainsworth Estate, Golden Lane estate and Balfron Tower. If we could ignore the grim and untended concrete exterior, we would pleasantly surprised by the functional and thoughtful layout and designs of these buildings. Do not judge a book by its cover. I think the demise of the English social housing scheme (and NHS) is quite tragic because some of the architects and planners behind these projects were visionaries and pioneers who made a difference during the difficult post-war period.


stoneleigh terrace

stoneleigh terrace

stoneleigh terrace

stoneleigh terrace  stoneleigh terrace

stoneleigh terrace

stoneleigh terrace

stoneleigh terrace  retcar place

stoneleigh terrace


Located next to Highgate Cemetery, 8 Stone Terrace – within the grade II listed Whittington Estate – was designed in the 1970s by the architect Peter Tabori (who used to work for Ernö Goldfinger) during Camden Council’s ‘golden age’ of progressive social-housing development under Borough architect Sydney Cook. Inspired by architect Neave Brown‘s designs for Alexandra and Ainsworth Estate, and has a similar ziggurat-style exterior.

The estate is also know as Highgate New Town stage 1, and like most housing estate at the time, concrete was used as the main material. There are 273 dwellings, varying from one-bedroom two-person flats to six-bedroom eight-person houses. Due to overspending (4 times the original estimate) at this estate, therefore the houses at Stage 2 and 3 of the estates nearby were assigned to Bill Forest and Oscar Palacio with less flattering exteriors.


stoneleigh terrace

stoneleigh terrace  stoneleigh terrace

stoneleigh terrace

stoneleigh terrace

stoneleigh terrace


Our host/resident at the estate gave us a tour around the estate and provided us with fascinating history and information about it. Being a musician, his home is filled with Scandinavian mid-century furniture and decor that look harmonious with the modernist style flat. Interestingly, the entrance leads to first floor where the living room, kitchen and terrace are situated, while the bedroom, study and another terrace are located downstairs on ground/road level. Although the flat is not very big, the heedful layout and design created a space that is livable, functional and very cosy. It is no wonder why flats like this from this estate has become very fought-after by modernist lovers in recent years.


acland burghley school

acland burghley school  acland burghley school


My last stop of the day was another Grade II listed building – Acland Burghley School – in Tufnell Park. The comprehensive school was built in 1963-7 and designed by the foremost post-war architectural practices at the time: Howell Killick Partridge & Amis (behind the Young Vic theatre).

The Brutalist style school was listed in 2016 for the following principal reasons: “the design’s bold elevational treatment and skillful handling of precast concrete components and their finishes confer a strong aesthetic while respecting the wider Victorian townscape. The jewel-like, top-lit assembly hall is a particularly notable feature where the use of timber and concrete gives a rich texture. Plan-form: the innovative plan, comprising three towers radiating from a central administration core with the linked assembly hall, remains relevant and fit for purpose, affording permeability and appropriate levels of accessibility combined with practical and humane functioning spaces.”


acland burghley school

acland burghley school  acland burghley school

acland burghley school

acland burghley school  acland burghley school

acland burghley school

acland burghley school


Although inspired by the ideas of the iconic French architect Le Corbusier, the school’s Brutalist gloomy concrete exterior is probably not everyone’s cup of tea. But inside, the departments are divided by a clever colour scheme with spacious public area and bright classrooms due to natural light from the large and roof windows. The school’s emphasis on the arts can also be seen from the art work on the walls throughout the school.

I was particularly impressed by the former hexagonal assembly hall which had been refurbished in 2010 by Studio Cullinan And Buck Architects into an experimental teaching/learning laboratory. The 490m2 floor space can be used as a a large classroom or as a theatre with raised platforms and seating area. The new lighting scheme of vertical and horizontal strip lights are also highly innovative.


acland burghley school

acland burghley school

acland burghley school

acland burghley school

acland burghley school

acland burghley school

acland burghley school  acland burghley school

A former assembly hall has been transformed into a Superclass by Studio Cullinan And Buck Architects


wall mural

Intriguing wall mural near Tufnell Park


The doors of Paris

Petit Palais façade door 

paris door  paris door

Top: Petit Palais’ Beaux-art façade designed by Charles Girault


This post is dedicated to all the beautiful, magnificent, elegant, quirky, stylish, and unconventional doors in Paris. If you haven’t noticed the doors in Paris, then start looking when you are in the city next time. Here is a collection that I have taken over the last few years across different parts of the city.


paris door  paris door

img_4781-min  img_9841-min


Decorative iron & handles


paris door  paris


paris  img_1146-min

img_9508-min  img_9823-min


There is a vast array of styles including Beaux Arts, Neo-Classicism, Art Nouveau and Art Deco… Some of them are masterpieces that feature outstanding craftsmanship like the Grand Palais and Petit Palais, but personally, I love the Art Nouveau and Art deco ones.


ecole de garcons ville de paris  paris



Art nouveau


 rue Campagne-Première by André Arfvidson   rue Campagne-Première André Arfvidson

Céramic Hôtel door

paris door  paris door

paris door  img_1033-min

Top: Artists’ atelier at rue Campagne-Première by André Arfvidson; 2nd row: Facade of the Céramic Hôtel, covered with ceramic decoration and sculpture by Camille Alaphilippe


36-38 rue Greuze by Hector Guimard  s8004723-min

p1000313-min  8 rue Jasmin

Follot's house

Top left: 36-38 rue Greuze by Hector Guimard; 2nd right: Former central telephone office at 8 rue Jasmin by Paul Guadet; Bottom: Follot’s house at 5 rue Schoelcher by Paul Follot


Art Deco


img_9675-min  img_9339-min


img_9674-min  img_9378-min

dsc_0068-min  dsc_0038-min

paris  img_1102-min

paris  img_5187-min

paris  img_1106-min

img_0919-min  img_4780-min


img_9600-min  dsc_0114-min


Cool door/gates


paris  img_9414-min


Wooden doors




img_1091-min  paris






The Grande Mosquée de Paris  The Grande Mosquée de Paris 

The Grande Mosquée de Paris


Street art


img_5037-min  paris

dsc_0273-min  dsc_0124-min



The wonders of Musee Guimet

musee guimet


Undoubtedly, Paris is a city with many outstanding world-class museums and art galleries, but sometimes the sheer volume of visitors at Louvre, Musee D’Orsay and Grand Palais is simply overwhelming and off-putting. Hence, I would rather spend my time lingering at some excellent but lesser known or less popular museums. And one of my favourites is Le musée national des arts asiatiques – Guimet/ Musee Guimet, which houses one of the largest collections of Asian art outside of Asia.

This museum was established by Emile Guimet in 1889, and it showcases 5000 years of Asian art with a vast array of sculptures, murals, decorative objects, ceramics, paintings, furniture, textiles, graphic prints and manuscripts etc. It is easy to spend a few hours here, and it rarely gets very crowded.

During my visit, I was very pleasantly surprised by French contemporary artist Prune Nourry‘s exhibition “HOLY, Carte Blanche to Prune Nourry”. Throughout the museum, installations of her past ten years’ work could be seen. I thought the most impressive was the giant Buddha statue that has been broken up, and strategically placed on different floor levels like old ruins. On the top floor was the head of the Buddha (where one could walk into it through the ears), a hand on the floor below, and the feet were placed on the ground floor, all of which were covered with red incense sticks. This intentionally fragmented installation reminds me of the blown up Buddhas of Bamiyan in Afghanistan. It is poetic and mesmerising.

Her Terracotta Daughters sculptures created in 2013, consisted of an army of 108 girls, the eight original ones of which will be shown in the museum, refers to the first emperor’s terracotta soldiers, and is a tribute to the millions of girls that will not be born because
of pre-birth selection.


 Prune Nourry  musee guimet Prune Nourry

 Prune Nourry

musee guimet Prune Nourrymusee guimet Prune Nourry

 Prune Nourry

prune nourry  prune nourry

“HOLY, Carte Blanche to Prune Nourry” exhibition


Japanese graphic artist Hokusai‘s sold-out exhibition at British Museum revealed that traditional Japanese woodblock printing still fascinates the Western audience in this day and age. Unfortunately, the exhibition was so packed that I found myself constantly being blocked by older women who did not want others to get close to the prints or paintings.

Luckily, the exhibition “Paysages japonais, de Hokusai à Hasui” enabled me to enjoy Hokusai‘s famous prints up close without crowds nor disruption. Aside from Hokusai, there were also prints by other famous ukiyo-e artists like Hiroshige, Utamaro, Kuniyoshi and Hasui. The exhibition also showcased some rare vintage photographs of Japan, which were extremely fascinating.


musee guimet  musee guimet






The “Paysages japonais, de Hokusai à Hasui” exhibition


musee guimet  musee guimet

The “113 Ors d’Asie” exhibition


Even though the British Museum has an excellent collection of ancient Buddhist art and sculptures, I think Musee Guimet’s collection is quite staggering too. I particularly love the ancient Buddhist sculptures from Afghanistan that were evidently influenced by the Greeks. The hair and the draping of the robes were more Western than Eastern, which demonstrated that ancient cultural exchanges did have an strong impact on the development of Buddhist art in Asia.


musee guimet

musee guimet  musee guimet

musee guimet

musee guimet  musee guimet

musee guimet

musee guimet



musee guimet

musee guimet  musee guimet


Not far from the museum is Hôtel Heidelbach, a well-hidden annexe that houses a Buddhist Pantheon gallery, a lovely Japanese garden and a tea house for tea ceremonies. Entry to this gallery and garden is free, and it should not be missed.


musee guimet Japanese garden

The Japanese garden and tea house at Hôtel Heidelbach


The power of flowers: Pierre-Joseph Redoute exhibition

musee de la vie romantique

musee de la vie romantique


There are many world-class art museums in Paris, but I tend to favour the lesser-known ones that are slightly off the beaten track. Located at the foot of Montmartre hill is Musée de la Vie romantique (The Museum of Romantic Life or Museum of the Romantics), a small and pretty hôtel particulier with a greenhouse, a garden, and a paved courtyard. Built in 1830, it was the base of Dutch/French Romantic painter Ary Scheffer, where he received Parisian socialites like Delacroix, Rossini, Sand, Chopin, Gounod, Tourgueniev, Dickens… Now the museum’s permanent collection displays the paintings of Scheffer and his contemporaries, as well as the memorabilia of George Sand including furniture, painting, objets d’art and jewellery.

For fans of botanical art, the current exhibition: ‘The power of flowers: Pierre-Joseph Redouté 1759-1840′ (until 29th October) is a must-see, because it offers a rare opportunity to view works by the Belgian botanist and painter Redouté, who was often called “the Raphael of flowers” and the greatest botanical illustrator of all time.


musee de la vie romantique

Pierre-Joseph Redouté  Pierre-Joseph Redouté

Pierre-Joseph Redouté  Pierre-Joseph Redouté

Botanical drawings by Pierre-Joseph Redouté


Redouté worked with the greatest botanists of his time, responding to their quest for classification and identification of the plants brought back from every continent. Not only was he an appointed painter to the sovereigns, he was also an engraver, a publisher and a teacher. His illustrated publications also inspired many manufacturers to produce wallpapers, textiles, porcelain, embroidery and other applied arts.


the power of flowers

the power of flowers  the power of flowers


With more than 250 paintings, watercolours, art objects and vellum on display, the exhibition showcases works by Redouté and other artists who had been influenced by him. While inside the house (and some at the garden), another exhibition, ‘A fleur d’atelier – Fine crafts tour’ organised by Ateliers d’Art de France displays contemporary crafts created by 26 artists based on the theme of flowers/plants.


christine coste  sarah radulescu

lise rathonie

ferri garces  ferri garces

Top left: Christine Coste’s L’assaut; Top right: Sarah Radulescu’s Floraison; 3rd row: Lise Rathonie’s Les Exuberantes; Bottom left: Ferri Garces’ Hibiscus; Bottom right: Ferri Garces’ Rose des Sables


Forty original art works can be seen throughout the house and at the garden, and a wide range of materials like silver, paper, cotton, porcelain, plaster, wool, and glass, etc. are employed in these works.

Both exhibitions are fascinating, and it demonstrates the ever-alluring appeal of flowers/plants, and how artists and craftsmen have continuously been inspired by nature over the centuries.


francoise tellier loumangne

angele riguidel  stephanie martin

corinne dorlencourt

Top: Francoise Tellier Loumangne’s Achillee; 2nd row left: Angele Riguidel’s Nature Morte; 2nd row right: Stephanie Martin’s Verture; Bottom: Corinne Dorlencourt’s Etamines


The exhibition is on at the Musée de la Vie romantique (16, rue Chaptal, 75009, Paris ) until 29th October.

Maison et objet (autumn 17)

maison et objet

Hall 6 at Maison et objet


The term ‘enochlophobia’ means fear of crowds, a phobia that I suspect I have – mildly. Although I don’t experience blackouts or panic attacks in crowded places, I do feel overwhelmed, as if my energy is being sucked out of me, and I often feel exhausted afterwards.

This can be a problem when I visit business-related trade fairs, hence I rarely spend more than a few hours at a trade fair (or even art fairs). However, once in a while, I have to conquer my fears and plunge into it. It took me some time to decide whether I should spend €60 on a ticket to Paris’ mega design trade fair, Maison et objet, particularly when most trade fairs in the world are free of charge. Perhaps the reason why they could charge so much is because of its reputation and history (it is 22 years old); and it attracts luxury and well-respected brands, independent names, as well as up-and-coming designers from around the world. If you want to know the trends of interior, furniture and products and what is happening in the design world right now, then this fair is most likely to provide some ideas. With over 3000 brands exhibiting at Paris Nord Villepinte (about 45 mins outside of Paris) for 5 days, it would be wise to do some preparations before the visit.


maison et objet

maison et objet  maison et objet

maison et objet

maison et objet


My strategy was to spend a day there focusing on 2-3 halls only (there are 8 in total), because it would impossible to see everything in a day. But soon after I arrived via the entrance of Hall 6 (the largest hall), I was lost, stressed out, and feeling overwhelmed. I thought I was mentally prepared, but the sheer scale of the venue was staggering. The layout of this hall was like a vast maze and it wasn’t easy to navigate at all. Luckily, Hall 7 (Now! Design a Vivre) was more spacious and it gave me some breathing space. Six hours later, I only managed to cover 2.5 halls, but it was sufficient for me already.


vitra eames  marimekko


Flensted Mobiles

Top left: The classic Eames Elephant at Vitra; Top right and 2nd row: new collection by Marimekko; Botton row: Flensted Mobiles


But was it worth all the fuss and sweat? Yes, I suppose. Since most of the trade fairs in London focus mostly on British brands and businesses, M & O provides a more global perspective of the design world outside of the U.K. There are many interesting brands that I have never heard of before, and many of them are based in Asia too.

Here is an overview of some of the brands/products that I encountered during the 6 hours at the fair including many Asian participants:



Gmund papermakers and stationery (Germany)


papier machine

Papier Machine (France) is a booklet gathering a family of 13 paper-made electronic toys ready to be cut, colored, folded, assembled or torn.



Samesame recycled glass products (Germany)



Storytiles from the Netherlands


Animal theme



elephant table and chairs element optimal

peacock at Element Optimal  Zoo collection at Element Optimal

Top and 2nd rows: super cute cuddly toy chairs at AP Collection from Belgium; 3rd row: elephant table and chairs; Bottom left: Peacock; Bottom right: Zoo collection at Element Optimal from Denmark



wonders of weaving

luce couillet

dsc_0063-min  img_4998-min

Top row: Wonders of weaving (Indonesia); 2nd row: Luce Couillet textiles (France); Bottom: origami textiles at the Material lab



In the last few years, Japanese art/digital collective teamlab has created some fascinating immersive installations around the world. After their popular installations at Pace London earlier this year, they have teamed up with tea master Shunichi Matsuo to promote his new brand, En tea, a new tea grown in Hizen.

Visitors were led into a dark room, where they would sit at the table and be given a bowl of green tea. Then virtual flowers would appear when tea is poured in the bowl; the visuals are rendered in real time by a computer program and are not prerecorded. Petals and leaves would scatter and spread as you move your bowl. It was a fun experience, and a nice way to rehydrate and enjoy a bit of downtime away from the hustle and bustle outside.


Espace en tea X Teamlab  Espace en tea X Teamlab

more trees

Top row: flowers blossom in the tea bowl: Bottom row: En tea & More trees space outside of the installation



Misoka – an award-winning toothbrush that requires no toothpaste



The quirkiest lamps ever… Pampshade is made from real bread by bread lover/artist, Yukiko Morita. I have ever seen anything like this before!


washi paper


Osaka design centre – Washi paper and K-ino Inomata


draw a line  suzusan

suzusan  suzuzan

Top left: Draw a line tension rod by Heian Shindo and TENT; Suzusan shibori textiles and lighting




lee hyemi


small good things  kim hyun joo

Top row: Ceramic products at I.Cera; 2nd row: Lee Hyemi; 3rd row: Korean craft & design foundation; Bottom left: Small good things; Bottom right: Kim Hyun Joo studio



A notable presence from Taiwan at the fair, aside from the Taiwan crafts & design stand, there were other independent brands like Haoshi, Toast, EY products, new brand called Melting, and the 2017 Rising Asian Talents: Kamaro’an.


taiwan craft design






1st row: Taiwan crafts & design; 2nd row: Haoshi; 3rd row: Kamaro’an; 4th row: Toast; 5th row: Melting; bottom row: EY products



Meanwhile, Thailand’s Department of International Trade Promotion (DITP) also showcased TALENT THAI, which introduced various Thai lifestyle/design brands to an international audience. Thai design studio, Atelier 2+ was also selected one of the 2017 Rising Asian Talents.


zen forum  saprang

atelier 2+ Greenhouse MinI

salt and pepper studio  img_4968-min

1st left: Zen Forum; 1st right: Handmade jewellery by Saprang;  2nd row: Greenhouse Mini by Atelier 2+; Bottom left: woven chair by Salt and Pepper design studio; Bottom right: wooden panels by Deesawat




The stand of Singapore-based architectural practice WOHA was named Designer of the year Asia 2017


Hong Kong


2017 Rising Asian talent: Lim + Lu Studio




Paris Design Week 17: Now! Le Off

now! le off

now! le off


I have to admit that I have not been keeping up with my blog writing this year, and there is a backlog of unfinished posts that are yet to be published; hence my new tactic is to reduce the amount of writing so that I can keep up to date with what is currently happening.

September is a busy month for designers, retailers and wholesalers as there are many design-related events and trade shows in both London and Paris. Although it is not my first visit to mega home and design trade show Maison et Objet, it is my first visit to Paris design week. Now in its 7th year, this design event might not be as prodigious as the London Design festival (which will start next week), yet it is still a good opportunity to see the current trends and offerings in the French capital city.


Les Docks, Cité de la Mode et du Design  Les Docks, Cité de la Mode et du Design

Les Docks, Cité de la Mode et du Design

Les Docks, Cité de la Mode et du Design


For those who don’t want to splash out €60 to visit Maison et Objet, Now! Le off design show (9th-13th Sept) at Les Docks, Cité de la Mode et du Design is a good alternative as it is free and opened to the public. Here, you would find many up and coming young talents from France and beyond, and it offers an opportunity to meet the designers up face to face.




One pleasant surprise for me at the show was to see an inflatable and portable boat ‘Ar Vag‘ designed by French designer Thibaut Penven. The economical folding boat may be set up in five movements in a manner similar to a tent. It is made of panels of fibre glass and a welded PVC material, and it assumes its final shape thanks to a varnished pine bench. The oars are perfectly integrated into the folded boat’s format.


Ar Vag by thibault penven

Ar Vag by Thibaut Penven


Since I love origami, I was immediately drawn to an origami tent Les cocons designed by Origanid. This foldable and waterproof tent is made of TYVEK®, and it is a lovely way for children or adults to hide away from the world if they need to. I would love to hide inside when I am feeling blue sometimes!





I walked past a table full of playful ‘stuff’ which was surrounded by intrigued visitors, so I tried to squeeze near the table to figure out what these items were. It turned out that the interesting items on the table are designed by Flayou, a multidisciplinary design studio based in Tunis. The two former architecture students experimented with different materials to create miniature architectural models based on buildings in Tunis; they also adopted the traditional pottery-making craft to create three board games made from clay. I think their designs are intuitive, fun and delightful.



Playful designs focusing on materials and craftsmanship by Tunis-based Flayou


Du cote de chez vous‘, the creative label of Leroy Merlin, is showcasing 4 winning projects from its Young talents scheme at the show. These projects were created with the theme based on reinventing modularity in homes. I especially like Antoine Taillandier‘s ‘Plug and make’ organiser, which is a simple but highly functional plywood board that can be used as a table or shelf.

Nearby, Ecole Bleue Global Design showcases 13 projects designed by their design students. Key, designed by Yohann Hewak, is a bookshelf that requires no nails or screws; for those of us who constantly struggle to assemble an Ikea bookshelf, this bookshelf would no doubt save the day.


Cloison Personnalisable by Caroline Chapron  Tabtouli by Lucie Lasjuilliarias

plug and make [organizer]

plug and make [organizer]  Liku by Juliette Chalumeau

key by Yohann Hewak

 Criss Cross Air by Annouck Bussiere

Top left: Cloison Personnalisable by Caroline Chapron; Top right: Tabtouli by Lucie Lasjuilliarias; 2nd row & 3rd left: Antoine Taillandier’s plug and make; 3rd right: Liku by Juliette Chalumeau; 4th row: key by Yohann Hewak; Bottom row: Criss Cross Air by Annouck Bussiere



draft   atelier errance

Parade by Caroline Scholl and Frederique Vinel from Handmade Ici

Top: Design Lituanie showcases designs by Lithuanian designers; Left: Ripple table by Draft; Right: Plipli porcelain inspired from paper folding by Atelier Errance; Bottom: Parade by Caroline Scholl and Frederique Vinel from Handmade Ici


LAYERS by uau project

chaire idis  img_4834-min

Top: LAYERS by UAU project; Bottom left: Chaire Idis; Bottom right: An upcycled woven chair made from plastic waster by the Filipino company, junk not




Bottom row: Murmur lighting by Mona Ronteix Studio






2nd row: Maztri