My insights on Focus/17

September is a busy time, not just for fashion but for designers as well. In the interior design world, we have Focus, 100% Design, Design Junction and London Design Fair all vying for our attention within the space of one week.

Focus/17 is one of the foremost interior design events that takes place at the Design Centre Chelsea Harbour. This year, I found the talks at Focus/17 particularly inspiring, engaging and thought provoking.

There were definitely some recurring themes coming through from most of these conversations. Luxury has always been associated with interior design. But this year the focus has also shifted to wellness, creating a narrative with materiality, use of colour, technology and travel – all contributing to creating sumptuous interiors.

Below is a snapshot of my favourite ‘conversations in design’ from this year’s Focus/17.

The meaning of luxury with Bernie De Le Cuona (De Le Cuona), Lucia Van der Post (FT How to spend it)  and Helen Brocklebank (Walpole)

To mark the launch of De Le Cuona’s new fabric collection Ethereal Elements, there was an interesting chat on what luxury means in today’s context. Some of the key points that were raised was that the term luxury is too broadly used. Luxury today in the context of materiality is about being bespoke, a sense of personalisation, something no one else has and having a story. People want less, but they want quality. There is a drive to buy fewer things, but buy better. Luxury for the millionaire millennials is not about possessing but experiencing moments and creating memories. It is not about ownership but how a space makes you feel. Luxury is still sophisticated and exquisite but there is also a quest for simplicity, sustainability and wellness. Interior designers want to create spaces that one feels enchanted by but at the same time feel an emotional human connection.

The crossover of home and hospitality into workspace with Karen Howes (Taylor Howes), Florent Duperrin (Gensler) and Katie Le Chevalier (Planteria)

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This talk mainly focussed on the redefinition of workplace design and how the culture of wellness and wellbeing is also becoming a crucial part of office design. Office design is no longer the mass produced anonymous cubicles but now they are reflective of the user’s personal style and tastes. There is a sense of personalisation, even within a commercial space. More and more offices are breaking away from the traditional design and creating an atmosphere that is fun, relaxed and enjoyable to work in. The use of indoor greenery is being encouraged to enhance the quality of the air and create an overall healthy scheme. Colour is also making its presence felt in workplace design. With technology taking over, the need of the hour is to create holistic workspaces that drive productivity without burning us out.

Luxury Interiors: A new holistic approach with Jo Littlefair (Goddard Littlefair), Kate Maclaren (Winch Design) and Louise Wicksteed (1508)

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This talk focussed on how the concept of wellness is entering the luxury residential, hotel and yacht sector as well. Whilst technology is a great enabler and empowers its users, it has also been quietly disruptive, taking over our lives; we are unable to switch off and connect at a human level. New thinking suggests that we need interior spaces that allows us to disconnect and decompress. Louise raised an interesting point that in some twisted way, technology in design is helping get rid of stress created by technology itself. Design is helping people achieve a sense of cocooning, by using materials, textures, layering, clever lighting and space planning. Lots of natural materials that look better with age and create a sense of place are being used in the design of these spaces. The idea is to create a sanctuary that makes you feel safe, speaks to your senses and creates a lasting memory.

The transformative power of light by Rebecca Weir (Light IQ)

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Rebecca’s talk also focussed on the concept of using light as a cocooning effect. Light adds an extra layer of detail and creates a sense of surprise. She also mentioned about how one feels or experiences a space and how lighting has the power to uplift and enhance one’s senses in that space. She also touched upon the use of colour in lighting and the mimicing of daylight to create healthy, holistic spaces.

Journey by Design with Lucia Van Der Post and Katharine Pooley

Renowned interior designer Katharine Pooley talked to Lucia about how travel, architecture and fashion have been her greatest inspirations behind her designs. She also talked about interiors telling a story; in this case of the places, the cultures, the food and the people. She wants her designs to be timeless. She is also seeing the trend of how luxury is an extremely personal idea and that clients are insisting that every design is bespoke. There is a sense of what one has, no one else should have the same. She also talked about preserving history and creating a sense of place with the use of materials.
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Sitting through all these talks, it was evident that there is a real awareness amongst interior designers to create spaces for the clients that allow them to disengage and disconnect from their hectic lifestyles and create a better work life balance. It is heartening to know they were all speaking the same language of creating designs that are luxurious but not in an ostentatious way, but more in terms of creating a once-in-a-lifetime experience and an everlasting memory.

More information on next year’s Focus/18 can be found here.

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