Behind the Scenes at Chelsea Harbour

Have you ever wondered how product designers come up with their inspiration?  At the Focus /13 show at Chelsea Harbour Design Centre I was lucky enough to get a behind the scenes tour with industry insider and stylist, Emilio Pimentel Reid.

Emilio took a group of us through 8 of the showrooms at Chelsea Harbour where we met people who explained some of the design process behind the products.   I’d like to share with you what I learned about design inspiration from them.


I was surprised to learn that Giorgio Armani is personally involved in every product Armani/Casa design.   First, he produces a sketch for a designer to work on the details and then he has final sign off on the finished product. The whole process takes about 12 months.  Armani/Casa takes a lot of inspiration from its fashion line.  Similar to its clothes, the emphasis is on clean, stream-lined shapes.  The furniture uses simple shapes because the focus is on the material.

left: Mexican onyx, top right: fabric, bottom right:  banana trunk

left: Mexican onyx, top right: fabric, bottom right: banana trunk

The round Giove table is made from Mexican onyx which was chosen for its colours and marked variations.    Moreover, the stone can be cut easily so that the table top appears thin and light.

photo from

photo from

The Glam dressing table is made from the trunk of a banana tree.   Usually banana tree trunks are waste material, but, in this instance, provides a stunning striped finish.

photo from

photo from

GP & J Baker/Lee Jofa

GP & J Baker showed us their  AERIN for Lee Jofa fabric collection which is newly arrived on these shores.   The collection was designed by Aerin Lauder, granddaughter of cosmetics queen Estee Lauder, who has set up her own lifestyle brand.  She is inspired by her grandparent’s homes and their antique textile collection.  For example, her grandmother’s favourite colours of blue and white and gold feature heavily in the fabrics.  Traditional patterns, such as the tree of life below, have been reworked and recoloured to appeal to modern tastes.

Aerin Aerin Lauder is also inspired by her love of art, travel and fashion.  For example, the giant ikat print above is velvet on herringbone linen.  The top right fabric was inspired by Chinese hand-painted wallpaper which has been reinterpreted as embroidery on linen.  The collection features lots of intricate embroidery and luxurious fabrics in blues, greens, browns and creams which harmonise well with each other.

Colefax and Fowler

Colefax and Fowler showed how they are keeping up with the times.  Their Bowood print is a classic block-printed chintz from the archive which still sells.  They have released a new version however, in grey and green, which is screen printed.  With the busy background pattern removed and the flowers given a painterly effect, the pattern feels more modern.

left: original, right: reworked

left: original, right: reworked

In the photo below, the designer was inspired by the top left pattern to create the top right design.  The fabric was printed and dyed in Italy by artisans to get the shadowy effect.  Made of two different fibers (velvet and toile), the dye is taken up differently on each.  As seen below in the bottom two photos, the material catches the light differently depending on how it is seen.  It’s a very contemporary take on a classic pattern.


I thought this tour was fascinating.  The past provides so much inspiration and a good classic never goes out of style.

There is nothing new under the sun but there are lots of old things we don’t know.  

Ambrose Pierce

Luckily for us, these clever clogs designers are constantly rooting through the past finding, reinterpreting and reinventing design.

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