Here’s the feel-good factor we all need — the 18th London Design Festival, though trimmed, is opening as planned on Saturday with a nine-day programme of installations, shows and events (September 12-20; londondesignfestival.com).
Running in tandem, ambitious online expos and seminars give the festival a new global reach.
“More than ever, London needs a platform for our brilliant design,” says festival director, Ben Evans.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan adds: “Times are hard, but LDF’s confidence and creativity shows what we can do in the design capital of the world.”
King’s Cross is the hotspot, and fun, festive, free public art is in overdrive there.
Large root-balled trees, temporarily imported and festooned with seating, mark the way from the station over the canal to Granary Square.
There you can join a ring of design devotees manning the footpumps to inflate a wildly waving sculpture that resembles a sea creature made of recycled fabric.
“It’s all about unity,” explains designer Marlène Huissoud. “If people stop, it collapses. We must stand firm together.”
Puzzle out the Semaphore sculptures — you’ll find the codes nearby. Gaze up at Pattern Portraits, an installation by artist Lauren Godfrey, with 120 bright flags fashioned by students during lockdown. The reopened Canopy weekend craft/food market is a fun detour.
STORE Store is a great enterprise, run by volunteer design professionals who tutor schoolkids in advanced design techniques.
Be charmed by the youthful makers, buy what they’ve created and bag a limited-edition DIY Makers Manual (118 Lower Stable Street, N1C).
Tap into sustainable design at cult store Wolf & Badger in Coal Drops Yard. Tom Dixon’s glitzy showroom at The Coal Office has a free disco dive for flashy lights and sound, a perfumery, a pattern-making studio, a bar with cocktails, and a tribute to his signature S-Chair on its 30th birthday.
A “green wall” is a great meeting point with a platform for talks on “the right to repair; carbon capture, and blooming buildings” on September 17-20, and there are seed packet giveaways (planted-cities.co.uk).
Then explore the area’s unexpected green spots on a wellness walk.
Royal College of Art design students are staging live design studios at 35-36 Thurloe Place. At 31 Thurloe Place, design tutor Peter Marigold spotlights students from London Met.
The area’s posh Italian brands are back in business: B&B Italia, Cassina, Meridiani, Poltrona Frau, Molteni&C and Society Limonta.
Avant-garde design store Mint has mad materials and fantastical forms (2 North Terrace, SW3).
Similarly off-piste is a new online Virtual Design Destination by Adorno for which 14 countries have compiled a theatrical portfolio of the latest tech from 3D video, music, social media and gaming.
Taking LDF across the capital, Mayfair is reliably arty, while Shoreditch hosts happy hours in the bars and boutiques of its “Triangle”.
Check out small-space living at SCP, and Studio Tuctite will take your portrait (shoreditchdesigntriangle.com).
Walthamstow has a William Morris Design Line. Stratford’s 23ft-long Hothouse by Studio Weave and garden designer Tom Massie is an “edible jungle” of guava, pineapple, avocado, pomegranate and more.
South of the river, follow the Peckham Design Trail, where woodworkers Jan Hendzel Studio and Manufaction, and knife makers Blenheim Forge share their crafty secrets.
At Japan House London in Kensington High Street, Architecture for Dogs is a show of crazy kennels, while the Design Museum has Connected by Design, Apart, a “new normal” virtual liaison of designers with craftsmen.
At Anthropologie, King’s Road, SW3, African arts and crafts chosen by Kate Kindersley are in a pop-up for her HADEDA label.