Our annual celebration of the best homegrown talent is always a special occasion, but this year perhaps more so than ever. As the design of our homes has become more important over the past 18 months, it feels right to recognise the achievements of the designers and brands who have strived to make our spaces happier, healthier and more sustainable. So without further ado, the winners are…
DESIGNER OF THE YEAR: TOM DIXON
Tom Dixon has never really been one to take his foot off the pedal. With a career that spans over 30 years and a vast catalogue of iconic products, some of which reside in the collections of the world’s most famous museums (think the Centre Pompidou, MOMA and the V&A), he is also the creator of an impressive roster of hotels, experimental spaces and restaurants including eatery The Coal Office at his own King’s Cross HQ in Coal Drops Yard. With retail hubs around the globe and his eponymous brand represented in more than 90 countries worldwide, it’s fair to say that his productivity is rivalled by very few.
Not even a global pandemic could halt Dixon’s output, and throughout 2020 he continued to push boundaries with materials and manufacturing. Recent additions to his ever-burgeoning inventory include ‘Cork’, a carbon-negative collection first conceptualised for his silver-medal-winning Chelsea Flower Show garden in 2019, and ‘Swirl’, a range of tables, vases and candles formed from surplus marble dust, pigment and resin.
Also new is ‘Mass’, a monolithic collection extruded from a single section of brass, and the whisk-like ‘Spring’ pendants made from pliant stainless-steel ribbons that literally spring to life. Beyond product design, in March 2020 Dixon launched the Tomorrow Channel, a collaborative digital platform and broadcast centre on Instagram, YouTube and his own microsite to share ideas and communicate with people during the depths of lockdown.
Now, thanks to all of the above, Dixon can add the ELLE Decoration Designer of the Year Award to his already impressive collection of accolades. ‘It’s been a punishing, complex and chaotic year and we have had to adapt, deconstruct and reshape ourselves continually to survive,’ he says. ‘This makes it extra nice to be noticed, and even more fabulous to be given this honour!’ tomdixon.net
YOUNG DESIGN TALENT OF THE YEAR: MAC COLLINS
The ‘Iklwa’ chair is an impressive item. With its high back, constructed so as to empower those who sit in it, and arms and legs reminiscent of spears, it’s no surprise that the throne-like piece has caused a stir in the design world.
As indeed has its creator, Mac Collins, who since his graduation from Northumbria University in 2018 has been making waves with his Afro-futurist forms that draw heavily on his own African-Caribbean and European heritage.
Named after the Zulu thrusting spear, the original ‘Iklwa’ chair presented at his graduation show was a vivid blue inspired by the suit Collins’s grandfather wore when he arrived in England, while the construction takes its influence from Scandinavian design. ‘The project was an exploration of my own identity and lineage,’ said Collins, speaking to ELLE Decoration last year. ‘It was in response to discoveries about my heritage and became an investigation into how a design could evoke certain feelings.’
So striking in fact is ‘Iklwa’ that it won the Belmond Award at New Designers 2018, and Hole & Corner magazine’s inaugural Cræftiga Award, for which Benchmark furniture’s MD and co-founder Sean Sutcliffe was a judge. It was this interaction that led to Collins’ collaboration with the brand, which has seen ‘Iklwa’ developed into a consumer collection. Featuring the original chair, a smaller scale seat to suit more compact spaces and a side table, the pieces are available in a classic Scandi white oil and a warm orange, synonymous with clay tones found in sub-Saharan Africa. Launched in October 2020, it’s already gaining global recognition.
Alongside his design work, as a member of the steering committee of Design Can, a platform promoting diversity in design, Collins is committed to making the industry more inclusive. ‘I’d like to see changes such as more opportunities and exposure for people from different backgrounds and genders,’ he says. ‘The representation of BAME and women designers is still disproportionate within major roles in the industry, and this needs to be rectified.’ maccollins.com
INTERIOR DESIGNER OF THE YEAR: SOPHIE ASHBY
Sophie Ashby was just 25 when she launched her interior architecture and design studio. With nothing but a laptop and seats in cafés, the Parsons School of Design graduate had within weeks won her first client, which quickly became three. That was back in 2014 and, seven years later, her eclectic style has placed her on the industry’s most-wanted list.
In June 2020, prompted by the Black Lives Matter movement, closer scrutiny by Ashby of that very same list revealed a stark lack of people of colour, which galvanised her into action.
The result is United in Design, a charitable initiative founded by herself and Alexandria Dauley of Dauley Design that aims to address the lack of diversity in the interiors industry. ‘With the help of a committee of leading editors and some of the country’s best regarded designers, we’ve built partnerships with educational programmes, industry professionals and sponsors,’ she explains. ‘Our new apprenticeship scheme launched this year and we’re honoured to see the apprentices flourish.’ Going forward, 2022 will see the launch of a live event, the United in Design festival.
More recently, Ashby has branched out further still with ‘Sister’, a collection of affordable furniture and antique pieces chosen to make her work available to a younger audience. ‘Winning the ELLE Decoration Interior Designer of the Year award is a total honour for the whole of Studio Ashby,’ she says. ‘I am so proud of my talented and inspiring Studio Ashby family and we will celebrate this achievement together.’ studioashby.com
FURNITURE: ’HALF A SQUARE’ TABLE BY MICHAEL ANASTASSIADES FOR MOLTENI & C
A sleek combination of precise engineering and luxurious materials, the ‘Half a Square’ table by Michael Anastassiades for Molteni & C has all the hallmarks of a future classic. With a top available in aluminium, marble, glass, eucalyptus or oak, its frame features a satin brass triangle at its joints, which enhances its solidity.
‘When designing this piece, I wanted to create a very minimal language and so it became an interesting exercise right from the beginning,’ says Anastassiades. ‘As a result of a play of geometry, a decorative triangular-shaped intersection between the leg and frame developed, which characterises both the function and elegance of the design.’ Price on application molteni.it
FABRIC: DURO OLOWU FOR SOANE BRITAIN
It was Duro Olowu’s (left) Instagram post of Soane’s Pimlico Road window that sparked this dynamic collaboration, the result of which is a collection of punchy weaves and swirling prints by the innovative lawyer-turned-fashion-designer. Inspired by the architecture of ancient Malian mosques, English Arts & Crafts topiary and Georgian wrought-iron façades, a sophisticated mix of colour and scale makes this a joyful range that can be used in any interior. ‘Duro’s fearlessness with colour and pattern really appeals to me,’ says Soane founder Lulu Lytle (right).‘He has a certain irreverence and is happy to break with convention, and for our part we’re excited to be pushing in this bolder, more graphic direction.’ From £150 per m, soane.co.uk
FLOOR COVERING: ‘OPTIK’ COLLECTION BY KITTY JOSEPH FOR FLOOR STORY
Joseph’s second collection for the east-London rug maker, ‘Optik’, takes inspiration from the fashion designer’s pleated creations, as well as optical colour experiences found in nature. ‘Our perception of rippling water or of a blue sky dusted with pink clouds evolves in real time,’ says Joseph, whose designs are also a favourite of Lady Gaga. ‘As you move around these rugs, the colours on the carved surface shift, simulating that mesmeric movement.’
The result is a series of unique designs that push home textiles into new realms. ‘To be recognised by the ELLE Decoration team is a great honour,’ says Floor Story founder Simon Goff. ‘These rugs are stunning, and Kitty is an absolute joy to work with.’ From £750, floorstory.co.uk
SEATING: ‘DS-707’ BY PHILIPPE MALOUIN FOR DE SEDE
Available as an armchair or modular sofa, the ‘DS-707’ combines fine leather with a contemporary and cocooning form that has the look of a design classic yet feels utterly of the moment.
‘The design is very process-based. It came from sculptural experimentation, folding foam and exploring shapes to develop the language,’ says Malouin. ‘Working with a brand like this is interesting because the sofas retain their value over the years. The idea of a piece of furniture being traded, having a second life and existing from one person to the next is really important to me.’ From £2,788, desede.ch
LIGHTING: ‘LOER’ PENDANT BY TOM RAFFIELD
‘Loer’ – meaning ‘moon’ in Cornish – takes its inspiration from the orbits of planets and moons at the edge of the solar system. Combining a translucent, replaceable bulb with brushed brass and steam-bent ash, the aim of the design is to capture a celestial, weightless aesthetic.
‘Sustainability is very important to us, so using ash was the obvious choice as it’s the fastest-growing hard wood and is also self-seeding, meaning it’s available in plentiful supply,’ says Raffield. ‘The bulb is also replaceable – something the team and I found many designs didn’t consider. For us, it’s essential that we create heirloom pieces that stand the test of time.’ £345, tomraffield.com
TABLEWARE: ’OMI’ AND ‘AAMI AAMI’ COLLECTIONS BY YINKA ILORI
Yinka Ilori started his homeware project in 2020, translating colours and patterns from his city murals onto interior products with the intention of bringing happy vibes into people’s lockdown homes. With inspiration as diverse as childhood memories of the bright fabrics worn by his family to the fluid lines of the River Thames, these designs can be used day to day or displayed as individual artworks.
‘It’s a real honour to win this award,’ says Ilori. ‘With lockdown over, I’m appreciating seeing friends and family reunited around the dining table, and this tableware is a way to celebrate that.’ From £38, yinkailori.com
WALLCOVERING ‘PALLADIO VOLUME I’ BY ZOFFANY / SAM WILDE
This collection sees the resurrection of six archive Zoffany pieces, plus the introduction of ‘Precarious Pangolins’, a bold design by designer Sam Wilde (right).
‘After it having been hidden in our archive for many years, bringing the “Palladio” collection to light again was a delight,’ says Peter Gomez, lead designer at Zoffany (left). ‘Our aim was to create an immersive juxtaposition of new and archival designs whilst showcasing the best of British talent. It was a pleasure to include Sam’s design and we look forward to highlighting emerging artists from the Royal College of Art in the years to come.’ From £139 per roll, sanderson.sandersondesigngroup.com
BEDROOM: ‘MARLOW’ BED BY TIM RUNDLE FOR HEAL’S
A collaboration with renowned industrial designer Tim Rundle, Heal’s ‘Marlow’ bed celebrates the brand’s heritage, paying tribute to Tottenham Court Road’s iconic four-poster bed sign that, thanks to a long-held reputation for offering the best beds money could buy, was erected outside the street’s store in the 1920s.
‘We created a simple, almost architectural frame with a nod to Heal’s reputation for craft, which is demonstrated in the details and finishing,’ says Rundle. ‘While the “Marlow” is relatively minimal, the walnut brings an understated sense of quality, and the design is elevated by the seamless way the junctions blend.’ £2,499, heals.com
KITCHEN: ‘LIQUID’ COLLECTION BY PATTERNITY FOR DEKTON BY COSENTINO
‘This is the first time we’ve designed a surface that brings our love of nature and the elements into people’s living spaces. It’s affirmation of the positive effect that pattern can have,’ says Patternity co-founder Grace Winteringham of the duo’s new ‘Liquid Collection’, which brings three new marbled designs to Dekton’s carbon-neutral, architectural surfaces.
‘We’ve always been inspired by the theme of liquid – it’s at the heart of the creative essence of Patternity, so when they asked us to collaborate it felt symbolic,’ adds co-founder Anna Murray. ‘Their values are very aligned with ours, from working sustainably to being conscious about the design process.’ From £450 per sq m, cosentino.com
BATHROOM: ‘ELM MINI’ BASIN BY KAST
Launched as a continuation of the ever-popular ‘Canvas’ collection of patterned concrete basins, the seamless construction and ridged surface of Kast’s ‘Elm Mini’ expertly showcases the many design possibilities of this versatile material. Available in 28 shades, from chic neutrals to high-intensity hues, compact dimensions make this basin ideal for smaller spaces.
‘We’re continually striving to innovate and push the boundaries of concrete within contemporary bathroom design, and we feel that “Elm Mini” truly showcases our technical skills,’ says Tim Bayes, founder and managing director of Kast. ‘We’re delighted to receive recognition from ELLE Decoration, and to win this award is something that we’re extremely proud of.’ From £2,268, kastconcretebasins.com
OUTDOOR: ‘FOLD’ OUTDOOR COLLECTION BY SAMUEL WILKINSON FOR THE CONRAN SHOP
Designer Samuel Wilkinson first came up with the concept for ‘Fold’ several years ago, while testing ways of wrapping upholstery around a metal frame. ‘It’s like a padded jacket, with pillow-like cushions that fold around and zip back to themselves,’ he explains. ‘They’re fully removable, which allows all of the components to be separated for easy cleaning and to be replaced or recycled if necessary.’
Created for outdoor use, the design works equally well indoors, too. ‘Like any product, “Fold” has had a long journey,’ he continues. ‘It takes years of development to get things right, so it’s great to receive an award, especially from a respected name like ELLE Decoration.’ From £1,548, conranshop.co.uk
SUSTAINABLE ACHIEVEMENT: TIMBER TERRAZZO BY FORESSO
‘We’ve had an incredible response to the product,’ says Conor Taylor, creative director at Foresso. ‘Much has changed over the past five years for sustainability and ethics in manufacturing. I’m excited to see what the future holds.’ A timber terrazzo made from off-cuts of British trees felled as part of city development, this versatile material, which bonds wood chips with a bio-resin, can be used for worktops, cabinetry and flooring. The brand has a circular ethos, aiming to recycle or reuse material at the end of its life, and 95% of production waste is recycled or used for energy reclamation within a five-mile radius of its Birmingham factory.
‘Sustainability is often presented as something that has to be 100% perfect, when in fact there are a lot of grey areas,’ says managing director Jake Solomon. ‘We’re delighted with this award, as it brings the opportunity for rich discussion.’ From £350 per sq m, foresso.co.uk