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Tom Dixon OBE evening at London Design Festival in MULTIPLEX Old Selfridges Hall

wingback chairs

wingback chairs

Being a long time Habitat fan, I was keen to hear Tom Dixon speak. His designs are always identifiable. They are perforated metal or twisted and welded metal, in the modernist tradition. His pendant lights which are rather more like geometric lanterns or upturned burnished copper urns, have formed the ‘look’ of Habitat lighting as we know it. The blue wingback chairs, copper pendants and coloured distorted glass bubble lighting are visually distinctive.

geometric perforated metal lanterns

geometric perforated metal lanterns

The talk

He presented an engaging, funny and honest slideshow and talk about his past and how he ended up being a designer. We saw his first chair, a junk metal chair covered in twisted wire and we saw later chairs, more sophisticated and streamlined versions, but still metal. He was a bass player fortunate or unfortunate enough to have a motorbike accident as he was looking at a girl. Because of his injuries, he then had a lot of practice doing welding which led to designing metalwork. He was impatient which suited metalwork more than woodwork, which required patience and accuracy. He was not a designer who ended up doing welding, it was the other way round. In the old days when branding was less rigid, he explained how we as designers were more free to explore and create without the pressure of branding,  marketing and typecasting. We saw how a visit to Jaipur in India inspired the aforementioned upturned copper urn lighting. Tom Dixon came across as a down-to-earth nice guy even though of course, I do understand that the design world is very commercial, corporate and branded now. There was no shortage of instagramming or selfie-ing young individuals. Of course they are young. No one over 33-and-a-half takes selfies.

The cocktails

One must have cocktails. We enjoyed different delicious cocktails made of Belsazar Vermouth and tonic and Rose Vermouth reverse martini. Both were light and refreshing. I didn’t know who the DJ was but I very much enjoyed the old school (should it be skool) funky stuff.

upside down watering

upside down watering

Upside down watering

…which is not to do with cocktails. I was tempted by the upside down perspex cube self-watering orchid planters. The photos are not upside down so it’s not that I forgot to rotate them. That’s how they came. The planters were hooked and suspended from a ceiling grid. But I had to stop myself from being carried away. Unless the orchid was dangling very low, I would not even notice it anymore which defeats the point of having orchids, right? Yet I had to concede it was still a good idea if one was too forgetful or busy to water orchids or any household plant for that matter. The space under the ceiling grid ┬áhad the true feel of a greenhouse with lush cascading vines. Also I thought that it would work better if one had a lot of these rather than one.

Wooden vintagey spectacles

…in the usual flattering classic designery shapes such as Rayban’s wayfarer. Oh… and the mould from which they are made, an idea that I was interested in years ago after seeing homemade bamboo spectacles in Vietnam.

Multi-sensory platform

Multiplex has the feel of a luxe street market because it is multi-sensory and multi-disciplinary. Twenty years ago when I first started design, every design discipline is disconnected from the others, you just mind your own business. You don’t even know what your mate is doing in the next office. The term crossover did not exist. We are very lucky now where good ideas are holistic and have to work alongside other good ideas. Whether it is fashion, architecture, graphic design, interior design or product design, they share the same roots and often these are grassroots.Thanks to Houzz for inviting me. It made me think about what the Houzz platform is. It no longer is enough to create, one must also create a ‘buzz’.

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