Clerkenwell Design Week 2023 was a major event in the world of design, showcasing the latest trends and innovations in furniture, lighting, and homewares. The event took place from May 23-25 in London, and attracted over 35,000 visitors from around the world.
Having taken part in The House of Upcycling showcase at Clerkenwell Design Week 2022, for me this year was all about observing, learning and being inspired! I was invited to join a tour organised by The British Institute of Interior Design (BIID) exploring some of the sustainability focused exhibitors. The tour started at Solus Ceramics where we saw a collaboration between Iris Ceramica Group and Architects Szczepaniak Teh. Cloud to Cloud explores the water cycle, its importance, and our dependence upon it.
Sustainability was a major theme at the event, with many exhibitors showcasing their sustainable products and practices. For example, British furniture maker Sebastian Cox presented his first lounge chair made from UK-grown wood and upholstered using entirely natural non-toxic materials.
Circular design was also a focus, with many exhibitors exploring ways to create products that can be reused or recycled. Natural materials were popular, with many exhibitors using materials such as wood, stone, and cork. And, more radically, PLP Architects showcased their work exploring the building properties of mycelium. These fungus-based building blocks were fascinating with their strange spongy texture – rather like huge chunks of brie!
Collaborations were a key trend, with many exhibitors partnering with other brands to create new products or experiences. For example, Morag Myerscough collaborated with BAUX to create an installation made from recycled plastic. My personal favourite was the Yes Colours x Portaire exhibit – a still life of abstract shapes painted in their trademark velvety Electric Blue colour – gorgeous!
More to come in a future blog post on what I saw at Clerkenwell and in particular the subject of sustainability in design!
The Future of Upcycling/ Is ‘Upcycling’ Still a Dirty Word?
I was recently asked by Reclaim Magazine to contribute to an article discussing upcycling and its future. Here are my thoughts.
The word upcycling has always been problematic! It is a perfectly good term in itself and very accurate as it describes how we are elevating the piece from what it was previously, as opposed to just fixing or even restoring it. However, it has always had a bit of a stigma attached to it within the interiors industry. There are historical reasons for this – furniture upcycling as we know it really took off from the shabby-chic aesthetic which was much imitated, often with poor quality results. In the minds of the general public this image of upcycling stuck.
The word upcycling has always been problematic…. it has always had a bit of a stigma attached to it within the interiors industry.
Carrie Webb, Reclaim Magazine January 2023
I think part of this problem is that the term is too generic. The main differentiation that needs to be made is between amateur and professional upcycling. Amateaur upcycling is great and I think everyone should have a go at creating their own pieces – it’s environmentally friendly, cost effective and good fun. Anyone can call themselves an upcycler and should! We all need to be re-using old things and making them new again for the sake of the planet. But this is very different from the skilled, labour intensive and design-led work of a professional furniture upcycler.
There is also the matter of style. Many people have preconceptions about how upcycled furniture looks – whether that’s shabby-chic, decoupage or vintage but in fact the term just refers to the process it has undergone and pieces can have any aesthetic the upcycler wishes – even very modern. At Webb & Gray we create contemporary upcycled furniture employing a range of techniques to update, enhance and re-imagine the pieces we work on. The styles vary – from ornate cabinets in gold leaf to bold, modern storage in trending colours but they are always exciting, new designs and one off pieces.
There are lots of words professional furniture upcyclers use to describe what they do, like re-finishing, repurposing or re-imagining but there isn’t really an alternative word that fully describes the process of taking something used and elevating it to something more desirable. Upcycling is a word that should be embraced for all it encompasses!
Happily though I think we are now starting to see the back of this stigma with the focus on sustainability meaning that upcycling is coming to be recognised as a skilled craft that has an important role to play in reducing the environmental impact of the interior design industry. Upcycled furniture can now be seen at international design shows and in leading interiors publications. People are finally beginning to understand! Webb & Gray recently exhibited a number of contemporary upcycled furniture pieces at the Design London exhibition which was the headline show for the London Design Week in 2022. I also demonstrated my gildiing techniques on stage as part of the Discussions series alongside Chris Billinghurst of the House of Upcycling. You can read more about it here.
Upcycled furniture is wonderful because there are endless styles available and to a certain extent it operates above trends. However, looking forward I think in general there is likely to be a move away from the decoupage heavy work of recent years to a more mixed style incorporating different techniques and finishes. I think we may also see more unpainted wood and also a broader range of styles of furniture being upcycled as people look for alternatives to the ever popular mid century modern. I think we may also see more smaller pieces being upcycled – lighting, homewares etc – in addition to furniture, as the demand for sustainable products increases.
Pinterest have recently released their Pinterest Predicts trends for 2023 which includes the snappily named ‘Hipstoric Homes.’
In 2023, people will find new ways to honour old things in their homes. Got a hand-me-down handy? People are combining vintage—often inherited—pieces with their modern styles. Thanks to the Boomers and Gen X driving these trends, antiques have never looked so chic.
‘Pinterest Predicts’ is a report written by Pinterest in response to data gathered on their platform regarding the number of searches carried out on different terms. They report that there has been an 850% rise in searches for ‘eclectic interior design vintage’ whilst searches for ‘mixing modern and antique furniture’ have risen by 530%
This eclectic mixing of styles, eras and materials has always been something I’ve been passionate about. Our bathroom (above) mixes Victorian, Art Deco and mid-century styles. Reclaimed and refinished furniture mixed with modern sanitaryware create a highly personalised space full of character.
For me your home should be full of things you love, why would you restrict yourself to just one style? Last year I was asked to contribute to an article in InsideKent Magazine on the subject of the trend ‘Newstalgia.’ Here’s what I wrote:
Newstalgia is about mixing old and new for a contemporary but meaningful aesthetic. More soulful than minimalism but less overwhelming than maximalism, it is a curated look with personalisation at its heart. Newstalgia encourages sustainability by taking something old and making it new. Upcycled furniture is a big part of this trend as it blends classic design styles with modern decorating ideas to create a truly bespoke interior.
Carrie Webb, Inside Kent Magazine August 2022
It seems to me these trends are both reflecting the same desire for individuality, creativity and expressing your own personality and story in your interior. This can be achieved in many ways, through the colours and materials you select, the artwork and objects you display and of course the furniture you choose. Mixing modern, antique and vintage creates an eclectic look and refinished pieces can really add a wow factor with bright colours and special finishes. The pieces we create at Webb & Gray are often antique or vintage items (although sometimes more modern) which we put our own very special designs onto. Our use of modern colours, patterns, details and finishes mixed with the vintage and antique styles of the pieces we work on mean our pieces are blending styles in an eclectic way to create something truly unique.
We also undertake commissions so we can create a bespoke piece that’s perfect for your interior and reflects your own story. Whether you choose a Ready to Buy or Commission piece you will receive a unique, one-off design bursting with hipstoric newstalgia! 😉
The Rise Of The Curio Cabinet/ And How To Style One
I was asked to contribute to an article on the Living Etc. website exploring the rising popularity of the curiosity cabinet and ideas for styling them. Below you can read my full thoughts on the subject.
The display cabinet has always been a favourite piece of mine. I’ve created quite a few over the years, from art deco designs to gilded opulence and modern maximalism. It’s become commonplace for these types of cabinets to be used as drinks cabinets, with ‘cocktail cabinets’ and ‘gin cabinets’ particularly popular but recently I’ve seen a move away from this towards using them for what they were originally intended for – displaying treasured possessions.
I think one reason for this is that people are less interested in simply following trends, wanting to create a more personal and considered style of their own. They want their interiors to be an expression of themselves and to reflect their own stories and interests. Glass fronted cabinets are an ideal way to bring meaningful objects together and display them in a cohesive way.
So, how do you go about choosing the right cabinet to display your treasures? I’m a great believer in choosing something because you love it. I like to mix old and new styles in my interiors as well as within the furniture pieces I create. You don’t have to stick to one style or era – an ornate gilded cabinet can look stunning in a minimalist space just as a sleek modern or mid-century design can provide a dramatic contrast to the elaborate details of a period property. Think about whether you want the cabinet to be a focal point within the room or to blend in with its surroundings. Consider what you want to display and make sure it will fit – both physically and aesthetically.
And where should you put it? A living room is a great place for a display cabinet as it can be enjoyed at leisure, providing a decorative feature for the room as well as a talking point. A hallway can also be a good location – display cabinets are usually slim so can be accommodated against a wall and will add personality and an eclectic museum-like feel. But really there are no rules – a curiosity cabinet could be great in the kitchen displaying interesting cooking ingredients and equipment or even in the bedroom. Why not create an interesting display of memorabilia for your guests to enjoy when they stay over?
As far as styling your cabinet goes, there are no rules about what pieces you can and can’t include but don’t over-do it! Choose a few key pieces as your starting point and build your collection around them. Go for a variety of sizes and heights. Bigger items will add weight and stop the composition feeling cluttered. Leave some spaces – don’t be tempted to cram your cabinet full.
Think about texture too – contrast translucent glass pieces with solid items like books and add softness with plants. Smaller pieces should be grouped to stop them feeling lost. The rule of threes is very useful when it comes to arranging your objets and creating balance. I would recommend keeping items on top of your cabinet to a minimum – I favour a trailing plant or small lamp. You don’t want to detract from the cabinet itself.
Sculptural ceramics, glassware and interesting curios all make good contents. The beauty of a glass fronted cabinet is that you can include treasured possessions that you wouldn’t necessarily want to have out on a mantlepiece or open shelf, for example your granny’s old china or a gaudy holiday souvenir! The cabinet will unite your pieces and make them look like a carefully curated museum display!
The most depressing day of the year?! I hate the cold dark mornings and do tend to struggle a bit in January but in fact it’s not long until it starts to get lighter and the first of the spring bulbs appear. In the meantime here are a couple of joyful pieces in one of my favourite colours. Our gilded candlesticks are made from reclaimed table legs, handcrafted and gilded in real silver leaf in this gorgeous royal blue. See the full range here. Also in royal blue this beautiful pair of French style marble topped pot cupboards. Now sold but please contact us if you’d like to discuss a commission.
Bright, bold and very beautiful, Pantone’s new colour of the year ticks all the boxes for me! Here’s what Pantone have to say about it:
Pantone’s Color of The Year, Viva Magenta 18-750, vibrates with vim and vigor. It is a shade rooted in nature descending from the red family and expressive of a new signal of strength. Viva Magenta is brave and fearless, a pulsating color whose exuberance promotes a joyous and optimistic celebration, writing a new narrative.
Viva Magenta is a great colour for interiors – it’s warm and inviting but also lively and dramatic. If painting all four walls red is a step too far for you there are plenty of opportunities to add a splash of this daring shade. I’ve included some of my favourites above – clockwise from left;
Flamingo Print from John James Audubon’s The Birds of America, 1827-38 available from the British Library shop (I have this on my dining room wall!)
Inspired by Pantone’s Colour of the Year 2023 ‘Viva Magenta’ we have created ‘Ruby,’ this stunning tall plant stand in vibrant red. This solid wood vintage plant stand has been hand painted and waxed. The fluted carved details have been highlighted with red dyed genuine silver leaf. The hand gilded finish has a beautiful texture, a soft sheen and natural variations in colour. The silver leaf has been varnished for protection.
This piece would look great in almost any room in the house from a hallway to living room or bedroom and would work equally well in a period property or against a minimalist backdrop.
What a fantastic week we had at Design London exhibiting our work with The House of Upcycling! The exhibition at Magazine London (Greenwich) was the headline event of the London Design Festival and featured leading designers and brands from across the globe.
The response was overwhelmingly positive with interior designers, journalists and members of the public all impressed with the creativity and craftsmanship of our pieces and those of our fellow House of Upcycling members.
Carrie took part in a demonstration of her gilding techniques live on stage with Chris Billinghurst of The House of Upcycling as part of the Design Discussions programme spreading awareness of the benefits of professional upcycling.
I had the pleasure of visiting the WOW! House exhibition at the Design Centre Chelsea Harbour yesterday. What a treat for the senses! A series of stunning rooms designed by various world class interior designers and accompanied by a beautiful soundscape and complimentary scents for each room! It was a delight to explore the spaces – my favourites were the bold and beautiful main bedroom by Rayman Boozer of Apartment 48 and the Colefax and Fowler drawing room with its gorgeous moss green velvet walls! It was also very interesting to see a number of upcycled pieces in the roomsets – a chandelier made from plastic bottles in the entrance foyer by Shalini Misra and a fabulous handpainted Bloomsbury group style armoir and ladder lamp both in the Kit Kemp day room. Also plenty of vintage and painted furniture pieces.
The show runs until the 1st July, I highly recommend a visit!
What a gorgeous, colour-filled day we had on 23rd June with champion of small businesses Holly Tucker at The Sun Deck in Margate! The sun shone brightly and we enjoyed our Small Biz Fizz, an inspiring talk from Holly and lots of networking with other creatives and small business owners from Margate and all over East Kent.