It’s what I’ve missed the most over the past two years – arriving at a design venue, sitting over a cup of coffee to plan my route through cavernous spaces full of interior inspiration from places long held by design traditions are penetrated, alongside risk-taking loners. detached from established notions of how things should be designed.
It’s exciting for those of us whose personal art is home interior design, whether it’s a renovation, a room transformation, or the simple yet instantly gratifying experience of table setting.
After two and a half years I was able to experience it again and feed this design-hungry soul.
Target? Design Centre, Chelsea Harbour, home to some of the biggest high-end interiors brands – 600, in fact – spread across 120 showrooms and hosting a brand new event, WOW!house, this month until July 1st.
Conceived by the Design Centre, Claire German, CEO of Chelsea Harbour, in the quiet days of Covid when many of our minds wandered to new ideas, she and her team have now turned lockdown ideas into reality and with the help of architectural firm Mamou-Mami Recruited Design a house-shaped structure with a series of 17 separate rooms inside, designed by some of the biggest names in interior design on both sides of the Atlantic.
“As I’m the first to admit, designer showhouses aren’t new in the US,” says Claire, “but having something of this caliber specifically in London took the concept to another level. And it’s not just about the design community. Wow!house is open to all, giving the public a unique opportunity to experience the work of these design stars in person and see creative ideas come to life.”
And it does.
To give the designers free reign, unhindered by what might normally be the clients’ personal tastes, the rooms are distinctly different from the brightly lit entrance hall, which was put together by Shalini Misra with its eye-catching recycled plastic chandelier and the atmospheric salon behind by Emma Burns and Philip Hooper of textile house Colefax & Fowler, where deep, rich velvet wall coverings, upholstery, cocooning lighting design and carefully curated art and objects encourage tactility, calm and relaxation.
In fact, anything used in these spaces can be touched, explored and even purchased at the design center. QR codes are available to scan for each product, giving die-hard shoppers ample opportunity to shop or just window shop for ideas.
From there we move on to a cheerful design in Rita Konig’s breakfast room with a fern print fabric embroidered by GP&J Baker, continuing the theme of the fabric wall coverings throughout the WOW!house. But it’s also homey, thanks to little touches like a bowl of Smarties on the ottoman, which Konig says are needed “to put together a scheme and make it feel like a proper room.”
But my favorite was Freddy van Zevenbergen’s dining room, a room I’m never convinced deserves its place but I covet its design, which invites lounging in comfort on a long, velvety banquet-style sofa; bathed in dim light for an atmosphere of intimacy; and a reminder to always look up, in this case to a painted trompe d’oeil effect of flames licking the ceiling (or maybe sun rays?), all adding to the sense of warm invitation. It’s a dining room, but not as we knew it. It’s also the fashion for maximalism, but not as we know it. Thank God.
Transient, on-trend features permeate every room design. Original soundscapes were commissioned by sound artist Peter Adjaye to suit the mood of each room, aided by the addition of room fragrances by Florentine perfumer Dr. Vranjes to enhance the atmosphere.
All in all, WOW!house makes for an eye-popping immersive experience if you’re looking for inspiration and sophistication, and if you can’t make it to London to see it there’s talk of doing it again next year . I’ll see you on the plane.
WOW!house, Chelsea Harbour, Design Centre, London, open from 10am to 5.30pm. Admission £25 (part of the price goes to Centrepoint, a charity for homeless young people).