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Grand Designs Live 2012

Out of all the shows I’ve visited recently, Grand Designs Live stands out as one of the best. Unlike other trade shows that focus on one area of the industry, Grand Designs pulls all of them together in one place. Aside from the trade stands, large areas where also dedicated sharing information and helping people to tackle their Grand Design dreams.

The strongest theme running throughout the show and reflected in many of the trade products was sustainability and it was refreshing to see that the show organisers were being sincere about its importance.  Whole areas were dedicated to sustainable materials, with experts on hand to discuss them and give talks on their practical applications.  Another large area was dedicated to up and coming innovative products that use recycled materials and have little or no impact on the environment. On top of all this, most vendors were proudly demonstrating the ‘Eco’ properties of their products and services. I found it to be an interesting place to be where I could learn anything about sustainable buildings, materials and practices.

Room in a room

If you have a large garden and already have your house how you like it then the next stage it seems is to put a pod in your yard that can be used as a second living room, guest house, office, play den or gym.

They generally come in two types: Pre-fab pod or larger more bespoke lodge. Here are some that stood out.

Starting at the luxurious end we have the i-hut, which isn’t much to look at from the outside, but once inside its pitch as an orginal and creative answer to second home ownership becomes clear. Think of it as a modern home in the shape of a caravan but made of wood. Because it is caravan sized it can be located on land that has planning permission for one, so your  site options are massive.

The other luxury shed I came across was the ecoPerch by Blue Forest who specialise in building grandiose bespoke tree houses and eco lodges. The ecoPerch is their attempt to create a pre-fab lodge that can be installed in five days, and again is suitable for caravan sites. It has a more aesthetically pleasing external look than the i-hut, but it dosen’t make as much economical use of the internal space.

If something a little smaller and less home like is what you seek, then the Armadilla may be more suitable, certainly if you plan to create a useful extra space in your garden.

For something all together a little more odd looking, the more eccentric of you might get more pleasure from the Let’s Live Our Lives (LOL) Pod. It looks like a toadstool.

Another interestingly shaped garden pod is the more honestly named Tetra Shed. Whilst on its own it resembles a bizarre geometric shape, inside it is designed to be the perfect outdoor office. It’s modular too, so you can link up to five of them together if you need more space.

For a regular shaped, well insulated and bespoke garden office or lodge I found Vividgreen were the people to talk to.

Outdoor living

This years Grand Designs Live put a lot of emphasis on garden design. Not only was the garden section huge, but it also offered free expert advice about any garden design ideas or projects you might have floating around your head. Below are some of the inspiring new products that could help transform any outdoor space.

If you are interested in learning about garden design as a career yourself or as an extra string to your interior design bow, then check out NDA’s new Diploma in Professional Garden Design. NDA also run a BA (Hons) degree course on Design for Outdoor Living.

Garden Haven Lounger – mygind design

Scandinavian design company mygind design have pulled out all the stops to bring this luxury lounger to life. Made from solid mahogany wood, hand woven in all-weather resin wicker and custom upholstered with plush cushions and pillows, these wouldn’t look out of place in a heritage setting. The lounger also folds up and becomes completely weather proof. Available as a single, double or triple seat model.


The Cole Henley Table Barbecue

This outdoor dining table and barbecue combination lets everyone cook their food how they like it, whilst all sitting together. Its well designed and insulated so only the grill gets hot. Hand built in the UK, it is available as a four, six or eight seater.

Rustic Designs Limited

It does exactly what it says on the tin, if indeed you could buy bespoke rustic garden furniture in tins.

Kingsley Smythe

Specialists in luxury teak furniture, their new chunky log table and chair set caught my eye.

Jusi Colour

Voted as one of the “Must have products” in the Grand Design Magazine, and if you are looking to add some bright LED colour (at night at least) into a garden design, then these products are the best around at the moment. They make a full range of items, including arm chairs, planters, wine coolers and cubes.

Qui est Paul?

For plasticated garden furniture that has a certain “ju ne se pai?” look no further than Que est Paul? They do a large range of extremely well designed garden furniture and accessories that will add panache to any outdoor living set up.

Personalised benches – Cut by Fire

Greetings cards are so passé, be cool and say it with a bench instead.

Designs for life

Walking down Designer Alley led me to an abundance of superbly designed furniture and homewares, more so than I’d come across at any other show.

Retrodelic Designs

As they put it themselves: “Contemporary furniture with a retro twist”, and what a twist is is!

H & B

Fresh out of university, these two spritely furniture designers have already been making some waves with their designs. The funky looking Butterfly chair (pictured) has been commissioned and will soon be available; watch this space for details!

The pair also specialise in using boiled leather to create furniture pieces, check out the chest of drawers and stool.

Invisible city design studio – Incunabular collection

Based on the dimensions and ratios used for the international paper standard; think A3, A4, A5,  the new incunabular collection offers something a bit different. The pleasing geometrics are enhanced with delicate tones of colour and also offer very practical storage. I love the side table with it’s off centre legs.

Dare Studio

Some other off centre legs that caught my attention were on the Katakana Writing Desk by Dare Studio. Mmm sleek modernist  lines.

Sticks and Stone – Unique solid wood and stone wine racks, tables and benches

If you or your clients enjoy wine, then having a beautiful place to store and display your collection, no matter how large or small, is a very important consideration. Sticks and Stone turn reclaimed pieces of wood and stone into gorgeous shoe piece items that do more than just store wine.

Shane Holland Design Workshops

Shane Holland Design Workshops make all sorts of items out of metal, wood and other bits and bobs, including commercial and home furniture, stairs, sculptures and lights. But it was their lights that drew me to their stand.

Nic Parnell

Reclaimed materials furniture designer Nic Parnell mas been making these fantastic lamps for a while now on an a small adhoc basis, but they have now gone commercial so you can start specifying them for your clients, which is great news.

Nic also makes and reconditions other pieces of furniture, so if you are looking for something very unique, colourful and reused check out what else he has to offer. Nic’s got lots of new ideas in the pipeline so stay tuned for more news on his stuff as it happens.

NDA student Sacha Petrie who designed a Dulux room set for Grand Designs live used one of Nic’s lamps in her design, watch the interview here!

So there you have it, Grand Designs Live is the show to go to if you are looking for some creatively led inspiration. There really is something for everyone and lots of it. I only really scratched the surface with this report, there were whole areas I didn’t have time to explore, I could happily spent another day or two.

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