Clerkenwell Design Week 2023


Industry News

Arper Ralik at Clerkenwell Design Week 2023

The much celebrated Clerkenwell Design Week (CDW) returned on 24-26 May 2023, and KKS Savills were out in force over the three-day festival (day & night) attending the latest product launches, visiting refreshed showrooms, soaking up invaluable information from talks, and connecting with industry peers. Across the studio, we’ve been in awe of the scale of CDW23 with 150+ showrooms opening their doors & 600+ events taking place. Clerkenwell is always a centre of culture and creativity but over those three days, it’s the epicentre and acts as a catalyst for inspiration and innovation for the year to come.

5 key trends

1. Bold Colour Combinations

Clerkenwell Design Week 2023

Bright. Bold. Contrasting!

Colour was on full display everywhere in Clerkenwell. The particular colour combinations strongly remind us of Memphis and Maximalism styles. Colour and colour-contrasting combinations have been appearing more frequently over the last year. People are looking for a way to bring more colour into their lives, recognising its mood-boosting properties. This is a trend we’re excited to explore in the coming months, in particular creating branded workspace experiences.

  • Yinka Ilori launched a new tile collection in partnership with Domus. It’s playful, exciting and (most importantly) colourful. The collection has two sub-collections: ‘Glaze’, a glazed ceramic tile in various block colours and colour combinations: ‘Screen’, a screen-printed porcelain tile with a variety of playful prints.
  • Arper launched Ralik (Modular pouf & sofa), Semiton (Configurable display unit) & Roopa (Coffee/side table). Individually these are colourful & creative pieces but combined they create a beautiful and refined look. Although launched as new products they feel instantly recognisable due to their retro feel.
  • Curiousa displayed their Wave Chandelier a colourful collection of blown glass bulbs ranging in size and clarity. The contrast of colour & texture of each bulb creates a visual feast with the light reflecting and refracting playfully across the room. The colours and textures can be customised within their set ranges to create a unique composition.


2. Modularity For Reconfiguration

Clerkenwell Design Week 2023

Specifying modular assemblies offers tenants (and designers) flexibility and partially future-proof solutions. These products are built with longevity and durability in mind. With shorter leases, they can be relocated with ease and configured appropriately within the new space without looking out of place. With longer leases, they can be reconfigured and reformatted to keep spaces feeling fresh and exciting. Tying into a later point on sustainability this is a great way to prevent waste, many items can be reused or repurposed at the end of their initial lifecycle. Furniture, finishes and even some partition systems can be modular.

  • Blå Station (Represented in the UK by Inform Furniture) show the Bob series in their showroom, a modular fluted banquette system which can curve and cut around corners with back-to-back configurations, acoustic screens and multiple height options
  • Spacestor, in line with their new showroom opening near Farringdon station, has shown how all their products work together as a family. Scale models of each of their products were on display. These could be playfully reconfigured by hand in any formation you wanted and flowed seamlessly despite the products having been developed individually.
  • Icons of Denmark have been exploring modularity across their products with two recently launched products being modular variants of their staple counterparts. The Ekko Modular sofa system is as fluid as a brushstroke on canvas and the Scala Table lets you create winding, linear and curved table configurations (bonus points for using 60% less MDF than traditional table constructions). Additionally, the 4T System is a lightweight modular partition system which can create open rooms or zones. This can be particularly useful in buildings with challenging ceilings or can be used to break up open-plan desks.

3. Customisation

Clerkenwell Design Week 2023

Traditionally, many manufacturers have been precious about the end appearance of their products limiting designers to a controlled palette in line with their vision. This has eased up in recent years and manufacturers have given power to the people to choose (with some guidance from their trusted interior design practice). The breadth of customisation now on offer is wonderful, with regard to finishes (colours, textures, patterns depths & more). Tying neatly into our previous point on modularity, this offers much more flexibility and allows tenants to create the solution that is right for them while also feeling bespoke & unique.

  • Ege offers a range of their products (Highline Express, Colortec and Graphic) in recolourable swatches. Each collection has a standard set of colours but comes with at least one palette (140 colour options on Colourtec 80/20 palette) which can replace the set colours. This offers a truly bespoke solution completely customised to the project’s needs.
  • Davison Highley offers a range of standard products (many of which have modular elements). Where needed these modules can be adjusted to suit project specifics. This is one of the many benefits of working with a UK-based manufacturer (designing & manufacturing in High Wycombe) – small adjustments can be made instantly with more bespoke solutions just a conversation away.
  • Schotten & Hansen shared tapestries of wood veneer at their space in The Order of St. John. What makes this different? Colour. The wood veneer had been dyed with natural pigments to create beautiful gradients of colour from light pastels through to deeper earthy tones. Each veneer can be customised to meet your colour needs for a project.

4. Sustainable Approaches

Clerkenwell Design Week 2023

Unsurprisingly, sustainability was a key topic as we edge ever closer to 2050 Net zero goal and parts of the UK hit 40C last year. For many manufacturers, it has become the number one priority to explore not only what they produce but how they produce it exploring the whole life cycle of carbon from operations to manufacturing and delivery. Manufacturers are showing real innovation in their approaches which are having a domino effect creating more circular products and processes. By reducing the number of materials (particularly virgin materials) in a product its overall weight and embodied carbon are reduced, by reducing the weight you reduce the emissions required for production and transport (as more can be carried and carbon emissions shared). Many manufacturers are exploring reusable components, removing adhesives & VOC and growing materials rather than processing them.

  • Shaw Contract has launched EcoWorx S™ carpet tiles which are PVC-free, cradle-to-cradle certified, use 40% less energy in production & weigh 40% less than a traditional bitumen backing. This backing is produced locally in Scotland and uses approx. 67 plastic bottles per SqM for the yarn. The backing is currently available as part of the New Path Collection in Positive, Upbeat & Poised with the aim to be rolled out progressively on more collections. Additionally, while not one of Shaw’s products, Shaw has also displayed an alternative to adhesive fixings to Raised Access Floors (RAF) IOBAC pads lightly adhere to the carpet tile on one side & magnetically fix to RAF tiles on the other. This allows carpet tiles & RAF tiles to be reused, reducing unnecessary waste.
  • Frövi has explored how they can produce some of their furniture with more regenerative materials. Bae (modular sofa) and Bamboo (modular shelving and display unit) have been produced using bamboo as the key manufacturing material. Bamboo is fast growing, self-regenerative, needs less water and requires no fertiliser compared with a standard wood structure.
  • Spacestor displayed their Palisades II system with a new acoustic panel innovation. Acoustic panels grown from mycelium. This contrasts with the recycled PET or felt panels used as a standard. While we didn’t catch the brand on display two that are on our radar are Mogu Mycelium & AllSfär Fika and we’re excited to see how collaborating with nature continues to evolve new sustainable products.
  • While not new it’s always worth highlighting and encouraging other brands to adopt. Since the 1940’s Kinnarps have been manufacturing products and since the 1950’s they’ve been delivering them using reusable blankets instead of single-use packaging. Kinnarps also use their Better Effect Index a sustainability index analysing each aspect of their products and grading their sustainability of them.

5. From DEIA to IDEA

Clerkenwell Design Week 2023

Another popular topic this year was Diversity Equity Inclusion and Accessibility (DEIA), or the creation of inclusive and equitable environments. There has been a big push across the industry to create more considered environments that contemplate the needs of every unique user. To create these environments we need to consider a wide and diverse group of stakeholders and consider all their needs (physical, mental, emotional, visible & invisible). Members of KKS Savills DEIA group were able to attend a talk series hosted in Frövi’s showroom delivered by Gillian Burgis Smith of Strawberry Leopard Inclusive Design Consultancy. The talks focused on neurodiversity but had some great applicable advice to many groups, here are some of our key takeaways:

  • Design with the nine senses in mind: Vision (Contrast & lighting are key), Hearing (Noise Sensitivity and Acoustics), Smell (Ventilation key to keeping spaces neutral & fresh), Taste (Can be triggered by smell), Touch (Some materials can trigger involuntary reactions), Vestibular Sense (Balance), Proprioception (Awareness of body and its position in space (spatial awareness)), Thermoception (Temperature Sensation) and Pain.
  • The University of Cambridge has developed an Inclusive Design Toolkit an open-source tool to help designers understand and classify the unique needs of their stakeholders. The toolkit includes an inclusive design canvas (user personas) and the IDEA Audit a human-centric tool to understand attitudes and approaches to DEIA.
  • Two key readings on the subject are – BS 8300-2:2018 Design of an Accessible and inclusive built environment. Buildings – code of practice & PAS 6463:2022 Design for the mind – Neurodiversity and the built environment – Guide. KKS Savills have been brushing up on both over the last week as well as sharing our findings with the extended office to keep it at the top of our priorities.


CDW23 was jam-packed from start to finish – even though members of the team were out every day we barely scratched the surface of just how much was happening. As mentioned Clerkenwell acts as a catalyst and an incubator for ideas for the year to come. After resting (and assimilating all the new information) over the bank holiday weekend the team has returned to the office feeling inspired and excited to approach the topics mentioned above with gusto. If you have any questions or comments on the above please contact us, we look forward to hearing from you.

CDW will return on 21-23 May 2024, we look forward to seeing you there!