Jermaine Gallacher’s Highlights from the London Design Festival

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London Design Week 2019 highlights Jermaine Gallacher
Detail of Garland circular tower by MentsenCourtesy of Old Paradise Yard

The design dealer and interior designer shares the best things he saw at last week’s festival

London-based design dealer, interior designer and founder of Lant Street’s bar, Jermaine Gallacher is one of the UK’s most exciting new voices in interior design, with a nose like a bloodhound for interesting and offbeat creations. Last week, the 2019 edition of London Design Festival took over the capital, and we sent Gallacher along to sniff out his highlights. Here, he shares the very best things he saw...

Jean-Baptiste Fastrez – Galerie Kreo

“Often the best finds at markets are the ones you had no intention of buying; they take you completely by surprise and are the ones you go home with loving the most. So it was last Saturday in sunny Mayfair, while en route to my first artfully pre-picked London Design Festival show, that I discovered the work of Jean-Baptiste Fastrez. The mirrors grabbed my attention first; snake-like mosaic scale frames in different shades of blue and turquoise, shaped like pools of water you might find in the Amazon rainforest – it was no surprise to learn that one of the mirrors was actually titled ‘Amazone’. There was a large glass pendant light clearly hanging in the window, resembling some exotic deep water jellyfish, while in the centre of the room sat a coffee table – a large slab of seaweed green marble resting on chunky brown stone cubes. I later learned that the name of this piece was ‘Crocodile’, though I’d already guessed. Perhaps that’s what I liked most about the work – it didn’t need snappy titles or a wordy press release, the designs spoke for themselves.”

Viola Lanari – Porta Romana

“There aren’t many people that I’d travel to Chelsea Harbour at 9am on a Monday morning for, but my friend, the artist Viola Lanari, is an exceptional exception. After one tube ride, two overgrounds and short walk, I arrived at Design Centre Chelsea Harbour, in what is quite possibly the most miserable looking place in London. ‘Step into the glamorous world of Design Centre’ and I did, or at least I ran in, making a beeline for Porta Romana. Porta Romana is a world renowned luxury lighting and furniture company and was showcasing Viola’s work as part of their ‘Boheme’ collection. Viola uses plaster to create totally magical, original, one-off lighting and furniture, made by her own fair hand at her studio on the Wandsworth Road. I had been lucky enough to see most of the pieces in the making, but seeing them in the very smart Porta Romana store, I was very impressed. The first thing I saw were her signature leaf table lamps looking very glam on top of plaster plinths, and as I walked through I spotted my favourite console table – six giant plaster balls holding up a plaster table top – and resting on that two tall spherical lamps also by Viola. But without doubt the jewel in the crown had to be the lantern, made entirely of plaster (of course), with two giant disks held apart by twelve smaller disks. The light was soft and moon-like and made me think... ‘I want one of those.’”

Max Lamb – Gallery Fumi

“I have to admit that I was thrilled when I heard Max Lamb was going to be showing at Gallery Fumi. I admire his no-nonsense attitude to design and clear love of material and form. I was even more excited to learn he had been exploring the ancient craft of Urushi lacquer in these series of works. The oldest Urushi object found dates back roughly 9,000 years, and was unearthed in Hokkaido, Japan. For this 21st-century collection, Lamb had been working with the crafts people of Wajima, a city located in the Ishikawa Prefecture region of Japan (I was later told by the gallery assistant, this was the place to get things lacquered during the 1980s). ‘Max Lamb and 80s Lacquer’: now that’s a show I want to see. The first thing to grab my attention as I walked through the doors of Gallery Fumi was the most extraordinary red cabinet, low and crudely carved. Seeing the lacquer on the rough surface of the wood was a surprise, and a very welcome one. Across the room black lacquered shelves stand next to a three-legged chair, all carved in the same crude hand, as if with a single swiss pocket knife. Moving downstairs, upon three low, irregular round black lacquered tables were showcased lacquerware objects made by the craftspeople of Wajima. There was a familiarity to all the work, and I liked that. I left the gallery wanting to lacquer every piece of furniture I own.”

Mentsen – Old Paradise Yard

“Sometimes it’s hard to find things you actually like, let alone want to write about. So, while trawling through the dreaded London Design Festival’s website, I was pleasantly surprised to spot something really rather beautiful: some shelves. In my experience, shelves are not always a thing of beauty – more often than not they are simply practical things we put up in the alcoves of our sitting rooms, bedrooms and hallways; dusty old bits of plywood held up by Leyland’s wall brackets. Or am I just describing my own? The shelving system that caught my eye was designed and made by design duo Risa Sano and Yasuyuki Sakurai of Mentsen, and could not be further from this. The duo’s studio is nestled at the back of Old Paradise Yard, a charming assortment of old-world studio buildings in Lambeth, not too far from my own place of work. As I entered the space, I spotted the beautiful vivid blue circular shelf tower I had seen online. At two metres tall and one metre across, it’s an impressive piece – one of three modular shelving systems named ‘Garland’ (there is also an L-shaped sideboard and room divider). But my favourite of the set had to be these towering shelves. Risa told me they are made from colour wood fiber panels, or posh MDF, which made me like her and the shelf tower even more. It’s tall, elegant and understated, a right bit of me.”