When I headed to see Harrods’s London Design Festival exhibition, Timeless Design, I expected to find a smallish display. So I was pleasantly surprised to discover an extensive show distributed around the store’s various homeware departments, with cookware brands, logically enough, in the Cookshop, most furniture in the furniture department, and so on. This is a smart move since it means more people will encounter this selling exhibition, which unites many of the covetable, bluechip homeware brands Harrods stocks, including Anglepoise®, B&B Italia, Fornasetti, Le Creuset, Ligne Roset, Fritz Hansen and Vitra, to name a few. Accompanying each brand’s products are meatily informative text panels incorporating fascinating anecdotes.
The largest exhibition space, on the third floor, is devoted to furniture. Oh, and to Anglepoise®’s lamps, which appear to stand sentry at its entrance — an apt military metaphor given that, among them, is the 1935 Original 1227™ light, which was deemed the ideal ARP (Air Raid Precaution) blackout lamp in ads featured in The Times and The Telegraph the day after Britain declared war on Germany in 1939. Anglepoise® is also flagging up its 30s Navigator’s lamp used in World War II aircraft. Amazingly, when one was found in a bomber salvaged from Loch Ness in 1985, it still worked with a new battery! Overall, Anglepoise®’s exhibition theme is two-pronged: it displays both its 30s innovations and more streamlined 1960s Model 75™and 70s 90™ lamps, whose sleekly modernist aesthetic later influenced lighting created for Anglepoise® by its Design Director Kenneth Grange. Anglepoise® also brings things more up to date by showing two of its most recent products— a new interpretation of the Original 1227™ desk lamp featuring solid brass fittings, launched in 2014, and Paul Smith’s latest reimagining of the Kenneth Grange Type 75™ desk lamp, launched earlier this month.
Elsewhere, Le Creuset presents its 1925 cocotte in the company’s signature shade of incandescent orange, Volcanic Flame, B&B Italia its ultra-pop 1969 Up seating (shown with 60s publicity photos picturing catsuit-sporting, Afro-haired models) and Parker & Farr sumptuous sofas created in collaboration with interior designer David Hicks in the 70s. Meanwhile, Fornasetti’s witty, surreal wares occupy a large second-floor landing.
The exhibition also showcases new pieces, thereby adding a strongly contemporary layer. There are Barber & Osgerby’s eye-poppingly bold, animal-motif designs for The Rug Company, Tom Dixon’s sofa covered with a Jaffa orange Kvadrat/ Raf Simons fabric, even 50 new, limited-edition Juicy Salif citrus juicers — originally created by Philippe Starck for Alessi in 1990 — in white. The latter made me realise how fast time flies — no matter how effectively iconic designs seem to make time stand still.
Timeless Design at Harrods, 87-135 Brompton Road, London SW1, runs until September 27, 2015. A daily tour of the show takes place from 3pm, starting at the Timeless Design exhibit on the third floor. (www.harrods.com). Words: Dominic Lutyens, arts writer for the FT and Elle Decoration. Books include 70s Style & Design and Living with Mid-Century Collectibles.