Clerkenwell unlocked

Last week, pink flags were once again flying in EC1 to mark Clerkenwell Unlocked. A timely reminder that design showrooms are open and ready for business

Although Clerkenwell Design Week was cancelled this year, last week’s Clerkenwell Unlocked was a three day event aimed at promoting local design studios to the architecture and interior design community.

There is a greater concentration of architects in EC1 than anywhere else in the country, so it is hardly surprising that Clerkenwell also boasts a plethora of showrooms selling everything from lighting to flooring, bathrooms to chairs.

Despite wearing my most comfortable trainers and clutching a water bottle it was impossible to visit everyone in one day. But here is my pick of what’s worth seeing, and why Clerkenwell is always worth a visit.

Parkside Architectural Tiles Clerkenwell
Recycled Oktra tiles at Parkside

First stop was at Parkside Architectural Tiles. There is much to see at his attractive three storey showroom including concrete, terrazzo, stone and ceramic options.  There is also a gallery dedicated to sustainable products with all tiles manufactured from a minimum of 40% recycled material, some are as high as 98% recycled content.

VitrA's spacious new showroom in Clerkenwell
VitrA’s spacious showroom in Clerkenwell

Next stop the new VitrA flagship showroom. This bright, modern space includes the brand’s designer bathroom ranges, created in collaboration with the likes of Ross Lovegrove and Arik Levy. There is also a 4D theatre and a functioning brassware display.

Bert Frank lighting showroom Clerkenwell
Inside the Bert Frank lighting showroom

Bert Frank is one of my favourite lighting brands. I had the pleasure of interviewing designer Robbie Llewellyn when I worked at Studio magazine. He is brimming with ideas and dedicated to making pieces ‘properly’ using quality materials and solid construction. The Bert Frank showroom is on Farringdon Road.

West One Bathrooms Clerkenwell
Imaginative displays at West One

Then on to the recently opened West One Bathrooms showroom. This has a very different feel to the showroom in Chelsea Harbour so is worth a visit to compare and contrast. There is the same mix of innovative bathroom fittings, but a less structured layout so that individual items can be lifted and moved about to create mood boards.

Sky-Frame Clerkenwell
Swiss engineering at Sky-Frame

For those planning a glazed extension, the place to visit is Sky-Frame.  Designed to give an unobstructed view, these high-performance sliding glass walls are the epitome of Swiss engineering.  The panels can be triple glazed to meet Passivhaus standards and there is even a bullet proof option.

Havwoods flooring samples
Plenty of choice at Havwoods

Havwoods make beautiful wood flooring and cladding. There are apparently over 400 products to choose from including both engineered and solid wood options as well as parquet and reclaimed flooring. This is such a tactile product, it was great to be back in the showrooms during Clerkenwell Unlocked to touch the latest samples.  (I also love the smell of this showroom. The full sensory experience has been sadly missed during lockdown)

Gessi showroom Clerkenwell
The fabulous Gessi showroom

If you are planning a visit to Clerkenwell, I urge you to pop into Gessi. I was invited on a virtual tour of this fabulous new bathroom showroom earlier in the year, but the Zoom presentation did not do it justice. Apart from the fact that Gessi’s range of showers, taps, furniture and sanitaryware is gorgeous; the layout of this space is a masterclass in how to present modern displays in a Grade II listed building. The new showroom is located on Farringdon Lane in Old Sessions House, an 18th century courthouse.

deVol kitchens Clerkenwell
The perfect location for a deVol kitchen

Despite stopping for coffee and a sandwich I was now beginning to flag. So my last call was the deVol kitchen showroom. Theses traditional British kitchens sit perfectly into the three storey Georgian property on St John’s Square. Displays of both the Classic English and Real Shaker ranges are presented all with the perfect accessories.

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