One designer’s diary… In bruges

Set off on a jolly trip to Belgium with a bunch of other designers and architects, sponsored by a lighting manufacturer. We are a very mixed group in terms of age, nationality and style but all get along extremely well. Apart from having the chance to examine the company’s innovative products, both on the factory floor and installed in some inspiring projects, the highlight for me is a tour of Bruges’ last working brewery. This is led by a hilarious and knowledgable guide, who clearly loves her work. One designer, who is allergic to wheat and so cannot sample the beer, hides her soft drink behind her handbag at our post-tour lunch rather than curb the charming guide’s enthusiasm.


Having seen so many good examples of lighting schemes in Belgium, I am disappointed back in England by the number of shops and public buildings where lamps have been replaced with low-energy versions but the fittings and their positioning have not been changed. This results in a grey gloom descending from on high and flattening everything in its path. My lighting heroine, Sally Storey, tells me low-energy lamps that give off a decent, warm light are in development but if they don’t arrive soon I shall have to blow my carbon footprint and fly to South Africa for some sun.


I call a designer friend to pass the time while I wait in for the pest control man, who is coming to deal with mice in my flat. She shrieks at the mention of the small rodents, not through fear but because she is still dealing with an irate client whose specially imported, bespoke sofa was chewed through by a family of hungry mountain mice when a contractor left open the door to his ski chalet. I count my blessings — the extent of the damage at my more humble abode is a shredded Sainsbury’s carrier bag.



I’m interrupted on the school run by a call from a friend, who is in a state about the precise colour his glass splashback should be painted to match his new Arne Jacobsen chairs. A long discussion ensues on Pantone v RAL, clarity of glass etc. In the mean time, my daughter is rolling her eyes as she waits to tell me the ins and outs of the school talent show scandal. At the end of the call, any slight annoyance at being required to dish out free advice during family time is outweighed by the comic mental picture I have of my immaculately dressed senior executive friend, lugging his new chair to the Dulux matching machine at Homebase.

01 Atag’s latest compact oven, QuliMax, focuses on steam cooking and incorporates twin steam technology for extra-fast heat-up. It also boasts convection cooking and grilling to save space.

02 Adding artistic flair to the kitchen couldn’t be easier with TM Italia’s Mondrian range by Roberto Semprini, which breaks up minimalist white cabinetry with cubist-style orange and red alcoves.

03 This stainless steel extractor, designed by Dante Bonuccelli for Molteni & C Dada, is part of the new Trim modular kitchen range and combines ventilation and lighting amid undulating curves.

04 Secret magpies will love De Ferranti’s Diamanti wall covering in the kitchen. The jewel-bright 30cm x 30cm adhesive tiles are inspired by vintage Cartier and consist of minute cut-glass crystals.

05 Alno’s ‘handleless’ Alnostar collection is available in gloss, wood veneers and laminates. Smartline in Stone Grey, for example, has recessed handles in the same material and colour as the door fronts.

06 Quooker is upping the ante in the competitive instant boiling water tap market with its new Combi model that also dispenses warm water at 5o-65°C for hand washing.

01 RAK Ceramics’ glossy black Mistral range includes three angular basins — designed with a nod to the monochrome glamour of the art deco period — as well as close-coupled WC and pedestal options.

02 Villeroy & Boch’s new BiancoNero tile collection plays with three-dimensional borders, light and shadow, velvety soft surfaces and large formats to enliven a simple black and white colour palette.

03 Bristan has added new black accents to its modern Chill brassware range that covers the full gamut of bath, basin and shower — bringing it in line with the latest trend for jet black sanitaryware.

04 Textile designer Michele Oberdieck now

fuses hand-printed linen, silk and organza fabrics in glass to create bespoke panels that make a striking alternative to a shower curtain.

05 Matteo Thun has taken a bling approach to the new basins in his Water Jewels collection for Vitra with the addition of two metallic finishes — gold and chrome — to its line.

06 Eighties-style glass block walls could be making a comeback. Each block in Seves Glassblock’s Pegasus range has external ‘winged’ edging that produces narrow joints and avoids using grout.