Studio Toogood was a hot name at this year's London Design Festival with Portobello Dock installations that included Corn Craft, The Hatch and Tom Dixon. Led by interior stylist Faye Toogood, Studio Toogood's projects varied in scope and were distinguished by an approach marked by impulse and freshness. This sort of creative candour is further reflected after the jump ...
We have been extremely energised and overwhelmed by the response we received to the two self-intiated projects we designed and installed for London Design Festival this year. Both Corn Craft and The Hatch were embarked on with a desire to just make things by hand. Studio Toogood started life a year ago and it was important to me that we should inject as much of ourselves into this year's projects as we could. For a designer to have the opportunity to work without a client or brief is a rare and beautiful thing...
The Hatch - an architectural eatery serving egg inspired recipe kits - was not just born out of a desire to create an uplifting environment devoid of the present doom and gloom but also a desire to react against the design world's tendency to take itself too seriously. We daubed the canvas walls with colourful hand painted Hockney-esque patterns, filled the space with giant Memphis-like shapes formed from formica laminate and stacked up mini building blocks for people to play with. I wanted to resurrect the childlike desire in all of us to be inventive, to make, to build and to play. I found it fascinating watching how people reacted to being asked to make their own building, cook their own egg or build something using their imagination: we are not used to entertaining ourselves anymore.
Corn Craft also had a sense of childhood nostalgia about it for me. I grew up next to a farm and the smell of corn fields is such a familiar and comforting one to me. This year London Design Festival fell on the week of Harvest Festival and so it felt appropriate to celebrate traditional folk crafts and reinvent some of the paegan traditions we have forgotten. As part of a collaboration with Gallery Fumi we set about transforming the raw material into a refined bit of design by commissioning one-off pieces by Nacho Carbonell, Raw Edges Design Studio and Rowan Mersh. On the opening night we staged a conceptual dining event where The Modern Pantry served up corn-based receipes served by waiters wearing corn dolly necklaces. What was really beautiful for us was watching people come and be immersed in the nature of the space, many were overwhelmed by the sensory overload of taste, smell and touch - one man was so emotional that he burst into tears when he walked into the room!
What do you feel is the benefit of creating a stylized space for product presentation vs. the "white cube" and how do you design an entire area without overpowering the individual objects?
We do like white cubes - we actually used white plaster cubes for the Dover Street Market shoe department! However, I think there is obviously a time and a place for the "white cube" approach, but I feel that it's often an overused method, adopted by many, in the hope it will elevate a product and its design credentials beyond its worth. It's very easy to stick something on a white plinth in a gallery-like enviornment and hope for the best. Each project that we work on is entirely different and we try to find ways of communicating the value of what is being presented by creating an experience around it - without overpowering it. This approach isn't about competing with the products but more about inspiring people to poke them, pick them up, sit on them, wear them, walk off with them or simply stare at them.
Dover Street Market
You have created exhibition spaces for Tom Dixon in both Milan and London. How did your partnership with him come about and what was the process like working with the designer?
Tom and I first met on a photoshoot. He was having his portrait taken for an article I was doing on British designers for GQ Style magazine - we had designed him a set using some of the objects and materials that have influenced his work. Once we realised we both shared a passion for meccano and milk floats, we immediately struck up a rapport. After that I was asked by Tom Dixon to work with them on its first catalogue - it then seemed a logical step to apply that same approach I use in set design and magazine styling to three dimensional spaces - the result was his exhibition stand at Milan Furniture Fair and the new showroom just opened in Portobello Dock, London this year. Tom is not only quick to take the alternative route, but also clear about who he is and what he stands for as a designer- the ideal client.
What's next for Studio Toogood?
More projects that involve us in the way that we work best, I hope. We enjoy working in a multi-disciplinary way and although we relish temporary spaces and events, we are also looking forward to working on some of the more permanent interior projects that we have been asked to do.