The London Design Festival is in full swing – here are our picks…

We honestly do not know where the year has gone – was it really 12 months since we were up at the London Design Festival with Fixperts, running a workshop on fixing and hacking? It appears it was. However, apart from being a year older, the London Design Festival is a distinct highlight of our calendar – and it gets bigger each time. Whilst this is fantastic, the bigger the event, the more you have to pick and choose the events that you go to, so we are sharing our picks for this year with you all…

First up – we will be heading to LASSCO, to drool over the reclamation:

‘Pioneers of Architectural Salvage, LASSCO supply a virtually unending stream of recklessly curated objects and materials, aided by an unerring eye, impeccable provenance and profound practical knowledge.

Over the past year the shop has contributed architectural elements to some of London’s most exciting and on-trend retail and hospitality brands across London including: Aesop, Club Monaco, St John’s, Groucho, Ralph Lauren, Hostem, & China Exchange. This inspiring exhibition documents them and shows how our reclaimed materials are being incorporated into interior design today.’

19 – 27th Sept / 41 Maltby Street, Bermondsey / £free

Next we will be heading to Interface to see their Designing with Nature exhibition, which looks in detail at biomimicry:

‘Interface is a worldwide leader in the design and production of sustainable modular flooring, suitable for all commercial interiors. Interface products come in a range of colours, textures and patterns that combine beauty with functionality to help organisations bring their design vision to life.

The effect that nature can have on your well being is remarkable. Nature has long been a source of inspiration for Interface and has led to the production some of the most sustainable and innovative nature-inspired carpet tiles. We learn from nature’s systems and our designs take cues from visual and tactile textures, also found in nature, helping to bring the feeling of outside, in to create spaces which inspire, energise and engage individuals in the workplace.’

21 – 25th Sept / 1 Northburgh Street, Clerkenwell / £free

We are also heading off to the Ella Doran & The Great Recovery Material Engagement and the Art of Re-upholstery workshop too:

‘A day at Fab Lab London exploring the possibilities, challenges and rewards of re-upholstering old furniture to give it a new life through talks, hands-on demonstrations & the opportunity to talk to the participants of the Great Recovery’s design residency with SUEZ.

This event reflects and builds on the Great Recovery’s ‘bulky waste’ Design Residency in partnership with SUEZ Recycling and Recovery earlier in the year. Hackney duo Urban Upholstery and award-winning textile designer Ella Doran join the Great Recovery at Fab Lab London to explore how to reduce the quantity of furniture going to landfill through considered design approaches and practical re-upholstery techniques.’

25th Sept / Fab lab London, 1 Frederick’s Place / £free – but book places here

Last on our list is the launch of the Fairphone 2 – an ethical, modular, repairable smartphone:

‘Fairphone is a social enterprise that is building a movement for fairer electronics. By making a phone, we’re opening up the supply chain and creating new relationships between people and their products. We’re making a positive impact across the value chain in mining, design, manufacturing and life cycle, while expanding the market for products that put ethical values first. Together with our community, we’re changing the way products are made.

Come to Fairphone’s launch event, a pop-up space taking you behind-the-scenes of their latest phone – the Fairphone 2, designed with a fairer supply chain and advanced modular architecture. Discover what’s behind your phone: from mines in DR Congo to factories in China and e-waste dumps in Ghana.’

26 – 27th Sept / 2-4 Melior Place / £free

But with so much to do, check out the London Design Festival site – get exploring with design…

(images via LDF15)

Easter gift idea – a membership to the Heritage Seed Library…

Before anyone says anything – we are huge fans of chocolate, especially the organic loveliness from Montezumas in Brighton, but we had a thought about what else we would love to give people as a gift this Easter break. With the front of the studio literally springing up before our eyes, the soil warming nicely and the seed packages mounting up, we will be giving the gift of heritage growing – with memberships to the Heritage Seed Library from Garden Organic.

We are very proud to be members, with our annual subs of £18 going towards conserving vegetable types which are not commercially available any more. Some are UK varieties, some from further afield, but the HSL ensures that these varieties are not being lost forever… Plus, as part of our membership – as well as the warm fuzzy feeling of doing something good, we also get to pick six different varieties from the library each December to grow ourselves.

From purple carrots to purple beans and even long lost fruits such as the triffid like Achocha, we have had the joy (and sometimes despair) of growing over the past ten years or so. Plus, there is nothing quite like putting a variety into the summer village show that has not been seen for a few years, if at all.

So, if you have someone that is green fingered and not a huge fan of chocolate, perhaps a membership to the Heritage Seed Library could be in order?

(images via the HSL)

in praise of the refurbished…

We are very lucky at the studio to be located along a very long road in Hove that can only be described as ‘eclectic’. With Portslade Station at one end, and well into the reaches of Hove in another, Portland Road is about a mile or so of houses, schools, a park and a variety of retail spaces (plus our little studio, based in the old public toilet). But theses are not any old retail spaces – they are all mostly small, independent shops and cafes – all very different. But what struck us recently whilst walking to the Post Office (6 minutes from studio) was how many great examples of repair, refurbished, service based industry and reclaimed goods shops there were on Portland Road.

dyson city

There are two launderettes. A sewing and alteration workshop, two computer repair shops, a cobbler, an refurbished oven place. A scattering of secondhand stores, a hardware store and the Bargain Vacuum Centre, to name but a few. And it was in the last store – the Bargain Vacuum Centre that we found the latest addition to our studio – an almost new, refurbished Dyson City vacuum cleaner.

Complete with all the bits and bobs – and a 9 month guarantee, this little vacuum only set us back £50. ‘Any problems and whizz it back’, we were told. ‘Sure, we replied – we are just along the road’. And this is what is great about this type of ‘High Street’ – the mix of people, skills and services – all independent and backlit acrylic sign free – offering the personable experience that is not found elsewhere. This is what we love and this is why we are very proud to be part of Portland Road.

We need to save these types of road, because there is very little that we are not able to access within a 7 minute walk of the studio – and we are very aware that this is a precious rarity. Chains have their places, but these are the roads that can offer us repair, reuse or leasing – on our doorsteps…

Here’s to the refurbished.

Growing food on waste coffee – the Espresso Mushroom company…

We are big supporters of creating new things from waste, especially as most waste – with a bit of thought – can be redirected into creating new products. This can come in many forms, from buildings that  can be created from waste materials (like the Waste House in Brighton) through to new consumer products (such as truck tarpaulin bags from Freitag). And we predict that this pattern will escalate over the coming years as we start to realise that raw materials are either too scarce or expensive to use. It is a huge opportunity for designers to think in the circular rather than linear. But it is not just products that can be created – what about our food? This is exactly what the Espresso Mushroom Company are doing…

Hot Pink Oyster Mushroom Kitchen Garden Espresso Mushroom Company

Founded in Brighton, the Espresso Mushroom Company grow, and create kits allowing you to grow mushrooms from a substrate based on reclaimed coffee grounds which are gathered by bike from local cafes.

But one of the staggering elements of this project is the sheer scale of the waste coffee grounds that are produced daily – and usually get directed straight into landfill. For instance, the Espresso Mushroom Company puts it into perpective:

‘Less than 1% of the coffee cherry harvested from the coffee tree is in an espresso coffee and over 70 million cups of coffee are drunk every day in the UK.’  That’s a lot of coffee – the grounds of which are currently wasted.

And the kits are simple – open, water, grow, harvest. (and we are planning on getting one for our new studio…)

So – fresh food created from waste. What’s not to love? Check out the main Espresso Mushroom Company website for full details of the kits available…

(images via the Espresso Mushroom Company website)

december wish list day 12 – a bag from Freitag…

It has been said that I have a bit of a ‘thing’ about bags. If a ‘thing’ means that I am drawn to all manner of things satchel like… er, yes. Not bothered with shoes necessarily, but give me a new satchel and I am like a seagull with a chip. Tasty. And as tasty bags go, there is a particular brand which ticks our boxes of not only being creators of beautiful pieces of useful design, they are responsible and care for what they do. With each bag being completely unique from the next, and made from recycled materials, Freitag is a marvellous brand indeed.


Created from old transportation lorry tarps, the bags are hard wearing and individual – showing little glimpses into the previous lives that they had and little hints as to who or what they used to advertise. This material reuse is relatively standard now, with many manufacturers creating completely new products from old items – hence the increase of the term ‘upcycling’ in our vocabulary.

But Freitag has another term for this reuse, which fittingly they have also created – ‘recontexturalising’ – in the world of Freitag is all about the removing of a former life and putting a new context on a material and product.

Another element which makes us rate Freitag so highly is their complete transparency of creation, which is very hands on. The tarps arrive after 5-10 years on the roads, they are de-buckled, washed and laid on huge cutting boards where each bag is cut by hand – with the designers working on the floor to create the best combinations of colours, forms and lettering. Each one is highly considered and beautifully well thought out.

Their stores are just as wonderful, and we will be writing about them in 2015. How do you create a sleek store design where every item is a different colour? They will show you how…

This is recycling and reuse on a wonderful scale – creating great bags, laptop sleeves and accessories. Freitag is a pioneer of designing within the circular economy.

Day 12 of our december wish list – anything from Freitag (but we particularly like this one…)

(image via Freitag)

December wish list – day three… Who Made Your Pants…

We included the fantastic Who Made Your Pants on our Wish List last year and we thought they were very worthy to be included on our wish list for 2014 too. It ticks the boxes of being lovely, ethical and you can get pants all year…

who made your pants

And getting underwear is a pretty standard thing for a lot of us at this time of the year, but as we are very discerning folk, we do not just want any old pants. Oh no. We want beautiful, ethical pants, made by people who care. Fortunately, there is the fabulous Who Made Your Pants?, based in Southampton.


ShockerBasically, Who Made Your Pants? create ‘amazing pants by amazing women’ – using fabrics that are left over at the end of the season from other lingerie companies, all made with care by women who have had a pretty rough time in their lives. They are given training and a safe place to work with scope for development. A wonderful company indeed.

But as well as having fabulous ethics, Who Made Your Pants? also create the most fabulous pants. Pants that you would love to receive and wear. They are beautiful and they are obscenely comfortable too – in glorious colours and none of the dreaded VPL. They are packaged with care and you even get to know the name of the person who made your pants. We love them.

Something Blue

Brilliant Black

So – if you are looking for a gift of pants this year, take a look. And looking for a gift that keeps giving past the season? Sign your giftee up to the subscription package of a year of pants, when a special package will arrive each month, with a new pair of pants.

Yes please. 

(images from Who Made Your Pants)

SPOTTED – picking our Christmas tree at Wilderness Wood…

We are suckers for a bit of tradition. Especially when it is a nice tradition – and really, we are heading full whack into one of the busiest times of year as far as tradition goes. We apologise in advance for using the C word in November, but hey. Christmas. Someone told me yesterday that there are only six weekends until Christmas. Six. Somehow that put the panic in a little bit, but we are safe in the knowledge that we have already bagged our tree. We went and reserved it at Wilderness Wood…wilderness wood 1

Some of you may know about our traditional trip up to the working wood, Wilderness Wood in Sussex – where every November (second weekend) we head up to get a tag, pay our £10 deposit and choose our tree in the Christmas tree plantation.

This year, was no different. We headed up on a sunny Sunday, boots at the ready, filled with excitement that was tinged with a little bit of apprehension. This was to be the first year that the wood was under new ownership after the Yarrow’s, who had founded the working wood in the 1970’s decided to retire. Would it be the same? Would the pots of tea be as huge, the cake so delicious and the atmosphere so friendly and welcoming?wilderness wood 2

Well, yes. We needn’t have worried. The barn was as packed as usual, the tea and the cake were both huge and delicious and the Christmas tree plantation was as we had expected.wilderness wood 3

With number 232 on our tag, there were lots of families and members who had reserved their trees before us, but there was still loads of selection available. Unfortunately, not the Douglas Fir that we have grown to love for its soft, fragrant, limey green needles, but still lots in the fir and spruce categories. Like the children in the plantation, we scooted up and down the hill, trying to find ‘the one’. There were a few contenders, but we eventually settled on one – a lovely Nordmann Fir – an excellent needle keeper, even when cut. Wilderness Wood has good Blue Spruces this year too, so if you are looking for one of these, ethically produced, then it is a good possibility.wilderness wood 4

Now, many of you will question whether driving to choose, then harvest a tree is perhaps the most ‘eco’ way to get a Christmas tree – and even if a real tree is perhaps the best choice. But we believe that this is not only about the tree, but the tradition of picking one – safe in the knowledge that it has been cared for in the right way. It is as ethical as possible. Plus, as we will compost the tree after, the tree becomes a biological nutrient for our own studio garden.

So. Full of tea, cake and with our tree reserved, we headed home. And we will go back in about a month and cut him down, bring him to the studio for Christmas. Ironically, we have named him Doug.

(go to the Wilderness Wood website for full details of their pick your own Christmas trees. all photos by claire potter)

first eco open houses tour weekend a success…

We have been a little bit quiet over here on the ecospot over the last week or so. There are many reasons for this – for one, we were having a bit of a major design overhaul (and we hope you like the new look!) and as well as having a digital redesign we were working in the physical too – trying to complete our new studio in time for the first Brighton and Hove Eco Open Houses tour weekend on 18th / 19th October. Long days, long nights and lots of goings on. But, we are nearly there on both respects, and it was with delight that we opened our doors to the public for the very first time on Sunday morning…

studio loo front

We are not completely there, but very nearly and there was loads of stuff that we could say about the project to explain to people where we had started from, where we were and where we will be when we open again on Saturday 25th.

studio spider chandelier small

It was fantastic. We had put notes on a lot of the key areas of the rebuild and conversion from old public toilet to design studio and it was not long before our pen had nearly run out. From our Celotex insulation to locally sourced plants, recycled paint from REBORN paints to upcycled cabinets from local charity Emmaus, we spoke about a different side to the eco buildings in the city.

studio plants small

We do not have our solar panels on our roof yet, but our electricity is supplied by Ecotricity and we have used A+ appliances throughout and energy saving bulbs. Plants also feature heavily in the studio to not only create a nice environment but to act as air cleaners – removing the toxins which will be given out by our printer, computers and even as we breathe.

labels on the wall

And despite not being completely finished, we were delighted at the comments that people gave us when they visited. Some people had travelled specifically to see our studio, others were doing as many of the Eco Open Houses as possible and others were just walking along the road and happened upon us. All in all, we had just over 60 visitors, which we were most chuffed about.

reborn paints small

But, as soon as the last visitors had gone, the building materials were back in and we were back at the works, with the flooring, front door and tiling set to be finished off this week. I have the job of putting in the hanging planters that I was speaking to people about as well…

neon green flex. grey and copper

So – if you are about, pop by and say hello this weekend – we are at 201 Portland Road in Hove and will be open on Saturday 25th and Sunday 26th between 10-1 and 2-5. And we can highly recommend the cafe along the road, Pelican on Portland for all things tasty, lovely and delicious.

(all photos by claire potter)


SPOTTED – the postcard recycling kit…

We do love having a trawl through etsy – you never quite know what you are going to find and more often than not we discover something that is interesting and imaginative. Just like this rather fantastic postcard recycling kit from TangleCrafts.

POSTCARD RECYCLING KIT Looseleaf zine & eco-friendly, upcycled mail art

With a lovely hand printed style, and lovely manilla paper, the kit allows you to affix a new address and message side to any old postcard or card stock of the same size. Now, in the age of emails it could feel that the traditional postcard is a little old hat, but surely we all still get the joy of receiving a postcard from a friend or relative and seeing what they are up to on their hols?

But, with little ongoing use, these postcards are usually recycled after we have got a bit tired of looking at that gorgeous bay that someone else has visited. With the postcard recycling kit however, you can affix a new label and send the joy on to someone else.

It could even start a story – an imaginary trip to the destination on the front (great project for kids this one) with the narrative sent to a friend or relative for a bit of fun. Or perhaps make no bones about it at all and quite plainly say that you had not visited said location and just wanted to say hello and raise a smile. Nothing wrong with that at all.

The postcard recycling kit can help you do all of this and for a bargain price of only £3.50 per kit of eight labels.

Spread a bit of love and get recycling.

(image via TangleCrafts Etsy store)

SPOTTED – the Hookie Planter…

We do love a bit of internal planting here on the Ecospot, especially when it is hanging planting. Plants really can make the space come alive, plus it can help to soften an otherwise hard interior design scheme, especially if you are going down the industrial styled route, as we often are. Add in the air cleansing qualities of plants and you are onto a winner. So when we saw these new Hookie planters, we were, er, hooked. hookie

Founded by Finnish industrial designer Niko Laukkarinen, the Hookie was borm out of the idea of supporting multiple plants from one single fixing point. It is also rather sculptural, which is an element that we particularly like.

And you can also support the project itself, as it is currently looking for funding here.

Play Hookie With These Hanging Planters in main home furnishings  Category

(images via Hookie funded by me page)

SPOTTED – alliums and lavender…

Lavender is one of those plants which we use a great deal in our landscape design schemes as it ticks multiple boxes. It is beautifully scented, has great all year round structure, is great for bees, is edible and is generally very hardy. What’s not to like really. Plus, you can get it in all sizes and in an increasing amount of shades of whites, blues and purples – even pinks, which are not so much our bag, but hey. Lavender is great.

Another thing that lavender is great for is for growing things through – we have underplanted lavender with dark Queen of the Night tulips before, which worked particularly well as they were not only given support whilst they grew, the colour contrast was amazing and the dying leaves of the tulips (which always look rather untidy) were concealed by the growing lavender. Win win.

alliums and lavender

So we are always looking for other examples of how lavender can be underplanted. Whilst at Arundel Castle this week for the Medieval Tournament we spotted this lovely example in the cutting garden, where dwarf lavender had been underplanted with alliums.

Both the alliums and lavender had gone past their best, but we thought it was a fantastic example of a planting pair. The alliums, which are notoriously top heavy were supported like footballs on top of the lavender and allowed them to remain as interesting structural seed heads in the bed.

Even when the lavender is cut back at the end of the season, the alliums can remain through the autumn to provide continued variation in the flower bed.

A really, really lovely example of pairing planting – we think this could also be used with rosemary, which has a similar growth habit to lavender and is also evergreen. Just keep the rosemary short and neat so the alliums can punch through the green.

(photo by claire potter)

Monday musings – The Men Who Made Us Spend…

We work as designers. We create new stuff for the world for all sorts of clients with all sorts of budgets in all sorts of styles. However, we work firmly within the ‘green design / eco design / sustainable design’ sphere, which is just where we think everyone should be designing from, regardless of who / what  /where you design. And we get rather incensed by the larger corporations who have the biggest clout and yet, sometimes the lowest regards for responsibility. The bigger you are the harder it can be to create a fully responsible design chain, but it is not impossible.   So it was also rather timely that we noticed the new series on BBC 2, which started last week – ‘The Men Who Made Us Spend’.

the men who made us spend

From the outset, this was – by far – one of the most interesting and engaging programmes to have been produced for a long while that tackled the complicated issues of consumer spending and the psychology of why we want the newest, better thing.

These are issues that designers of all spheres work with on a daily basis, and we all know that not everyone within our industries are working within the sustainability bubbles that we inhabit, but it made compelling watching. The decisions made by industries to include planned obsolescence within their products to promote further purchases, the tricks included in products to keep us – the owners – from getting inside and repairing them ourselves. Even the fact that battery packs on some products are deliberately sealed making a perfectly good product useless (unless you pay a large replacement fee) in as little as 18 months.

Even with product reclamation and material recycling increasing worldwide, the actual psychological and design decisions that are imposed on us are worrying and need changing. An interesting comparison was made with the IKEA ‘chuck out your chintz’ campaign and the fact that they are championing sustainability. It was wonderful watching and we highly recommend looking it up on the BBC iPlayer.

But really, this does show the two faces of products and repair – on one hand we have manufacturers creating products that are deliberately ‘disposable’ and ‘fast fashion’ we have the ground roots backlash of individuals and independent companies such as Sugru, Fixers cafes and designers who are not accepting that this is the way we should be creating. This is the camp that we firmly sit within and I am proud to say that I also sit on the British Standard Committee of  BS8887  – MADE, which relates to Design for Manufacture, Assembly, Disassembly and End of use processing, which sets out guidelines for processes for a more sustainable future…

Which is where we should all be heading.

(image via BBC 2)

a few of the newest New Designers…

Today on the Ecospot we are taking a bit of a look at the second part of New Designers that we visited last week up at the Business Design Centre in London. Packed to the rafters with the best new blood of the next generation, New Designers is the culmination of years of hard graft for designers across a multitude of disciplines.

We were there firstly to support the lovely designers who we have had the pleasure of tutoring and lecturing over the past year or so (and who graduated yesterday!), but we were also there to spot the latest new and exciting things from the other universities. So, we have chosen a very small selection to share with you today.

First up is the lovely re-imagining of the beehive by Daniel Leaker, which has been designed as an educational tool for schools. Based around natural beekeeping methodology, the new hive is also made from 100% recycled materials, including recycled plastic and reused cardboard postal tubes that have been impregnated with a beeswax and linseed oil solution.


It is also on a pulley system to allow children to view the hive safely, then allowing it to be hoisted back up into its permanent location, such as within a tree. A lovely project – check out Daniel’s site for full details on the manufacture of the project.

We also were quite taken with the ‘Brace’ seating and shelving system by Douglas Pulman, who also won the New Designers 100% Design Award. With its simplicity of form and materials, we thought it was a lovely winner.

Douglas Pulman shelf


The system can be flat packed with ease and is also flexible, so can be altered into seating. We do love a bit of galvanised metal and wood, so we thought it was a very worthy winner.

Last up, we are heading into the graphics and illustration department, where we fell in love with the illustrations of fellow south coast resident Jenna Clarke.

We really liked the illustration of Jenna – it was full and varied and showed a real illustrative skill, as well as a recognition of wider world issues. Check out her full portfolio here.

So – just a few picks from New Designers – we will have another couple next week…

wednesday walls – another type of green wall…

We are rather obsessed with planted, or green walls here in the studio. We think they are a brilliant way of utilising an otherwise abandoned surface for stuff that helps clean the air, is productive, encourages biodiversity or at the very least, looks great and reminds us of the natural world and our passing seasons. So, as we continue to be obsessed with the green wall, here is another, quite stunning example that we spotted over on Pinterest…

La Leroteca / Lacaja Arquitectos, green wall, garden in wall, flowers on facade, wood exterior wall, kindergarten

Situated in Colombia, this kindergarten by Lacaja Arquitectos has a beautifully deep facade which is planted with a variety of flowering plants and herbs. Now, this is a detail that works very well if a projecting planter could be an issue – ie, on a walkway that people could hit their head on, or if a slick detail is required.

The stones provide drainage, and it is likely that the water is allowed to drain from the top planted trough to the bottom.

If you are planning a new, cladded facade and wanted a green wall, then this could be the detail for you…

(image by Rodrigo Davila, via archdaily)

SPOTTED – a few lovely public landscaping details in Berlin…

Ok – we are still talking about our recent trip to Berlin, but hey – there was loads of great stuff to report about. Rest assured, we will be finishing our Berlin series this week… But, before we do, we are dedicating today’s post to a few fantastic little bits of public landscaping that we spotted while we were there.

bikini berlin landscaping 1

As we reported yesterday, the whole area of Bikini Berlin, which encompasses both the new concept mall and the 25hrs hotel has undergone a serious amount of regeneration of late. The new concept mall is on three levels, with the top level stores opening out onto the public roof terrace – overlooking the monkey enclosures of the zoological garden again.

What was lovely about this space was, firstly, it was publically accessible – too often the lovely pieces of landscaping that surround buildings, or sit above buildings are closed off to the general public. Not so here – there was plenty of space to sit and take in the views of the tiergarten or the city either on one of the cafe areas or on the public seating, which hooray, there was also an abundance of.

bikini berlin landscaping 2

These large bench seats, which were colour matched to the soft green of the metalwork inside the mall were also fitted with a very simple and very clever back rest adjustment system, so you can decide which way to face. Very nice.

The detailing on the terrace was also rather nice – the geometric wave set into the railings that looked over the zoological garden mirroring the angular rooflights that floods the mall below with light.

bikini berlin landscaping 3

Also, the front of the hotel entrance carried on this angular public landscaping, with stepped planters rising out of the flat paved areas – creating both visual interest and a planting depth to allow larger specimens without the planter being blocky. It was also – as I discovered – rather good to sit against.

A very lovely example of cool, contemporary, angular landscaping – and not just for the private office and workspace users of the area – for the public.

Long may it continue.

(photos by claire potter)