Grand Designs Live

I wish I had nicer things to say about my first foray into London’s design scene. As feared, it was basically a bigger, more exhausting version of Vancouver’s Home Show. They had gimmicky household items and The Brick-equivalent furniture. My biggest success was getting there and back after 2 tube transfers and an overground train. I didn’t even get lost! There were a few bright spots at the show. Here’s the official write-up on the event:

“UK’s leading contemporary home show, presented by design guru Kevin McCloud, the event will be packed with over 500 exhibitors, across seven different sections, covering interiors, gardens, home improvement, self-build, renovations, technology and shopping. Grand Designs Live attracts over 100,000 people yearly.”

On to what I actually liked about the show. Installing electronics here is very different when you don’t have wood framing. If you’re installing a flat screen to be flushmount here, you have to scrape our mortar, or worse, brick. I had a great conversation with the guys at The Cinema Company, who were amazingly patient with my Canadian-flavoured tech questions. “What do you mean you can’t just recess a television into a panel in the wall?” Our Canadian installers should really quit their whining. They have it easy with our wood construction and relatively new buildings. These guys also host networking nights where different trades can meet each other and create connections. What a great idea!

What to do with your bike when you’re nervous it’s going to get stolen or there’s no bike room? Solution:

Trophy - wild bicycle holders

Trophy – wild bicycle holders

I thought this art was fantastic and so personalized – by Life in Squares.



After having a disastrous resin concrete floor installed at a client’s, I thought this company’s contact information might be a good idea to keep handy – Puur. I love the look of poured resin and polished concrete floors. I love how the boundaries between floor, walls and ceiling disappear.

concrete flooring system

What I was most impressed by is all the interesting things happening in the “green” marketplace. The Eco-Tech House featured many companies that are reducing their impact through the use of technology, which seems to be more of a priority here, since it hits the consumer’s pocket book a little harder. Here are some of the companies I looked at:

Eco Rocking Chair by Novague: Allows you to recharge your electronics while you’re relaxing

Igloo Smart Fire by Smartfire UK: Sleek looking bioethanol and biufuel fireplaces

Chop Cloc Thermostat by Nigel’s Eco Store: This handy little device chops the amount of time your heat is on automatically – saving you 16% it claims in energy bills. The unfortunate part is that it says it has to be installed by a professional electrician – really? It reminds me of the Nest thermostat, which was built by some former designers from Apple. I like the rest of Nigel’s Eco Store website too for eco-friendly items.

Miscea Classic Faucet by Well Design: This faucet satisfied my inner germ-aphobe. It’s a faucet and dispenser in one (soap, disinfectant and water). And all hands free. Great for public spaces or restaurants or anywhere that hygiene SHOULD be a priority. Apparently, you can also save 70% of water consumption. Well Design looks like an amazingly creative company. Would love to know more.

Heat Pump Tumble Dryer by Zanussi:  This one I couldn’t even find on their website, so maybe it’s that cutting edge. Here’s where North American’s can take a hint from the Europeans – washing and drying. They don’t have space for an entire room dedicated just to the function of doing laundry. In fact, the washing machine is located in the kitchen. And I’m going to say it – I kind of like it. So this dryer uses heat pump technology, which apparently saves 40% (I’m always very sceptical with data directly from the company). The heat pump doesn’t need to get as hot as a traditional, tumble dryer, so your clothes don’t go to the grave early either. They’ve also incorporated an auto-sensor that shuts off at the exact moment your clothes are perfectly dry. Imagine?!

The 5 Series X13 Modular Computer by Office Convergence: Doesn’t sound sexy, but they rethought the entire design of a computer. They also want to do away with computers being throw aways after a couple of years, so they are easy to work on and modifiable (for Phil and his fellow geeks). If you’re a techy, I’d love your opinion on this.

Flutepro Desk & Do Chair by Flute Office: So cool! This office furniture is made out of cardboard, yet is sturdy enough to stand up in a commercial space. Just a note – it does withstand water and liquid, so don’t worry about spilling your coffee. One of the best parts for me is that you can seamlessly hide all the wires!

Cintep Recycling Shower: This one I don’t quite understand still, but think if I did, I would love it. It recycles the water in the showerhead somehow to save you boat loads of water and doesn’t require you to re-heat water, so energy savings as well.

A couple of other things in the green arena. The Centre for Alternative Technology offers short courses on so many topics. Some examples – Building with Rammed Earth, Building with Straw Bales, or Principles for Sustainable Architecture. I’m going to look into this.

A company called Strawhaus is specializing in lime plastering and rendering, lime pointing, clay plastering, cob conservation and repair, blending sustainable materials with traditional construction techniques. Why not do things the old-fashioned way and save the planet?

Lastly, tree tents. Who doesn’t want to sleep in a tree? For a list of where they’ve installed these already, head here.

Pretend there's not people's heads in the way

Pretend there’s not people’s heads in the way

Upon further review, I guess I did get a lot out of going.


2 thoughts on “Grand Designs Live

  1. Tara,
    I love your blogging and this blog was particularly enjoyable and entertaining.
    I love it’s “cheekyness”, and applaud your networking. Lots of possibilities being created! Way to go!

  2. The tree tents reminded me of when Shawn and I went to Nootka Island and they had cabins in the trees where you could stay. Shawn had booked to stay in the tree cabin. He thought it would be a nice reprieve from hiking/tenting for 3 days. Unfortunately, they had overbooked it and didn’t have our reservation. We ended up camping on the beach and saw a pod of whales go by. Always a silver lining. But I would still like to go back one day and stay in the tree cabins. You should check it out.

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