Beyond Instagram: London Design Week’s unparalleled breadth and depth will help you avoid ‘unhinged eclecticism’

Listening to the world’s greatest interior designers talk about their work is one of the best ways to get to grips with an elusive art — and as Giles Kime explains, London Design Week offers a great chance to do just that.

The internet is credited with magically transforming us all into interior-design experts. But has it really? Or has it merely given us both a greater awareness of trends and a supernatural ability to spot a House of Hackney cushion at 50 paces?

In the same way that the rise of the TV chef turned viewers into armchair gastronomes, social media has equipped us all with the wherewithal, but none of the know-how. We hope that when we chuck together all the exciting new ingredients we’ve found online, they’ll all magically crystalise to create a sparkling and coherent entity, like the carefully shot and cropped images we see on Instagram. Yet, too often, the result is more likely to be nothing more than some deeply unhinged eclecticism.

The problem is less to do with a lack of knowledge and more about an innate sense of what will and won’t work. The latter is a rare skill — some are born with it, some acquire it by osmosis and others simply open their minds to the wisdom and ideas of those who have done it all before.

Achieving the last of these is easier said than done. Other than enrolling on a course at the Inchbald School of Design or attending a talk by the paint savant Joa Studholme, opportunities are few and far between — except, that is, at the orgy of interior-design inspiration that is London Design Week, which kicks off at Design Centre, Chelsea Harbour, SW10, on March 8.

The organisers have an impressive ability to attract living legends to speak (Kit Kemp, Nina Campbell, Barbara Barry, David Mlinaric and Steven Gambrel, to name just a few). In addition, there are talks in the showrooms, the number of which has now risen to 120 and which include Colefax & Fowler, Vaughan, Julian Chichester, Zoffany, Cole & Son, et al. The result is that the building on the Thames briefly becomes home to the greatest concentration of design wisdom in the universe.

The experience of listening to a designer talk about how and why they make decisions and where they got their inspiration offers a privileged insight that has more breadth — and fathomless depth — than anything you’ll find on your Instagram feed.

London Design Week is at the Design Centre, Chelsea Harbour, London SW10, from March 8–13, 10am-6pm. Register for attendance at www.dcch.co.uk where you can also see details of the events taking place. Entry is free, but there’s a £10 charge for ‘Conversations in Design’ events — though Country Life readers can get a reduction to £7.50 for the ‘Conversations in Design’ featuring Rita Konig and Giles Kime. Just quote LIFE when booking.