Interiors UK Show-NEC

Interiors UK Show – Review


My first blog of 2012 and my first ever visit to Interiors UK, very apt! I’m sorry I’ve been gone so long, what with unfortunate family matters and a busy business to run over the Christmas period, this poor blog has been neglected! So I’m back to virtually stroke it (if such a thing can be done to a blog?! – I’m starting to worry about myself!).

So, I decided to visit the Interiors UK at the NEC Birmingham as I’ve been trying to find shows that really help me keep my finger on the pulse of home trends and styles. I think it’s important for us as a business to be aware of what our customers may be privy to when it comes to interiors even if we don’t end up directly using it day to day. The Framing world straddles interiors, art, furniture, design, crafts, restoration, conservation etc.

In our framing studio workshop, we have a bookcase with lots of beautiful home design, framing and art books to help us inspire our customers, they love it! I’m trying single handedly, with limited success, to get people to think about their frames both in the context of interior design and how a frame surround can complement or add interest to a room.

My visit was boosted (as some of you will know) by winning a Twitter competition run by Interiors UK for VIP travel and a day at the show (thank you!). I’ll get this bit out of the way, since when I entered it, I didn’t really think it through. You see, I live near Bristol and the VIP travel was a Champagne breakfast from London Euston at 9am on the Monday!

So, I ended up getting a coach from Bristol City Centre at 4.30am! Yes, yes I know … but it was Champagne after all and I have to say that the girls (and a boy) at Interiors UK looked after me very well from start to finish.

I didn’t know what to expect and had imaged a VIP trip on the Orient Express, sit down breakfast with scrambled eggs and toast but a Virgin Train carriage, Bucks Fizz and a bagel did me just fine and everyone was so friendly, it was worth it.


My main highlights of the show (apart from being in the VIP area) were The Birmingham University Student area and the New Design Britain section. Have to mention that I wasn’t allowed to take pictures, so I can’t officially put anything up here, sorry!

The show’s theme overall was a twist on British Heritage. I loved the halls being divided into trend themes. The themes included were Classic Revival, Red Hot London, English Eccentric, Britannia Chic, Vintage Chic (is anyone else getting a little jaded with Vintage yet? It’s everywhere you look again this year) and Chintz with Attitude.

I usually do the Spring Fair at the NEC but the Interiors Show was more compact and concise.

Some of the people I had ear marked to search out, I found a bit hard to find. I didn’t even realise that I had already visited Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen’s set twice! It had a very understated LLB sign. Now, I’m all for a bit of subtlety but, I could have seen more of the show, if I hadn’t have wasted that time wondering around. I didn’t find the Mary Portas section.

Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen

I was really interested in seeing Laurence’s sets, having watched him lots on TV. I get his cheeky, quirky style. I also get the drama and the glamour and I would choose that over minimalism anytime. (This film of him talking about his set is fascinating, take a look).

I really liked the “His Lordship’s Lair” room, it was what he said it was. Demonstrating a truly unique British feel of a stately home. Somewhere, you would pay to stay on a weekend away, steeped in history and pushing your thoughts of Monday mornings far away (mind you, I don’t mind my Monday mornings at all, since I made the decision not to open on a Monday to avoid them!).

Have to say though, I didn’t fall in love with the bedroom set (sorry don’t shoot me down). Probably more to do with my irrational fears than Laurence’s designs! My immediate thoughts were of ants crawling out of trees, my exhaustion at the sight of fairy lights (even though I do have a set & they can be very romantic actually but that’s by the by!) and doggie doo doo on the grass effect rug (it didn’t actually have any dog’s wotsit on it by the way, I’m just getting carried away now), for me it was the stuff of nightmares! I’m also not a massive fan of cheeky saucy comedy furniture either. So, I’m afraid it’s a no from me (as if I know anything anyway!!!).

Birmingham Students

I met some great people on this stand and they willingly talked to me about the up and coming trends, spent some time with me talking about design etc. I really liked their sets too.

Gemma Smith kindly let me video a short interview with her on what’s coming up, very knowledgeable young lady (thanks Gemma).

Design Village

I really spent a lot of time here. Remembering what I was there for (interiors in relation to picture framing hmmm mostly), the person I was most fascinated with was Jo Gibbs. From a professional point of view, specifically her etched mirrors with surrounds. I didn’t get to talk to her on the day but have been in contact via email, so will hopefully put up a short Q&A section later.

I really want to get to the bottom of the recycled and looking back theme’s and that’s what I want to talk to Jo about. We’ve always been asked to re-use frames or re-glaze existing frames etc. but in recent years with the “make do and mend” movement, it’s become more prevalent. I’m interested in people’s choices as there is a fine line between rescuing and seen better days. Watch this space.

I really enjoyed the work from The New English Company their ceramics are adorable. I’m quite a fan of the art plates. Overall their pieces are very quirky and very clever.

The B&B room design sets were quite fun. I preferred the House of Hackney set and once again, I noticed the etched mirrors. I’m now waiting to see how many etched mirrors we get into the framing workshop this year!

I also like the fabric around the mirrors, something I’ve been wanting to find time to do for a while is Fabric Frames.

My only overall problem was (as my regular readers will know) my pet hate is how little attention is paid to some of the presentation. By presentation, I’m mostly talking about the framing. I saw one particular set of work in white frames in the Design Village.

A beautiful piece, for me, was ruined by the huge gap where the frame corners had separated. They were clearly cheap readymade frames (which I have nothing against) but to present something in that way at a big show like this was just sloppy. This wasn’t anything to do with “make do and mend” or “shabby chic”. To me it shows a lack of consideration towards potential clients and buyers. Grrrr rant over.

Generally on Framing

On the whole, the frames were represented in Mirrors (they are all frames though). Once again, the theme seemed to be ornate and very elaborate. I only remember seeing one stall with plain wood mirror surrounds. The emphasis was on statement and drama.

One of our framing suppliers was also there with their Mirror section.

Free Seminars

I wasn’t interested in very many. Unfortunately, the one I couldn’t actually see was probably going to be the most relevant but hey ho! I got to attend a couple in the VIP Lounge. Jo Hamilton’s spot was very interesting. Mostly they were obviously geared towards Interior Designers or the like. How to make a room feel bigger etc. I really enjoyed the colour wheel talk.

Sian Astley was also very interesting but unfortunately I had to leave half way through to meet someone!

The Twitter for beginners was good, nothing that I didn’t already know but was good to get someone else’s take on it.

Colour Trends

So, from what I could make out. The big colour themes seem to be the 70’s inspired burnt Orange, bold and simple colours such as Red and deep Blues. The key terms that screamed to me were Ember and sea chanty.

What others said …

I spoke to a few people who said they really enjoyed it and would come again. One lady from the Middle East, was an Interior Designer back home and was finding the Seminars really useful. Some people found new suppliers for their businesses. Others were just there to see what was coming up for 2012 or to attend the seminars.

My Personal Conclusion

I would go again for sure. To me everything is relevant but I have to be very honest and say that I didn’t find any great revelations. There were things that made sense, beautiful things, talented people, craftsmanship etc. but nothing really fresh and new came out of it for me, sorry.

Look, I know this was all about a twist on British classic themes and it delivered on that front. This is no reflection on Interiors UK, they showed us what the trends are, where it’s all going and where to get it. A place to find new suppliers and a place to learn new interior skills or network with fellow designers.

I absolutely love homes, properties and spaces and I am in awe of creativity, design and craftsmanship. My own house is full of bits and bobs.  I like to grab things that appeal to me in an eclectic way. I mean, I don’t have an actual set style that I like for instance.

I like modern and I like old. I’m interested in a bit of everything I love Modern Art and I love a traditional Watercolourist’s work. I love a banging tune, Punk Rock and also love a touch of classical. I don’t fit into a box as such. So for me, I do like the mix of old and new in my own life.

However, what is it with all this looking back to the past? I mean psychologically, is it as straight forward as the world moving forward too fast, we crave some comfort, a more simple life or have we all run out of ideas?

Don’t get me wrong, and as I said, I really do love interiors and my own space at home is filled with things, old frames, new frames, glass, textiles, art, books, films- all the things I love.

I do believe that older things have better shape and form (oh, I so want that to be true in humans as I’m getting older!!). I’m just dying for someone to come up with something really fresh and new. Heck, even the idea of space age isn’t new anymore! I’m interested to see where it’s all going next but somehow, I think it’ll all be centred around reinvention for many a year to come yet.

Maybe it’s just the terminology I’m bored of. Vintage, Shabby Chic and Keep Calm and Carry On (if I hear that phrase or see another card with it on, I certainly won’t keep calm any more) have all been flogged to death and now are used to describe all manner of things.

I mean, yet another copy of Homes & Antiques seemed to be dedicated to Vintage. Isn’t that the point of the magazine anyway? Yes, yes, ok all you people shouting at me, telling me there’s a technical difference between an Antique and something Vintage. It’s the labelling of it all & pushing it to death for yet another year that’s boring me. It’s a contradiction really, I love poking around in reclamation yards and the like. I’m just fed up with it as a “style”.

On that note, I felt that the “Chintz with Attitude” theme at the show, was yet another twist on this age old trend. Please Sir, can we have something else?

Lastly, my specific needs were mostly met, apart from on the decoration side. I wanted to see stands from people such as Farrow & Ball and the Little Greene Paint Company. Is paint not a massive part of interiors? Maybe I need a specific show for that?

All in all, I really enjoyed the show, I will go again and I’ll be recommending it to others but I won’t be getting a 4.30am coach next year to get there! If I was to win VIP again, I’ll stay in London!


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