London is one of the world’s most stylish cities and is bursting with amazing interior design. However, sometimes the best design is hidden away in the most unexpected areas. Here are ten places, from museums to markets, where you will feel inspired.
The Design Museum is often overlooked by visitors to London in favour of larger, more famous offerings such as the V&A or the British Museum. Until recently, the Design Museum was hidden away in the Shad Thames area of London, but it moved to a larger site and more accessible site in Kensington in 2016. The museum has a permanent collection and several other galleries with changing exhibitions, meaning you can look at all aspects of design, from classic to contemporary.
The Barbican Centre was designed as part of a utopian vision to transform an area of London that was all but destroyed by bombing during the Second World War. It’s an iconic modernist gem housing over 2000 flats and two schools, as well as an arts centre that features events exploring art, architecture, fashion, interior design, photography and film. Whether you visit an exhibition, watch a concert or simply wander around the outside of this brutalist masterpiece, you can’t fail to be impressed and inspired.
Another lesser known London museum, the Museum of the Home is based in the Geffrye Almshouses on Kingsland Road in Shoreditch. It explores home life from 1600 through to the present day with a chronological series of period room displays, and celebrates every aspect of domesticity, from living room fashions to bathroom design. For green-fingered designers there is also a gardens exhibition, which demonstrates how city gardens have developed over the years, from a Tudor knot garden to a modern green roof.
The V&A Museum of Childhood is the less well-known, but no less interesting, sibling of the main V&A Museum that is based in South Kensington. The Museum of Childhood has a large permanent exhibition of toys and games stretching back 400 years, from 1600 right up to the present day. It’s a real trip down memory lane and a great place to be inspired by the branding and images you were so familiar with as a child.
The DIY Art Market celebrates and showcases some of London’s best independent designers. It champions both emerging and established artists and has a huge collection of original and unique items to buy, which you won’t find anywhere else. Things for sale include art prints, ceramics, illustration, photography, jewellery, screen prints, custom t-shirts and zines. It’s where you’ll find the cutting edge of new London design and there is plenty to be inspired by.
You may find some inspiration from the trains, trams and buses that make up most of the London Transport Museum’s collection, but the real source of fascination for design fans will be the poster collection. The collections spans over 100 years and features a huge range of famous artists, styles, formats and techniques. A large selection of prints is available to purchase at the museum shop, so you can take some of the inspiration home with you.
Hidden away in Walthamstow to the north east of London is the William Morris Gallery. William Morris was the founding father of the Arts and Crafts Movement, and was a prolific designer, creating everything from textiles to wallpapers and tapestries to buildings. As well as a permanent collection, the William Morris Gallery also has regularly changing displays of other designers, including contemporaries of Morris and up and coming stars. The gallery is situated in Lloyd park, which features beautifully designed gardens, a café and even a moat.
Sketch London is a triple-decker of design inspiration featuring art, food and music. Created by restaurateur Mourad Mazouz and chef Pierre Gagnierre, it is a masterpiece of eclectic design. It has four separate restaurants, each of which has its own theme: The Lecture Room is elegant art deco, The Glade is a mythical psychedelic forest scene, The Parlour is colourful and casual, and The Gallery is an elegant pink room that features 91 works by celebrated artist David Shrigley. Even the toilets are inspirational, featuring futuristic space pods that contain fully functioning loos.
Labour and Wait is a small and very stylish store based on fashionable Redchurch Street in the heart of east London. The shop offers a wide range of timeless, functional products for daily life, including hardware, clothing, kitchen implements, bathroom accessories, stationery and books. Labour and Wait carefully curate their shop, offering a collection of both new and vintage items alongside each other, some of which will be familiar from the past and some of which are destined to become firm favourites. They say they believe in ‘a simple, honest approach to design, where quality and utility are intrinsic’.
Twentytwentyone is a shop showcasing original and vintage design from the twentieth century, including furniture, lighting and accessories. They source stock from all over the world, showing off the newest designs from Europe, America, Japan, the Far East and Scandinavia, and also have an impressive collection of licensed reissues from design masters such as Eames, Wegner, Aalto and Prouve. It’s the perfect spot in London to take the opportunity to see the very best of both emerging and established international design, all under one roof.
London is an amazing city and has a huge amount to offer in terms of inspiration design, if you know where to find it. Looking in hidden away places and travelling further from the centre will take you to unlikely places where you’ll find some of the world’s best design. Whether it’s a museum, a shop or an arts centre, you’ll find plenty to stimulate your senses and encourage you to create some incredible designs of your own.