Design Days Dubai highlights

“Watching” A one off bespoke hand-knotted carpet developed for the CS Range
“Watching” A one off bespoke hand-knotted carpet developed for the CS Range for Carpets CC

Dubai’s annual design fair, Design Days Dubai, was launched six years ago, to coincide with Art Dubai, now in its 11th edition. This year, in a new location in the city’s d3 Design District, where a string of Foster Associates-designed buildings house the offices and studios of creative businesses as well as a mix of restaurants and cafes (should you not wish to be too far from a Toss’d, you’ll find one here), the art fair’s little design sister has moved up a notch.

Where once there was a single representative from the United Arab Emirates, now there are over 20, and the local product is most definitely finding its way, while the presence of 30 stands from more established design destinations transforms Design Days Dubai into a well-rounded show. Creations range from the edgy to the seriously sparkly, and these days it’s not always the latter which sell the best. Here's our top five highlights...

Earth, by Architecture + Other things

Architecture + Other Things
Architecture and Other Things is a three-person practice based in nearby Sharjah, and just like their name suggests, they like to experiment with small objects and unusual materials while they doubtless dream of designing bigger buildings. At Design Days Dubai, their series of stools, cast from a nearly black material made from tiny crumbs of recycled rubber tires compacted into moulds, are the acceptable side of upcycling. Cute and compact, the stools combine sustainability and ingenuity. architecture-otherthings.com

Jake Phipps Stellar Console Table

Jake Phipps and Molly Hatch at Todd Merrill
Todd Merrill moved his 18-year-old design gallery into a huge 4,000 square foot space in New York’s Tribeca a year ago, but was still keen to explore this new territory for the first time. “I think I chose well,” he said on day three of the fair, surveying the array of bright shiny things he had brought to the UAE. “People here like metal finishes and high polishes and lacquer.”

Indeed, the console by British designer Jake Phipps (around $20,000 to order) had been quite a success, in gleaming polished steel with a crystalline-looking section running through its front. “A lot of flash for your money!” remarked Merrill.

Also attracting attention was a wall arrangement, called Crescere, of 37 porcelain plates hand-painted by Massachusetts-based designer Molly Hatch ($25,000). The rich gold patterns are derived from a 13th-century Islamic collection in the Metropolitan Museum. “Jake has his own workshop outside of London, as does Molly in the US. I like people who are makers, it connects them with their artistic vision,” said Merrill. toddmerrillstudio.com

“Cherry Tree” canvas and carpet by CarpetsCC by Cecilia Setterdahl

Carpets CC
The Swedish artist Cecilia Setterdahl arrived in Dubai 18 months ago, to set up a business designing carpets that are woven in Varanasi. “We were living in Switzerland, with a holiday home in Dubai,” she explained. “And we’ve made the right move. This is an amazing place to live. After Switzerland it doesn’t even seem expensive.”

Her crisply detailed and exquisitely coloured patterns have so far found more favour among Dubai’s expat community. “I suspect the designs are just a bit too contemporary,” said Cecilia. “They’re bold.”  Each carpet is a limited edition of 10 – the edition number woven into the bottom right corner – and at £3,500 quite a steal when you consider that each one takes three months to make. carpetscc.com

Coffee table formed of a grid of rusting steel, resting on a rosewood pyramid by Coalesce Design Studio

Coalesce Design Studio
This team of five architects based in Karachi, Pakistan, had sold out its entire booth within the first two days of the fair. “Perhaps we stood out for not being glitzy,” said a representative, Najeh Zimmerman who now lives in Dubai and was helping out with sales. Indeed, the rosewood and steel stools are anything but, while the collection’s piece de resistance  – a coffee table formed of a grid of rusting steel, resting on a rosewood pyramid – is downright edgy.

“That’s our top-end piece,” said Zimmerman, of the table which is made to order in Karachi and costs $4,800. Each piece is inspired by traditional forms which are then translated into objects suited to contemporary living. “To me this work has the language of the city of Karachi,” she went on. “It’s vibrant and rough and solid. And funnily enough, the Sheikas love it.” coalesce.pk

Studio Silo's dyed marble tables Credit: Sylvain Deleu

Studio Silo 
Attua Aparicio Torinos and Oscar Lessing met at the Royal College of Art and have pursued tireless experimentation with materials since they both graduated in 2011, mixing craft with technology in their London workshop.  This marble table from 2016 is dyed with washes of pastel colours – something of a transgression since marble is usually dyed for the less than artistic reason that the pink variant is more valuable than white.

The inspiration for the technique goes back to Attua’s childhood when her parents, both doctors, would spill the dye they used to investigate tissue cells onto the table at home. “I used to lie underneath it and see the dye seep through,” recalled Attua. “I would have been about three.”

The pair tried medical dyes to create the effect of cloudy colours on white carrara marble, but had to investigate other options to reach the soft shades they wanted, which are then sealed to stop the colours fading or changing. The table, which sits on four simple steel legs, can be made to commission. Price on application. silostudio.net

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