Monday 26th June 2017

Shao Fan’s Incredible Chairs.

Shao Fan whose paintings I featured a couple of weeks ago is back on Neon Cactus. His work is beautiful and inventive. His designs take traditional Chinese furniture  and essentially re-design and re-interprets it in modern context. His work deconstructs the boundaries between fine art and design, combining classical Ming wood carving techniques with contemporary design and materials to achieve a harmony symbolic of Chinese cultural evolution.

‘Shao Fan was one of a very few artists who did not pay much attention to this post-1989 mood,‘ Dr Zhang Hongxing says (senior curator at the V&A and organiser of the China Design Now show). ‘He was occupied by a sense of the emergence of great contradictions – old and new, local and global – in a society that was beginning to shift to a free market and a global economy. In his furniture art, the blending of craft and art expresses his anxiety about multiple influences at that time.’



His works can be found at the V & A [London], Metropolitan [New York], Pearl Lam Galleries [Shanghai],  and the Tomioka Museum [Japan] amongst others.

Chalayan Throwback

I’ve been doing a research for a talk that I’m giving on designers that change our perception and experience through their designs. And I obviously have to mention Hussein Chalayan. Just wanted to share this video with you all for those of you who have never seen it…

Hussein Chalayan – watermill from FabHub on Vimeo.

Hussein Chalayan – 5 dresses using microchip and animatronic technology from FabHub on Vimeo.

For the whole show click here. 

Animal House

I know that this is not particularly new but I never got around to writing about it and sharing how much I loved this – aside from this the Marni ‘Animal House’ project was entirely handcrafted by women from Colombia, who gained independence and emancipation through their work. The Animal House by Marni was one of my favorite design exhibitions this year. It was shown at Fuorisalone 2014 in Milan durin Milan Design week, and showed brightly colored metal and PVC ducks, donkeys, flamingos, giraffes, rabbits and ostriches scattered and beautifully distributed throughout the space. The group of Colombian women handwove intricate patterns in PVS thread onto the pieces of furniture designed by the Marni team.

Joshua Tree

I recently did the most incredible road trip in California with my husband. The variation of landscapes as well as architecture, sights and activities kept us up until late and made sure we were up early. Beautiful hotels, amazing restaurants, landscapes, architecture – and its always BRIGHT BLUE skies!

The part of the trip that I wanted to share with you all is Joshua Tree. Firstly, we stayed in a beautiful hotel in Palm Springs called The Parker. The hotel was designed by Jonathan Adler, and I have to admit I was not previously a huge fan of his but this hotel swayed my opinion. There were so many details that were beautiful and fun! I’ve shared a few of them with you below, a personal favorite was the poolside bar – which in the afternoon sprays mist; which amongst the palm tress and all the yellow & white stripes just looks so dreamy. It feels like the perfect setting for a movie set in the 1970s. Whilst we were there as beautiful as the hotel was, we spent a huge amount of time in the desert. Empty roads. Something just so peaceful yet terrifying about it. (I just kept praying that our car would not break down, as neither of us had working phones! It would have made a good story though).

Our first little excursion was for a ‘sound bath’ at The Integraton. The drive there was beautiful – it is north of Joshua Tree National park and in quite an incredible setting, once you arrive you are not disappointed – I loved the building! It took 18 years to build, and the structure does not have one piece of metal in it! ’Its creator, George Van Tassel (1920-1978), claimed that the structure is based on the design of Moses’ Tabernacle, the writings of Nikola Tesla and telepathic directions from extraterrestrials. This one-of-a-kind 38-foot high, 55-foot diameter, all wood dome was designed to be an electrostatic generator for the purpose of rejuvenation and time travel.’  I am almost tempted not to share too much about the sound bath, as I had no expectations or knowledge about what a sound bath was before I entered and it somehow made the experience so much more unusual. If your in the neighborhood – do it! If your not, imagine a room where everything is about sound, and somehow this translates into a physical as well as emotional sensation.. However, the sad news is I didn’t time travel (if I did I don’t remember it, haha).

We also spent a good amount of our time in Joshua Tree National Park. Although I must admit I did spend most of our hikes looking at my feet as I was terrified after having heard horror stories about all the snakes, at the hotel bar the night before. It was nonetheless beautiful. I had always thought I was more inclined towards tropical settings – I love greenery and in my eyes there can never have enough plants! But Joshua Park has turned me.

Finally we had tacos at the Crossroads Cafe, which was actually at a cross road – I mean you can’t make this stuff up, everything is just so iconic. And then went to a ‘yard sale’ in the middle of the desert- where obviously we bought things that were a huge inconvenice to bring home, and now have no idea what we were thinking! Inspite of our unneeded purchases, which will serve well as random souvenirs, Joshua Tree was one of my favorite parts of the trip.


Marrakech with Philomena

An old friend of mine who has written on Neon Cactus quite a few times, is opening a Riad in Marrakech, she worked alongside the talented interior designer Romain Michel Meniere and here she shares her story with us. A small glimpse into their Riad and her tips on Marrakech..

How long have you been going to Morocco?

I have been going to Morocco for seven years now and no sign of the famous seven year itch as yet!

Tell us a little bit about what state the house was in when you found it?

The house was much as it is now in terms of layout but we entirely renovated it and added the master bedroom suite to that was previously a terrace. Despite the fact that it was just a renovation project it somehow still managed to take years until we got everything perfect.

What was your inspiration whilst decorating it?

I worked together with a brilliant interior designer, Romain Michel Meniere, but in a funny way we had no initial inspiration or moodboard. The house always had a very calm feel even before we renovated so we brought that out even more by keeping the look quite minimal and white. It has really become a very calming and relaxing space.

The color palette (or lack thereof) –quite unusual for jewel colored Morocco – was offset by the 1950s furniture we found in the flea markets there. It all started with a metal and glass table actually and the rest of the decoration sort of followed from that.

What are you working on at the moment?

I am currently working on integrating our two acres of farm – which is forty-five minutes out of Marrakech – into the Riad Mena concept. It is a fully functioning permaculture farm, so all the amazing organic fruit, herbs, vegetables, cold pressed olive oil, jams and honey from our bees will be brought to the Riad for guests to enjoy there.

Guests can also spend the day at the farm sitting amongst the olive trees, enjoying a raw food picnic lunch, rooftop yoga classes with amazing mountain views or guided meditation in the gardens.

I am really excited to turn theses places into a creative and holistic hub that people can dip in and out of and leave feeling grounded and re-inspired.

What are you top tips in Marrakech?

A secret tip that isn’t in any of the guidebooks is dinner at the private home of a wonderfully sparky Japanese lady called Umiko. She cooks an incredible seven course Japanese meal at hers, by which hers is an old Riad converted to look like a Florentine church, decorated in opulent style. You feel like you are at one of Henry VIIIs banquettes and the food is amazing. It´s a great place to go with a group of friends.

Where do you live at the moment?

Home is where my hat is at the moment, but I am spending a lot of time between Marrakech, Stockholm, Munich, London and Paris.

Favorite restaurant?

In London I truly love Trullo. The food is amazing; seasonal and inventive but not overdone. All the staff working there are real foodies so you always get wonderful recommendations with a perfect wine to match. Ask for a booth in the vaulted ceilinged basement, super fun for a Prosecco and food overdose with friends.

Where is your perfect holiday destination?

New York for an energy / inspiration fix and Parrot Cay in the Turks & Caicos for a full on relax.

What inspires you?

I find that when I do a lot of yoga I become very inspired as I am more in flow with everything. Ideas and people have a habit of coming to me when I am in this state of openness towards life.

What are your current obsessions?

Bees! I am so excited to have my own beehives in the country and start making lots of different types of delicious honey.

Favorite Film?

The Little Mermaid. (remnant from my childhood…)

You can wear 3 designers for the rest of your life. Who are they?

Christoph Lemaire for Hermès. Understated, amazingly crafted, timeless.

Issey Miyake. His pieces never fail to stand out whilst still letting the wearer stand out more. Plus they are amazingly easy to pack for all my travelling!

by Thiel jewelry. It hasn’t even launched yet but I am desperately awaiting my first necklace, which is of a Buddha head & Karma wheel. The jewelry is all about balance and each piece has an amazing energy. Beautiful talismans for life!

The Riad is currently being feature in the latest copy of Wallpaper magazine!


Andrew Friend

Andrew Friend and I met whilst studying at the Bartlett, UCL, he then went on to study at the Royal College of Art in London and designer a series of device – one of which I share with you today.

If you are in the right place, at the right time, you (may) experience something fantastic.

These projects deal with that which may seem extraordinary, unlikely, desirable (or not), confusing, or uncanny. Friend is interested in the fantastic experience, be it the conscious quest to achieve one’s personal (or indeed popular) fantasy, or the more sub-conscious seeding of a fantastic situation or construct through the actions of others. The fantastic has the power to engage the imagination, initiate dreams and trigger desires, excite, manipulate and confuse.  The projects explore how one can, through the production of objects and services located in specific contexts, enable these fantasies.

The Quest is manifest through objects, devices, narrative and experiences.

Device for experiencing lightning strike;

This device increases the user’s likelihood of getting struck by lightning. Energy from the strike is transferred to heat, used to brand the user, who following the experience is left scarred as a memory of the event. The device questions the dissemination of this experience, from the life threatening, to simple story, the transition from the fantastic to the banal

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