London’s Design Center Brings the Outdoors Inside

November 8, 2012 by

Each of the London Chelsea Harbour Design Centre’s three glass domes houses interior design showrooms which circulate around a planted ground floor café and gathering area. Ambient light filters in through the glass panels, illuminating textiles, furniture, bath fixtures and other interiors products in the 80 showrooms of more than 120 brands.

As the Centre’s architects, Duggan Morris, aptly describe it, the wrapped facade is “articulated by a decorative motif reminiscent of fine fabric patterns and weaves, and which folds and sways sculpturally punctuating entrances. The skin also shifts in tonality thus capturing and framing views to activity within, where appropriate, or peeling away to a fine woven mesh where it hangs as a light weight skin.”

Photo: Robin Plaskoff Horton, Urban Gardens.

A Conversation Between Showrooms
While in London recently during the London Design Festival with the Modenus BlogTour, I visited the showrooms of sponsors Samuel Heath and Victoria + Albert Baths, at the same time circling the floors and experiencing the connection between showrooms. I could almost touch the leaves from the tall potted trees reaching from up from the central atrium to the Centre’s top two tiers.

Unlike many other urban design centers where one enters each separate showroom out of view of the others, in this set of structures there is a natural interaction facilitated by the vertical and horizontal connectivity, one showroom in view of another, intermingling products visually as a designer would while creating a mood board.

Photo: Robin Plaskoff Horton, Urban Gardens.

The Centre is buzzing with activity and energy…

Photo: Robin Plaskoff Horton, Urban Gardens.

Designers and clients can dine or sip coffee discussing and creating together in the indoor garden atriums in view of the branded windows, where there’s seamless fusion between interior and exterior spaces.

Photo: Robin Plaskoff Horton, Urban Gardens.

Some Premium Outdoor Names Amid Great Interiors Brands
Although a few select premium outdoor furniture brands like McKinnon and Harris, Summit, and Glyn Peter Machin have a presence, most of the represented brands are textiles, furniture, lighting, wall covering and tiles, interior accessories and of course, state of the industry bathroom brands like my sponsors, Victoria & Albert and Samuel Health, whose wares I got to test out and touch.

Glyn Peter Machin’s carbon fibre loungers for exterior and interior use.

I’m in love with this red McKinnon and Harris Albermarle table.

Enduring Design in the Details
During my visit, I not only got a taste for fine design–which matters anywhere, indoors and out–but for the superlative quality and manufacturing methods for which these and other brands I saw are known.

Design is in the details: Samuel Heath’s Style Moderne collection inspired by Art Deco design elements.

Samuel Heath prides itself, not just on its heritage, but on its quality its production and long lasting materials. To echo the longevity of its brassware and bathroom fittings by portraying the wisdom and confident smile of maturity, the company commissioned a series of ads featuring vibrant images of 76-year old model Pamela Phillips, below.

For Bathing Outdoors
Victoria + Albert Baths are made with Englishcast, their durable patented material produced from finely ground volcanic limestone mixed with a high-performance resin. The tubs are ideal for outdoor applications as the solid white material is UV resistant, resisting fading or yellowing over time.

The Mosaic Bath Company decorates Victoria + Albert supplied tubs with their handcrafted mosaics, like the one I saw displayed, below, in their London showroom.

Photo: Robin Plaskoff Horton, Urban Gardens, via Instagram.

For his mermaid series, below, photographer Chris Crumley used Victoria + Albert’s classic Roxburgh Victorian slipper tub. The tub includes a modern foot option that puts a fresh twist on traditional design.

On my visit, Modenus’s Tim and I got a chance to try one of Victoria + Albert’s Premium Collection tubs, the sleek Ravello. (Ok, so we aren’t as glam as the mermaids.) The experience may not have compared to soaking in a real bath, but it was nonetheless a great excuse for getting off our feet and relaxing a bit…

Photo: Courtesy, Cheryl Kees Clendenon, who made me laugh the whole time I was in London.

Special thanks to sponsors Samuel Heath, Victoria+Albert Baths, and others for making this very special Modenus BlogTour possible. Stay tuned for more–over five days I saw so much I will be sharing for years!

Unless otherwise noted, photos supplied by the manufacturers or the Design Centre.



  1. Sean Heffernan said:

    Love to see new and interesting ways buildings bring the outdoors inside.

    — February 22, 2013 @ 10:18

  2. Using Outdoor Lighting to Create an Urban Oasis - Urban Gardens Pingback said:

    […] In September,  I got to spend five design-filled fun days with James in London during the Modenus BlogTour, where he was one of the few who completed a twenty-mile night hike for […]

    — July 22, 2022 @ 09:14

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