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Design Diary: Downtown Design returns — what to expect

For its fifth anniversary, the industry fair dedicated to premium design returns, bigger and more diverse than ever

  • L’Objet innovates with porcelainImage Credit: Supplied
  • Carl Hansen & Son is home to iconic Danish designImage Credit: Supplied

Over the past five years, Downtown Design has quietly nurtured the taste of the regional design industry and the consumer, with its hand-picked selection of exceptional brands. This year, from its new vantage point by the waterfront at Dubai Design District, the fair presents 10,000 square metres of high-quality design, featuring 150 of the most reputable brands from across the globe.

The growth of the fair is inexplicably meshed with the advancing might of the regional creative industry, to which the UAE contributes a majority share. In line with Expo 2020, the UAE Vision 2021 and the Centennial Plan 2071, expect the UAE to remain a hotbed of opportunities for both the construction sector and global design brands. What does this mean for designer lovers?

Some of the most exciting, innovative and quality-conscious brands are vying for your attention. With Dubai firmly established as new revenue channel, long gone are the trickled down, old collections. The very best, and the very latest is on show here in the emirate.


At the core of Downtown Design is a strong and dynamic visitor experience. This is made up of a highly curated roster of established international and emerging regional brands, the consistency of the fair’s aesthetic throughout and a design-led attention to detail in every area: from the garden installation, to the concept reception area, the bespoke cafe and the mini feature areas dotted around the fair.

“Combine all these elements, and you create an experience that is enjoyable, efficient, easy and visually vital,” says Rue Kothari, Fair Director. “I think visitors will see why we’re one of the fastest growing design fairs in the world.”

Combining elements of landscape, architecture and design, Desert Ink, the region’s most exciting landscape design firm set the tone for the fair: they have envisaged a maze dotted with bursts of greenery, material play and design displays to create an experiential journey before arriving at the destination.

Interface, the global leader in modular commercial flooring has partnered with Pallavi Design Interiors for a stand design that explores the manufacturer’s commitment to biophilia. Dean plays with the concept of metamorphosis to convey Interface’s creative DNA. Designed to engage all five senses, the spiral maze like structure invites visitors to connect with nature through elements and materiality that brings the outdoors in.


From artisanal to advanced LED technology, chandeliers and architectural lighting to large scale installations, this year’s show presents its most diverse edit of lighting brands. Preciosa debuts its latest collection, Crystal Garden. This global exclusive that builds on the brand’s storied history of storytelling through illumination arts, is a magical play of nature and crystal inspired by the desert rose.

Saint Louis applies its exclusive crystal crafts to high-tech lighting to create expressive lights that bring together centuries old crystal-making and the latest in design innovation. Another storied brand, Lladró resigns its traditional colour palette for its Belle de Nuit chandelier, preferring to explore contemporary ombre effects in fine porcelain.

Established in 2012, Bomma’s focus on contemporary design is strengthened by its production facility; the most modern in Europe, it specialises in oversized mouth-blown glass. From Spain, Santa & Cole’s heart beats for industrial design. Its light pieces marry precious materiality with slick, straightforward designs to create veritable spectacles of lighting.


One of the most exciting flooring brands this year is the home-grown Mosaico. From its factory in Ras Al Khaimah, it creates the most beautifully designed cement tiles. Eschewing traditional kilns, they use non-polluting hydraulic presses for the most romantic, washed out patinas. Kähr celebrates 160 years of Scandinavia chic with its modern hardwood floors and Charbos introduces its collection of luxury vinyl flooring featuring 84 beautiful floor designs across 14 laying patterns.

CC-Tapis brings its unique brand of contemporary design to the fair with an exclusive selection of luxury rugs, completely hand knotted by Tibetan monks in Nepal. At the cutting-edge of design and traditional rug making crafts, the family run brand Illulian is home to rare, antique rugs and limited edition, contemporary designs. They offer unprecedented options to create bespoke carpet designs. Ferreira de Sá Rugs, the biggest company in the production of handmade rugs in Europe, will showcase the works of noted designers, artists and architects.


True icons are timeless. They exist in a rarefied strata, untouched by trends and fickle marketing. Carl Hansen & Son is home to many such design works. Most of the furniture they produce today was designed by leading Danish architects back in the 1930s and up to the 1960s, but the design, the vision and the craftsmanship behind every piece of furniture is still as relevant today as it was then.

Morso stands apart from its competition thank to its deft balance of a playful narrative, innovation in materiality and joyous upholstery — expressed through a series of luxury sofas and seating. At the fair, this Italian purveyor of fine living presents Josephine by Gordon Guillaumier. Deriving from a desire to be freed from the sharp, boxy shapes of modern sofas, Josephine is defined by the rounded, romantic corners and distinct femininity. Fendi Casa, having shedding its F-obsessed image, finally brings the runway label’s well-honed take on chic to the home.

Our obsession with Kettal refuses to wane. Its expressive colourways, innovative materiality and ability to constantly reinvent its design codes to meet the aspirations of contemporary outdoor living make it a design lover’s must-have. Vondom too, has mastered the art that is outdoor furniture design with a distinctly modern expression. Colour pops, unexpected geometries and statement making proportions; this brand is not for the wallflowers.


Invention — be it in material, production technology or in design detailing — is the foundation of pioneering design. Occhio, the high-tech German lighting brand is coveted for their holistic, multifunctional luminaire systems; integrating LED and electronics in one compact module, their VOLT range allows for seamless plug and play lighting options.

Founded by Elad Yifrach in 2004, the American brand L’Objet has continually worked with traditional crafts, applying new-age know-how, contemporary design and superior production facilities to the application of Limoges porcelain. Working with the finest porcelain artists and seeking new expression — through hand-applied 24kt gold and Swarovski crystals, for example — L’Objet has garnered repute for modernising an ancient craft. On the other spectrum of material innovation, premium bathroom design brand Antonio Lupi has been pushing the bar for more than 70 years. Their latest, the AGO85 collection features an impossibly thing edge, made possible by Flumood, a new-age, high-performance composite material.

Check it out!

Downtown Design 2017 runs November 14-17 at the Waterfront, Dubai Design District.