Mini Moderns is the brand of interiors products designed and produced by Keith Stephenson and Mark Hampshire, who also run London-based design and branding agency, Absolute Zero Degrees. Launched in 2004, it is a print driven collection incorporating wallpaper, textiles and home accessories for design conscious families. The print design influences range from textile designs of the 1950s to vintage toys and games. The initial wallpaper collection was snapped up by Heal’s and the brand goes from strength to strength, selling both on line and via select stockists internationally.
Operating a predominantly “Made in the UK” policy helps keep their carbon footprint to a minimum and supports local businesses. As the collection is produced in factories known to them, all Mini Moderns products come from sweatshop-free environments.
Our Friday Five:
1. The 1951 Festival of Britain
We have always loved the Festival of Britain. The Festival of Britain was an exciting glimpse into the future, celebrating the new wave of British design, with design for all available via the introduction of Hire Purchase schemes — meaning modern design was suddenly within reach of everyone. New design was everywhere — even at Woolworths where Enid Sweeny celebrated furniture by Robin Day and Terence Conran on her Homemaker design for Ridgway.
It is this optimism that we love about the Festival of Britain, and over the years we have amassed a number of items celebrating it. The C.O.I.D. book “Design in the Festival” is a particularly inspiring find. Having been huge fans of the Festival of Britain, it was an honour to be commissioned in 2008 by Southbank Centre to reproduce as wallpaper, one of the Festival’s signature patterns, “Net and Ball,” which had been designed in 1951 by the architects of the Royal Festival Hall, Peter Moro and Leslie Martin, as a carpet pattern for the Hall.
Our obsession culminates in our new wallpaper design, “Festival,” featuring our favourite pavilions and sights from the festival. The new paper launches in January 2011, in commemoration of the Festival’s 60th anniversary.
2. Hotel Parco dei Principi
Designed by Gio Ponti in 1962, Hotel Parco dei Principi is situated on the Naples coast just outside Sorrento. The sea-facing balcony rooms have a clear view of the Bay of Naples and Vesuvius. Furnished throughout by Ponti, most of his work is still intact, including the thirty different floor tile designs used throughout the 100 rooms in the hotel. The rooms still have original Ponti furniture and the concrete geometric diving board gives the pool a modernist edge. We have stayed in the Hotel Parco dei Principi a number of times and it never disappoints. Even having a Campari and soda in the bar is a design experience — well that’s what we tell ourselves!
3. Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn
Like most people, we love New York — but we try and stay down in the Lower East Side as much as we can, usually in the Hotel on Rivington. Here we can take advantage of seeing friends who live in Alphabet City, seeing bands at the Bowery Ballroom and having easy access via the Williamsburg Bridge to our friends in Brooklyn. It’s great to get off Manhattan and into Brooklyn to experience areas like DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass), Williamsburg for great independent design shops and gigs at the Music Hall of Williamsburg, Park Slope and eating in Vinegar Hill.
4. Portmeirion Village
We love the slightly odd Italianate “other worldy-ness” of Clough Williams-Ellis’s Portmeirion village. Used as a location in original 1960’s cult TV series Dangerman and more famously The Prisoner, it is no secret how much the village, and the modernist ceramics, of Portmeirion Potteries have influenced us in our prints. We stayed in Bridge House, with views over the estuary. The building is in close proximity to Battery Square, which we paid homage to both in our wallpaper of the same name and our rug design, “Campanile.” These two designs include key pieces of the village architecture, and references to our stay.
5. Out of season seaside resorts
There is a lot more colour in the coast during the “out of season” time when the sun isn’t bleaching it out. Although we love a sunny day, we find that traditional seaside resorts come alive in our eyes when the crowds have gone. We both grew up in close proximity to Filey, Scarborough and Whitby and still visit our old haunts when we get back to the Yorkshire coastline. Having been in London for such a long time now, we have also discovered the Kent coast with amazing seaside resorts such as Broadstairs, Whitstable, and Deal. Be sure to get a hot chocolate in Morellis’ 1950’s cliff-top café when visiting Broadstairs.