Quick five questions with Claire German – CEO Design Centre, Chelsea Harbour
10th March 2023
How different is it running the Design Centre, Chelsea Harbour compared to being Publisher at House & Garden?
My background in magazine publishing has certainly helped in my role at the Design Centre; brand building, creativity and communication skills are essential to both. They are worlds that are exciting and fast-paced: setting goals, growing audiences, maximising revenue streams, rolling out new initiatives and shining a spotlight on exceptional talent are a common thread. We are the home of 120 international showrooms so it is incredibly inspiring to be at the vanguard of new collection launches. The Design Centre not only has its pulse firmly on global design directions, but it is setting them. We want to encourage visitors to discover great design, and support those doing it best: from big name brands to emerging makers, as well as highlight the skills they use to make beautiful pieces of lasting value. As legendary editor Diana Vreeland once famously commented, “there’s only one thing in life, and that’s the continual renewal of inspiration.”
Did you ever think the Design Centre would become such an icon of design?
The Design Centre has changed enormously since I came on board, but the confident vision of the owners means we continue to evolve. Twenty years ago, they saw its potential, transforming it from a soulless site to a thriving commercial and creative hub. Today, we’re growing faster than ever, attracting more companies, building new audiences and investing in our infrastructure. We’ve created a wonderful environment that people want to come to, and businesses want to be part of. Any industry, though, is all about the people within it. The Design Centre has long been a catalyst of creative connections, and that sense of community – already one of our greatest strengths – has never been stronger. London Design Week 2023 starts on 13 March, but each new event has a cumulative effect of strengthening the bond between showrooms, designers, architects, specifiers and design enthusiasts. Bringing everyone together in a celebration of creativity is what we do best. We’re bricks, mortar and beyond.
If money were no object, what would be the next phase for the Design Centre?
We love championing our community and creating an ecosystem. That’s the power of design – and it is exactly where the world’s premier design destination that looks to the future should be. These are exciting times for the Design Centre. We are putting on hugely successful events, opening new showrooms, devising tours and talks, and making design and decoration more relevant than ever before. We are visited by international designers all over the world and I would love to make it even easier for them to continue to do so. If money was no object, wouldn’t it be simply brilliant to ‘teleport’ them here from every corner of the globe so they could enjoy all that the Design Centre has to offer – whether sourcing for projects or attending events. It would be a ‘Beam me up Scottie’ moment!
Where and when did you get the idea for WOW!house ?
I have always dreamt of doing a showhouse ever since I arrived at the Design Centre when the Design Avenue was finished. During lockdown I set to work making my dream a reality. I quietly worked on a plan, creating the name and the branding so the team could hit the road running once lockdown was lifted. The result was humbling – the support from the designers, sponsors and the industry as a whole was incredible. It earnt the label ‘game changer’ in every sense.
Renowned designers were given carte blanche to interpret a room: and the results were astonishing. Given a white box, they layered, complemented and juxtaposed colour, pattern and texture, and added carefully chosen furniture, lighting, art and objets to create spaces that by turn amazed and seduced. Subtleties can make or break a scheme, but they are often the things that get lost when looking at a room online: the feel of a fabric; how a judicious layout can create atmosphere; a beautifully detailed trim, or a well-placed lamp. This is why thousands flocked to see in person what is normally out of reach – the work of masters in their field. Expectations will be high for WOW!house 2023. In June, the stage will be set to experience more extraordinary spaces, and we can’t wait to see the Library which Tim is creating – it promises to be spectacular.
In your own home, do you constantly play around with ideas, or do you leave it alone?
After many years living in the same house, we have recently completed months of renovation. Knowing how to create somewhere that is that mix of comfort, style and informality, as well as editing things that we had accumulated over the years was quite challenging. The house was re-designed to suit the way we live today, and the result has been joyful – I am thrilled with it!