Design: New, strange, debatable, inflatable, pliable, buyable

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Indy Lifestyle Online
In February, both Bonhams and Sotheby's stage contemporary decorative art sales to show weird and wonderful one-offs by young British designers, curated by Peta Levi (awarded a CBE for her promotion of contemporary design) at Bonhams Knightsbridge sales rooms from 29 January to 4 February and Janice Blackburn (ex Saatchi Galleries) at Sotheby's West End sales rooms from 6 February.

From today, at Bonhams in Knightsbridge, you can see the work of more than 100 British designers; it is not the viewing for an auction but a sale with prices fixed by the designers. The powers that be at Bonhams see it not as a profit-making opportunity but as a chance to promote new talent.

There are futuristic bubble chairs, inflatable furniture, biodegradable paper pieces, precious metals; furniture that is mobile, foldable, compact, practical and frequently sporty in its jaunty angles and padded trainer- like upholstery.

And, of course there are minimalists: first-time exhibitor Li Marbvahan's super-cool moulded birch plywood table with slender tapering legs is minimalist and the price is suitably restrained at pounds 395. "Spike Chair", covered with retractable spikes and "Sea Urchin", a sculpture you can sit on, both by Niki Bolza, don't sound comfortable but they are. His chrome bar stools at the Cactus Blue restaurant in Fulham are in all the Smirnoff vodka ads in cinemas now. And if you fancied the earrings worn by Michelle Yeoh in the new Bond film, Tomorrow Never Dies, they are there too.

Self-important pieces such as John Makepeace's beautiful marquetry table for pounds 40,000 stand alongside trendy designer label furniture. Ron Arad is selling his Tom Vack chair, shaped from vacuum moulded aluminium ribbing like a plane body, a manufacturing process he discovered in a Worcestershire aircraft and helicopter factory, And there are also acccessories that are truly inexpensive.

Asked why Britain has so much design talent at the moment, Peta Levi gave an unexpected answer. "It's not our design colleges, though they undoubtedly play a part. It's our multi-cultural heritage. Britain is a pot pourri of nationalities now, and with our post colonial heritage comes all these influences."

You can observe that simply by looking at the dinnerware. Ceramist Katarina Fadda's puddle-shaped bowls and plates that fit together are designed to be as useful for serving stir-fry or sushi as they are for bangers and mash.

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