Not the Ideal Home Show

At last - an exhibition for people who are interested in design, not DIY. James Sherwood gets excited at the prospect of `Mode'
In theory interior design is the new religion. Magazines are full of it. TV is saturated with home makeover programmes. Our gods are Handy Andy and Carol Smilie. We are indoctrinated into the cult of MDF, rag- rolling and "creative" tiling.

In reality, of course, all we are being introduced to is lowest common denominator design and nothing epitomises this more than the Ideal Home Exhibition, visited by the huddled masses of Daily Mail readers keen to do it themselves. Disciples of interior design are ill-served by this attempt by the industry to meet and greet its public.

But that's all about to change. Next month's "Mode: The Contemporary Home Show" is a showcase of young contemporary design and it's what every style-conscious young homeowner has been waiting for. It is the brainchild of Islington Business Design Centre exhibition director Dianne Willcocks. "Interior design is basically stuff that makes your life better," says Willcocks. "There is no platform for our young designers and there is no bridge for them to reach out to the consumers. Mode hopes to fill that gap."

The organisers are concentrating on specialists as opposed to design juggernauts like Ikea and MFI. It will cover all bases - from bespoke hand-crafted furniture to flooring - but the aim will be to persuade people to be selective. "People are more aware of their interiors," says Willcocks. "They want solutions. But Mode isn't going to hand it to them on a plate with room sets. We are individuals. We have individual taste. We won't be giving them a fait accompli. Mode is more about introducing new ideas."

The Mode directors rigorously edited down the pick of design school graduates to exhibit alongside established names like SKK lighting, The Design Workshop and Goldfinger Furniture. Furniture designer Ben Barnard graduated in 1998 and is one of the chosen few young designers. "This is the first showcase of its kind," says Barnard. "I have invested a lot of time and money in my stand because Mode is specifically for my end of the market: bespoke one-off pieces. It is a lifeline to the public and they are ultimately the people we want to look at our work. A lot of people are unaware of bespoke."

Mode has taken the idea of a design showcase further with the Architecture Lounge, an area in which leading architects will gather to give on-the- spot consultations. "We want to encourage people to discuss domestic projects with an architect and see that it isn't necessarily wildly expensive or ambitious," says Willcocks. "There are endless possibilities."

Toni Rodgers, editor of Elle Decoration, was invited to put together the Elle Decoration Trend Gallery. The space, designed by Fusion Glass, is a collection of new products and concepts in interior design edited by Rodgers. She has identified "tailored hedonism" as a key interiors trend. "As the nation becomes cash-rich and time-poor, home life becomes a comfort pit," says Rodgers. This is a theme underlining Mode: a yearning for something unique. It is also full-on modern - there is nothing retrospective or nostalgic about the work on show.

"I think Mode has been clever in acknowledging a national shift in interiors and we're not going to see a U-turn on that interest," says Rodgers. "It will only get stronger."

Diana Vreeland, doyenne US Vogue editor, used to tell her fashion stylists, "Give them what they never knew they wanted." This could be the unofficial mission statement of Mode. Though Dianne Willcocks will demur from saying Mode is an exercise in educating public taste, there is an element of informing us about contemporary design. Nought-To-Now is a visual biography of Britain's interior design gurus Ron Arad, Nigel Coates, Dan Pearson and Michael Marriott. Curated by Lynda Relph Knight, editor of Design Week, the exhibition is a collection of key pieces, works-in-progress, note books and inspirational objects charting the creative process behind each designer's work. "Nought-to-Now is a way of making the designers accessible," says Willcocks. "We don't want to demystify them but we do want people to see the thought process behind iconic Nineties design."

The cynical will say that Mode has found its perfect home among the aspirational, design-hungry citizens of London's Islington. But it's going to attract a much broader audience, drawn from the new generation of design-wise urbanites who would never go to the Ideal Home Exhibition.

Mode may champion elite modern design but the bottom line for all exhibitors is accessibility. Every item on show must be available to buy. There is nothing more frustrating than admiring a prototype piece of furniture and then being told it is not viable for the designer to produce the piece. "Everything must be available for purchase," says Dianne Willcocks. "You have to be able to have it" - and you couldn't choose a better catch-phrase for Nineties consumers than that.

"Mode: The Contemporary Home Show" takes place at the Business Design Centre, Islington, London N1 between 3-6 June. Opening hours are 10am- 6pm, 10am-5pm on Sunday. Admission: pounds 10. Telephone booking: 0121 767 4595.

Clockwise from top left:

Pods, pounds 125, by the Unnatural Light Co (tel: 0171 928 8488).

Fintan Gallagher was deputy head of lighting at the Royal Opera House: his partner Dominique Fuglistaller is a sculptor. Together, they design installation-style lighting "with the emphasis on colour and movement," explains Gallagher. The pair specialises in site-specific installation pieces and commissions.

Illuminated woven wire panels, pounds 290 per sq m, by Oyl (tel: 01363 83792).

Oyl is a collaboration between Royal College of Art-trained Neil Musson and Lois Mutton. They specialise in woven wire panels for interiors incorporating low voltage light diodes. "We're coming from a more sculptural discipline than strict interior design," says Musson. For Mode, OYL is introducing painted oil- cloth canvas floor coverings, "working on the principle of displaying art on the floor as opposed to your walls".

Scent screen barrier, pounds 1,200, by Joe Design (tel: 0171 732 8190).

Key notes from Joe Design include organic forms combining diverse materials like powder-coated steel and wood. Julian Orlando Escott, the man behind the company, is showing at Mode with rug designer Lorraine Stathams Loop House.

Japanese-inspired coffee table, pounds 1,600, made to order by Fusion Glass (tel: 0171 738 5888).

Fusion specialises in architectural glass design and bespoke glass furniture for private commissions. For Mode, the company is designing the Elle Decoration Trend Gallery.