How Tom Dixon Transformed his King's Cross Headquarters for the London Design Festival

“TouchySmellyFeelyNoisyTasty” by Tom Dixon. Photography courtesy of Tom Dixon.

Good design goes beyond aesthetics—especially for a certain Tom Dixon, OBE. The lauded British designer, the latest of whose many accolades is this year's London Design Medal, made his mark on the London Design Festival last month by transforming his King's Cross headquarters—the Coal Office, which opened in April 2018 as part of the Heatherwick Studio-designed Coal Drops Yard—into an immersive “multi-sensory lab.” He staged product launches, talks, and demonstrations across three meticulously designed spaces, or “arches,” ultimately attracting 22,000 visitors over the course of the nine-day celebration. The goal? To create activations appealing to all five senses. The name? “TouchySmellyFeelyNoisyTasty,” of course. 

‘As designers, we look at everything. We determine the shape, the colors and the aesthetics of a space before anything else,” says Dixon. “But here in the Coal Office we wanted to explore the role that all our other, often less recognized senses contribute to our experiences of design; the smell and the taste of a place, the textures and tone of a space, the sound of an interior or the weight of an object. We are multisensory animals.”

The modular aluminum razor designed by Tom Dixon in collaboration with men's care brand Harry's. Photography courtesy of Tom Dixon.

For the “TouchyFeely” arch, Dixon showcased a new modular razor for men's care brand Harry’s with a spirited barbershop setup, which centered on Dixon’s iconic Bird chaise in dynamic metallic upholstery. The new razor is comprised of aluminum segments in varying shapes and sizes, and a limited number of guests had the chance to customize razors of their own. 

Dixon's Fat collection upholstered in his textile line for Bute Fabrics. Tweed wool padding lines walls and ceilings, lit by Dixon's Opal floor lamp. Photography courtesy of Tom Dixon.

In the nearby “Textiles” arch, Dixon showed off his new textile line, a collaboration with Scottish mill Bute Fabrics, by upholstering his 2019 Fat sofa, chair, and chaise in textiles from the collection. A festoon of tweed wool padded walls and ceilings of the arch, while Opal, a polycarbonate floor lamp also of Dixon’s design, further softened the industrial space.

Dixon's new fragrance, Underground, for the Eclectic collection on display with bundles of bulrush, which was later used in a live weaving demonstration by English weavers Rush Matters. Photography courtesy of Tom Dixon.

In the “Perfumery” arch, bundles of bulrush were affixed to the ceiling. Beyond just adding a rustic touch to the display, which featured Dixon’s two new candle and diffuser fragrances—the ginger root-scented Underground and smoky guaiac wood-infused Alchemy, which join his Eclectic collection—the rush was also used in a live weaving demonstration by English weavers Rush Matters. The Bedfordshire-based artisans used the material to fabricate a bespoke version of Dixon’s iconic S chair on-site.

Dixon's upright LED chandelier featured eight floor-to-ceiling LEDs that changed color in time to music by DJs from Swedish synthesizer company Teenage Engineering. Photography courtesy of Tom Dixon.

Noise met light thanks to Dixon’s collaboration with Swedish synthesizer company Teenage Engineering. Dixon conceived an upright LED chandelier whose eight floor-to-ceiling LEDs changed color in time to music controlled by Teenage Engineering DJs. Finally, topping things off with was a pop-up bar in the the compound’s designated dining space, Coal Office restaurant, which hosted a tasting in partnership with Perrier-Jouët and Champagne Ambassador Jonathan Simms.

Read more: 15 Installation Highlights from the London Design Festival

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