Have Your Say … What does British design look like?


This month Design Insider will be focusing on Scandinavian design.  Many of us love the characteristic Scandi aesthetic but it got us thinking:  What does British design look like? 

We have been overwhelmed by the response to this months questions, this is certainly a topic that our BCFA members and readers feel passionate about! 

We welcome you to join the discussion by leaving your opinion in a comment at the end of the article.  Which statements do you agree with? What would you challenge? What does British design look like to you? Let us know!!

Ruth Phillips, Designer Morgan
‘British Design is influenced by an appreciation for heritage without being defined by it, drawing inspiration from a rich tradition of craftsmanship whilst remaining curious and innovative. The results of this approach are eclectic, and difficult to define under a single aesthetic, but share an underlying commitment to high quality materials and manufacture, delivering carefully-crafted, quality products that withstand time. Creating contemporary designs for a global market.’

Gemma Allman, Managing Director Decca 

‘Quirky eclectic and fun. The British never want to be like each other or the Americans. We spend all our time helping to create bespoke designs or customising classic transatlantic designs. From new materials and finishes, our designers want a more organic look, where a rustic finish is used in a sleek contemporary design. Where glitz and glamour never outshine an old special antique.’

Marco Vieregge, Head of Marketing Nya Nordiska
‘Today, British design as well as any other design tradition consists of various genres and influences coming together. This particular mixture of materials, colours and stylistic eras defines the present appeal of interiors.’


Darren Clanford, Creative Director Johnson Tiles
‘Having been at the forefront of ceramic tile manufacture since 1901, producing high-quality product from our UK-based factory in Stoke-on-Trent, we are firm believers in British design being world class. Our creative team scours the globe for inspiration that will inform our on-trend collections, but our output draws on the skill and expertise of our incredible local workforce. When asked what we think British design looks like, we say ‘quality’. British design comes in many forms, but the common theme that runs throughout is always a pride in creating something beautiful to stand the test of time.’

Kobe UK
‘The British have an individual style of their own whether it’s consciously clashing textures and colours to create an individual interior scheme or putting a contemporary twist on a classic.’

Ashley Taylor, General Manager Burgess Furniture
‘Our thoughts are that British design is more about the entire process than an actual look. Whereas Scandinavian style is unmistakable, British design is more about its heritage, quality and the skill that is used to create it. The finished aesthetic is simply a reflection of this.’


Sam Samuels, Furniture Fusion
‘It is an interesting question that I have thought about for a couple of days now before setting down to my keyboard. After thinking about the question and not coming up with anything definitive I started to think about the question in terms of music. Whilst I agree there is something distinctive about Scandi design I am not convinced the same can be said of British Design. Would we say British music is essentially The Beatles or The Rolling Stones? Right now, artists such as Giggs & Skepta represent a genre that is current and represents what British music looks like. If you look at designers like Ernest Race you can clearly see his influence playing a significant role in today’s designs. Mixing materials such as timber and metal, which today you cannot go to an exhibition without seeing example after example of this. British design is vast whether it is furniture, fashion or music what is fair to say is that creativity continues to be the lifeblood of the UK.’

Clare Taylor, Marketing Manager Hypnos Contract Beds
‘When it comes to British design it’s not just about the aesthetics, it’s also about the heritage and the story behind it. Many Brits pride themselves on the rich history and the roots in their designs, whether it’s a family business with numerous generations who combine traditional skills with innovation and style, or an individual who pushes the boundaries to create their own look and identity.

With over 100 years’ experience in crafting bespoke, made-to-measure mattresses and beds for the finest hotels, homes and palaces around the world, we know that our British legacy is a defining factor in shaping our personality and encourages us to maintain a brand which is synonymous with quality, luxury and award-winning sustainability.  To us, British design is all about combining strong British talent, craftsmanship, materials and sustainable practices, to create a truly authentic product, whether it’s the latest in headboard designs or product innovation such as sofa beds.’


Robin Bayliss, Director of International Sales Bisley
‘Easy question, hard question, it all depends a lot of the time on personal experiences, your view or the industry you’re in. Britain has always been a leading country in design covering multiple disciplines – clothes to cars to architecture to music; we are the absolute innovator and never the follower. People say you can generally tell where something has been designed, but sadly not necessarily where it’s now made. British design pulls from a wealth of influences around us and our unique and long history. It always encompasses authentic British materials, our history, our manufacturing history, our architecture and our unique country landscapes. We lead in tomorrow’s pop culture and we lead traditionalism.’

James Stevenson, Creative Director Imperial Bathrooms
‘British Design has changed so much over the ages and with Britain being more cosmopolitan than ever before it can be hard to describe what the fundamental features are of what is truly British. When people think of traditional British design they most likely think of the world famous iconic red phone box. Taking that as a starting point, British design is very classic, traditional, steeped in heritage but also has a flamboyant flair with its daring colours.

Imperial bathrooms are what we like to describe as truly British in style for its more classic designs and although we live in a very modern society, traditional is still very much as popular today. Keeping up with design change we have taken the classic design and created a modern feel to it with some of our collections. We like to call it “A modern classic”.’

Kim Monrad, Global Account Manager Ege Carpets
‘These years British design companies incorporate elements from the Scandinavian design tradition such as light wood species and toned down fabrics. The tendency reflects in minimalistic furniture silhouettes as well. Naughtone and Deadgood are among the furniture companies doing this successfully while maintaining the traditional and recognisable British design DNA in the details such as big buttons.’

We look forward to reading your opinion in the comments section below, alternatively you are welcome to tweet us @DesignInsider1

About Alys Bryan

Alys' experience as a furniture designer, along with her in-depth marketing knowledge, makes her uniquely placed to work with the BCFA as the Editor of Design Insider and run her marketing business, Method Communications.
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  • Michael Angove

    After living abroad and looking at Britain from the outside, I can only describe British design as Sophisticated Punk. We have this incredible classical design heritage but it is our island resourcefulness that gives us the ability to reinvent that heritage by either ripping up the rule book, or creatively bending the rules. A lot of our design is hybrid; a bit of this, and a bit of that. A bit of heritage and a bit of anarchy, just like the first generation fashion punk that Britain gave birth to. Eclectic, eccentric, individual and singular.