Last week I was thrilled to be invited to the opening party of a new flagship Habitat store in my home town in Brighton. Now to let you into a secret, I’ve known about the opening for a while but am now thrilled to see my favourite high street retailer back in my hood. I was mildly devastated to see Habitat leave after it went into administration in 2011, which saw it close nearly all of it stores across the UK. But the brand is back and going from strength to strength, and with Kate Butler at the head of design there is plenty in store to delight in. Habitat believe in investing in the high street as people still need to touch and feel the products, something I couldn’t agree more with, so lets salute them for taking it on while other big giant retailers are falling to the wayside.
To celebrate the launch, Adam Crudgington, head of PR at Habitat, who is completely marvellous and comes up with fantastic clever campaigns, got in touch with me to give me the inside track that the brand would be moving back to it’s South Coast heartland. Habitat are currently set to open just two new stores, one in Westfield in London and the second in Brighton. So it’s a pretty big deal! In order to celebrate the launch they wanted to collaborate with three local artists to design three iconic rugs that would be sold in limited edition through Habitat. Habitat have a long standing tradition of making lots of amazing products mostly due to their in house team which means they don’t just rely on buying. But one area thats always been strong for them is their collection of terrific rugs, I’ve invested in many myself over the years, and Kate Butler wanted to draw on the expertise of her Indian manufactures to produce three very different designs that celebrated the different craftsmanship techniques.
As a designer based in Brighton, Adam asked me if I could recommend my favourite local colour loving artists and having given him my shortlist Habitat chose three, namely Sophie Abbott, Becky Blair and Lauri Hopkins. All three artists are based in central Brighton and their work very much encapsulates the vibrancy of this unique city. I think the results are simply mouth watering and the trouble I have is which one to choose!
I’m a massive fan of feature rugs and think they can really make a scheme. You can use the colours within the rug to pull a scheme together and all three of these designs create a really strong colour theme. The size of rug you go for is crucial and I always say to go as big as you can afford as that way they really anchor the room.
“The artwork for this project came from a collection of pastel drawings I sketched on the beaches along the under cliffs between Brighton and Saltdean. It’s a great area where locals get to escape the hustle and bustle of Brighton’s busier beaches. I used the pastels very playfully, enjoying the vibrancy of colour and softness of line to abstractly draw the shapes of people, rock pools and flora. This series of drawings has informed my latest paintings that recently exhibited as part of the Brighton Festival and will go on to be seen at my solo show this October in Perth, Australia.” Becky Blair
“I spend a lot of time by the sea and seashore – swimming in it, photographing & sketching it, and really love the rock pools under the cliffs in Ovingdean (just past Brighton marina). This artwork is derived from sketches I produced in situ on the beach there. The inspiration for this painting is predominantly of rock pool formations, looking at the way they fit together like a jigsaw and the shapes in-between. I’m trying to convey the feeling of walking over them in bare feet, peering down into them, lost in the beauty of natural world. This rug will reflects all that I love about the seaside and living in Brighton.” Sophie Abbott
“The original collage translated for this project is called Night Swim, and it was inspired by my memories of being a teenager in Brighton. The carefully chosen collection of colours and shapes floating on a dark background remind me of lots of Brighton teenage experiences; swimming in the sea in the dead of night. Dancing under the fractured disco lights in nightclubs. Shopping for eighties print t-shirts in the lanes. My best mates’ orange Fiat Panda. Dreaming of becoming artists as we walked home with the seagulls. It’s pure, joyful nostalgia.” Lauri Hopkins
Habitat will be continuing this project in Brighton each year, asking new Artists to work with Habitat’s own Design Studio on products that hero local talent and their creativity. Meanwhile no new store opening are planned as yet. Brighton and Westfeild are trial stores so they’re waiting to see how these perform. They’re looking at which store formats are working best for Habitat alongside the digital channel at www.habitat.co.uk which will most probably be Mini Habitat stores and a selection of larger standalone stores in key cities. So stay tuned folks!
You can find out more about the artists here:
NOTE: As the rugs are limited edition they are selling fast but you can email Habitat for a note of when the rug you’ve chosen is back in stock.