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London Design Festival district curator on the hidden gems of this South Ken enclave

  • October 1, 2022

Brompton has been a part of my life on and off for so long. I first got to know the area when I was a student doing my masters in Design History at the V&A and RCA. As the home of these institutions Brompton and South Kensington really is the cradle of design and design education.

When I was a student I rented a long, narrow attic in the roof of a big house on the corner of Lennox Gardens. It definitely hadn’t been renovated and you could only stand up in the centre. It was fantastic in the rain; drumming on the slate roof tiles.

Latterly I’ve had the chance to spend time here again to curate the Brompton Design District. Every September for the London Design Festival we put on a programme of temporary exhibits exploring experimental design staged in properties owned by South Kensington Estates.

It has been a great way to explore the area and poke around in buildings all over the place.

Jane Withers at Cromwell Place, the new arts hub in Brompton (Daniel Hambury/Stella Pictures Ltd)

Jane Withers at Cromwell Place, the new arts hub in Brompton (Daniel Hambury/Stella Pictures Ltd)

This year part of the programme is based in Cromwell Place — the new arts hub —and the theme is Make Yourself at Home, exploring the importance of home in turbulent times and reflecting on the role of design in making a place a home.

Best eating and drinking

Ognisko, the Polish restaurant on Exhibition Road, is in a wonderful house with a terrace overlooking the square behind. I have so many memories of weddings and parties laced with vodka there. Tombo, a small Japanese cafe near South Kensington station, serves really good fresh salad bowls.

Tangerine Café Bar migrated to the Institut Français from the Chelsea Physic Garden. It’s a great place to eat before a movie

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