THE ART OF CREATIVE CHANGE: My short and honest review of Grand Designs Live 2018

Initially I wasn’t going to write this post as it’s more of a rant than a review, but I decided to go ahead anyway as I’m all about the art of being authentic. 😁  So, just last week I decided to visit Grand Designs Live 2018. It was to be my first time at this particular event and I have to say I was eager with anticipation about what feast was in store for my hungry eyes to see! I was expecting to see something mighty!  After all, the term ‘Grand’ Implies that I should expect to experience something imposing, something amazing something really rather inspiring. Well, at least that’s what I thought anyway.

Now if you’re a builder or a developer all of this may not apply to you; simply because there were some useful items for building development and design; something that I was expecting to see. But if you’re a creative looking to get inspired, you might have found that you left feeling a little underwhelmed. Now don’t get me wrong, there were a few glimmers of magic… in particular I loved the speaker’s insights with Kevin McCloud (that man truly is a genius) but from my perspective, for the most part, the things that I saw were really rather ordinary… and not very grand at all!

In fact, I think the grandest thing I saw was what looked to me like an eight-foot patch-work tin elephant! Yes, because everybody wants an eight-foot tin elephant chilling in their back garden.  😏

This takes me back to my days of teaching Design Technology … cute when kids make them during the learning process but for Grand Designs, surely not?

This may be my own subjective point of view and I’ll probably get hanged by tomorrow but consider this…

There are so many talented designers and makers out there who have products of real value to offer to others, but often they don’t have the funds to exhibit at these grandiose events; To me sadly it’s very much looking like they just don’t get the opportunity.

Instead of an inspiring array of talented designers and makers products (what I was expecting to see) I got the option to purchase a £3000- pound massage chair, or a nifty little slicer that cuts your egg into 5 pieces in one fell swoop. I don’t need to go to Grand Designs for that! I can get those from Robert Dyas or on QVC!

If I want a massage I’ll go to a spa… surely that’s waaaaay more attractive than having one of THESE in the living room? 😯








Now don’t get me wrong I’m all up for design innovation but I’m not so sure about the displaying of nifty little expensive products that really, I don’t have any use for.  I mean really, how difficult is to cut a boiled egg with a knife?

Yes, I come to a trade show because I want to be inspired to buy. But I also want to be inspired by the designers, innovators and artists of tomorrow.

Show me something different… something unique, something I never imagined I would see.


Dear team in charge at Grand Designs Live, can we have a re-think? How can we create opportunities for smaller scale artists, designers and creative businesses to flourish?

How can we showcase their bright ideas which in my opinion more often than not, are much grander than a rotary knife for vegetables or an 8-foot tin elephant?

Am I the only one who feels this way? Comments below, please!

P.S Apologies for the lack of photo footage… Yes, that how inspired I was by the event!

30 thoughts on “THE ART OF CREATIVE CHANGE: My short and honest review of Grand Designs Live 2018

  1. I have to agree with you there. I was a little uninspired with what was there but maybe it’s because like you say… it’s more for suitable for people doing a build. I also think I felt that way because I’ve already been before a couple of years ago. I was a bit disappointed with the interiors section because the majority seemed like all the same things that I’ve seen before. I will be doing a blog about my experience this weekend!

    1. Ah so glad I’m not the only one who feels this way! Its a real shame and a missed opportunity! For an event with such a huge buzz around it I was expecting more! But yes I look forward to reading your write up next week! Thanks for commenting Natalie!

  2. I think you have to see past those added extras and focus on what you really need from the show. If you’re starting a building project the architectural design and ideas for smart home technology are some of the best you’ll see anywhere in the same place at the same time. I was inspired by the speakers and the Green Heroes bringing a focus on sustainable living and eco-friendly design. I’ve written about it in my blog this week.

    1. Thank you Fiona for your viewpoint on this! I agree with the idea that you must hone in on what you really want to see and yes there were moments of magic within the show but just not enough of them for me I’m afraid. I’m a very visual and tactile person so as a first timer I suppose what I was looking for was more of an atmosphere as an overall! The experience of GRAND DESIGNS if you will. Perhaps I’d have liked to have seen a roof made of coloured bottles with filtered coloured light shining through as you walk under it! Or some sort of smart material which changes colour as you touched it put in place as part of some sort of interior design installation. I’ve a wild imagination maybe too wild… I think there are missed opportunities to showcase the work of people working on some truly amazing things.. but hey that’s just my perspective. Thank you for commenting!

  3. What an honest post. I’ve never been to grand design show simply because I’m more interested in interiors and just thought this one isn’t for me ( although I enjoy watching the show in a telly) . I do get your point with the egg slicer though. I think it’s the same at other shows I’ve been at. They should think about filtering the interestants so they don’t end up with constantly the same uninspiring stuff they want to sell us.

    1. Yes that’s exactly my thoughts.. as a lover of both architecture and interiors I thought there would be more of an exciting mix! Silly me! I want to be sold stuff but not in such an obvious way. Hmmm Maybe I should stick to the likes of the Surface Design Show for more of a creative mix!

  4. So good to read a truly honest post, but also sad to hear that what is an inspiring brand is being lost within commercial revenue.

    1. Thanks Nicola, Yes I wanted it to be honest and it wasn’t difficult writing this post… the difficult part was actually pressing the post button! Ha… being so new in the interiors world I definitely had to muster the courage to speak my truth. But if nobody says anything nothing will ever change. Thanks for commenting!

  5. I’ve stopped going to the likes of Grand Designs…. I prefer to get my design fix attending other interior related events such as Clerkenwell that are aimed at those with an invested interest in interiors and rarely fail to disappoint. London Design Fair is another favourite (no peelers insight lol). However, when you think Grand Designs and Ideal Home are aimed at people that are interested but not necessarily interior obsessed it kind of makes sense. Having said there’s always a little something you can take away from the likes of Grand Designs, even if you have to search high and low for it 😉

    1. Ah yes I see what you are saying Maria maybe I need to stick to interiors specific events to see the interesting stuff! But as somebody who is also interested in architectural spaces I feel there really could have been more. In terms of product yes there was art but it was mostly what seemed like manufactured resin and stuff like that! Not to my taste but alright for some I guess.Thanks for your comment x

  6. It’s rare to see such an honest review of a show, but very welcome. I went to the Ideal Home Show recently, and whilst the sets designed by interior designers (such as Sophie Robinson) were fabulous and very inspiring, the stands on offer at the show were sadly lacking. I spend more time in the food hall than the interiors hall!

    1. Hollie before going to Grand Designs Live I’d already heard from another designer that it wasn’t very good particularly with the move to the Excel Centre but wanted to experience it for myself… funny enough I’d also heard that Ideal home wasn’t great either! I haven’t been to the Ideal Home show in about 10 years so certainly couldn’t comment on that one. I am however getting the sense that SOME of these shows have areas to improve to make the experience more design focused and less sales focused if you know what I mean. My friend and I even saw a guy who wanted to try out one of those massage chairs… “Do you want to buy a massage chair” directly asked the sales lady… in quite a serious no messing around tone! So if you want a massage you have to pretend that you want to buy she seemed so fed up like she was over the hustle of it ha ha…. he then would have to pay to have the massage which is fine but I would just like to have seen a friendlier approach… I’d be interested to find out how many of those things they sold with that attitude! Haha onwards and upwards aye… Thanks so much for your comment!

  7. ok so here’s my thought as someone who has been invited to attend GDLive but never done so: Every show in the UK addresses different needs. Personally, I only go to Decorex International because I like the pretty stuff, and Clerkenwell Design Week as its a nice mix of showrooms visits and talks. I don’t think it would be fair to express an opinion on GDL without having attended so I will refrain from doing so. Have a look at CDW and Decorex, sounds like these are more up your street!

    1. Jenny I Think you are right and before I posted this I did get a sense that maybe this just isn’t the show for me .. it’s interesting that you have made the decision to not go . Think I’m a bit like you in that I like pretty colours and I want things to catch my eye! I think from now on I’m going to be a bit more discerning when it comes to the trade shows that I choose to attend! Thanks for the recommendations both of those sound great I’ve a feeling I may have to wait till September for Decorex but still have time for Clerkenwell Design week!

  8. Like Jenny, I’ve never been to GDLIve but I agree that there are other shows (almost too many to keep up with!) that do cater to the smaller artists and craftspeople. 🙂

    1. Yes with such limited time available to me I think I’m certainly going to be more picky with the shows I choose to attend! Maybe I am into something a little more intimate and personalised. I prefer to connect with there stories of the artist and Designers it was good to see Oliver Thomas from GIDC with his maximalist creations more of that sort of thing would have been great!

  9. Really love the honesty in this post! While it is a trade show to inspire people to spend their coin, I imagine there would still be many creatives and designers such as yourself looking to see something that would stir the imagination. I agree in that perhaps there is a need for them to shine a light on smaller independent designers who typically don’t get the acknowledgement they deserve.

    1. Yes Sarah you totally get me! Even with a focus on building design there is still so much to explore. Yes lets inspire imaginations! I wonder if there is a designer out there who has created an aesthetically pleasing massage chair … now that would be exciting! Ha thanks for commenting!

  10. Hello Jumi! What an honest review! I’ve never been to Grand Designs Live, but I had some similar experiences with those shows. It’s sad when you felt so disappointed. However, I believe that the genuine reviews like yours could help them. I used to check a lot of exhibitions and fairs but at some point, I was determined to visit only my favorite things to save my time and energy. The most important event for me is Milan Design Week, so try to go every year, it’s an amazing event never disappointed. And I love London design week, 100% design, London Design Fair, designjunction, etc…. And I’m fond of Open House held in the same period.

    1. Thank you so much Kuksungeun for your lovely response! Yes I think that list you have provided will be a better option for me in future! Maybe I just need to accept the fact that the show just isn’t designed for people like me ha! Yes I would love to go to the next Milan Design week and I’m hoping I can make it for next years show. In the meantime I better get working through that fabulous list! Thanks for commenting!

  11. I am glad you wrote this post, because it’s the truth and what you experienced..we should write about how we feel whether it is good or bad…. I have never been to the show, but I know I always have great expectations when I attend so it’s sad you didn’t enjoy it..

    1. Thank you Evija yes I certainly thought twice before posting as I’m not wanting to get in the habit of irritate others! I know a lot of work goes into these shows but there are certainly improvements that can be made. I don’t know if this post will really have any sort of impact but I feel happy that can express my honest opinion! Freedom of speech and all that! Thanks for the lovely comment!

  12. Hi Jumi, I haven’t been to Grand Designs for a few years as I remembered it being very sales orientated. I should imagine it costs a lot to have a stand there – so it’s probably only the more commercial companies that can afford to exhibit. Thank you for letting me know that I am not missing anything !!

    1. Ha Lin, There were some good bit’s and this post is purely based on my personal opinion. But yes it is VERY sales orientated which i must confess isn’t really my style! I don’t mind being sold to if it is something that is going to a genuine value to my life… then I’m all over it! I guess what I really wanted to communicate was a change in perspective and for people in charge to consider the idea of bringing a little more diversity to some of these shows! But yes In my opinion you didn’t really miss that much this year! But you never know next year that could all change ;-)Thanks for commenting!

  13. I’ve got to say I enjoyed reading your honest show report. It’s all about horses for courses though. I don’t think many of the “consumer” shows are inspiring for those of us who are in the thick of design. The trade only shows, will generally, show the design lovers more innovation or at least the newest to market products. As someone who attends A LOT of shows each year there are bumps in the road to all of them and the target audience can be very very different – those targeting commercial architects v those targeting retail buyers v those targeted at Interior Designers v Sustainable/Eco consumers. Sometimes it’s actually the ancillary parts that are fascinating, talks, meet the makers, workshpos, speed dating! Saying all that I think that the cost of exhibiting at shows also plays a really big part of who participates. But you live and learn right? You’ll try a different show next time and see if it gets you fired up.

    1. Thank you Mary for your both enlightening very thorough response! Yes my feeling is that I must start to go with my gut on these shows and just go to the ones that I LOVE the sound of! The Surface Design show for instance was way more interesting to me! I love finding out about new materials and letting my imagination run wild with how they could be used in a space! Yes the talks for me are some of the best parts at these events I find there is so much more value to be had there! I’ll be a bit more choosey next time! Glad you enjoyed the read!

  14. Great post Jumi. I’m a bit like you, if I make the effort to go to a show I want to be wowed and see new stuff. I’ve never been to Grand Designs but I have been advised by many different people that it’s great if you’re doing a self build, otherwise not so much.

  15. I think maybe you just weren’t the target audience? That said I’m not sure who can afford an ugly massage chair when they are spending their life savings on building a beautiful house?! That seems odd and not thought through.

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