20 March – 6 April 2015
Reviewed by Emma Salmon
On Sunday 29th March my 14 year old daughter, 9 year old son and I paid a visit to the Ideal Home Show.
We had travelled up by coach and it was a simple hop from Victoria onto the District line to get to Olympia due to the special service they run when events are on.
2015 sees the return to Olympia after a gap of 107 years – the architecturally iconic glazed arched roof having hosted the very first e habit ion back in 1908.
The show itself has a varied history – from its beginnings as a competition between architects to design the perfect house to this year’s extravaganza, it has become world renowned for showcasing the cutting edge of domestic technology presented in contemporary style.
From the moment we arrived at Olympia we knew that the show was going to be impressive. The pavement and foyer were decked with luminous green artificial grass and outside 12 foot high cerise floral letters pronounced “IDEAL HOMES”. Despite the numbers flocking off the tube the queue was surprisingly short and fast moving so we swiftly moved through to the main hall to be greeted by cheerful girls proffering show guides and complimentary bars of Divine chocolate.
The exhibition was divided into distinct sections, each dedicated to a particular area of interest with colour coded carpet and hanging signs which enabled easy navigation around the show and through the relevant exhibition stands. Heading up each section was a celebrity member of the Home Show ‘Star Team’, each of whom took a turn on the stage in the Live Super Theatre – Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen (interiors), Greg Wallace (food and housewares), Katie Piper (fashion and beauty), Alan Titchmarsh (gardens), George Clarke (home improvements) and Suzi Perry (technology). In addition Martin Lewis of MoneySavingExpert was running a series of advice clinics and talks across the 9 days of the show and up in the Food and Drink Theatre there was the opportunity to catch a series of celebrity chefs at work as well as many exhibitors demonstrating a range of innovative housewares.
Taking centre stage in the main arena were 3 full sized home shows, which allowed different design and architectural companies to present a home individually styled for the show. I loved the Scandinavian feel of the Future Proof House by John Harris of Swedish designers Trivselhus – a clean open plan home full of light wood and retro feel furniture reminiscent of mid- century modern style – the colours were muted and sophisticated and I could have quite happily moved in there and then!
My children were very taken by the Gap House which was constructed in a modular format over 3 floors. It felt similar to some of the new designs which utilise shipping containers and is a fantastic way to make the most of a very small footprint. It was quite dark and moody, and felt like a stylish bachelor pad.
None of us eve as keen on the Home for Life, styled by HouseBeautiful magazine, although listening to the comments of others looking around, we were in a minority. It just felt a bit too full and fussy for my personal taste.
Another interesting area was the Show gardens featuring six different designs from Britain’s leading Horticultural colleges, each one incorporating sustainability design principles and utilising water harvesting, and each hoping to be the ‘people’s choice’ in the 5th year of this popular new competition. We could use tokens to vote for our favourites and I loved the different ways that the students had used recycled materials in such exciting and inventive ways. Independently my son and I both voted for Pershore College’s design, and my daughter voted for Writtle.
Moving upstairs for some lunch we were spoilt for choice – although the smart set could opt to eat in Greg Wallace’s pop up restaurant, there was a plethora of stalls offering a huge variety of food from all corners of the world, and all very reasonably priced. My son had a steak burger from BellyFillas, my daughter and I opting for a huge serving of chicken curry, rice and dhal from Guptas Bombay Street Food for £5. We all succumbed to the delicacies offered by Los Churros Amigos for desert.
After lunch my daughter spent and in-proportionate amount of time browsing the fashion and beauty stands – many were offering free massages so my son and I took 20 minutes to relax in a couple of rejuvenating shiatsu chairs whilst my daughter had her nails painted and discussed the merits of a variety of skin products with the exhibitors. I found the beauty section to be far more high pressure sales than the rest of the show, which was a little off putting.
The last area we looked at was technology – both the children are gadget fans and so enjoyed experimenting with all the futuristic developments, many of which were touch screen controlled. There were some great innovations on the Virgin stand, which was set up as a home with all the new technology in their relevant places. My son especially enjoyed making the most of the gaming area!
We really enjoyed our day – it was possible to spend the whole time looking around and I liked the fact that most of the stalls seemed to be there to demonstrate rather than sell – it made me feel comfortable to just marvel at the wares and move on. If you were looking to buy there was a wealth of information and advice, and some fantastic ideas to give you inspiration. I was happy that the children also enjoyed it so much, as was concerned that they may find it a bit boring and like an elongated visit to IKEA, but they reported that they loved it. We were able to travel back to Victoria without any problem and enjoyed a relaxing trip home.
I would certainly recommend the show for a visit and hope to go back again next year.