Design of the Times

Words by
Jemma Sissons
Photography by
David Cleaveland

20th April 2022

Design Centre, Chelsea Harbour set out with a clear vision: to achieve world-class standards and international recognition. CEO Claire German continues to realise those aims

Clare German CEO of Design Centre, Chelsea Harbour

Claire German is the CEO Design Centre, Chelsea Harbour (DCCH), a go-to destination for everything from soft-furnishings to luxury lightning and beautiful bathrooms. Before joining DCCH in 2010, she was the publishing director of House & Garden magazine, where she honed her knowledge of and passion for the interiors industry. She is the brains behind the WOW!house festival, DCCH’s first designer showhouse, open from 1 June to 1 July 2022.

What is DCCH’s USP?

Most notably, we are the largest design centre in Europe, home to 120 showrooms and over 600 of the world’s most prestigious luxury design brands, from Pierre Frey and Colefax & Fowler to Julian Chichester and Porta Romana. Ralph Lauren will also open its European flagship for home in May. We are bricks and mortar and beyond. Our sense of community, commitment to creative excellence, and specialist expertise are in our DNA, making us the first port of call for professional designers, architects and design enthusiasts.

What was the design centre like when you joined and what changes have you made? 

In 2003, Design Centre, Chelsea Harbour was bought by Terence Cole and Mark Steinberg, who had a clear vision: to create the world’s finest design centre, which would be recognised internationally. My objective is to ensure that the idea continues to be realised, from continuing to grow our showroom offering to introducing personal shopping and designer sourcing services, and expanding the design centre.

Cultivating a strong roster of events throughout the year has also been a keen focus for me, to ensure we continue to attract new tribes. From my magazine days, I have experience of nurturing communities, and I have therefore been able to create an ecosystem of collaborative knowledge- sharing and connection.

Who do you hope to attract?

We have a two-pronged approach of appealing to top interior designers and to enthusiasts who are passionate about design and the spaces in which they live. Naturally, interior designers are always buzzing around the design centre with their teams or clients, and it’s always exciting to see our showrooms in talks about exciting new commercial and residential projects.

We are also a welcoming space for design enthusiasts. For anyone feeling overwhelmed by the sheer volume of showrooms and brands here at the Design Centre, I would encourage making a connection with our personal shopping team, who offer a bespoke, complimentary service that is aimed at connecting consumers with the right showroom for their design needs.

What are you planning for the coming year?

Now more than ever, we are craving in- person events and connection and our programme of events for 2022 certainly reflects that. Our flagship events include London Design Week, which took place in March, and Focus/22 in September, so we have an evolving programme of calendar events. Every month we create a unique reason to visit us, whether it’s for talks or demonstrations or a must-see installation.

Recognising the thriving relationship between craft and interior design, Artefact, our contemporary craft fair in May, will bring the joy of the hand-crafted and highly collectible to designers, collectors and enthusiasts. Visitors can meet leading gallerists from the vibrant craft scene and view authentic work from established and emerging makers and artists.

We also launch a new restaurant this spring: Design Restaurant by Social Pantry. Set in the atrium of our Design Avenue space, the restaurant will be a place to conduct meetings or linger over a long lunch between showroom visits.

Talk us through what you do for high- profile customers.

The calibre of the Design Centre showrooms, alongside the discretion of our teams, means a host of high-profile clients seek us out, from royalty to celebrities — too many to mention. We also have a strong international client base who may own super yachts or several residences for which they are sourcing. Our private members’ Design Club, which offers day membership where desired, and our personal shopping service offering make the Design Centre a very attractive option for a brand-aware audience.

Where are your favourite places?

I love to experience different places and cultures. I adore Kyoto in Japan for its customs, cuisine, and craftsmanship. In St Tropez, my favourite spot is authentic, legendary Le Club 55. Here in London, I love a spoiling lunch at The River Café.

How has design changed most significantly since you began your career?

The movement towards maximalist, joyful schemes has been a particularly robust sea change in the industry in recent years.

Plan your visit

WOW!House takes place from 1 June to 1 July 2022
TIME: 10am-6.30pm daily
ADDRESS: Design Centre, Chelsea Harbour, Lots Road, London SW10 0XE
EARLY BIRD TICKETS: Early Bird tickets for just £20 are available for a limited time only. Tickets for students and children are £10. A portion of every ticket purchased will be donated to charity partner Centrepoint, in aid of ending youth homelessness.
TRANSPORT: Parking is available on site and there is easy access to public transport.

Design Centre, Chelsea Harbour looks forward to welcoming design professionals and enthusiasts alike