Stockholm, for example is, unsurprisingly, a showcase for all that is Scandinavian and understated elegance. But when it comes to seeing European design ranging from traditional to contemporary in one place, Maison et Objet is definitely one of the giants. Held twice a year, last September it attracted over 66,000 visitors to see over 3,000 exhibitors. This January I once again joined the ranks of designers and design aficionados to see what's new and notable.
Luxury living is very much in demand. High-end designers and manufacturers continue to thrive. And while design elements clearly take account of the tastes of Russian, Chinese and other emerging design markets, the strong lines and craftsmanship developed through a dedicated adherence to the art of making fine furniture are evident.
For example, Fendi Casa features fur and leather with handsome wood accents alongside distinctly classical elements. There are evident mid-century influences in their collection with bold, confident shapes softened by those luxury finishes.
We all have companies we seek out in the expectation of being delighted by both the familiar and the innovative, like seeing an old friend with a new frock. I’ve always had a soft spot for Missoni. That maybe because of a favourite tie, or someone else’s bikini, I’m not saying. But what I can tell is that their show space at Maison was a celebration of their well known vibrant chevron stripe but also featured pieces that pushed their distinctive colors into new, unexpected areas.
I was also delighted to see Missoni collaborate with Roche Bobois, on this occasion in a Paris Showroom. The piece was instantly recognizable as Missoni with its distinctive display of color, but again eschewing the stripes we know so well in favour of a pop art inspired design which seemed perfect for this outdoor sofa. Interestingly, there seemed to be a trend towards outdoor furniture which just shows that Paris isn’t all about the Northern European market.
While Italians dominate the luxury brands, French designers create pieces with a style and elegance that is distinctly Gallic. For example, the lights from Art et Floritude, made to order, endlessly customisable, playful and classically artisanal.
And away from high-end elegance, Maison is a chance to catch up with the unusual, specialist and hard to find. Unavailable right now in the USA, Made A Mano make lava stone tiles. The rarely used material creates a base that is raw and organic while the glazed surface provides an elegant finish that lives off color and pattern. Made a Mano’s pure white tiles are simply stunning while their new table, on show in Paris is an interesting departure from their focus on wall and floor tile.
Alongside the Italians and French designers at Maison et Objet there is a good representation of British designers. Everyone plays to their strengths and for the Brits it seems to be all about a tradition of craftsmanship, brave quirkiness and a sense of humour. To illustrate, I came across two designers making, amongst other things that most British of kitchen essentials. Tea pots and tea cups. Flux was established by Staffordshire University in Stoke-on-Trent, the heart-land of fine bone china since the 18th century. Their designs have a contemporary edge displayed on a medium that reflects the traditional craftsmanship of the area. Their new ‘Tea Story’ includes a tea pot, milk jug and sugar bowl. All essentials, believe me.
Richard Brendon combines the old and new in a very literal sense. Frustrated by the predominance of antique saucers that survive their less enduring, presumably more fragile cups, he has developed ‘Reflect’ using platinum and gold coatings to create highly reflective cups. The mirrored cups reflect the patterned saucers, creating perfect couples with saucers Richard sources from dealers across London and the UK. He has also developed a ‘Details from Willow’ range that features elements from the traditional blue willow pattern that seemed ubiquitous in the UK in the 1950s.
Maison et Objet in Paris is, indeed, vast. Everyone who visits comes away with different impressions, favourites and inspirations. Other than sore feet, the one thing all visitors come away with is undeniable evidence that the European homewares and furniture industry is both in rude health and reassuringly diverse.