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Six Object Lessons in the New Restraint at Maison et Objet

While Americans checked out for the Labor Day interlude, the European design season got underway with Maison et Objet, one of the home furnishings fairs that set the agenda for the design year ahead.

While Americans checked out for the Labor Day interlude, the European design season got underway with Maison et Objet, one of the home furnishings fairs that set the agenda for the design year ahead.

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Maison is generally regarded as an early indicator of fresh design ideas–colors, textures, forms–for textiles, furniture and tabletop design. If anything, it took on an element of intrigue this year as editors and cool hunters watched to see how the design field would respond to the uncertainty and anxiety of the past year. Here are six examples of design directions glimpsed in Paris.

arik levy

Design reduced to its essence. Arik Levy, the Paris-based industrial designer, introduced a collection for Eno in which vases and other tabletop items appear in the most basic sculptural forms. “No ornaments,” Levy said. “No decoration, no fat, no special effects, no crazy materials. Just the essentials.”

'Muuto' table by Mattias Ståhlborn for Muuto

Structure is emphasized. The Muuto table by Mattias Ståhlborn is one of a scattering of new furniture pieces with structural sleeves and other fasteners set off with their own color, as if to make the basic structure preempt the styling.

Petalo Nesting Tables

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Flexible furniture is ascendant. Furniture that folds, stows or otherwise fits together is in favor as consumers gravitate to space-saving pieces. The example shown here is the Petalo nesting tables designed by the late French designer Charlotte Perriand and manufactured for the first time by Cassina.

Paola Navone

Design is sold by weight, like a commodity. Paola Navone dangled hundreds of his brightly patterned cups, jugs, saucers and pitchers from a skylight at Merci, a Paris design shop. The ceramic tableware was also sold by the kilo, as if to suggest that design exists on the same plane as coffee, meat, grain and other staples of everyday life.

Weightless and flexible plant container made from recyclable geotextile fabric by Bacsac

Agriculture is the imagery of the moment. Not surprisingly, designers are in the thrall of the local food movement and the back-to-basics pleasures of homegrown staples. As a result, the halls of Maison et Objet contained a conspicuous number of designs with an agricultural bent, including a movable plant container (above) made from a recyclable fabric by Bacsac.

'Titikaka' bench by Naoto Fukasawa for B

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Slats are migrating from architecture to furniture. Slatted exterior walls have become common to the point of cliche in new residential design over the past few years. Their popularity is due in part to a backlash again the clean hard lines of modernism. Slats are a warmed-up alternative with a touch of craft. Now they’re showing up in furniture, as evidenced by the Titikaka bench created by Naoto Fukasawa with teak lathes billowing over an aluminum frame.

Read more of Michael Cannell’s blog on FastCompany.com

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