Editor’s Miscellany: Maison & Objet

February 3, 2011

I was lucky enough to get away for a few days to the Maison & Objet show in Paris. So I thought I’d share a few of the things to be seen there, along with a musing or two on design trends. Don’t you just love having to sit through other people’s vacation photos?

An initial surprise was the extent to which just two main looks were in evidence. One was a cool, neutral, pleasantly worn and casual look. It features lots of gray linen or flannel, unfinished or reclaimed-looking wood, rusty or otherwise patinated metal and outdoor furniture used indoors. Plenty of trestle or x-base tables, too, and things up on sawhorse legs. This style has been around for quite a while now, to the point that it has solidly infiltrated even the midlevel market. Still, it is done quite pleasantly by some manufacturers:

Becara, from Spain. Photos courtesy of Becara.

Blanc d’Ivoire, a French company. Photos courtesy of Blanc d’Ivoire.

And the same look was also still in evidence in the more luxury-oriented “Scènes d’interieur†pavilion. Here are some examples from the French brand Flamant.

Flamant does easygoing neutrals. Photos courtesy of Flamant.

Look number two was . . . well, how shall I put it? Very, very slick and swoopy, with oodles of gold and silver leaf, crystals, chrome, white lacquer, fur or feather trim, shiny satins and silks. It’s the kind of Candy & Candy hyper-elegance that clearly plays well among the super-affluent in certain parts of the world, but (fortunately, dare I say?) doesn’t yet seem to have caught on so well here. Curiously, even in this look there was still a large preponderance of whites, grays and a sort of caramelly topaz color (often combined with gray).

One of the most extreme manifestations of this second style was probably the Visionnaire installation, from the Italian company Ipe Cavalli. Here are a few samples from an earlier collection of theirs that will convey the overall feel.

Extreme luxury, Visionnaire style. Photos courtesy of Ipe Cavalli.

Happily, for me at least, there were other, more constructivist or playful interpretations of luxury scattered here and there. A couple of examples, drawn almost at random:

Wonderfully relaxed leather upholstery by the Italian firm Baxer. This was one of many versions of “inside-out†seams on furniture. Photo courtesy of Baxter.

Playfulness from Andrew Martin International in England: the Marlborough chair. Photo courtesy of Andrew Martin International.

The Andrew Martin Petipa coffee table. Photo courtesy of Andrew Martin International.

In the last exhibition hall (number eight!), a breath of fresh air in the form of “now! Design à vivre,†a collection of companies large and small with a more contemporary and/or innovative bent. Perhaps the standout discovery here, for me, was the Italian lighting company Catellani & Smith, showing an extraordinarily refined collection of lamps, pendants and sconces exploring what is possible using new LED technology.

Delicate, elegant LED lighting from Catellani & Smith in Italy. Photos courtesy of Catellani & Smith.

Finally, it was also great fun, in the midst of my European design odyssey, to run into or spend time with a surprising number of U.S. friends and acquaintances such as Boston showroom owner David Webster, découpage designer extraordinaire John Derian, or this crew, having lunch at Le Paul Bert near the big antiques flea market in Saint-Ouen:

Happy diners at the Marché aux Puces.

From left to right, Charles Spada, Abby Yozell, Stéphane Dumondelle, Nancy Serafini, Antoni Currie, me. I am grinning like a fool, very happily stuffed with sausage and aligot.

To come in my next blog post: a selection of specific favorite finds at the show, some from lines already carried in New England and some from lines I’d love to see become available here. The vacation slideshow isn’t finished yet!

–Kyle Hoepner

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