Friday, February 15, 2013


Maison et Objet is the first major design trade show of the year. Although the grand size and spread of the French fair can be an overwhelming experience compared to more compact shows such as Stockholm Furniture Fair, it is an excellent starting point to catch a glimpse of new products and anticipated trends for the year ahead. I braved the snow and long walkways of high design and trends to pick out some local and international design highlights from the 2013 edition this year. 
Barger Osgerby display at Maison Objet 2013

It doesn't often snow in Paris, at least that's what the local transport system leads you to believe. At the end of a stuttering and uncomfortable train journey to Paris Nord Villepinte Exhibition Centre, a super-sized trove of design and inspiration awaits to melt the impatience away. The perennial Maison et Objet trade fair is the bienvenue to a veritable cluster of haute couture interiors, new design talent, themed spaces, awards and talks. 

The 2013 edition did not disappoint on content. There were celebrations for the big names of the design world, Barber & Osgerby named 2013 Designers of the Year, impressive stands from the top of the Northern Hemisphere, Hay from Denmark and Canadian designer/producers Molo, and most interestingly for overseas visitors - an encouraging display of fresh French design talent. The majority of which, could be found in the 'Now! Design à vivre' hall, a space dedicated to contemporary design from established producers to independent designers.
'Pinto Table' by Julie Arrive and 'Watching The Ships Roll in' by Marie Dessuant

Stationed at the back of the 'Now! Design à vivre' hall', immediately before a busy seating area described as 'Le Club', Parisian producers Singularite offered a vibrant selection of new work from several unfamiliar Gallic names. From Marie Dessuant's elegant constructive Bay Collection to Julie Arrive's charming storytelling desks (Bureau Home and Pinto table) and Emilie Cazan's Horse riding inspired 'Riding' collection, each piece communicated sincerity and elegance. Upon speaking with the company founder, Eric Perez, it was interesting to learn that this particular collection was mostly manufactured by French craftsmen. An ambitious move in these times but, refreshing to hear and in line with the independent streak the brand struck with many passers by.
The HAY stand and close ups of their modular 'New Order series'

Just a few fair blocks down from Singularite's eye catching corner, the Scandinavian sophistication of Hay stood tall. An inviting selection of neatly arranged small appliances, textiles and home furniture were lit up with warm pastel hues and playful scenography. Behind the simplicity of the presentation was functionality and innovative use of materials, a proposed series of rugs made of paper with a protective wax coating and an adaptable modular system called 'New Order' for example. The balance of colours and different sized objects in realistic scenarios made the Hay stand a real highlight.
Inside MOLO's 'softblock' structure and cluster of 'urchin softlights'

Not to be outdone, Canadian design and production firm Molo aimed high with their 5m high paper 'softblock' installation. Connected together with concealed magnets that can anchor to any steel or magnetic surface, the softblock modular system can create infinite structure lengths. There was a Nordic air to their setting also but, this was more Winter sanctuary than Hay's Spring shine. Within the intimate paper and textile honeycomb structure, 'cloud softlights' floated above further examples of Molo's soft collection - 'softseating' and the 'urchin softlight'. A peaceful space that provided respite from bright pastels and sharp edges, Molo created a calming atmosphere for visitors to absorb their lightweight materials and natural forms.

Tom Dixon's 'Eclectic' range carried the baton of sophistication but, with a dash of British eccentricity. The collection included crafted artefacts designed for "the eccentric collector’s cabinet, the modern architects table and the British tearoom trolley." A stone pestle complete with accompanying gold mortar perhaps the most literal expression of the range, classic with an elaborate twist. Further strong examples could be found with the polished brass 'Form' teas set and a playful matte brass finished desk accessories set called 'Tool'. 
Tom Dixon 'Eclectic' including a pestle and mortar, and decadent British tearom trolley

It wasn't all clean lines and buttoned up sophistication though. Elizabeth Leriche's 'First Food'  curated space including a sprawling centrepiece of a vegetable chandelier and all number of food-related proposals.Verde Profilo's moss lighting offered perhaps the most toned down offering, while more technical interpretations such as fabric made from milk and eco-friendly dye fabrics sourced from parsnips and fabrics could be seen as practical eco-friendly solutions.

Elizabeth Leriche' 'First Food' space where root vegetables hang from the ceiling in chandelier form above vegetable dye fabrics in domestic eating scenarios

Despite the irk of public transport and an exhausting amount of m2 to soak up at the actual fair, Maison Objet 2013 was a colourful and optimistic start to the design year. A balanced mixture of focused youthful expression and sleek eco-conscious design could be easily found traipsing around the endless walkways. Maison Objet may not have the buzz of Milan or London Design Week but, the 'Vivant' (living) theme was very much alive with its exhibitors this year.

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