Two tendencies in one: re-edition in a new outfit and in green, the preferred “fashion” color for furniture at imm cologne. “Panton chair”, limited edition, Vitra. Photo © Stylepark
Forget those old banana boxes
by Uta Abendroth
“Perfect” was once one of those labels for good homes. Smooth surfaces, a uniform appearance, a form that followed the function, etc. Today, there is no longer any such thing as the interior style, as design is often more a matter of storytelling and combining all the things you like. Styles, materials and textures get mixed, as do the new and the old, the bought and the inherited, not to forget the flea-market specials and the banana boxes. Other than those glass bell jars, hardly any other object has seen such inflationary use, from restaurants and bars to fashion stores and cafés to living rooms. You could be forgiven for thinking that those boxes sparked the idea of making sideboards and shelves smaller, more flexible and open. And there have been pioneers, for example, back in 2011 Muuto launched its “Mini Stacked Shelf System” and Piure kicked off its “Nex Box” in Cologne in 2013.
The home collage as a sign of the times – where anything goes and not ‘only’ but ‘also’ is the main stance. How can designers and manufacturers advance this approach? What emphases do they go for? How do they seek to surprise? The imm cologne and the Passagen, which many manufacturers from north Europe use to premiere products, show how we will be outfitting our homes in the years to come. And there are many new interesting companions for our homes. Ligne Roset, which headed for Cologne with any number of innovations in store for us, presents “Space”, by Patrick Pagnon and Claude Pelhaître, a flexible sideboard program made up of individual elements that can be stood or hung – it does not look overly massive, and instead is delicate, perforated. In particular thanks to the copper trays that can be removed from the “gaps”, a material that continues to be very popular and was to be seen at various booths in Cologne. “La Bibliothèque fil”, which French furniture designer Pierre Paulin dreamed up in 1972 for his loft in the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Antoine, is another very open system based on a basic 70cm grid to which you can add elements ad infinitum. This minimalist bookcase, which Ligne Roset is now bringing out for the first time, relies on a steel wire structure with shelves made of multi-laminated wood, whereby the structural elements run through the notches in the wood. The result: a design that is as stable as it is straightforwardly elegant.
Another wood-and-steel system is the “Stick System” that Czech designers Jan Plechac and Henry Wielgus have created for Menu – with the difference that compared to Paulin the relationship of load-bearing structure and shelves is the other way round. This modular shelving system, which is easy to expand or adapt to a particular room configuration, has that improvised look, blending pragmatism and a pleasant presence.
Evidently, all furniture makers find pleasure in revamping re-editions or rediscovering classics of the 20th century. Even some of the trade-fair booths have a charming retro-look, for example, Creative Director Jacob Gubi was inspired by Art déco. At the Gubi booth, elaborately patterned textiles, velvety surfaces and plants all convey the “modern chic” of the 1920s and 1930s. Which sits well with the re-edition of Greta M. Grossman’s “Modern Line” sofa dating from 1949, and with the “Beetle” chairs by Italian-Danish designer duo GamFratesi, which now gleam with a chrome or copper frame. And Ligne Roset has for the first time put Pierre Paulin’s bureau “Le Secrétaire Mural” and his “Daybed” into mass production. The small sofa’s special feature is the integrated rest, which is currently all the rage. But don’t be mistaken, the design is over 60 years old! Moreover, the “Daybed” can be turned into a large seating area for 3-4 persons or into an additional bed if you simply lay the two backrest cushions on the frame. The frame is a combination of beech and walnut, playfully contrasting the bright and dark woods.
And wood is to be seen wherever you look at the imm cologne. On the occasion of the 15th anniversary of the foundation of e15, Philipp Mainzer has gone for a special edition of the “Bigfoot” table, with a creature drawn on the underside of the tabletop by artist Geoff McFetridge – the creature that gives the table its name and is said to live in the forests of North America. Back at the turn of the millennium “Bigfoot” sparked the onward march of solid wood furniture and in fact made pure wood readily acceptable in interiors the world over.
This emphasis on wood pure and simple (and the issues of sustainability and eco-friendliness are boosting demand for such solutions) means that, for example, Thonet is now using local ash for its bentwood classics in the “Pure Materials” edition – instead of European beech. Ash is both strong and elastic and is deliberately only subjected to light treatment so that the surface texture can be explored by the eye or by touch. Schneiderschram’s “Rip Chair” is made of solid ash or walnut but boasts a comfortable flexible backrest. Thanks to an ingenious ribbed structure in which the backrest elements are connected by springy carbon rods, the backrest simply gives softly and adapts gently to the sitter’s movements. Schneiderschram’s “Satsuma Chair” comes in solid ash, too, whereby the seat frame and legs are made of solid wood profiles with a triangular cross-section. The structure derives, who would have guessed, from the four corners of orange crates, reducing the amount of wood needed by 50 percent, such that each chair weighs a mere 3.5 kilos. “Klio”, designed by Studio Hannes Wettstein for Horgenglarus, is appreciably heavier. The backrest is reminiscent of an old desk chair, is bent from multi-laminate wood on machines that are over a century old, and then molded using modern CNC methods. And astonishingly enough for such a chair – it can be stacked.
The “Sedan Chair” created by Chinese architect-cum-designer duo Lyndon Neri and Rossana Hu for ClassiCon boasts an interesting mix of materials. The Shanghai-based team, which masterminded “Das Haus” in the Pure Village zone at this year’s imm, consciously sets the seat shell off visually from the frame as if it were a cover. This is underscored by the choice of contrasting materials: The seat is made of monocolor plastic, the frame of solid oak or walnut. In his “Compas” for Kristalia, Patrick Norguet likewise combines a kind of “snap-into-place” plastic seat shell with a frame made in this case of die-cast aluminum. Three parts, two sets of legs with a striking shape reminiscent of a compass and a cruciform element beneath the shell, create the basis for the actual seat – the latest version with the added comfort of a cushion made of PUR foam is fastened together with only four screws.
The Bouroullec brothers are past masters at skillfully combining things. They have now designed the “Officina” tables for Magis: Tops made of sheet steel, walnut, ash, glass, slate or marble rest on an almost archaic-looking cast-iron frame. It seems to be about going back to the basics, or in general considering which traditional materials are best suited for a contemporary design idiom. It certainly seems to be in keeping with the times that settees are now back in shapes that cannot be mistaken for beds. Arian Brekveld’s “Zoom In” for Montis has opulent proportions, but the combination of straight and slightly curved lines has the feel of an homage to the 1950s, while the mix of materials is highly refreshing. And you can sit comfortably and almost upright on “Zoom In”, too. Meaning the sofa can appeal to a variety of target groups. The upholstered chairs, benches, or hybrid settee/benches can no doubt be attributed to our current preference for tarrying a while at the dining table. Zeitraum is presenting Formstelle’s “Morph Duo Dining”, a two-seater for the table, and Ligne Roset is showcasing Inga Sempé’s “Beaux Fixe” with its marvelously soft upholstery. The image that comes to mind: seats in old railway cars, although the new comfort offered is that much greater.
Needless to say, there just had to be a variation on the lounge chair, fielded by Thonet in the form of “808”. Claudia Kleine and Jörg Kürschner, who together make up the Munich Formstelle label, have devised a modern winged armchair that at first sight definitely does not fit the Thonet DNA. It features a thickly upholstered swivel seat shell that can be titled at will by pulling the small leather loop in the seat. With its quilted look the armchair certainly takes its place in the list of “we want comfiness” furniture – and since the base can also be supplied in a combination of tubular steel or bentwood with wood instead of flat steel, it cites tradition, too.
And what is there to criticize?
This year’s version of “Das Haus” focuses on traditions in the broadest sense. Indeed, Shanghai-based architects Lyndon Neri and Rossana Hu of Neri & Hu Design and Research Office wanted to entice visitors out of their comfort zone – confronting them with an installation called “Memory Lane” that is intended to spark debate on home rituals. It’s a two-level metal structure that you can easily climb up and walk through – there’s a marvelously fragrant wooden path. This kind of lane offers various different views of the space and the furniture on display. In aesthetic terms, with its different colored rooms and mix of Western and Asian furniture and accessories, “Das Haus” is definitely a joy. However, too many of the items were already on show in the past three imm Houses. And if, as the architects intend, the idea is to encourage critical thought on the commercial character of the place, then surely it would be preferable to move away from all these old chestnuts.
Finally, a word on the new colors. The color of the year, as announced each year by US company Pantone, is “Marsala” in 2015. That smoky wine red, a blend of brown, amber and copper, was to be intimated in the products shown by Stattmann Neue Möbel: “Profile Table” by Belgian designer Sylvain Willenz, which has legs that slot-connect into the top and are fixed firmly by four screws, is available in almost exactly that reddish hue. We’re bound to see more of this color nuance in the course of the year. Otherwise? Lots of wood, a bit of white, blue still surviving, and lots of green! Perhaps because the color is associated with hope, with change, with rejuvenation? Be that as it may, the word green’s root stems from the Old German “ghro” as in “grow”. That sits prettily with the zeitgeist, the wish for things to slow down, for emotions and sensual appearances, and be it only in the guise of softly upholstered furniture.
Like in old trains: Inga Sempé’s “Beaux fixe” for Ligne Roset. Photo © Stylepark
„Modern Chic“ of the 20ies at Gubi, with GamFratesi and their new „Beetle“. Photo © Stylepark
Practical: „Stick System“ by Jan Plechac and Henry Wielgus for Menu. Photo © Stylepark
Late premiere: “La Bibliothèque fil“ by Pierre Paulin from 1972, that will be edited by Ligne Roset. Photo © Stylepark
Swinging thanks to CNC, "Klio"by Studio Hannes Wettstein for Horgenglarus. Photo © Stylepark
Patrick Norguet‘s „Compas“ for Kristalia has a „clickable. Photo © Stylepark
Soft dinner: “Morph Duo Dining“ by Formstelle for Zeitraum. Photo © Stylepark
Back in the 50ies – with „Zoom In“ by Arian Brekveld for Montis. Photo © Stylepark
Bands on: Stefan Diez proposes „Yard“ as outdoor furniture – for Emu. Photo © Stylepark
This „Daybed“ by Pierre Paulin is 60 years old. Ligne Roset brings it back to the market. Photo © Stylepark
Thanks to its carbon sticks the „Rip chair“ by Läufer + Keichel for Schneiderschram is strong. Photo © Stylepark
For the 15th anniversary of e15 the „Bigfoot“ table is published in a limited edition with an illustration by artist Geoff McFetridge. Photo © Stylepark