IMM COLOGNE 2019
Forwards, sideways, backwards
“Join us in everyday life?” is the title we gave our review of imm cologne last year. When touring the fair halls, all too often the impression one got was that manufacturers and creatives had lost the courage to blaze the trail and float extraordinary ideas and tackle new concepts. Accordingly great was the joy that at this year’s international furniture fair in Cologne there were plenty of statements being made and awaiting discovery. The most striking change of spirit was probably that to be seen at the Fritz Hansen booth, which boasted a brand-new corporate identity: young, modern and divided into an unusual number of small sections. The Danish manufacturer has thus opted not for its customary clean aesthetic and traditional atmosphere. Moreover, the “Republic of” has been erased from the name to make the brand more approachable. Walking round the nooks and crannies of the booth you also came upon an extensive pink sculpture that served as a base for glorious bunches of flowers – a color one would certainly not have dreamed of in association with the high-end Nordic chic of Fritz Hansen. From sweet rose through to the Pantone color of the year (bright coral) – the entire range of different reds permeated the corridors of imm cologne like candy floss. Anyone wanting slightly brasher colors luckily did not miss out either: a strong sunflower yellow, radiant royal blue, a lush orange – all magnificently in evidence on booths such as those of Ames, Montana, E15 and Objekte unserer Tage, for example.
Burgbad likewise brought a breath of fresh air, going down new paths. The first appearance by the world market leader for bathroom furniture at the imm cologne was truly a big bang. Stefan Diez has developed a modular system called “rgb” for Burgbad – it is a functional eye-catcher not only in bathrooms, but in any living room, too. Colored glass surfaces, among others in red, yellow and blue, set the tone. Held in place by profiles made of extruded aluminum, the surfaces form volumes, shelves, washstands or room dividers – flexibly adaptable, robust and waterproof. And they are optionally rounded out to include stainless-steel laundry baskets, shelves made of aluminum or stone slabs. Thanks to its logical structure, the modular system can be swiftly and easily changed. Diez reduced the visible technology involved to a minimum in favor of aesthetic appeal. And thanks to the extensive use of white space in the booth design, the colored surfaces’ aesthetic interplay with light and shadow was there for all to see. With this new system Burgbad is embarking on a realignment of its product range.
This year, “Das Haus” also highlighted new approaches. Kate and Joel Booy of Truly Truly emphasized organic living. Underscoring the fluid transition between living and working, their version of Das Haus featured many a multifunctional solution. The overall surface was framed only by fabric panels, with more leisurely divisions created by plants and swiveling room dividers. The Rotterdam-based design studio transformed the 180 square meters available not into distinct rooms, but rather open spaces that supported different moods, from active to private. As a result and in keeping with the easy transition today between the working world and home, the open zones can simply be used precisely as needed without some predefined function overly dominating the particular space. In terms of the combinations of materials, Truly Truly also prioritized openness: Glazed stone tiles made of lava interacted with polished stainless steel, soft textiles went together with solid wood. With their design for Das Haus, Kate and Joel Booy successfully brought together function and experiences in soft hues to foster a leisurely overall feel which, for all its open nature, did not lessen viewers’ sense of enjoyably discovering things.
The love of detail continues to be much in evidence as regards the effects to be achieved with precious metals. Schönbuch presented a serving trolley called “Grace,” designed by Sebastian Herkner in gold. And on neighboring stands there were plenty of shiny things, be it the table legs for “Harri” by Peter Fehrentz for More, or even furniture handles. And interiors consistently revealed a newly found zest for accents, be they opulent or playful. For instance, Ingo Maurer toyed with dynamic power and refined folds in the form of his paper luminaires “Oop's” and “La Festa delle Farfalle.” Uli Budde bent a dog-ear into a round mirror for Echtstahl in order to attach notes to it by magnet. And Pauline Deltour’s “Cana” stool immediately brought to mind candy UFOs, even if she was actually inspired by sunhats made of fibers from the Caña Flecha palm. Known for their sense of fun, Petite Friture has hit reverse gear and dyed cushions and the covers for the “Nubilo” sofa like a rain cloud in gray tones, instead of continuing to propagate a pastel aesthetic.
Surfeit in Bauhaus
While the current trend colors gently accompanied visitors to imm cologne around the halls, one topic really grabbed attention: To mark the 100th anniversary of the foundation of the Bauhaus, countless license-holders drew on the doctrine of that famed college for inspiration when designing products and the fair presentations. Tecta, which has always been deeply committed to the Bauhaus, dared to experiment and had classic designs such as Walter Gropius’ “F51” armchair and even Marcel Breuer’s “D4” club armchair re-interpreted most colorfully by up-and-coming designers for its “BauhausNowhaus” series. The projects have been masterfully realized and need shy no comparison, even with the new limited (200) edition of Gerrit Thomas Rietveld’s “Tafellampje.” Thonet joined forces with Studio Besau Maguerre and used long fabric panels to bring the “Café Samt und Seide” created by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Lilly Reich back to life. Originally designed as a trade-fair booth for the Association of German Silk Weavers, the surface is structured only by the long curtains, which back in 1927 already formed a communicative center and an oasis of calm.
Likewise, Knoll along with OMA, and Wittmann along with its in-house design team and architect Antoine Simonin from Studio Asaï pay homage in their booth designs to the wide-ranging influence of the former college of architecture, design and art. Knoll, present at imm cologne for the first time, wove a holistic crown for the Bauhaus: With reference to the buildings of Mies van der Rohe, the booth was subdivided into sections for Krefeld, Weissenhof, Barcelona and Villa Tugendhat. And to mark the anniversary, among other things a limited edition of the Barcelona Chair was launched – another design created jointly by Mies van der Rohe and Lilly Reich. The new edition of the “Pavilion Chair” will consist of only 365 chairs (the duo originally designed it in 1929 for the German Pavilion at the Barcelona World Exposition), one for each day of the Bauhaus Year. Dark-green leather and a black chromed frame lend the 1929 design a new feel. Furthermore, again for Knoll, EOOS drew on Mies van der Rohe’s “Farnsworth House” and translated the underlying idea into a sideboard called “The Farns.” And anyone interested could also take part in the Bauhaus Talk with Prof. Wolfgang Sattler from Bauhaus-Universität Weimar.
Parallel to all this, ClassiCon advanced Eileen Grey’s 1925 “Daybed,” such that it grew in length and breadth, rounding it out with new clothes in claret velvet and a matt black frame. Modernism and its designs were so omnipresent at the fair that there was a bit of overkill to the Bauhaus Year, before it has really got started. In part, the references were slightly far-fetched (for example, several makers declared bright gray “the Bauhaus color” and a mere print on a fabric sufficed to suggest boastfully that all eyes were on Weimar).
Reality and matrix
Alongside all the honoring of tradition, the future was to be discerned here and there at the fair. The bright-green booth that creative agency Meiré und Meiré dreamed up for New Tendency transpired to be a green screen that you could bring to life simply by scanning in a QR code: All the accessories and furniture drifted across your smartphone display in a different color from the New Tendency palette. Alfredo Häberli also relied on digital technology for the Living Kitchen – using a green box, he had a virtual kitchen pop up on visitors’ mobile screens. In light of this highly effective presentation, the smartphone charging sockets integrated into furniture seemed a bit like old hat. Moreover, the retro Seventies flair that had hitherto been strongly in evidence has ebbed again. The once expansive seating worlds have managed to put a few centimeters between themselves and the floor. Anyone who used to simply stretch out their legs, draping themselves across one of these seating isles, is now embraced in a seating posture by rounded sofa armrests. Cozily hugged by such organic shapes, you can enjoy the touch of soft upholstery – which at times felt like a teddy bear’s fur.
The trade fair made it far clearer that alongside pleasant tactile properties, there is strong demand now for flexible, space-saving solutions. In keeping with its name, Müller Small Living offered several solutions boasting small footprints. The Stylepark Selected Award went to the “Duotable” designed by Michael Hilgers, which caught the jury’s eye with its large storage drawer and a cable management system beneath the fold-out top. Schönbuch presented the “Lola” room divider system designed by Bodo Sperlein, which with up to five elements cuts a fine figure and also doubles up as a clothes stand, with its shelves and hanging elements. Melchior and Timon Grau, the sons of Tobias and Franziska Grau, came up with a very flexible lighting idea. In the guise of “Parrot” they have created a cordless floor lamp that can be placed flexibly where most needed – thanks to its integrated battery pack and light aluminum body. Movement and interaction were key, and not just at the Tobias Grau booth. In general, visitors to the fair interested in interaction found much that they could flip back and forth. Be it arm- and backrests or entire sofas and tabletops.
Thus, with “Clam” Ligne Roset presented a curved sofa bed with a fold that hangs over one side and, when the bed is tucked away, then serves as an armrest. Cor’s “Avalanche,” by contrast, features a backrest that can fold over to support you better when sitting. Various tables to match, that can be flexibly extended, were on display in the form, for example, of Arco’s “Shift” courtesy of Jorre van Ast, Team 7’s “tema” or David Chipperfield’s “Basis Workstation” for E15. Not that this imm cologne missed out when it came to the extra appeal of a monumental table – at the Girsberger stand you could take a seat at a solid wooden slab of a table no less than seven meters long, made of highly wax-friendly walnut. Matthias and Hubert Sanktjohanser used the high-strength material FENIX NTM to forge their “mono” table, which despite its robust look was absolutely flattering to the touch.
Sebastian Herkner no doubt felt just as flattered, as his name popped up just about everywhere you went at the fair – from Pulpo to Schönbuch, Gloster, Cassina, and Thonet to Ames. Small wonder, as parallel to the imm cologne the Parisian Maison & Object trade fair was ready to open, and there Herkner was voted Designer of the Year 2019.
For anyone who had had enough of details and simply wanted a better grasp of the big picture, imm cologne 2019 also had various interesting ideas to offer at the meta-level: Casalis took up sustainability as the key theme in its “Earth” collection. Liset van der Scheer set out to transpose the experience of hiking through a forest into the indoors and the results included, for example, a completely biodegradable carpet. Its textured surface is produced using a 3D-tufting technology that emulates the feel and appearance of moss. On the Ligne Roset stand, there were also items worth discovering in this regard, such as Michael Ducaroy’s outdoor sofa “Saparella.” Then there was the runner “All The Way,” made by Portuguese textile designer Susana Godinho. Her company Sugo Cork Rugs is the only firm in the world to produce cork carpeting. For “All The Way” Godinho goes one step further and recycles cork, cotton and wool offcuts to create a carpet in natural and pastel tones. Among other things Kvadrat presented the “Patio” fabric by Karina Nielsen Rios, thus for the first time daring to tackle the outdoor world: “Patio” is outdoor-proof, as it were, and is made of a specially developed Trevira CS yarn, is fluorocarbon free and therefore eco-friendly. Even if in the midst of deepfreeze January it might be hard to imagine the warmth of summer outside, imm cologne at least had us move life outdoors in our minds. String, for example, featured its “String System Outdoor” made of galvanized steel – a suitable summer shelving system, while for Ames Sebastian Herkner designed the colorfully striped “Maraca” outdoor lounge chair and Muuto opted for welded steel with a stain powder coating for “Linear Steels” by Thomas Bentzen. There were many exciting innovations, courageous ideas and a long look back all rolled into one at this year’s imm cologne. In this way, it happily once again demonstrated the importance of the international furniture and interior design fair for the sector and offered many a new perspective when it comes to the future.