At the Maison&Objet fair held in Paris at the end of January and which extends over eight halls of the trade fair complex in Villepinte in the North of the city on the Seine reputable international exhibitors but also small design offices showcased interior design – ranging from furniture via fabrics, glass- and ceramic items through to design objects at the interface to art. In the process numerous exhibitors demonstrated a great deal of sensitivity for harmonious color combinations, materials and orchestrations.
Admittedly, Maison&Objet is also about experimentation with contrasts and dimensions. With oversized vases and baroque imitations of plastic some exhibitors took the topic of design almost to the point of the absurd and in the one or other hall visitors felt more as if they were in a curiosity cabinet rather than in a contemporary design show surrounded as they were by man-made big cats and fluffy creatures resembling a cross between monkeys and birds. Visitors were equally startled by a gleaming white room with a proverbially illuminating impact.
Back in 2007 at the start of his "Crystallized Project" designer Tokujin Yoshioka asked himself how light can be given material form. Here he presented in highly polished aquariums the creation that emerged from this reflection – naturally formed, pure white glittering crystal formations. Selected by the fair as "Creator of the Year" the Japanese designer consciously decided not to present a product innovation but rather startled visitors with inventions by nature – normally produced by chance and extraordinarily beautiful shapes over which man has no influence, grown to the vibrations created by music.
The hall next to Yoshioka's installation was aptly named "now!". This designation emphasizes the contemporary nature of the objects shown there even though a return to the well-tried was frequently evident, and above all a return to simple appearance. For instance, Danish manufacturer Hay showed numerous small kitchen, bathroom and office articles of natural materials and in simple, almost archetypal forms. But the Danes also surprised with curious things like masks of papier-mâché or traditional quill pens filled with biro, and managed with this selection once again to give visitors the sense of being at a flea market.
A few meters further on, Spanish design group PCM put on a convincing display with a combination of contemporary, industrial-looking design language and traditional artisan techniques. For example with "Reused History" – a collection of engraved vases and jugs created in collaboration with Tomas Kral and the royal glass factory La Granja de San Ildefonso in Segovia – they revived a rare glass blowing technique from the 18th century.
Reviving and reusing old things is also the aim of carpet maker "private 0204", also from Denmark: discarded hand-woven fabrics are transformed into unique carpets. Made with just a few means the result is a poetic product that questions the classic concepts of beauty. The hand-made ceramics by the Italian studio "Potomak" also appear reduced, show signs of production and demonstrate how attractive the imperfect can be.
Like all consumer goods fairs Maison&Objet also raises the question as to which objects actually make a home cozy. What do people find comfortable and what is deemed to be luxury? Whether the ankle socks on Oskar Zieta's metal stools "Plopp Family" are really necessary is arguably a matter of personal choice. However, examine the work of many young designers and one thing that does emerge is that fairly often the luxury of contemporary design lies in the natural, the tried-and-tested and the simple.