Fauchon snack shops alongside a Mariage Frères restaurant kitted out with Inga Sempé table lamps and waiters in white bow-tie uniforms – this isn’t the food offering of an upmarket retail emporium but the newly inaugurated Hall 7 of the biannual Parisian home accessories fair Maison & Objet – a slick glass structure designed by architects Chaix & Morel. As well a luxury makeover, the September edition had an injection of fresh blood, with over 400 new brands hailing from Germany, UK, Italy and South Korea, Argentina and Japan.
September’s Maison & Objet has become a launch pad for an outdoor furniture market that has been upping its game in recent years. “Outdoor furniture needs a new path and new designers to lead the way. Kettal is an innovator in this field but it’s still a conservative market,” says designer Hella Jongerius who launched “Bob”, her sturdy take on the classic garden club chair for the brand. The Spanish firm Kettal was also taking orders for Rodolfo Dordoni’s new “Bitta” collection inspired by the braided knots used to moor boats. Over at B&B Italia, new tables by Antonio Citterio in ipé wood and a white crystal-glass top were showcased alongside the bestselling Charles sofa system that was re-launched for outdoor use.
From salt and pepper grinders at Muuto, coathooks at Moustache and even lighting at SCE, wood was everywhere. “For decades people have seen so much plastic. Now they’re getting really excited about wooden things,” says Laura Hwang, director of New-York based Areaware, whose collection of wooden animals and stationery by Singgih Kartono was turning heads. Although yet to find a manufacturer, Danish designer Line Depping’s maple stool at Danish Crafts was an example of outstanding craftsmanship.
The current ubiquity of star designers has reached saturation point and with educated consumers wanting something different, brands were delivering fresh new talent. Buyers were delighted by an offering from German firm Authentics, which teamed up with new Austrian designers Veronika Wildgruber and Susanne Stofer for “Wardrope”, a colourful hanging rope that doubled as a wardrobe. Over at Normann Copenhagen, the firm’s director went to Iceland to scout for new talent and found two new designers: Bryndis Bolladottir, who works with colourful woollen balls, and Helga Sigurbjarnadottir, whose black stone coathooks were particularly fetching.
Worth a mention
A highlight of the fair was specialist German crockery firm Hering Berlin, whose plates (retailing at over €800 each) require over 80 steps to make. With the hospitality industry back in full force, its new breakfast set had high-end hoteliers queuing up. It was also happy birthday to UK lighting firm Original BTC, which launched a bone china “Hector 21″ lamp for their 21st. Over at the elder Roche Bobois, it was “Happy 50th. The French firm teamed up with Jean Paul Gaultier, who reupholstered their classic Mah Jong sofa for his first foray into product design. The theme was “wheels” for Gaultier’s limited edition bedroom wardrobe and storage chests. We weren’t so convinced however, about his wheeled armchair “Ben Hur”, that showed us an eyesore glimpse into the future of boutique design hospitals.
In past years the fair has been in need of an injection of fresh talent and new brands. This is what the larger Hall 7 delivered, and it was the place to be – not least because of the good food and birthday celebrations.