Maison Reflections: Paris, September ‘16

A delight to the senses, and a challenge to convention – these are the overriding impressions that we take away from our visit to Maison, and to the homeware boutiques of Paris and Barcelona. And WOW, so different, exciting and inspiring. European design is challenging convention – and asking users to think differently and more playfully about the objects we use in our environments.

Bloomingdales blog Maison Reflections: Paris, September ‘16

What’s happened to proportions?

Like Alice through the Looking Glass, conventional design proportions are being challenged. Sure, oversized lamp shades are here to stay – but we’re talking about tiny side tables, HUGE standing lamps in excess of 2-3 metres, wall lights that look they’re designed for the floor.

Fantasy, whimsy, playfulness

Design is challenging us to stop taking everything so seriously. From lanterns that look like they’re out of Harry Potter, to LED wall light displays offset by full-bodied giraffes, to artistes who combine their love of sculpture with chocolate making – we’re being made to think about “lightening up”.

We’re also being told that “Millennials” (those born between 1985 to 1999) are redefining what it means to be an “adult” today, incorporating play directly into their lifestyles. Europe is a heavy environment to be living in; is design reacting to this?

Self-expression through ownership of rare Found Objects

Everyone wants to be different, and now you can own your very own 100,000 year old sea sponge, petrified coral or giant arthropod. Of course if this is too much – just combine a table lamp with a mirror, or a framed rare butterfly collection.

Bespoke is now being extended to Found Objects.

What’s found in Nature is all the rage

This may not be a new trend, but like self-expression through ownership of rare Found Objects, now it’s everywhere; and superbly stylish at that. Coral, amethyst, crystal rock, gnarled tree stumps, grasses, sea shells, butterflies can adorn your shelves – either on their own, or adapted into functional objects, including lamps. It’s like a Natural History Museum of Design.

A celebration of natural materials

This trend translates into a celebration of natural materials, like flax linens and cork – which are used in their raw, and simple states to create finished functional objects. And this answers to the ever-present, all-encompassing trend of Green.

Artisanal, beaten and beautiful

There’s simply nothing like the quality of European craftsmanship and the materials used. European design and style celebrates the imperfect; hand beaten and forged in ateliers to give the impression of single, 1-off works. Again, the metal work is inspired by nature to fulfil a functional role – such as a beaten, branch-like side table base.

Sculptural

Whether the finish is rough or smooth – European lighting design pays homage to sculptural form. Soft rounded edges or Moore-like shapes, made from metals and brass – create the distinct impression that functionality and art can readily co-exist. Not surprisingly, the price tag matches.

The warm colours and metals dominate

The warm colours and metals dominate: brass and yellow gold are ever-present, whether in gold-leaf or in tubular form. We’re quite sure that shiny nickel is still around, but we did not see much of it.

And rose-gold … last season!

Mixed material combinations

Mixed material combinations are still very much in vogue: and this is happening in quite inspiring combinations – whether in ways that complement (e.g. mirror / antique mirror with metal) or contrast (e.g. stone and brass, porcelain and grass).

Asymmetrical furniture design

Asymmetrical furniture design challenges the convention: similar to what’s happened to proportions – we’re being asked to look at (or see) occasional furniture pieces differently. The shapes are oddly cubist – but they work. Small, round side table surfaces are placed on bases that are angled.