In a clash with Fashion Week, Paris opened its cultured arms and welcomed us for a weekend of hopeful inspiration at one of the worlds most prestigious trade exhibitions of lifestyle, decoration and design – Maison & Objet. This years theme ‘HOUSE OF GAMES’, was sure to treat us to a realm of shapes, colours and tales. Our aim was simple, to garner ideas and become aware of trends within interiors, fabrics, staging and stand design from the 3,000 exhibitors from around the world.
While each stand was uniquely different, there were certain design aspects that linked many of them together. After a few hours of walking around, it was clear that the resounding trends in stand materials were wood and foliage. A slight veering from Scandinavian design seems to be happening and is being replaced by a Mexican/South American vibe. There were cacti at every turn, accompanied by sun-bleached wood and wicker furniture.
The event was spread across 8 halls, and honestly, you could spend a half day in each hall to truly take everything in. Each hall resounded with distinct themes such as ‘Cosy’, ‘Elegant’ and ‘Craft’. Each stand attendee was eager to speak with you and passionately explain their craft to you. There was a supreme sense of pride around the exhibitions. Spread across five days, the event saw hundreds of thousands attendees pass through.
Conferences were conducted in a fabulous art installation entitled ‘Silence’ which acted as the largest build at the entire event. An exploration into spaces and sound; harnessing both for amplified human connection. A quiet space to get away from the hustle and bustle of the event outside and enjoy listening rather than speaking. A remedy to the interminable racket of words and images.
Speakers ranged from retail experts to industrial designers and social media gurus. Benjamin Hubert, and his London based agency LAYER, allowed us a glimpse into the world of high-end furniture design. Hubert spent six years designing “The Pair Chair” for Fritz Hanson, the well renowned Danish furniture brand. Hubert designed a mix-and-match collection of components that allows users to create a tailored product. This made him the first British designer to launch a product with the brand. The attention to detail expressed was on a different level and somehow always relayed back to functionality over aesthetic. Who knew a chair could have such a complex backstory!
By the end of the second day we had a lot of content to review and mull over. Simplicity was key with most designs. Utilising basic shapes, lighting, and cost effective materials to create something unique but entirely simple and easy. Even better, integrating your product into your design. One stand that was selling utensils made from paper, WASARA of Japan, used the same techniques of paper manipulation for their backdrop.
In terms of other trends we encountered, the use of teal as an accent colour was very popular among the stands, as was nautical themes, corrugated galvanised steel roofing and somewhat shocking uses of taxidermy. However, it was the more playful approach to displays that really caught our attention such as wallpaper that transformed your room into a giant colouring book and socks that when rolled up – looked like sushi!
The sheer scale of the event was truly inspiring. At times it was almost as if we were spoilt for choice and found it impossible to take it all in. Still, we can both see how our future designs are going to be consciously (and probably sub-consciously) influenced by everything we saw over this impressive weekend.
Padraic O’Gara & Mark O’Reilly
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