This weekend in Paris, while the fashion world prepared for the couture shows, the city’s other half was busy with the winter edition of Maison & Objet. Genuine surprises were far and few between; but the design world knows a good thing when it sees it, and can have a hard time letting go. To wit: Vitra stepped further into the realm of retail with the launch of their Home Compliments line, which includes expected but welcome offerings such as additions to Alexander Girard’s Wooden Dolls series and new Girard mugs, trays, pouches, and napkins. At De La Espada, the ultra-prolific Venetian Luca Nichetto—who already designs for Arflex, Cassina, Casamania, De Padova, Foscarini, and votre grand-mère—vastly expanded his line with the Portuguese company with 11 handsome products, now all presented under his own eponymous brand, Nichetto.
Adding to the unsurprising yet salutary events was another award given to the Meryl Streep of the furniture: Oki Sato and his studio Nendo. The fair’s Designer of the Year was celebrated with a special installation, the ChocolaTexture Lounge, which combined coco-colored furniture with a topographically themed booth and an assortment of geometric chocolates, all, you guessed it, designed by the Japanese maestro himself.
There were still a few unexpected revelations: Tucked away in a hall devoted to scented candles and endless tchotchkes, Italian plastics powerhouse Kartell stepped into new territory with its first line of home fragrances. After introducing tableware last Milan, the brand is further exploring the accessories game with eight scents and various delivery methods—candles, diffusers, sprays—all orchestrated by longtime Kartell collaborator Ferruccio Laviani. Among the multitude of new products on display, here are five compelling works of note:
The Copenhagen-based design brand has done all of us a favor and made its limited line of oxidized vessels by Amsterdam-based emerging talent Lex Pott commercially available. Originally designed in 2013, his True Colours vases come in various sizes in brass, copper, aluminum, and steel, each contrasting matte and polished surfaces. Pott has become an expert in oxidation, with the vases being just one of many objects he’s used the technique on, including panels, mirrors, and shelves, since he graduated from the Design Academy Eindhoven in 2009.
Designed by creative director Jean Louis Iratzoki, the Kuskoa Bi chair by Basque brand Alki claims to be the world’s first market-ready bioplastic chair. The simple shell seat, made from plant-based renewables, rests atop a solid-wood base and comes in various colors, as well as an upholstered version.
The Turkish architecture and design studio has been on a roll recently—thanks to their recently completed and luxurious airport terminal in Baku, Azerbaijan—and their latest crop of introductions under the De La Espada umbrella hints at an ambitious horizon: the home. Normally inspired by hospitality projects—the team’s bread and butter—they’ve premiered new pieces conceived with la maison in mind, notably the curvaceous, Deco-inspired Union sofa and bed, displayed at the fair in an all-too-rare material: velvet, reportedly sourced from the recent Raf Simons collection by Kvadrat.
Inga Sempé’s new Beau Fixe highback chair, loveseat, and footstool for French heavyweight Ligne Roset are a clever synthesis of comfort and essentialism. The seat’s frame acts like a giant clamp for a single quilt, creating the armrests and other elements. The designer also created a special fabric just for the Beau Fixe pieces, a series of dots and dashes meant to remain subtle even when printed on loud colors.
As part of a special exhibition celebrating the winners of the 2015 VIA Design awards, Normal Studio displayed Atmosphères, a collection of various prototypes, created with funds from the group’s Carte Blanche Award, that tweaked convention to address issues of sustainability and comfort. The most monumental creation was Refresher, a low-tech air conditioner in the shape of a tall, extruded clay brick, meant to be installed in a façade, that uses a small internal fan to move cool air from inside to out.
Text by Dan Rubinstein