Our regular hot date at the Maison & Objet trade show in Paris is a bright spark which cheers up an otherwise cold and dreary January. Although this year's edition was by no means vintage, we were nevertheless thankful for the plentiful supply of design inspirations and free coffee. Here are a few highlights.
There is something irresistible about the Phenomena collection of mouth-blown crystal lights from Czech Republic based Bomma. It is perhaps the simple geometric shapes combined with the flawless clarity of the crystal glass, tinged with the merest blush of colour, which give them such an ephemeral sense of beauty. They have real presence too: the crystal shade of the lozenge shaped version is 75 cm long with a diameter of 40 cm. Perfect for making a grand but stylishly understated design statement.
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Thonet is a name which needs no introduction. This grand dame of Viennese design has long been synonymous with the iconic bent-wood cafe chair, but such is the speed with which new designs are launched the collection now looks thrillingly contemporary. Yet somehow the unmistakable spirit of the original cafe chairs lingers, like the classic perfume worn by your favourite aunt. We particularly like the Hideout Loveseat, designed by Front, with its Art-Deco-esque impression, and the LucidiPevere-designed Chignon armchair, which looks like the Michelin man had been trapped by the ubiquitous bent-wood arms. Looks like the renaissance of this veritable design icon has finally come of age.
See more: Wiener GTV Design
Antonio Facco has been nominated (by Giulio Cappellini, no less) to receive the Rising Talent Award. His Mondo collection of lamps, designed for Swedish brand Oblure, shows why he is causing such a stir. The lamp is in the form of a sphere covered by slices of moveable screens, each with a different pattern of slats. Moving and overlapping the screens in different ways create a wonderful display of graphic patterns with light and shade, like phases of a solar eclipse. Sophisticated, fun and utterly beguiling.
Picture the scene: a large stand at a prominent corner location is punctuated by a number of mysterious white blocks in the shape of stylised houses. A large crowd gathers as none other than Oki Sato of Nendo stops by for an interview. Interest piqued, we nosed around the house-shaped white blocks and were rewarded with glimpses of something quite wonderfully exquisite. Designed by Nendo for Asian lifestyle brand Zens, the collection includes whimsical mini vases resembling birds resting on electric lines, clever pebble-shaped stacking tableware and a series of small furniture inspired by the way Chinese characters are made up. All these objects share the same refined poise balanced by a touch of wit and wide-eyed wonder so characteristic of Nendo's design.
Quirky design brand Seletti went all heavy with long-term collaborator Marcantonio Raimondi Malerba to create a collection of solid brass objects including tableware, cutlery, lights and an unexpectedly loud bell. They all bear the characteristic lustre of brass as well as the original hammer marks, which impart a distinctly artisanal flavour. The cutlery, in particular, are satisfyingly heavy and are sure to turn dinner into a workout for your hands.
We often take design too seriously and forget that a key function of good design is to make you happy. On this criteria Portuguese children's furniture brand Circu certainly succeeds hands down. Its fantastical collection includes beds in the shapes of bi-planes and seashells and an armchair set in a rocket. The items are not only very well made but also include practical design features. The bi-plane bed, for example, is attached to a stack of suitcases which act as steps as well as providing drawers for storage. Some kids are very lucky indeed...
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Last but not least, the award for the most eye-catching display goes to Czech crystal lighting brand Preciosa. Those who managed to elbow their way through the throngs of instagrammers at the stand, all jaws dropped and camera phones aloft, were greeted with the surreal sight of crystal chandeliers seemingly held afloat by bunches of white balloons, which of course cleverly conceal the suspension cables. This fun and effective trick is well worth replicating if you have a suspension light with a tall ceiling.
See more: Preciosa