For the Fun of It

The January 2007 edition of Now! design vivre, which began as sort of a sideshow to Maison + Objet Paris in 2000, marks a significant evolution for the show with the opening of a new home, Hall 7, designed by Parisian architects Lacaton and Vassal. This 161,458-square-foot translucent glass and white metal structure can accommodate more than 200 exhibitors in over 7,535 square feet of stand space, and is located opposite the main esplanade of the Paris-Nord Villepinte Exhibition Centre, which houses the rest of the bi-annual Maison + Objet.

Stepping through the doors of Hall 7 on consecutively drab late-January days was like experiencing a version of The Wizard of Oz: leaving the black and white Kansas cottage of the Villepinte Exhibition Centre behind and emerging into the blazing Technicolor of Munchkinland.

Popping out from between the usual collection of established and emerging brands revealing new top-of-the-line housing furnishings were an array of new products that can best be described with one word: fun. Fun shapes, fun colours, fun materials. Fun all around.

Collectively, these objects shaped landscapes that came alive in a wash of pastel hues of pink, purple, orange, and other yummy candy colours – a thankful reprieve from the slate-gray skies visible through the hall’s full-height glass walls. It’s clear that a distinctive and brave sense of design exists in the creators of these objects, just as a strong modelling approach is clearly employed among many of the most astonishing ones.

Soft shapes are emerging in the lighting world, with remarkable creations by French firm Cinna and Denmark-based Birgit Oestergaard. Elsewhere, majestic and sculptural objects formed spaces of expression, including monumental garden pots – with as much presence as the plants contain – by Dutch firm Bloom! and Italian firm Serralunga.

The Alice mirror, a new piece produced by Paris-based R’Pure Gallery, is a clever creation that ingeniously evokes its kids-lit inspiration. However, U.K.-based Habitat was the most prominent purveyor of the “fun” trend, occupying a large corner of the hall with its celebrity-designed Very Important Products for Kids. Be it the rather oblong, destructured shapes of Marcel Wanders’ Matryoshka boxes, the poofy tactility of astronaut Buzz Aldrin’s Moonbuzz hanging lamp, or Miss Piggy’s showy Hollywood mirror, Habitat’s new spring/summer collection makes you wish you were eight again.

It’s not accurate to say that designers were suddenly turning en masse to embrace the children’s market, but there was a decidedly whimsical, playful attitude at work that shone through in many of the most eye-catching objects on display. Now! design vivre demonstrates sometimes it’s best not to take design too seriously.