Look On The Bright Side

If ever I needed a lift, it was this past January — with the holidays come and gone, Toronto in the midst of a deeper-than-usual deep freeze, and news of the world economy going from bad to worse to worst. And so, when the invitation arrived to cover the winter edition of Maison & Objet (months late, due to an oversight, with the show only a week away), I jumped at the chance. This despite the fact I’m not the easiest traveller, usually requiring at least a month between the initial “Oh, OK, I’ll go” and the last-minute-panicky “Oh, man, do I have to?”

Yes, I had to, and I’m glad I did. Paris worked its usual magic. And the raison d’tre of M&O — now! design vivre, showcasing the furniture fair’s most progressive work — was one of the best shows I’ve attended. Though overall attendance was down from last year (I learned later), it didn’t feel that way in Hall 7, now!’s home.

The big thrill for me was seeing so much Jaime Hayn under one roof. At the centre of the hall, Baccarat introduced the lighthearted Spanish designer’s delightful Crystal Candy Set (see Last Word, page 38), surely the show’s main attraction. Nearby, a steady stream of visitors marvelled at Hayn’s whimsical Fantasy collection for Lladr, including two new introductions for ’09. Elsewhere, Gaia & Gino displayed his 2008 Grid Vases, inspired by ancient English and Turkish armor; and Bd Barcelona Design made space for his Showtime Collection of furniture, inspired by classic MGM musicals.

Sharing the spotlight with Showtime at Bd — and equally theatrical — was the new Dal Black Label Collection. These limited-edition furniture pieces are based on never-realized designs by the Spanish surrealist painter in the 1930s, when he collaborated with the well-known French interior designer Jean-Michel Frank. I especially like the sculptural and slightly sinister Muletas & Cajones lamps.

If Jaime Hayn ruled the show as designer, Ligne Roset ruled as company, with an astonishing number of introductions (25 and counting). Seminal French designer Pierre Paulin was responsible for six of these: four re-editions (three chairs and an occasional table) and two entirely new creations (a chair and a desk). Young French designer Philip Nigro, on the other hand, was responsible for just one, but it’s a dilly: Confluences, a collection of chairs and sofas whose pieces fit together like a puzzle. Spilling out of one end of Ligne Roset’s expansive space, the colourful creations seemed the very antithesis of gloom and doom.

1–Perfect Fit

Philippe Nigro’s puzzle-like Confluences collection for Ligne Roset offers a multiplicity of configurations. Each piece unites varying seat heights and depths, supported by a well-considered combination of varying densities of foam. Configurations include armchairs (a); loveseats for two (b); three-seat sofas (c) and four-seat sofas (d); plus ottomans and occasional tables. Available in 27 vibrant colours in a variety of covering materials. ligne-roset.com

2–Bigger Is Better

Designed by Xavier Lust for Cerruti Baleri, the Sumo collection of upholstered seats includes a couch, armchair and pouf. The voluptuous roundness of the seats is meant to evoke the power, balance, serenity and “force tranquille” of a Sumo wrestler. The stitching lines of classical and contemporary fabrics exalt Sumo’s form. baleri-italia.com

3–Return Engagement

Back in 1955, Pierre Paulin designed (for Thonet) a fireside chair and armchair employing the techniques of automotive leatherwork and using an elasticized fabric. He offered an additional version with “ears” — which Ligne Roset has “re-edited for 2009” under the name Archi. The chair marries a black lacquered or brilliant chromed tubular steel base with a covered, sculpted foam seat on a metallic frame. Fully removable covers are available in leather, microfibre and fabric. ligne-roset.com

4–Hello, Dal!

Bd Barcelona Design commemorates the 20th anniversary of the death of Spanish surrealist painter Salvador Dal with the amusing Dal Black Label Collection. All materials in the limited-edition furniture collection — based on ideas Dal jotted in his notepad for a collaboration with French interior designer Jean-Michel Frank in the ’30s — are finished in black, including lime wood, casted brass, marble, darkened gold leaf, satin and chiffon. One-of-a-kind pieces include the Leda chair (a), Leda low table (b), Vis–vis de Gala loveseat (c) and Muletas & Cajones lamps (d). bdbarcelonadesign.com

5–In Full Flower

Contemporary artist Michael Lin designed the floral Formosa carpet for Spanish company Nanimarquina (“Formosa” recalls the name given by Portuguese navigators to the island of Taiwan in the 16th century). Handmade of 100 per cent New Zealand wool, the carpet’s background may be in red or blue. nanimarquina.com

6–Send In The Clowns

Jaime Hayn’s Fantasy collection for Lladr combines the familiar (love, the family, childhood) and the fantastical (the circus, dreams, the magic of the unexpected). The renowned Spanish porcelain brand is introducing two new “members” of The Fantasy: the Clown Lamp (a) and Love Explosion (b). lladro.com

7–Simplicity Itself

Belgian architect Vincent Van Duysen has collaborated with outdoor furniture maker Trib on a sleek new line called Neutra, which comprises lounger (shown), armchair, easy chair and footrest, along with table and coffee table. Frames are made of painted aluminum, injected under high pressure; seats are made of bent beech wood. Tabletops come in thermally tempered glass, with a ceramic layer burnt on the surface, or Zimbabwe black granite. tribu.com

8–On Dry Land

Christien Meindertsma’s Urchin pouf, mimicking the sea creature, is made of 100 per cent New Zealand wool. Handknitted in the Netherlands, it comes in two sizes. The Amsterdam-based distributor is t.e. — which stands for Thomas Eyck, who works together with designers of his own choice to develop products. thomaseyck.com