Toward the light

Paris, a city that pulses with unrelenting style, offered up a visual cornucopia during Maison & Objet this past January. Overlapping with Paris Déco Off and Men’s Fashion Week, along with the revelry surrounding the hotly anticipated and recently opened Frank Gehry–designed Fondation Louis Vuitton, the semi-annual Parisian trade show added to the cultural mix, featuring recent highlights from the global design community. And in the wake of the dark shadow cast by the horrific Charlie Hebdo events of the previous weeks, M&O provided a welcome reprieve from the heaviness pervading the city with an inspiring sampling of furniture and lighting from Europe, Asia and North America. 

Freshly announced as the winner of the 2015 Royal Architectural Institute of Canada’s Allied Arts Medal, Vancouver-based Omer Arbel presented an array of suspended sculptural installations at Bocci, the lighting company he founded in 2005. Launching the strikingly amorphic and cloudlike 73 series of lights created from glass blown into a ceramic fabric formwork, Bocci made a lasting impression at M&O after a five-year absence. 

Another highlight was the introduction of French porcelain company Bernardaud’s collaboration with artist Marina Abramovi, the result of which is a limited-edition plate collection, entitled “Misfits for the Table.” Bernardaud has previously launched similar collections featuring the work of artists such as Sophie Calle, Alexander Calder, Jeff Koons and David Lynch. To mark the occasion, the artist screened her amusing 10-minute film entitled, appropriately, The Abramovi Method: Misfits for the Table, at the David Lynch-designed subterranean nightclub Silencio. Lynch’s fingerprints are all over the city; at the venerable Fondation Cartier, there was a concurrent group exhibition inspired by and including the work of the auteur. And last year, a show of his photographs took place at the Maison Européenne de la Photographie during M&O’s winter edition. 

It is this spirit of collaboration and interdisciplinarity inherent in Maison & Objet – and in Paris – that results in the heady mix of culture and commerce that the city embodies, contributing to its well-deserved status as a global hub of art and design. 

1-ON THE ROCKS The new 73 series of lights continues Bocci’s explorations in glass. The process begins by sewing a loose vessel of heat-resistant ceramic fabric and blowing hot glass inside, imbuing the glass with a formal and textural expression that becomes permanent as it cools. Forced air pressure creates the final form, while the temporary fabric shell provides both a shape and a texture counterintuitive to glass, evoking a formal language we intuitively associate with fabric. A flat LED lamp is positioned to fill the resulting volume with diffuse light, accentuating the perceptual dimensions of the piece. Resembling a clear jellyfish or an amorphous ice cube, each 73 is completely unique in proportion, size and shape.

2-WOOLY BULLY Designed by superstar Spanish architect and designer Patricia Urquiola for French company Coedition, the Altay armchair is an evocative combination of the refined and the primitive. The elegantly proportioned contours of the solid beech frame contrast beautifully with a wild and woolly Mongolian goatskin seat and back. The frame is available in either a black gloss finish or a natural varnish, and the goatskin comes in complementary black and natural.

3-LUCKY STRIPE  Havana-born, Paris-educated René Barba designed these charmingly graphic paper table lamps for Ligne Roset that amuse with their lollipop forms and hand-drawn patterns. Utlilizing a lightweight, tear-proof, non-flammable and non-woven fabric  to form a double-sided envelope that rests on a black lacquered-steel base, the lamp is a simple yet playful study in stripes or checks. Available in two sizes. 

4-SAINTS 7 SINNERS While available in a range of appealing colours, we like the bright canary-yellow version of Rodet’s Le Saint, a sculpturally whimsical coat rack designed
by Fred Rieffel. Made of powdercoated steel tubing, the rack can accommodate a variety of coats, jackets, bags and personal effects for both the tallest of adults and the smallest of children.

5-GET LUCKY Blackbody is making advances with OLED (organic light-emitting diode) lighting, and its Lucky Eye Lamp is no exception. Designed by Aldo Cibic and Tommaso Corà of Cibicworkshop, the piece has a dual function: it is both a mirror and a light source, with OLED panels arranged in a radial form around the convex surface of the mirror. The Lucky Eye Lamp captivated visitors with its reflective properties and an otherworldly light quality.

6-STEAMPUNK English designer Tom Raffield creates handmade contemporary light shades and ceiling lighting through a proprietary process of steam-bending strips of wood, all sustainably crafted in Cornwall. The beautiful, sculptural form of the 

No. 1 is one of Raffield’s most iconic designs. Steam-bent strips of ash (shown), oak or walnut are woven, coiled and twisted around one another to produce a unique and stunning lampshade whether the light is on or off. Each No. 1 is individually handcrafted, signed and dated in the studio workshop.

7-BED HEAD Shanghai-based Neri & Hu, Designers of the Year for the 2015 edition of Maison & Objet Asia, introduced the Frame bed for the first time at M&O Paris. Designed for De La Espada, the Frame series comprises a sofa and a bed, both of which feature a straightforward wooden frame structure to which various accessories can be clipped, such as a tray or light. The bed comes in three sizes and three types of wood – ash, oak or walnut – with an upholstered fabric headboard.

8-WE WOULD The eye-catching Scarpa W from Portugal’s Wewood is an intricately crafted sideboard that emphasizes traditional joinery techniques. The structure and interiors are comprised wholly of solid walnut, and two drawers and two shelves permit a variety of objects to be stored efficiently in compartments. Contrasting sliding doors provide visual and textural contrast; one of the doors
is fabricated with both walnut and oak components, creating a three-dimensional hexagonal pattern.

9-I FEEL FOR EIFFEL Conveniently stackable, the new Tour Eiffel chair by Alain Moatti for Coedition boasts an epoxy-lacquered cast-aluminum structure, and is suitable for both indoor and outdoor use. The chair is available in a plethora of attractive colours, including black, white, red, aluminum and Eiffel.

10-REVENGE OF THE NERDS Designed by David Geckeler, the Nerd chair by Danish company Muuto is constructed of wood veneer form-pressed into shape for the back and seat, glued together with four solid wood legs, and finally lacquered in one of eight colours. It’s a classic form that’s quite familiar – the bright colour and uniformity of the material suggests plastic – but its all-wood construction is a surprise and its pronounced wood grain visible beneath the richly hued lacquer is lovely.

11-PLASTIQUE FANTASTIQUE Designed by Jean Louis Iratzoki for Alki, a company located in the French Basque Country, the comfortable and generou
sly sized Kuskoa Bi is the first chair on the market to be manufactured in bioplastic. Its semi-concave shell structure is cut in such a way as to optimize comfort and back and arm support, and is delicately placed on a solid wood trestle. Utilizing a bioplastic polymer made from plant-based renewable resources, the chair not only looks great in shades of pink, light blue, white and black, but it sets a new standard for sustainable furniture design.

12-LEAN ON ME  Whether you prefer a single seat or a two-seater, the Lean series from Danish company Addinterior blends modern design with traditional craftsmanship. Consistent with clean-lined Scandinavian design, a shell of high-resilience foam upholstered in black or grey wool or cognac leather “leans”  on a frame of solid oak available in either a natural oiled or black lacquered finish. The accompanying flat leather cushions are delicately stitched in a quilted pattern, evoking the classic Chanel handbag.