Paris When It Sizzles

Hermine Mariaux, October 25, 2012

PARIS - Nowhere are trends in color and style more articulately stated and presented in the context of powerful influences impacting housing than here at the Maison & Objet show.

Tradition meets contemporaryTradition meets contemporary on this pillow from Atelier de France.

     From the beginning, it was clear that the September show was conflicted between the continuation of all that Modern stands for - spare form, absence of embellishment, functionality, purpose - and the renewed emergence of romance and adornment recalling some of the most decorative periods in history.
     "Less is more," it seems, is no longer enough.
     Here are some of the most directional trends:

19th Century Revival
A re-examination of the heady brew of styles converging at the turn of the century - the 19th into the 20th, that is - drew attention back to the overlapping expressions of Victoriana, Art Nouveau, Edwardian and even Second Empire extravagance, culminating in a Neo-Romantic spirit reminiscent of the Great Country Houses of Britain. Colors were rich, deep jewel tones set against deep sepia. Think "Downton Abbey" and you get the picture.

Baroque was front and center as far as trends go, especially in interiors on display, and gaining considerable momentum
Detail of pearl embroideryDetail of pearl embroidery on a duvet cover at BluMarine.
since the first straws in the wind signaled this direction roughly two years ago. By avoiding religious symbolism so widespread during this period, the style has found its groove in elaborately gilded carvings on furniture, mirrors and accessories, and in richly embellished textiles reminiscent of the bejeweled costumes and lavish interiors bathed in rich and moody colors as they appear in period paintings.
     In textiles, some of the eye-catching designs bearing out the return to luxury and period styles, especially in bedding, decorative pillows and upholstery included:
     • Return of large scale damasks, jacquards, brocades and luminous silks;
     • Velvet crowding out linen this time as most important solid;
     • Tapestry and needlepoint looks re-emerging;
     • Foulards, a reminder of smoking jackets and silk robes worn at the Fin de Sciecle;
     • Pattern on pattern, an Edwardian return in mini wovens and prints;
     • Paisleys in strong rebound;
     • Heavy use of metallics: gold, silver, pewter, rose colored copper yarns;
    • Embellishments, including embroideries, appliqués, feather and lace trims and surface mounted pearls and precious stones (imitation);
     • Contrast piping and button tufting seen often on curvaceous upholstery pieces;
    • Animal skins: boat loads of fur, often real, along with snake skin and ostrich, shagreen, butter s
Paisleys from BecaraA selection of paisleys from Becara
oft leathers and suedes - all predictable and timeless companions to luxury;
   • Not quite ready for prime time but coming soon: print and woven renditions of minerals and semi-precious stones.

Luxury was not just skin deep. It drew on long practiced techniques, crafts and almost forgotten skills. The touch of hand is once again an appreciated and important ingredient signaling demand for intrinsic quality of materials and workmanship used in creating objects and furnishings. The only modern technique contributing to "process": digitally created prints.

This is a buzzword you will hear more of. It is nature's way of changing the perception of color. Chiaroscuro originally described the effects of deterioration and decay on surfaces exposed to the ravages of inclement weather, with frequent reference to the once beautiful colors but fading architecture of Venice. Today we try to reproduce the resulting patina with aging techniques emulating chiaroscuro in home textiles, furniture and decorative objects.

The Surprise Comeback of Black
The ferocity with which black re-emerged as the lead color for all of the above came as a shock. Not that black was ever absent from the scene or comes as a new invention. The color (or neutral, if you prefer) has had its star turns in both apparel and home furnishings more than once.
     What makes black especially interesting this time around is that it is interjecting itself into other colors by shading them into a new darker color palette to result in near black, such as blackened purple, shaded ruby red, blackened emerald, midnight blue, blackened gunmetal grays and, finally, black on black.
     This color trend is only beginning but will accelerate as the pendulum swings away from the brights into new depths appropriate to and dramatizing period revivals.

Continuing and proliferating: Brights

Printed lacePrinted lace bedding at Essix Bedding
Notwithstanding where color is headed from here, color now still relies on the neon power of fuchsias, bright purples, turquoise into teals and true blues, and acidic greens, but broadening out into leafy jungle greens and dipping into emerald, Citrusy yellows in zesty contrast to grays or lively companions to other brights often combined in patchwork designs.
     They show no sign of dimming down. The brights also remain popular companions to ongoing Modern and Asian designs. The latter manage to look both ancient and modern at the same time. Neither style is destined for the dustbin, but didn't get as much attention at Maison & Objet as in previous seasons because of the strong re-emergence of Tradition.

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