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Back in Black

September 7, 2010

WOW! If anyone had told me that this show would get even bigger and better than it has over the last 10 years, I would have doubted that it could. Turns out, it is both - bigger and better. So much bigger that even a show veteran like myself feels daunted by the volume and density of the exhibitors this season.

The addition of MEUBLE PARIS to MAISON & OBJET has greatly broadened the interior design sections SCENES INTERIEURES and COTE DECO, which have always focused on complete rooms. The lifestyle exhibits have bulged from Hall 5 into Hall 4, where they are crowding both the table top and the home textiles sections, especially with a new Crafts section having been added as well. And some have relocated into one of two brand new halls, 7 and 8 - about which more in a later blog.

Less than two hours into the show, it is clear which color will be the dominant one for the coming year. That color would be BLACK. Black, black and more black on walls, furniture and accessories. There is so much black that sometimes it's hard to distinguish the furnishings and decorative objects from the same color background. That's a surprising comeback for a neutral which only a few seasons ago retreated to the role of accent in order to make room for the great wave of grays. Grays are still with us - but even they are darker. They have moved from the silver and mid grays to the anthracites, so dark that sometimes they are hard to tell from black.

Whether it's the vampire influence or just a turn on the color wheel, black is coming out so powerfully as to impact on the color palette for fall '11 as a whole. We will see blackened greens, blackened blues, blackened browns, blackened reds and a very persistent blackened plums - a very rich and mysterious brew - very Rothko. There are so many all black exhibits or others dominated by black it's hard to single out any of them.

With the overwhelming interior choices offered, it is important to step back now and then at the end of a day to sort out what's really important coming toward us and what to leave behind as already past or ready to wait.

Essentially, there are two major statements made here: Either extreme MODERNE (in the historic sense) and including ART DECO, or going BAROQUE in a revival of traditional styles as previously noted.
Naturally, there are a few mutations in between but the above two are the ones that stand out and divide the tastemakers. One thing both have in common though: exaggeration.

In detail, this means for MODERNE: extreme sizes and forms - with beds and upholstery reaching weathering heights, outsize accessories, such as really big mirrors, lamps and chandeliers that hang overhead like so many giant clusters of grapes. There are humungous bed headboards more or less in the Hollywood style, referencing Jean Harlow, or enormous gilded sunbursts, or another, looking for all the world like a black lacquer tsunami.

These latter two were seen at Christopher Guy, who also featured oversized asymmetrical upholstered chairs as tall as a man, in lacquered frames, in black bien sur. In addition to black, another favorite color for furniture in the MODERNE category is ice cold and high gloss refrigerator white. Bright red is the most frequently chosen accent. All wood surfaces on MODERNE are shiny lacquer, silvered or gilded, all natural companions to the high potency gleam of chrome.

Fabrics are satins, velvets, leathers and suedes - and all are swathed in copious amounts of fur.

BAROQUE on the other hand goes for the skillfully worn look. Furniture finishes tend to be matte rather than shiny and deliberately understated. The understatement does not extend to heavy carvings, however. Deep, fully dimensioned carvings carry much of this look and are especially prevalent in enormous mirrors, oversized architecturally inspired lamp bases and sconces and are beginning to appear on well defined table legs and aprons.

The retail store manager for Mis En Demeure told me that their clients are asking for well-worn Persian rugs and distressed fabrics. In other words, they don't want anything looking too new. I guess some people prefer more than their jeans to be well broken in.

What stands out in this new direction beyond the curls and curves of furniture are the accessories: get ready for lots of cherubs, religious symbols and figures, gold dusted cut velvets and Fortuny pleating in the rich shadings of Van Dyke paintings. Tassels and trims will rebound prominently on upholstery and the old tete-a tete-settees are being revived as well. While most often used in the center of a room, there are also stretched versions meant for hotel lobbies or private clubs.

Either way, they are bound to be and are meant to be conversation pieces.
Over all hangs more than a whiff of the colonies.