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Daily Dispatches

September 8, 2008

Day 1
Paris, Parc d’Exposition - As soon as you clear the turnstiles clogged with people and luggage as both arrive fresh from nearby Charles de Gaulle, the main statement of this season’s Maison & Objet is abundantly clear: An ocean of gray awaits. Enough to drown in it. Too much of it.

Enough already! Gray, in all its variations casts a shadow over most settings dedicated to lifestyle and interior decoration. Walls are gray, furniture is gray, accessories are gray. Add white, silver and translucency, including revived Mercury Glass, and settings can take on a ghostly glow.

Fortunately, style leaders, such as Mise En Demeure, SIA Home and Rita Jordens lighten the mix with warmer driftwood finishes on wood and wicker (still gray), with plant life, the occasional splash of color, such as chrome yellow or magenta, or more often with lots of sparkle.

There is design schizophrenia at work here. Exhibitors don’t seem to be able to agree on whether they prefer a rustic farm approach to lead us back to nature or opt for pure Hollywood instead. Both directions are well represented.

Tex Artes displays an entire barnyard of farm animals: pigs, sheep, cows and geese, ostensibly intended to populate your home as permanent pets, and are echoed elsewhere with organic wood forms, nature’s own sculpture, log assemblages, antler chandeliers, twig lamp shades, fur blankets and hugely nubby throws. Bagnarest, on the other hand, makes one of the best cases for super sexy beds and seating covered in enough sparklers to satisfy Jean Harlow. Nearby, Vincenzo Antonuccio’s 10 ft. high crystal chandelier for VG Home makes its own case for excess.

More conservative exhibitors opt for natural linen with lots of white combinations, or, more daringly, natural linen with black. The only subtle color breakout I saw so far was at Kose, where matte gray ceramics were infinitely enhanced by powdery flesh tones and near neutral greens plus the surprise jolt of a shiny copper finish.

Furniture in metal mesh construction looked like the first real news: present at Jacques Pergay, represented in the US by Lane Venture, and at Cantori where a gold mesh dining table base topped in white marble, a gold filigree bed headboard and black accent tables share the same mesh construction.

Hoping to escape the grays as I head for Textile Hall tomorrow.

Day 2
Well. There is color after all at Maison & Objet - in domestics and other home textiles. Predictably, the plums and purples predominate in sheets as well as top-of-bed, decorative pillows and throws. Followed closely by fuchsia. Only the percentage varies whether main or accent color.

So far, fewer blues were seen than expected; beiges and browns rising to compete with the pervasive grays. Black important, alone and paired with white. A bold caramel, brandy or what used to be called "luggage" color (when there was still leather luggage) gets the attention for the most fashion forward neutral, adding a much needed lively note.

Reds making a strong showing, most often coupled with black, sometimes orange and/or pink. Maestro Raphael, a company well-known for its usually pale luxury linens makes a surprise showing of three vivid red beds. According to export manager, Roberto Beltrami, "to get the attention of Middle Eastern customers and Dubai’s luxury shoppers" — the first but not only such assertive comment heard at this show. Sonya Rykiel is another label featuring red with Asian design overtones.

In other textiles news, Malo, a well-known brand for super luxurious cashmere apparel, debuts bed linen ensembles here for the first time. Cashmere blankets and throws are, of course, part of the mix. Subtly supporting, sheets repeat a print version of knitting.

The overall effect of the design ties in with other small scale patterns seen elsewhere, which rely on an overall effect, in some cases, confetti like, rather than a defined pattern. Likewise, embellishments, even embroideries, tend to be less specific and formal - rather they pick up on more tailored motifs, such as the look of caning, even menswear foulards.

What bedding ensembles do not offer in over-the-top embellishments they make up for with sheen. Lots of it. More charmeuse and outright satins were seen, especially at Descamp, where an ensemble of soft beige and raspberry sherbet was subtly embroidered with coordinating ginkgo leaves.

Zucchi, now a majority owner of Maschioni, the source for exceptional print quality, still shows Middle Eastern influenced patterns in hot desert colors.
Throws add special interest this time. They are getting noticed primarily for their chunky textures, both woven but more often presented in bulky knits.

Day 3
Decorative Trends: None that would be game changers. Details, finishes bring subtle shifts, refinement rather than revolution in furniture.

Contemporary continues to evolve. Traditional in reinvention mode.

Irreverence toward historic references creating newness. Asian influences growing but slowly.

Mountain lodge style on the rise with antlers prominent on furniture, tableware and particularly chandeliers. However, the goal here is not to be rustic. These furnishings are meant for luxurious chalets. Mixed with plenty of crystal, silver and horn utensils for flash.

Silver leaf and black lacquer are most prominent furniture finishes, often used together in settings. Some of the best can be seen at Asiatides.

Always an attention getter with its previously all-white or white-with-natural show-stopping displays, this time, it focused on black or red lacquer and cabinets sheafed in silver leaf. Silver was also the favored finish for furniture and accessories at Lam Lee, Europe.

Transparency a new preoccupation of furniture sources intended to lighten up otherwise solid shapes. Red Lacquer Interiors featured an especially attractive black lacquer dining chair with pierced back along with a red lacquer dining top, also pierced, to appear like floral petals.

Mirror was used as a surface on Deco pieces. Maison d’Or used brown mirror to cover a cabinet and added snakeskin "hardware." Snakeskin, alligator, real or faux, remain fashionable covers for furniture pieces and accessories as is shagrin. Ceramic tile in elaborate designs to surface cabinets, on the other hand, is new. Jean Boggio designs them for France in 3-d majolica.

Metal is another material that’s often pierced, meshed or adorned with what appear to be nailheads to draw attention to structure rather than style.

Likewise, leather appears in new guises. It may be adorned with sequins or trapuntoed as at Philipp Plein, tooled or patterned as in a silver patent leather chair patterned in what looked like a jacquard design at d’Argentas.’

The prize for novelty must go to the French bombe chest which appeared in many places as a vehicle for stripes, argyles, even racing numbers.

While not too many fine rugs were offered, the designs at Sahrai of Milan stood out. Reinvented classical motifs were rendered in three-dimensional knotted silk on linen ground.

Textiles were limited primarily to bedding, bath and table linens with the prize for novelty going to Le Patisserie Japan, which fashioned guest towels and washcloths into cakes, pastries and parfaits in ready-to go gift packages. 

The big textiles houses, i.e. the likes of Pierre Frey, Canovas or Nobilis were missed as they reserve their new introductions for the January rather than the September show. 

Adieu Paris and Maison & Objet. Til next time.