Over the past few days, the Paris Nord Villepinte exhibition center has been transformed into a meeting place and mecca for buyers, interior designers, and design pros at large. The reason was Maison & Objet, the biannual trade fair at the center of Paris Design Week. With its events, temporary exhibitions, and more than 200 participating venues, it’s no wonder why M&O—as it’s commonly called—was filled to the brim with interesting and noteworthy design.
This year, Maison & Objet’s Rising Talent Awards focused specifically on designers from the U.S.—and six talented individuals or firms in particular. Rosie Li, Kin & Company, Green River Project, Harold, Bailey Fontaine, and Alex Brokamp presented their work along the entryway to Villepinte’s Hall 6. Brokamp, a student at the ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, told AD PRO at the fair that he looks to “play with familiar material forms with a personal spin” in his practice. The minimalist and made-in-L.A. works he presented, such as a pea pod–evoking aluminum lamp, drew inspiration from Christopher Stuart and Leon Ransmeier, his design heroes. Brokamp focuses on what he calls “small-scale craft” and keeps close ties with the makers he works with. Perhaps unsurprising, the five other young designers honored by the Rising Talent Awards all live in Brooklyn. The earth tones and curvilinear shapes used by Li were indicative of the group’s strong organic undercurrents. Fontaine’s works made good use of concrete and cement, while Green River Project presented a comfy raffia club chair.
Elsewhere in the city, organic shapes from U.S. designers continued to make appearances. In the “American Design in Paris” exhibition at the Haut Marais–set Galerie Joseph, works focused on handcrafted lighting. (Allied Maker, Lindsey Adelman, and Steven Haulenbeek are just a few of those included in the show.) What is more, at the Saint-Germain des Prés–set Triode Design, the gallery’s specialty in North American design came to the fore, thanks to its exhibition of Calico Wallpaper‘s serene new landscape designs.
Americans in Paris aside, Maison & Objet regulars know to look out for the Designer of the Year prize—arguably the fair’s most prestigious honor. This year’s winner was architect and designer Laura Gonzalez, who at only 37 years old has already completed a number of notable commissions. Recently, she refurbished the Relais Christine hotel in Paris, as well as the brand-new and very chic revamp of the esteemed Lapérouse restaurant. She’s also completed the eclectic La Gare restaurant in the 16th arrondissement and a series of stores along the Champs-Élysées. Speaking at the time of the award’s announcement, Gonzalez commented, “I feel that spaces need to have their own soul.” This sentiment is evident not only in her award-worthy portfolio but also in the cafes she designed for Maison & Objet’s exhibition halls. Thanks in part to their exotic Pierre Frey wallpaper, the areas were as appealing for their design quotient as they were for their refreshments.
Also of note, the fair drove home a thematic focus on office design. An expansive business-meeting laboratory designed by Philippe Boisselier took center stage at the fair, while additional examples of exemplary office-related designs abounded. From an educational standpoint, a handful of the fair’s conferences provided various insights. On Friday, French architect Jean-Philippe Nuel spoke on merging office and hospitality spaces, while Mercedes Erra, executive president of Havas Worldwide, also gave a talk related to the theme of workspaces.
Nevertheless, one of the most insightful lectures united the fair’s dual stakes in workspaces and in the U.S. market. In a lecture titled “The New American Consumer: Today to 2030,” trend expert Tom Mirabile discussed the future of design, emphasizing the large number of millennials expected to work from home by 2030, as well as the increasingly prominent existence of the multigenerational home. “In the future, design has to focus on time, convenience, identity, status, experience, space, health and wellness, safety, flexibility, and sustainability,” he stated. A tall order—but likely one very familiar to the forward-thinking designers in attendance.
Along with these thematic undertones, the fair is also dedicated to showing fine examples of new product, with this edition being no exception. Tabletop-scaled objects are the show’s speciality, with lines such as Zaha Hadid Design’s Rosenthal porcelain collection being of particular note. Elsewhere, Paola Navone’s collaboration with German porcelain manufacturer Reichenbach—a grouping of handmade silver pieces infused with porcelain and titled Vocatio—sparkled almost as much as Atelier Swarovski’s works. For the Austrian house, Patricia Urquiola created iridescent containers on flexible Kvadrat fabrics and Daniel Libeskind designed a crystal chess game. But it was Leblon Delienne who perhaps best infused the fair with a sense of levity, thanks to its collaboration with Arik Levy, Marcel Wanders, and Kelly Hoppen on a series of cartoonlike characters.
While the Maison & Objet fair concludes September 10, Paris Design Week continues on through the end of the week. Throughout the City of Light, brands and shops have been hosting a litany of exciting debuts and exhibitions. As part of the festivities, Vitra presented a collaboration with London-based design duo Raw Edges, which focused on colorful vases, bowls, trays, and decorative pillows, which will be available through the Centre Pompidou’s shop. In the 17th arrondissement, carpet manufacturer Tai Ping presented the studio’s latest project—a collaboration with designer Noe Duchaufour-Lawrance titled “Raw.” And in the heart of the city, Paris’s historic department store BHV unveiled an exhibition on Italian design. Ultimately, these are just a small sampling of what’s on view in the bustling metropolis this week.