AT Europe: Paris - Eco Self-Consciousness at Maison & Objet

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Don't these rubber-upholstered stools look like they could be made from recycled tires, complete with tire-tread flowers? At least that's what I was thinking when I spotted them at the Salon Maison & Objet, while a passing American guy wondered aloud to his boyfriend about the marks they would make on his behind...

A girl minding the stand at Italian distributor COVO asked if I needed any information. "Are these made from recycled rubber?" I asked (ridiculously?), while running my hand across the top, and noticing how sticky it seemed. "Hmm," she said, smiling and batting what looked like teenage eyelashes. She appeared to be Italian, so I switched languages, asking again. Finally she answered: "Well, why not?"

Um, does that mean yes?

"Well, I'd say yes," she said, unconvincingly.

Thankfully a man who looked like he was her father walked up, so I asked him.

"Oh, no," he said, "it's not recycled." When I said they looked like tires, he seemed to think I had lost my head. "It's natural rubber," he said, "from trees."

I tried to tell him how funny it was that they tricked your eye with their tire-tread flowers, into almost thinking they were recycled tires themselves. But he didn't seem to follow me. Later, when I got home, I called a friend, and luckily he understood what I meant. "So what, now they design things to look recycled?" he said. Which was my point exactly! Ironic eco-self-consciousness at the design fair.

"Flora Gum" stools by Danish designer Maria Kirk Mikkelsen are available via COVO.

- Kristin Hohenadel blogging from rue Vieille du Temple, Paris, France. She can be reached at kristinh @ apartmenttherapy . com

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