Europe's largest design exhibition — Maison & Objet — is underway in Paris, revealing the direction interior design will take this autumn/winter and beyond into 2013. British design journalist Ellie Tennant reports for Apartment Therapy on the key trends to emerge.
The show's curated areas center around themes of minimalism, elements and essentials — highlighting a return to fundamental values, simplicity and the basics of design. Many of the exhibitors follow suit, exploring raw materials and drawing inspiration from the natural world. Wood, paper, concrete, stone, metal and traditional crafts are all explored, but this is simplicity with a twist.
Wood is delicate and fine. It's used to make fragile plywood meshes and grilles, flat veneers and layered to create curved, fluid shapes. It's also spun into fabrics or presented in its most raw form - simple, unfinished branches and twigs.
'One piece of lamp' by Lee Kiseung of Studio Inbetween epitomises this trend; More air than wood, wafer-like strips combine in a mesh and create stunning shadows on a room's walls and ceiling.
Similarly, Finnish Secto Design's debut collection of flask-shaped pendants channels this look.
Tokyo-based Woodum cuts ultra-thin sheets of wood then impregnates them with resin to create roll-able table mats that are literally paper-thin.
Woodum has also created a method of cutting fine strips of wood and weaving with them to create wooden fabrics for accessories.
Livette la Suissette's rustic wooden stools with tree trunk seats and branch legs couldn't be more 'back to basics'.
Paper in stark contrast, is sturdier than expected, taking the place of harder materials such as wood and glass and performing tasks it's not traditionally associated with.
Meanwhile, Serax's Maison d'être collection includes Debbie Wijskamp's chic 'Paper Pulp' cardboard waterproof vases.
Japanese designer Shin Azumi's new 'Still Life' range for Kami-Mon includes paper bottles and fruit, proving that flat-packed, air-filled paper objects can create just as dramatic a display as solid ones.
Seletti's new cardboard pendants are eco-friendly as well as chic.
Similarly, Japanese brand Cuiora has collaborated with Bunaco to create lampshades made from tightly-rolled spirals of recycled paper.
Concrete is tactile and sensual, not rough. Far from being the immovable, inert, dark substance we know — it's now rippled, folded, pigmented, luminous, even magnetic. Interviewed in the show catalogue, architect Rudy Ricciotti says: "Concrete gives off a powerful sensuality. A woman once said to me on a work site that concrete's 'skin' thrilled her more than a man's."
One designer who has embraced concrete this season is Doreen Westphal, now operating under the new label: Mensch Made. She likens the material to 'pizza dough' and her new concrete covered stool has edges that look soft and slightly frilled — reminiscent of pastry circles or pasta sheets perhaps — embossed with a subtle floral detail.
Westphal's concrete 'Pencil Case' and 'Hold On' egg cup have magnets inside them so paper clips or tea spoons can stick, while her 'Empty Pocket' holds coins, keys and a phone, propped between three coins in slots. "The ancient Romans used concrete to make their bath houses," explains Doreen. "I'm just playing with a material that has been around for over 2000 years." She's currently experimenting with coloured concrete...
...as is Luca Nichetto for Petite Friture, who produces 'Swell' concrete accessories in grey, coral and mustard.
Concrete buildings can be dark, but designers from Litracon have produced a new 'luminous concrete' material with built-in glass fibres (shown in the YES FUTURE area, curated by Vincent Grégoire).
Stone forms the foundation of many new designs this season, signalling a return to the raw minerals our planet is made of. Previously unfashionable marble surfaces are embraced and pebble-like shapes, diamonds and geological inspirations abound.
Marble rocks - it's official. The cool, veined surface that until recently was associated with1980s banks and bathrooms is back with a vengeance; Ferm Living's new Marble wallpaper looks just like the real thing...
...while Kaaron Design's new Luli table by Aron and Karine Nicolet is a stylish marble/wood hybrid.
Wooden pebbles and 3D diamonds (which, incidentally, are formed from carbon-compressed wood) as wall hangers have popped up at Ferm Living too, while a similar but more rounded, organic design — 'Stone Wood' — can be found at Slow Design.
The YES FUTURE exhibition centres around 'Ciottolo' a cluster of enormous fibreglass pebble stools by lI Laboratorio dell'imperfetto — their shapes inspired by the smooth appearance of rocks that are worn and gently eroded by river water. Simultaneously ancient and futuristic, their surface is reminiscent of the pearlescent lining of a shell or the iridescent swirling hues on the oily surface of petroleum.
The organic rugs and pouffes by Thai design team Peakchan from Khon Kaen University are covered with woollen 'moss' and have real smooth stones stitched into them for a pebbles-underfoot sensation.
Meanwhile, the new ceramic 'Dusty Diamonds' pieces by Swedish studio AEO are inspired by diamond shapes and crystal patterns, and look more like Origami paper than porcelain.
Metal is mostly copper — an emerging trend that gives an industrial feel to designs. Simple plumbing pipes become chic and luxurious when polished — beauty is found in the most basic of materials.
Ferm Living fix shiny copper pipes together to create elegant pen holders and pen pots, or pour copper into moulds for sleek trays.
Since Milan, Mensch Made designer Doreen Westphal has updated her adjustable magnetic 'Suspended Tube' lamp range with a new table lamp version, finished with a copper pipe.
Report and Show Photos: Ellie Tennant
(Images: Show photos: Ellie Tennant, Manufacturer/Designer Images: as linked above)