Design, art, craft and technology made a thrilling mix at Maison & Objet, the huge five-day international homeware trade fair filling eight lofty halls on the edge of Paris.
Paintings became wallpaper, while sculpture — in wood, metal and resin — became furniture. Weaving, carpentry and glass-blowing flourished. Lights sported cool, slimline, energy-saving LEDs. Old materials were moulded into ambitious new shapes, and new materials were made from salvaged waste.
Young London-based designers held court in the prestigious Rising Talents showcase. A shout-out for colour came from John Booth, a down-to-earth Northern fashion and illustration Central Saint Martins graduate, with colourful collages for prints, clothes or, Picasso style, for striking ceramics. Marcin Rusak, originally from Poland, uses his London studio to dry sacks of flowers from “friendly florists”. These are set into an inky resin which is sliced for table tops, screens and lamps.
Also loving resin is Zuza Mengham making colourful crystalline bookends, small tables and small sculptures. But the most established is young south Londoner Sebastian Cox, who now has a team of five in his Greenwich workshop. Timber is his passion, with tree trunks gathered from street pruning, building sites and garden renovations.
British design was everywhere. “We have the largest design sector in Europe, and the second largest in the world,” said Sir John Sorrell, founder and chairman of the Creative Industries Federation. Ercol, the well-established family furniture business, said exports are strong. People loved the pretty new green of its classic Fifties chairs, and the hand-chiselled look of a sideboard, done using a computer-controlled CNC machine.
South London weaver Eleanor Pritchard was part of a strong UK contemporary craft contingent, which turned homely handmade into desirable cutting-edge design. Elegant geometric cloths were enhanced by the British flair for colour and texture displayed by Wallace Sewell, a thriving two-woman London partnership.
Pattern is a UK forte with designers digitally printing exquisite artwork on fabrics and papers. Prints on velvet gained a depth of texture, and this is now a big trend. Royal College of Art graduate Kit Miles filled his booth with trademark artistry and detail. Fine artist Helen Wilson paints her dark designs in oils, and reworks the still-wet surface until it’s right for her dramatic wallpapers.
Kit Miles digitally prints exquisite artworks onto silk wallpaper
Textile graduates feed Jenny Wingfield’s company, Flock, with patterns for papers and fabrics. Nurturing another band of artists is Nosca Northfield of luxury fabrics, wallcoverings and furnishings brand 17 Patterns. By contrast Abigail Edwards has pencil-drawn her deliciously delicate designs of twisting twigs and plaited hair for papers, fabrics and accessories.
East London contemporary lighting and jewellery designer Fiona Gall displayed delicate chandeliers with garlands of crystal beads and sculpted metal wings, and glass artist Jonathan Rogers trailed “canes” across elegant pendant lights in a display of ancient Venetian craft. Concrete got a makeover to create elegant basins, and terracotta was used for elongated square-section lights with diffused strips of LEDs — perfect for a dining table.
Fiona Gall makes delicate bespoke contemporary lighting
One stand bore a simple title: Zaha Hadid. The late, great architect is now a multi-faceted British brand. Less flashy is Royal Crown Derby, showing a new black-and-white bone china with hand-applied gold details. Kevin Oakes, the new owner who has invested £1 million of his own money in the brand says: “This design heritage and craftsmanship will always appeal to our global clients.”