Maison & Objet 2012, Paris
Cutback culture may be dominating the pages of newspapers, but behind the doors of the exhibition halls of the Parc des Expositions in Paris Nord Villepinte, and the galleries flanking the Seine, fresh new product design from old and new sources was flourishing last weekend at Maison & Objet.
Admittedly, economy and accessibility could be seen to be playing a role in some of the newer offerings. Established designers and design houses appear to be looking to small but perfectly formed product to shore up business.
Tom Dixon previewed his new range Eclectic (due to launch in August), featuring accessories and tabletop pieces in his signature materials of copper, glass and wood, while Belgium's Alain Berteau launched a company, Objekten, that focuses on simple, well-crafted, everyday products.
Denmark's Hay, meanwhile, presented a stand that was pure candy to design-tuned eyes seeking beauty in the quotidien and mundane - a vast collection of brightly coloured stationary, wooden trays and tools for grooming, laundry, cooking and working.
Also new to the Maison scene and chiming with the mood for accessibility was Ghent-based Labt, a design house showcasing furniture designed by Belgian architects and graphic designers and using plywood for the most part, to great effect.
This being France, there was plenty of Gallic talent on show. We viewed the well-established Sentou with fresh eyes, its stand an alluring riot of colourful shelving and tables (by the in-house team) and pieces from a new favourite, the Paris-based daughter of design dynasty the Hansen Family, Gesa Hansen.
Twenty-year-old lighting company Forestier reinvented and relaunched itself with ENO co-founder Jean-Dominique Leze at the creative helm, and dazzled with a range of sculptural lighting from an impressive roll call of designers including Arik Levy, Sebastian Bergne, Ionna Vautrin, and Laurence Brabant.
Brand new maison d'edition Marcel By introduced itself with mirrors, shelving and chairs from founders Stephan Lanez, Samuel Accoceberry, Noé Duchaufour Lawrances and Jakob + MacFarlane. Tolix sustained its recent reinvention with a new desk and shelving system from Sebastian Bergne and free-standing shelves from Normal Studio - as did cabinet company Drugeot Labo, whose wooden shelving units become ever more colourful and inventive.
Maison stalwart Ligne Roset presented an impressive stand brimming with newly produced pieces by the older guard - Pierre Paulin (reissues from his Elysée Palace designs of the 1970s), Jean Nouvel and Pierre Charpin - and brilliant fresh talent in the form of Japanese designer Yota Kakuda and young French collective Numéro 111.
Italian design house Gervasoni chose Maison as its platform to introduce a new offshoot with a focus on the bedroom. The Letti & Co collection launched with five fabric-finished bed designs by Paola Navone. Fellow Italians Alessi, meanwhile, chose Maison as the European launch pad for their meta-collection of trays, (Un)Forbidden City, designed by Chinese architects.
Out in town, no fewer than two galleries - the recently established Carpenters Workshop and the Pierre-Alain Challier - helped Nendo celebrate its tenth anniversary with stunning new collections of work. Tools Galerie put a focus on wood used in unusual ways to build furniture, featuring original work from Elisa Strozyk, David Graas, Peter Marigold and Glass Hill, and Galerie S. Bensimon showcased an inspiring collection of works by young American designer Max Lipsey, Rotterdam-based Lex Pott and David Derksen, and London-based Pia Wüstenberg.
Tripping round the streets of Paris in search of fresh design is never a chore - even the Parc des Expositions has Fauchon and Ladurée pitstops to revive fair-worn legs - but it's all the more valuable when you can return replenished not only with macaroons and éclairs, but with a fund of inspiring new design swimming around in your head, as we did on Monday.