It is sort of madness that three major design fairs are crammed into a couple of weeks as January turns in February each year but for those that want to gorge on new design there is always a feast of new products. IMM Cologne, the fair that prides itself in being the place where companies do the most tangible business, comes around first (19-25th of January), overlapped by Maison & Objet (23-27th of January). This is quickly followed by what is traditionally a snowy Stockholm which has a reputation of being smaller and with a warm and friendly atmosphere to counter the Nordic nation's icy weather.
Llot llov is a Berlin based design colletive who literally met in a cab. Ania Bauer, Jacob Brinck, Lena Hirche and Ramon Toshiro Merker founded Llot llov in 2006 and have been exploring highly original concepts in architecture, furniture and lighting design ever since. Early in 2014 the studio announced Ania Bauer and Jacob Brinck as Head of Design.
'Osis' is a new design of three interlocking side tables with interesting colour variations created through their experiments into how salt reacts with spruce wood. The name 'Osis' is derived from the term osmosis. While the tops feature the specially treated timber, the frames are powdercoated steel. The trio of tables also have indifvidual names; ’Squared’, ‘Bold’ and ‘Cube’, in order of their size from largest to smallest. The image below shows of one of the incredible salt finishes in close up.
The studio's work with salt crystals had premiered in a lab-style installation in Tokyo in October last year but Cologne was the first time the finished product had been shown. Their work can be ordered through their online shop.
The Danish brand Menu is on fire at the moment with a huge list of some of the best young designers on their books creating exciting new accessory pieces – Sylvain Willenz , Note Design Studio and the Italian interior and furniture designers, Studiopepe. Arianna Lelli Mami and Chiara Di Pinto founded the Milan based multi-disciplinary studio back in 2006 and have become one of the most interesting studios in Italy, creating interiors and products as well as scenography and exhibitions. Their Milano collection for Ivano Redaelli from last year was totally exquisite. The new mirror for Menu may be small but it is perfectly formed with a strange combination of elegance and cheeky personality. Called ‘Pepe Marble Mirror’ the table mirror comes in three types of marble: white, black & green. The mirror pivots on a brass spigot allowing it to be rotated to just the right angle to accommodate for people of various heights.
Another great new product from Menu is the Volume rug by Belgian designer Sylvain Willenz. The rug is in a flat Indian durie style in four muted colours (roughly speaking these are pink, grey, green and blue), each expressing three dimensional volume despite the unavoidable flatness of its form.
Inga Sempé’s new armchair and sofa called 'Beau Fixe' was a stand out product shown by Ligne Roset during Cologne. The armchair and sofa uses a one-piece upholstery concept that is like a quilt squashed into a fine metal frame. Its puffy folded quality in conjunction with the fine black metal frame offers the type of visual contradiction that is often seen in Sempés work.
Maison & Objet's twice a year extravaganza happened in late January and with its greater emphasis on accessories rather than furniture and lighting, continues to be a very different experience to the other European fairs. French companies such as Ligne Roset generally prefer to reveal the majority of their new designs at Maison & Objet and then follow this up with subsequent showings at other fairs but as seen by Inga Sempé's 'Beau Fixe' this isn't always the case. Among other new designs released at Maison this year, Ligne Roset reissued the pretty Daybed (formerly known as Model 118) by Pierre Paulin. Designed in 1953, it is a very simple timber structure but with lovely proportions. It utilises a clever cushion combination that can cover the entire seating area or be rearranged as back and seat cushions for a one third / two thirds look of wood and upholstery.
Paris based brand COEDITION launched several new designs including the unusual storage unit ‘Luna’ by Patricia Urquiola with its pie-shaped rotating doors and other new pieces by Patrick Jouin, Marco Zanuso Jnr and A+A Cooren. I still think that last year’s marvellously zen-like shelf from London based designer Michael Anastassiades called ‘T-Square’, is the standout of the collection but Urquiola's 'Luna' cabinet has an undeniably strong visual presence (even when not lacquered orange). Available in timber veneers with contrasting coloured doors or lacquered as shown, with timber veneered doors. Urquiola also showed a new chair range for COEDITION called 'Lucia' that features her signature scissor leg but with luxurious pressed leather upholstery.
While Maison shows plenty of local brands that produce fairly affordable contemporary design such as Petite Friture, Forestier and La Chance, Paris is home to a large number of shops and galleries dealing in bespoke design pieces. Gallery BSL in Rue Charlot in the Marais, is one such place. Operating as a design gallery for well-known as well as new names, they showed a exquisite desk design by Charles Kalpakian in brass with a black Corian top and ebonised oak drawers. The edition is limited to 8 plus prototypes.
Moving right along to Stockholm that finished just days ago, Danish brand Menu revealed even more new products. The 'Patched' tables by Swedish outfit Note Design Studio were developed in collaboration with Danish studio, Norm Architects. The tables combine a very minimal metal frame and legs with multiple pieces of marble placed in irregular geometric patterns - like mini overlaid carpets. The result is very different from the standard one-piece marble table and quite beautiful.
Note Design Studio have been extremely busy so far this year, not only releasing the 'Patched' tables for Menu but also six other products including the wonderful 'Alaka' shelves and mirrors for French marble specialists, Retegui and also designing the Greenhouse - Stockholm Fair's young designer showcase. This curated selection of up and coming designers has discovered plenty of stars in the past and this year was no different. One of the notable design groups involved was MSDS from Canada. The Toronto based studio launched six great new products including a beautiful daybed called 'Futon' and an intriguing wall mounted lighting design called 'Ladder Lamp'.
Small Danish brand, New Works (formerly Nevvvorks) released a number of lovely pieces including the 'Bowl' light by Norwegian designer Knud Bendik Humlevik and the 'Crowd' candle holders by David Taylor. The candle holders use concrete, copper and brass in interesting combinations of shapes and materials. The 'Bowl' light comes either in green glass with a raw copper base as shown, or in a verdigris copper with a light grey glass top. Look out for many more pieces by this brand in the near future including a beautiful and impossibly fine porcelain pendant light by Hallgeir Homstvedt and Lars Tornoe.
A much anticipated release was the ‘Kaari’ system by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec for Artek. After Konstantin Grcic’s slightly challenging ‘Rival’ chair from last year, this simple system of metal bands and timber should be well received by fans of Artek. The range works perfectly with original Aalto pieces as shown in the the photographs below. I particularly like the shelving and the round tables but the entire range of products is quite ingenious. There is also a rectangular table and small circular wall-mounted 'vase' table in the collection.
Swedish designer, Staffan Holm has been producing interesting products predominantly in timber for the last 5 or 6 years releasing products for companies such as One Nordic Furniture Company (now HEM), Muuto, Källemo and Hay. His original breakthrough came with the ribbon-like ‘Newton’ coffee table for Karl Andersson & Soner in 2009 but he has recently designed several timber chairs for Swedese. This year he has added his ‘Diva’ armchair and sofa to the Swedese line up – his first venture into the world of upholstered furniture. The shape is classic but with enough unique flair to make it stand out in the crowded sofa market. Its generous form and interesting shape should make it a popular model.
Not content with her wonderful furniture pieces for Ligne Roset launched at Cologne, French designer Inga Sempé also knocked them dead with her new lighting design for Wastberg released at Stockholm. The diminutive metal ‘Clamp’ lamp (W153), operates as a traditional table lamp with a base, as a wall lamp or as a clamp-on design. The shade can easily be moved into various positions as it is held magnetically to the stem. The design deservedly won the prestigious Form+1 award.
And that's it for the trifecta of fairs Cologne, Maison and Stockholm. The next one off the rank is Milan in April and that is likely to be an especially exciting affair as 2015 sees Euroluce (the large lighting fair) come back to Salone del Mobile and with Expo just around the corner many brands will be anxious to make a bigger splash than normal. I foresee some pretty amazing installations this year........and a lot of marble!