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The Art of European Living

When interior designer Martine Rosier Di Matteo suggested we meet up at this season’s Maison et Objet to help choose furnishings for one of our clients, you can bet I jumped at the chance. The six-day bi-annual trade fair, for the past 10 years, is open exclusively to professionals, all 80,000 of them, who visit from 130 countries to peruse the more than 2,200 exhibitors’ stands showing more than 3,200 brands of furniture, upholstery, decoration and design collections. Five trade shows take place in two exhibition centers: Paris-Nord Villepinte and Paris Le Bourget, just south of the Charles de Gaulle airport.

Hall 1 featured ethnic up-market design; Hall 2 textiles for household linens, draperies and upholsteries; Hall 3 focused exclusively on what is most important in La Vie Française(!), “La Table” — the beautiful, the good and the useful; Halls 4 and 5 housed “Coté Déco” combining indoor-outdoor, “charme,” “actuel” (urban trends), garden, accessories, floral and candlery; Hall 6 simply featured decorative objects and a new hall, called “Now!” was dedicated to design and innovation — almost 7,000 square meters of emerging brands.

The exhibition paid tribute to Christian Lacroix as designer of the year, who is an emblematic figure of French contemporary design. Rosita Missoni, founder of the Missoni company, was featured by Maison et Objet Editeurs for the passionate woman she is to have built an empire around color, motif and materials. The Atelier d’Art de France competition selected 12 young talents to showcase this year, as well, chosen from 180 applications by a jury of journalists and applied arts professionals.

To begin to focus on any detail when presented with such an overwhelming selection is no easy task. Martine suggested we begin at Becara in Hall 5, a factory in Madrid with one of the largest and most prominent stands. Here the furnishings and accessories were a harmonious collection of soft taupe shades, distressed finishings, accessories using natural and textured materials, all in contemporary design. I could easily imagine furnishing an entire home from this one stop. We found several things we were sure our client would like, but I had Saint Tropez style on my mind for my next little pied-à-terre.

The displays themselves are mind-boggling. These innovators of design and function are incomparable trade show display producers — one stand more elaborate and beautiful than the next. Some had constructed displays as tall as three story buildings. Christmas light displays were blinding; candle and floral displays were fragrant; animated life-size Dalmatians were cute enough to pet…all in all the most amazing display of creativity under one roof I’ve ever seen.

Belgian-based Flamant had their famous paint collection on display — the colors luscious and rich. One wall of a tangerine tone looked good enough to eat. I recognized Zuber hand painted wallpapers and elegant fabrics from the shop on the corner of rue Froissart and boulevard des Filles du Calvaire — manufacturers founded in 1797 in the t
own of Ri

xheim who remain faithful to historic imagery and produce very fine work classified for historic monuments. The draperies were absolutely regal…fit for Marie Antoinette, should she suddenly appear in the showroom!

Mary Olivia Clark hand painted canvases and linens caught our eyes — a virtual “trompe l’oeil” of Provençal flora. I found Saint Tropez colors at Les Toiles du Soleil linens from Catalan…pale blues and greens, ecru and wicker tones in striped canvas, and later I found a display of furnishings that seemed to have “seaside” written all over it. I made mental note for future decorating plans.

Magazine publishers were selling subscriptions and booksellers featured tomes on art and design. Restaurants and snacks were within a few steps of one another — ice cream cones seemed to be all the rage and I wondered how they could allow it so close to all this beautiful upholstery. hordes of visitors — enough to fill a city called Babel — speaking many different languages — carried bags and rolled suitcases down the aisles to collect materials and negotiate with each vendor.

One thing noticeable to me was the lack of color in furniture — mostly everything in shades of cream, taupe, black, silver and some gold with a splash of red every now and then. Perhaps this is the current trend? Or perhaps a reflection on the culture? Either way, clearly, this wasn’t a trade show taking place in Southern California…but who cared?

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds
Editor, Parler Paris

P.S. Reminder…Express Yourself. Click here to comment on Parler Paris…

P.P.S. LAST MINUTE SPECIAL: Stay in “Le Provençal” this coming March 8th – 27th at the lowest season rate. Don’t miss this opportunity to stay in the Le Marais studio that has it all…charm, comfort and location! Visit /parlerparis/apartments/rentals/provencal.html for more information or email [email protected]

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