In Paris last week, I was inspired by the contrast between two resolute points of view: One claimed less is more; the other, more as more. Did each point of view prove compelling? Judge for yourself.
Maison Objet is the exposition for all things home, presented in six huge halls of 21st century exuberance. It is a source of abundant style tweaked with a sense of humor.
In spite of a tepid European market, most of the pessimism was dispelled by refreshing creativity asserting that indeed, less is more.
Here was innovative design liberated from conventional restraint. Shape debuted with new function because the materials were synthesized from engineering breakthroughs. Color was primary and bright, and patterns were scaled big, really big, on fabrics and the wall. Wellness and fitness merged in the kitchen, bath and bedroom.
Dimensions changed; out went conventional measures of length, width and height. In came light, wit and humor -- light-hearted, lightly illuminated, clever and portentous, not at all pretentious. A new palette or tool box for designers, Maison Objet is inspired. It returns again January 23 - 29, 2009.
But this is Paris, not Milan where the Salone Internationale de Mobilier opens again April 22 - 27, 2009. Ironically, in its 21st century expo-halls, Italy’s great furniture designers are so intent on minimalism, they have nearly removed living from the still-life interiors.
Nothing about life is missing in Paris. Its glamour inspires all the senses. One sees in the architecture of the Belle Epoque and hears in the language and music all the elegance and style of the world's capital of chic. Savoring the food and wine, enchanted by a passing fragrance, one's senses begin to anticipate what’s next, inspired by what was and what is to come.
In almost every window of every boutique along the Rue de Fauborg St. Honore, lavender and violet continued their reign as fashion’s color trend.
On the left bank, the summer sunlight washed the Grand Palais, the 19th century homage to art nouveau, which is also the venue for the Biennale des Antiquaires, host to most of the finest dealers, collectors and connoisseurs of des arts decoratifs throughout France, Europe and a few invited guests from elsewhere (even the US and UK).
In stark contrast to the dedication to “less-is-more” at Maison, the Biennale lures affluent specialists to “more-has-to-be-more” splendor. And does not disappoint.
Inspiring furniture festooned with golden ormolu mounts, ebony lacquer, chinoiserie, marquetry and princely provenance epitomized the 19th century offering. Chareau, Rateau and Rothko transformed the 20th century, while Jean-Michel Frank and Ruhlmann heralded the avant garde. African primitifs reminded us of Picasso’s earthy and organic inspiration.
Most buyers-in-the-know devour the Biennale in the autumn every two years, but will also go to the International Art and Antiques Fair, March 13 - 22, 2009 in Maastricht, Netherlands.
The next spring in Europe should be inspiring. Where do you go for inspiration? Whether your design sensibility yields more from less, or more from even more, Paris, Milan, Maastricht and other European locales are destinations for luxury at home.