Highlights of Maison et Objet 2011

From Christian Lacroix fabrics to croissant-inspired sofas, it's Ooh là là at the Paris Show, reports Annie Deakin
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The Independent Online

Last week, design globetrotters pounded the Paris pavements and exhibition halls for Maison et Objet, perhaps the most important European event for interior design. The prototypes we saw at Milan Furniture Fair last May are finally now in production and were on show last week. It's a little humbling to see the designs in their journey from drawing board to the shop shelves.

Unlike most trade shows (which focus on consumer designs), Maison et Objet highlights high-end home furnishings and edgy designs by emerging and established designers. It's a hypermarket for interior designers; the newest fabrics, wallpapers, lighting, tablewear and furniture are shown at the bi-annual luxury trade show.

For four days (21-25 January), the city of Paris was taken over by super sleek design. Exhibitors spilled beyond the eight huge halls of Villepinte exhibition centre. Much hype was given to a new event ‘Deco Off’, dubbed the rendez-vous of international designers and decoration editors. Nearly 70 fabric and wallpaper showrooms, including Sonia Rykiel Maison and Jim Thompson unveiled new collections. Of particular note was Sanderson’s new 1950s collection of archive-based botanical prints in limes, reds, greys and blacks. Above their showroom was an apartment newly decorated in Zoffany’s new Intaglio collection comprising architectural prints made up of old London maps, prints of buildings and Corinthian columns. Down the street, Pierre Frey showed a 1950’s toile – all will shortly be at Chelsea Harbour Design Centre.

As part of Deco Off, Designers Guild showcased the fabrics from their much-hyped collaboration with iconic fashion house Christian Lacroix. Typically Lacroix in texture, the richly patterned velvets, exuberant silk florals and printed linens reference historical couture, the city of Arles (Lacroix’s birthplace) or the Toreador. Tricia Guild says of the design marriage, 'It has been a wonderfully exciting experience translating the spirit of Lacroix couture into a beautiful collection of fabrics for the home.' Across town on rue Rambuteau, crowds flocked to a Glass House exhibiting innovative heaters by Paris based 5.5 designers.

Unsurprisingly, the French designers made the most impact at Maison et Objet. The Bouroullec brothers were the official designers of the year – alongside Edouard Francois (the pioneer of green architecture) and interior architects Gilles and Boissier (of Miami Hakkasan fame). All were acknowledged as the 2011 Now! Design a Vivre Designers of the Year. At the show, Ronan and Erwan Bourroullec, who are best known for their iconic designs including the Closed Bed and the Vegetal chair, exhibited significant new designs. Much was made of their new croissant-shaped buttoned sofa ‘Ploum’ for Ligne Roset. The four-seater sofa has a minimum number of seams on the stretchy sofa fabric with just one seam on the back. Its organic streamlined shape echoes the retro trend of shell-like sofas; they hoped it would look like a ripe, voluptuous piece of fruit. Of the Ploum sofa, the brothers say, 'We attempted to make a very comfortable contemporary settee. 'Ploum' is a vast shape on which the whole body rests on a soft, welcoming surface. It's seat is relatively low, it seems organic, perhaps the use of a stretch fabric is like a symbolic parallel to a contemporary lifestyle in which flexibility of use and comfort seems to us to be essential.' It will soon be in London, as will their other new notable designs showcased at Maison et Objet – a handspun Afghan wool rug for Spanish company Nani Marquina and the Ovale tableware range for Alessi.

Staggering in size, Maison et Objet is a huge collection of innovation and talent all in one place. Is it the most important European event for interior design? Probably not but it's a gem for New Year inspiration and to see how revised prototypes reach final launch.

Annie Deakin is interiors writer for sofa and interior design website mydeco.com.