Finding serenity through design : Paris expo reflected growing demand for cozy and calm decor

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Finding serenity through design : Paris expo reflected growing demand for cozy and calm decor

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To suggest a way to find peace in a daily life filled with incessant noise from cell phones and cars, Maison & Objet Paris, one of the largest home decor and design exhibitions in the world, chose to do a special exhibition titled “Silence.” Korean artisan Kim Yikyung’s Moon Jar, above, and Belgian designer Pierre-Emmanuel Vandeputte’s Nascondino, a collection of alcoves. [LEE SUN-MIN]

PARIS, France ㅡ Overwhelmed by the constant flood of information, alerts and noises coming from cars, chatting pedestrians, construction sites, phone calls, notifications and more, concepts like “healing” and “getting away” have become popular throughout many industries.

The design world has also heard the cries for quietness.

Maison & Objet, one of the world’s largest design and home decor expositions which takes place in Paris every spring and fall, chose “Silence” as the theme for its spring event which ended Tuesday. For the five-day event, Maison & Objet showcased how content creators around the world have been looking for ways to give people some peace.

“The talk of ‘silence’ isn’t a trend,” said French designer Elizabeth Leriche, who put together a special exhibition for Maison & Objet’s January edition. “It is more like an idea we need to think more about.”

“This is the time to start thinking about how [the desire] for ‘silence’ can be the inspiration for [behavioral] changes in people’s everyday life,” said Leriche, adding that there have been chronic complaints and problems regarding the increasing level and volume of noise in people’s lives.

She suggests one way to find tranquility in life is through craftsmanship and porcelains, using the example of Korea’s famous Moon Jar, a particular design often used in Korean ceramics that resembles a full moon from any viewpoint.

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1. A bed headboard and a mirror surrounded with small bulbs from Italian brand Seletti’s new Luminaire collection. 2. Danish brand Nomess displays a new collection of laundry bags. 3. British designer Tom Dixon launches not only containers for bathroom items but also liquid hand wash and lotion. 4. French brand Burov shows its limited edition chair “44 Saturne.” 5. Irish fragrance company Max Benjamin’s newest collection of uniquely designed diffusers. [LEE SUN-MIN, MAISON & OBJET]

“It is full and empty at the same time,” Leriche said, explaining the shape and how it matches well with the pursuit of serenity and tranquility she wanted in her exhibition. She had her mind set on presenting a moon jar in her exhibition and went on a hunt for a Korean artisan who makes them. Through a gallery in London, she found Kim Yikyung, a ceramist known for her attempts to make traditional design more modern in pursuit of passing down Korea’s craftworks to the next generation.

Leriche was able to have a jar shipped from Korea. The piece is exhibited in front of a picture of a moon.

The jar is placed in a space made to look like a room, alongside many other rooms with one piece of craftwork on display. She said she wanted to show how one can create a balance in life and inspire people to invest in handmade crafts - something simple yet complicated enough - instead of cookie-cutter products from factories.

“Noises from cell phones or TV are [what distract] many people at the moment, so focusing more on craftworks or even making objects [on their own] can help many think about meditating and finding their inner peace so that ultimately people can have a better life,” she said.

As the “silence” theme suggests, many designers and lifestyle experts are on the search for the ultimate ways to relax. Some go for getaways, traveling to cities where languages different from their own are spoken, while some go to meditate in nature.

While many of the British artists named “Rising Talents” at the expo use materials that highlight nature to appeal to people looking to bring peace into their homes, some experts point out that there is also increasing demand for products that help people get quality sleep and rest.

Recognizing consumers’ yearning for a so-called better life and more rest, many design and home interior companies have been gearing up to deliver products that give people the feeling of ultimate relaxation. Fashion houses like Fendi, Roberto Cavalli and Missoni see continuing demand from the market for high-quality bedding, cushion covers, and blankets, and continue expanding their products under their lifestyle collections Fendi Casa, Roberto Cavalli Home and Missoni Home.

Roberto Cavalli Home unveiled its first use of silk to make sofa covers at the expo. It also showed off its new wool carpet, reflecting some consumers’ desire for a cozier feel at home.

“People go for not only quality but also exclusivity,” said Fernando Condotta, Asia area manager for the brand. Certain materials used in the fashion house’s collections are also used to create sofa covers, curtains, and other decorative items for the home.

Stephanie Tulien, vice president of sales for Missoni Home, also agreed that people who invest in high fashion and are focused on how they look in public tend to have a similar taste when designing their homes.

The iconic zigzag pattern often used in Missoni’s clothing designs are put on the cushions and blankets for Missioni Home, and those are usually the better selling items the brand offers each year.

Japanese company Uchino also sees a demand for high quality towels and pajamas. After it expanded its towel and sleepwear products to garments that could be worn outside, it is now making items to be used at home even softer with it new lines of towels called Marshmallow.

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Maison & Objet Paris, which ended its five-day run Tuesday, picked the word “Silence” as its theme for the event’s spring edition. [MAISON & OBJET]

Consumers’ desire for a comfortable life expands to collecting other items that can make their home cozy yet stylish. Looking for “serenity” at home, many now focus on which lights work better in each room and even some of the products they use in the bathroom.

Seletti, an Italian company known for presenting provocative designs in their home interior products, has also shown continued interests in making the bedroom cozier. It exhibited a bed headboard adorned with slightly differently shaped hand-made white lightbulbs, as well as many products with a similar design aesthetic. The brand calls these new products an “unconventional, dreamlike project” that brings together furniture and lighting. The communications manager of the brand also added that the company seeks to keep its “fun” identity in a bedroom, a place for silence during a peaceful sleep of night.

Some even see that distinctions between the furniture at home, at the office and elsewhere eroding as people want to experience the same level of comfort wherever they are.

British designer Tom Dixon used the expo to take his concept of home decor accessories to another level by unveiling liquid hand wash and lotions inside unique containers. The designer, known for making lights and other objects to embellish the home interior, is now expanding his focus on what is appealing to the body. The variety of scents developed for the designer’s newest products range from floral to fruity.

With the frequent use of textile products, many might see laundry to wash piling up faster than ever. Danish design brand Nomess, which focuses on products that help people organize their stationery also presented its new laundry bags at the Maison & Objet this year, responding to more need for a place to temporarily store used items made with cloth. When emptied, the bag could also be used as a container to holds plants.

Seeing the continuing interest in their products in Korea, the company is also considering opening a concept store in Korea, although details are not yet public information.

The talk of keeping it “silent” and pursuing products that encapsulate the concept include fragrance as well. Many companies are now focusing on developing either soothing scents for private pleasure or more charming smells to mesmerize others. To make small items for the home more decorative, Max Benjamin, an Irish company, has recently unveiled a new diffuser with a porcelain container designed with unique patterns. Big name local hotels have inquired about the products and some buyers from Hyundai Department Store have also sat down to talk more about the future business opportunities in Korea.

English architect Nigel Coates said there can be a more extensive range of products that come from the concepts of comfort, silence or relaxation - some of the keywords that are often used in the industry.

“There are a couple conceptual ideas [that are bigger than what we would normally call a trend,]” said Coates, explaining that it could be up to critics to see what makes a trend. Designers tend to simply follow the demand from existing consumers with the insights they gather from their research, and continue expanding their lines of products to appeal to a larger group of people.

BY LEE SUN-MIN [summerlee@joongang.co.kr]
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