Sometimes I think of Paris not as a city but as a home. Enclosed, curtained, sheltered, intimate.
Every January and September Paris hosts two interior design fairs. The expansive Maison & Objet with easily three thousand exhibitors, and Paris Deco Off - celebrating its tenth anniversary. These two renowned fairs have sparked pop-ups, such as Ancien et Moderne, the sixth annual Champagne bunch with Toma Clark Haines, the Antique Diva at the Marché aux Puces, as well as other festivities surrounding the fairs. The American Party this year was held at Collège des Bernardins. There are coveted dinner parties throughout the city, then there’s Paris itself, with its countless alluring delights tempting you to abandon your itinerary.
Excellence in Manufacturing
Upon my arrival I’m up and running through the maze of the Metro to make my way to meet Mary Beth Brown, the Regional Sales Manager of Clarence House, New York. Our first stop is at Thorp of London, who specialize in meticulous hand screen printed fabrics in their London atelier, printed wall-coverings, natural grass cloth, silk wallpapers, and woven fabrics. The advantage of hand screen printed fabrics is clarity in color and pattern. Thorp of London has the added benefit of offering very low minimums of three meters for custom fabric and ten meters for wall-coverings. The turnaround time for custom fabrics is an efficient ten to fourteen days. There’s a vast collection to choose from, and one of my favorites is patterns is Eighty8, a hand screen printed fabric. The design has a modern appeal, though the pattern could be seen to hint at the Far East. For me, it recalls the work of the artist Christopher Wool.
Afterwards, we met with the esteemed fabric weavers, Gainsborough, who are coming up on their one-hundredth-and-sixteenth year. Their archive boasts seven thousand fabrics - and growing - encompassing five hundred years of design. They created the original damask which covered the First Class dining room of the ill-fated Titanic, and now they have relaunched this fabric as a part of their Saluté collection. Based in Suffolk, England, their production is completely manufactured in-house, including hank dyeing (the preparation of threads for dyeing), dyeing, weaving - by shuttle/dobby looms or rapier looms - inspection, and documentation (where a small sample of the fabric and threads are catalogued). Their children’s collection, Bunny Gets It, consists of delicate designs of teddy bears, rocking horses, and balloons that capture the sweetness and innocence of childhood.
French Savoir Faire and Italian Ingenuity
Later that evening I attended the Nobilis presentation of their new collection given by their witty creative director Eric Valero. Nobilis, the famed Editeurs de Tissus has a global presence in over thirty countries with two hundred employees. One favorite of mine, Palazzo, a hand screen printed wall paper, offers a fresh approach to the Toile de Jouy. At Maison and Objet, Mary Beth and I homed in on the Forever Hall specializing in luxury market of interior design furnishings. A display of pillows decked out in colorful Italian made velvets of L’Opificio caught our attention and they are completely formaldehyde-free which is very appealing for its health and environmental benefits.
Old World Charm with an Edgy Twist
At a memorable dinner at Bistro Vivienne with Françoise Carra of Cabinet de Porcelain, Mary Beth introduced us to interior designer, Adam Greco. The hip restaurant decor combined old world charm with an edgy twist by adding a neon sign mounted onto dark floral wallpaper. Greco comes to Paris every two years to reconnect with his European suppliers, to meet new ones, and to catch an exhibition - this time at Musée des Années Trente, where he and his design director Alice Lund may have found the inspiration they were looking for. They enjoy staying in Pigalle which Greco says is a great clash of naughty and nice.
Functional Art Galleries
On a snowy Tuesday, I met with gallerist Antoine Vignault of OAK to explore functional art galleries of Paris. In le Marais, we visited Hervé Van Der Straeten, whose talented team produces exceptional limited-edition furniture, that are also contemporary radical works of art. From there, we stopped at Carpenter Workshop Gallery with a group show on display. Studio Drift’s Fragile Future 3.16 is the most curious lamp and beautifully made out of Dandelion Seeds that act as shades to its LED light in its center. Perhaps this lighting fixture is a gentle reminder to tread lightly on the Earth. Armed with our umbrellas, we made our way to at Galerie du Passage in the charming nineteenth century covered-arcade of Galerie Véro-Dodat. It was here that I was entranced by the exquisite works of art of Marina Karella and in particular her sculptural table with its base, a gigantic Hibiscus made of resin and gold leaf that is bold, feminine, and modern.
The Power of Color
I asked Mary Beth to share some of her thoughts on trends and she fondly recalled her conversation with Mary Shaw, the founder and president of Sequana and their discussion on color and sumptuous natural fabrics. They noted color trends of warm and spicy colors such as: paprika, plum, deep reds and muted colors. Mary Beth added that velvets are everywhere, and for furniture, she aptly pointed out the trend of bentwood, wicker and rattan chairs.
I’m grateful for all the industry professionals who have shared with me a glimpse into their world. The pride and joy they take in creating and continuing to manufacture in the traditional ways of exceptional craftsmanship, and integrity contrast the expected standardization and mass production.
If you go plan on attending Paris Design Week be prepared for happy surprises and the unplanned. For me it was the joy of the Tuileries Gardens blanketed in snow.
Plans should be ephemeral, so be prepared to move away from them.