The winter edition of Maison et Objet officially wrapped up in Paris on Tuesday—and the bi-annual blowout of all things furniture, interior design, and product design didn’t disappoint. From a sardine-inspired sculpture discovery to pig-inspired accent furniture to legendary figures like Sebastian Herkner and Tom Dixon, there was a lot to love. Among hundreds of exhibitors from across the globe, we’re spotlighting five of our favorite standouts below.
The late Zaha Hadid was one of the most celebrated, influential architects of the last 30 years, but she also made significant contributions to interior architecture and product design. She founded her namesake design arm in 2006, and co-directors Woody Yao and Maha Kutay have kept channeling her sense of open-endedness into strikingly fluid contemporary objects even after her death in 2016. “When designing objects Zaha was never constrained by any given use or spatial context,” Yao said in a release. “We continue to follow and draw strength from this approach so that the collection has room to evolve without compromising the integrity of the design.”
New pieces for the 2019 collection include the crystal glass SWIRL bowl, with translucent finish and ripple designs lending an aquatic effect, and for the CELL line, a laser-cut stainless steel centerpiece and starkly black-and-white marble platter and porcelain plate-and-bowl combo.
Designer of the Year: Sebastian Herkner
The Designer of the Year Award is always a major event at Maison et Objet. Recent recipients include heavy hitters such as Tristan Auer, Ramy Fischler, and Cecilie Manz. This year’s honors went to German designer Sebastian Herkner, perhaps best known for his traditional-meets-contemporary, award-winning Bell Coffee Table, which cleverly flip-flopped conventional table design, using glass as base and metal as top. “It’s absolutely vital we revive all these traditional forms of craftsmanship before they get lost forever, as they’re an integral part of our cultural heritage,” says Herkner, referencing the painstaking process of hand-blowing glass.
The former Stella McCartney intern also garnered praise for his knack for color, exemplified in the popular Grace Serving Trolley and his global eye, typified by his Oda floor lamp, inspired by Bernd and Hilla Becher’s water tower photos.
Rarely does one see reference to China in the business papers without the phrase “emerging market” close behind. But it’s base to an emerging scene of diverse and quickly evolving design talent, too. A six-member jury, including Tom Dixon and Luca Nichetto, selected six on-the-rise Chinese designers whose aesthetics range from minimal elegance to sustainability-focused playfulness. Among our favorites were Beijing-born Frank Chou’s Middle Chair, which was inspired by traditional Chinese bamboo seating; the wonderfully whimsical Pig Side Table by Mario Tsai, whose mission statement is “use less, design better;” and Hongjie Yang, whose tables juxtapose natural rocky texture with sleek-and-smooth finishes.
“The works are like an archaeological dig, a discovery of something ancient which at the same time projects forward; like a snakelike rock repeatedly shedding its skin to create a newer, more refined version of itself,” said Yang in a Maison et Objet interview for the award.
The famed British-based designer did more than jury duty over the course of the fair. Dixon, who won the 2014 Designer of the Year Award, unveiled a couple of lines of new accessories. The Block Family of decorative ceramic vessels and dinnerware twists has a Cubist flair, but best of all might be the Swirl collection (no relation to Zaha Hadid’s bowl), an architectural eye-grabber line of candelabras, candleholders, and bookends. Former Tom Dixon protégé Philippe Malouin was also represented in his collaboration with SCP, Barrel, a furniture riff on wine and whiskey barrels.
For all the big names and high honors on display at Maison et Objet, one of its great pleasures is discovery. A particularly delightful designer out of France hit our radar this year: Philippe Balayn, whose papier mâché sardine-can wall sculptures pop with three-dimensionality, a cartoonish sense of realism, and a complete lack of self-seriousness. He also does marine-life bas-relief work and creepy-cute sculptures of robot heads, we’ve since learned.