Maison et Objet: Mecca of European Design
A Conversation with Cristina Dos Santos
I recently had the opportunity to speak with Cristina Dos Santos, a Manhattan home designer, about her recent experience at the Maison et Objet—a major bi-annual French trade show in Paris, France.
Maison et Objet is one of the most important events in Europe for interior design—a week-long event showcasing 3,000 artists and designers from all over the world, of which 45% are international brands. The show focuses on an array of design aesthetics; including textiles, furniture, home decor, lighting, and more. Each room is imbued with a particular design essence, ranging from natural and eco-friendly textiles, serenity and well-being as an art of living, to Scandinavian minimalism for home design.
Dos Santos prefers to feature new and emerging designers in her store, making the Parisian trade show the perfect venue to seek out new material. “As a designer, it is extremely inspiring just to walk around the streets of Paris. Maison et Objet is where you can find more specialty and fashion-forward items—in home accessories, furniture, lighting and so on.” She notes an apparent difference between American vs. European aesthetic: “The overall design [at M&O] has more of a European feel, with clean lines and stream-lighting. Colors are heavily navy and aubergine; found in everything from the different decorative throws to rugs and pillows.”
American vs. European. I assumed the new European aesthetic would be more of a pastoral, rustic revival, synthesized with high-tech modernity. But Dos Santos emphasized that trend to be more prominent in the States rather than Europe. “I think that whole modern rustic appeal is always important, but in general, the rustic look is more popular in the States. It tends to be more modern and technical over in Europe. Although it’s a nice mix of rustic chic–it is much more modern.”
Lighting Makes the Difference. Stream lighting with clean lines is very hard to find here in the States. There are very few lighting designers and resources on our side of the pond. “I’m always on the look-out for different types of lighting for my clients here in the States. It’s a very much underrepresented art form here,” says Dos Santos.
Top Trends. ”Gold plating with skulls and guns is big in Europe. They look cool, but it’s not something I would dare bring in the States and have represented in my stores. It’s more of a decorative wave, with the skulls and guns showcased on the wall, in plate design, throws and textiles, and even in decorative pieces for the home.” Hand-painted pieces featuring gold designs are also very cutting edge this fall season.
Prominent themes. When I asked about the possible correlation between the skulls and gun jewelry aesthetic found all over Brooklyn and its home-design prominence in Europe, Dos Santos replied, “I love the skull design—it’s something that’s been around for a very, very long time. I know a lot of designers in Europe that are represented in Brooklyn and a lot of booths are selling to different boutiques there. It’s a very hip, cool direction—and that’s where Brooklyn has been for a long time.”
Showcase the Individual. Dos Santos was privy to the aesthetic of a few German, English, and Japanese designers who certainly mastered home design; not only in the lightening department, but also with accessories. “There was this English Designer, Rory Dobner, who was quite amazing. He started doing art in his own apartment and then his apartment was photographed. People just admired it so much and said ‘why don’t you do this publicly?’ Barneys is now representing him here and I think Bergdorf wanted to pick him up…but again, it’s about the appreciation of having one small designer love his work so much and have people that admire it as well.”
“Out of the many fabulous Japanese designers, I really liked Lee Zee Soo. The pottery, fine china, and hand painted porcelain were just astounding. I have some of his Japanese towels.The glass is absolutely the finest in the world. When you’re there, you’re focusing on certain things relevant to your store, but one thing that sticks out is how everything is so wonderfully displayed. There’s just something about the way things are presented.”