Opening Day at Maison & Objet
I didn't think that I would ever have to say this, but opening day for me was a resounding dud.
At least Hall 5 was - usually a reliable harbinger of new style and color directions. This is the hall that features complete high-end interiors, making it usually easy to get a quick overview of what's moving and shaking - trends that are later echoed in seven other halls that are more product-specific.
I am not sure if the current economic woes that are roiling the whole of the Euro zone have had an effect here, but if there is an overriding impression of what's on display, it's depressing - not least projected by an alarming uniformity of non-color so much so that it's hard to distinguish one showcase display from another.
If you didn't note last September that black had become the dominant color for furniture, fabrics, accessories, even backgrounds (something I reported last year), then you would have to be deaf, dumb and blind not to see it this time around. If anything, black has spread even further.
Sadly, the counterpoint to black is not the exuberant colors we have been talking about - and frankly, expected - but a sea of repetitive neutrals ranging from greige to beige to taupe to brown and back to black. Furniture finishes, if not black, are of the well-trodden raw (unfinished) and open grain rustic variety or washed in the caulky greige "driftwood" palette that's been around for quite a while.
Textiles on upholstery are no help either. Aside from enough natural linen to cover the planet, there are neutral stripes - combining, you guessed it, beige and black - plaids and a variety of men's wear fabrications from herringbone to worsted or felted wools and flannel - all of them consistently in the above mentioned neutral palette.
The only distinction from last year to this year is that wools have gained in the mix on a percentage basis. Nor is there much texture to liven up textiles - most are flat-surfaced and decidedly two-dimensional. The most you can get in the way of a color accent is a rusty red throw pillow here or there and contrast piping, often in leather.
One of the few exceptions was the presentation at Andrew Martin, otherwise well-known for Western paraphernalia, who showed Southwestern kilim covers on upholstery in either a rich ruby red, accented in black and white or in off-white with woven motifs in anthracite gray - however, all set against pitch black backgrounds. There just was no escape from black.
A Western slant was also spotted in a number of other show places combining kilim carpet upholstery with cowhide covered trunk like chests of drawers - again, not exactly a new development. Such Western references marry in some cases with the Chalet look, which is still very much alive, with all the deer motifs and antler chandeliers you care to bring home. If I sound disappointed, I am - but hope to have more cheerful and worthy news when I hit the Home Textiles Hall.