Though a turbulent 2016 concluded with many feeling a great uncertainty, 2017 began with ordinary people expressing resiliency and hope in ways both big and small. We noted the same optimism animating the January furniture fairs imm Cologne and Maison et Objet, where the design industry's most creative minds convened and overwhelmingly affirmed the power of color to buoy spirits in dark times.
The fabrics, finishes, and paints shown in Germany and France this year tended toward madcap shades like canary yellow and electric blue, and designers everywhere eschewed the subtleties of pattern in favor of loud monochromatic bursts. In terms of its attitude and energy, the style of furniture is a reverberation of Memphis’s late comeback—more primary- than parti-colored. (It’s no coincidence that Pierre Charpin, a student of Memphis Group cofounder George Sowden, was honored as the Designer of the Year at Maison in Paris.)
Bright hues were often worn on slight frames, like tubular steel, which had the effect of making the furniture and lighting appear flat or immaterial at a distance. Manuel Amaral Netto, the artistic director of the young Portuguese studio Util, which exhibited at Maison, described the look as "images illustrated as products." But in the dead of winter, and at the dawn of a new year, the dichotomy set up a different tension: that hope is always fragile.