Color Unleashed

After attending a few international furniture fairs, Dwell editors spot a hunger for optimism in design.
Text by

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. 

Bretelle Chair   When it’s fully dressed, Luca Martorano and Georg Muehlmann’s Bretelle chair is wrapped in colorful "suspenders." It can be customized with 160 shades of ribbon.

Cutting Board  Cartoony polyethylene cutting boards by Muller Van Severen for valerie_objects are delightful alternatives to wood or stone slabs.

04 Chair   The craftsmen at Belgium’s Ateliers J&J paired welded tubular steel with ashor oak-veneered wood panels to create a rail-thin look.

Magic Lamp   A range of graphic Kvadrat cotton fabric shades enliven the Magic lamp by Isabelle Gilles and Yann Poncelet for Colonel.

Bold Chair 
Beneath its removable textile cover, which comes in 13 colors, Moustache’s Bold
chair is an updated version of a bended chair in tubular steel.


Diamond Pendant   Neo/Craft founder
and 2015 Dwell Young Gun Sebastian Scherer’s hexagonal pendant plays with light, shadow, and perspective.

Lazy Susan   Maison Dada of Shanghai reimagined the traditional Chinese table with fixed
and rotating tops in different tones, textures, and patterns.

Grid Armchair   Design duo Pool’s modular sofa system for Petite Friture, which includes
a graphic armchair, started as a send-up of the Bauhaus.

Hal Pendant   With the pendant’s glass shade removed, Guillaume Delvigne and La Chance’s nod to HAL 9000 of 2001: A Space Odyssey becomes clearer.

Loop chair   Rodet, which has shaped tubular steel for nearly 40 years, likens the powder-coated lines of Fred Rieffel’s chair to the curves of a race track.

Twisted jug   Glimpsed from
above, a spiral-shaped gradient lets users check the volume of ingredients in Gabriele Rosa’s measuring jug for Alessi.

Kama Stool   Le point D’s Kama bar stool comes in eight metal colors and four seat finishes, and the flexible design lets you switch sides to sit or sit/stand.


Get the Dwell Newsletter

Be the first to see our latest home tours, design news, and more.