Maison et objet (autumn 17)

maison et objet

Hall 6 at Maison et objet


The term ‘enochlophobia’ means fear of crowds, a phobia that I suspect I have – mildly. Although I don’t experience blackouts or panic attacks in crowded places, I do feel overwhelmed, as if my energy is being sucked out of me, and I often feel exhausted afterwards.

This can be a problem when I visit business-related trade fairs, hence I rarely spend more than a few hours at a trade fair (or even art fairs). However, once in a while, I have to conquer my fears and plunge into it. It took me some time to decide whether I should spend €60 on a ticket to Paris’ mega design trade fair, Maison et objet, particularly when most trade fairs in the world are free of charge. Perhaps the reason why they could charge so much is because of its reputation and history (it is 22 years old); and it attracts luxury and well-respected brands, independent names, as well as up-and-coming designers from around the world. If you want to know the trends of interior, furniture and products and what is happening in the design world right now, then this fair is most likely to provide some ideas. With over 3000 brands exhibiting at Paris Nord Villepinte (about 45 mins outside of Paris) for 5 days, it would be wise to do some preparations before the visit.


maison et objet

maison et objet  maison et objet

maison et objet

maison et objet


My strategy was to spend a day there focusing on 2-3 halls only (there are 8 in total), because it would impossible to see everything in a day. But soon after I arrived via the entrance of Hall 6 (the largest hall), I was lost, stressed out, and feeling overwhelmed. I thought I was mentally prepared, but the sheer scale of the venue was staggering. The layout of this hall was like a vast maze and it wasn’t easy to navigate at all. Luckily, Hall 7 (Now! Design a Vivre) was more spacious and it gave me some breathing space. Six hours later, I only managed to cover 2.5 halls, but it was sufficient for me already.


vitra eames  marimekko


Flensted Mobiles

Top left: The classic Eames Elephant at Vitra; Top right and 2nd row: new collection by Marimekko; Botton row: Flensted Mobiles


But was it worth all the fuss and sweat? Yes, I suppose. Since most of the trade fairs in London focus mostly on British brands and businesses, M & O provides a more global perspective of the design world outside of the U.K. There are many interesting brands that I have never heard of before, and many of them are based in Asia too.

Here is an overview of some of the brands/products that I encountered during the 6 hours at the fair including many Asian participants:



Gmund papermakers and stationery (Germany)


papier machine

Papier Machine (France) is a booklet gathering a family of 13 paper-made electronic toys ready to be cut, colored, folded, assembled or torn.



Samesame recycled glass products (Germany)



Storytiles from the Netherlands


Animal theme



elephant table and chairs element optimal

peacock at Element Optimal  Zoo collection at Element Optimal

Top and 2nd rows: super cute cuddly toy chairs at AP Collection from Belgium; 3rd row: elephant table and chairs; Bottom left: Peacock; Bottom right: Zoo collection at Element Optimal from Denmark



wonders of weaving

luce couillet

dsc_0063-min  img_4998-min

Top row: Wonders of weaving (Indonesia); 2nd row: Luce Couillet textiles (France); Bottom: origami textiles at the Material lab



In the last few years, Japanese art/digital collective teamlab has created some fascinating immersive installations around the world. After their popular installations at Pace London earlier this year, they have teamed up with tea master Shunichi Matsuo to promote his new brand, En tea, a new tea grown in Hizen.

Visitors were led into a dark room, where they would sit at the table and be given a bowl of green tea. Then virtual flowers would appear when tea is poured in the bowl; the visuals are rendered in real time by a computer program and are not prerecorded. Petals and leaves would scatter and spread as you move your bowl. It was a fun experience, and a nice way to rehydrate and enjoy a bit of downtime away from the hustle and bustle outside.


Espace en tea X Teamlab  Espace en tea X Teamlab

more trees

Top row: flowers blossom in the tea bowl: Bottom row: En tea & More trees space outside of the installation



Misoka – an award-winning toothbrush that requires no toothpaste



The quirkiest lamps ever… Pampshade is made from real bread by bread lover/artist, Yukiko Morita. I have ever seen anything like this before!


washi paper


Osaka design centre – Washi paper and K-ino Inomata


draw a line  suzusan

suzusan  suzuzan

Top left: Draw a line tension rod by Heian Shindo and TENT; Suzusan shibori textiles and lighting




lee hyemi


small good things  kim hyun joo

Top row: Ceramic products at I.Cera; 2nd row: Lee Hyemi; 3rd row: Korean craft & design foundation; Bottom left: Small good things; Bottom right: Kim Hyun Joo studio



A notable presence from Taiwan at the fair, aside from the Taiwan crafts & design stand, there were other independent brands like Haoshi, Toast, EY products, new brand called Melting, and the 2017 Rising Asian Talents: Kamaro’an.


taiwan craft design






1st row: Taiwan crafts & design; 2nd row: Haoshi; 3rd row: Kamaro’an; 4th row: Toast; 5th row: Melting; bottom row: EY products



Meanwhile, Thailand’s Department of International Trade Promotion (DITP) also showcased TALENT THAI, which introduced various Thai lifestyle/design brands to an international audience. Thai design studio, Atelier 2+ was also selected one of the 2017 Rising Asian Talents.


zen forum  saprang

atelier 2+ Greenhouse MinI

salt and pepper studio  img_4968-min

1st left: Zen Forum; 1st right: Handmade jewellery by Saprang;  2nd row: Greenhouse Mini by Atelier 2+; Bottom left: woven chair by Salt and Pepper design studio; Bottom right: wooden panels by Deesawat




The stand of Singapore-based architectural practice WOHA was named Designer of the year Asia 2017


Hong Kong


2017 Rising Asian talent: Lim + Lu Studio




Paris Design Week 17: Now! Le Off

now! le off

now! le off


I have to admit that I have not been keeping up with my blog writing this year, and there is a backlog of unfinished posts that are yet to be published; hence my new tactic is to reduce the amount of writing so that I can keep up to date with what is currently happening.

September is a busy month for designers, retailers and wholesalers as there are many design-related events and trade shows in both London and Paris. Although it is not my first visit to mega home and design trade show Maison et Objet, it is my first visit to Paris design week. Now in its 7th year, this design event might not be as prodigious as the London Design festival (which will start next week), yet it is still a good opportunity to see the current trends and offerings in the French capital city.


Les Docks, Cité de la Mode et du Design  Les Docks, Cité de la Mode et du Design

Les Docks, Cité de la Mode et du Design

Les Docks, Cité de la Mode et du Design


For those who don’t want to splash out €60 to visit Maison et Objet, Now! Le off design show (9th-13th Sept) at Les Docks, Cité de la Mode et du Design is a good alternative as it is free and opened to the public. Here, you would find many up and coming young talents from France and beyond, and it offers an opportunity to meet the designers up face to face.




One pleasant surprise for me at the show was to see an inflatable and portable boat ‘Ar Vag‘ designed by French designer Thibaut Penven. The economical folding boat may be set up in five movements in a manner similar to a tent. It is made of panels of fibre glass and a welded PVC material, and it assumes its final shape thanks to a varnished pine bench. The oars are perfectly integrated into the folded boat’s format.


Ar Vag by thibault penven

Ar Vag by Thibaut Penven


Since I love origami, I was immediately drawn to an origami tent Les cocons designed by Origanid. This foldable and waterproof tent is made of TYVEK®, and it is a lovely way for children or adults to hide away from the world if they need to. I would love to hide inside when I am feeling blue sometimes!





I walked past a table full of playful ‘stuff’ which was surrounded by intrigued visitors, so I tried to squeeze near the table to figure out what these items were. It turned out that the interesting items on the table are designed by Flayou, a multidisciplinary design studio based in Tunis. The two former architecture students experimented with different materials to create miniature architectural models based on buildings in Tunis; they also adopted the traditional pottery-making craft to create three board games made from clay. I think their designs are intuitive, fun and delightful.



Playful designs focusing on materials and craftsmanship by Tunis-based Flayou


Du cote de chez vous‘, the creative label of Leroy Merlin, is showcasing 4 winning projects from its Young talents scheme at the show. These projects were created with the theme based on reinventing modularity in homes. I especially like Antoine Taillandier‘s ‘Plug and make’ organiser, which is a simple but highly functional plywood board that can be used as a table or shelf.

Nearby, Ecole Bleue Global Design showcases 13 projects designed by their design students. Key, designed by Yohann Hewak, is a bookshelf that requires no nails or screws; for those of us who constantly struggle to assemble an Ikea bookshelf, this bookshelf would no doubt save the day.


Cloison Personnalisable by Caroline Chapron  Tabtouli by Lucie Lasjuilliarias

plug and make [organizer]

plug and make [organizer]  Liku by Juliette Chalumeau

key by Yohann Hewak

 Criss Cross Air by Annouck Bussiere

Top left: Cloison Personnalisable by Caroline Chapron; Top right: Tabtouli by Lucie Lasjuilliarias; 2nd row & 3rd left: Antoine Taillandier’s plug and make; 3rd right: Liku by Juliette Chalumeau; 4th row: key by Yohann Hewak; Bottom row: Criss Cross Air by Annouck Bussiere



draft   atelier errance

Parade by Caroline Scholl and Frederique Vinel from Handmade Ici

Top: Design Lituanie showcases designs by Lithuanian designers; Left: Ripple table by Draft; Right: Plipli porcelain inspired from paper folding by Atelier Errance; Bottom: Parade by Caroline Scholl and Frederique Vinel from Handmade Ici


LAYERS by uau project

chaire idis  img_4834-min

Top: LAYERS by UAU project; Bottom left: Chaire Idis; Bottom right: An upcycled woven chair made from plastic waster by the Filipino company, junk not




Bottom row: Murmur lighting by Mona Ronteix Studio






2nd row: Maztri

Contemporary architecture in Paris

Institut du Monde Arabe

Institut du Monde Arabe


If you were asked to think of contemporary architecture in Paris, what buildings would pop up in your head? La Defense? Pompidou Centre? Louvre’s Pyramid? Unlike London, contemporary architecture is not as visible, but they are there, slightly hidden in various parts of Paris. And the architect who contributed most to the contemporary architecture landscape in Paris is no doubt the Pritzker-winning French architect Jean Nouvel.

Although glass is often the predominate feature in Nouvel‘s architecture, he also likes to use light and nature to create a harmonious balance with their surroundings. In the centre of Paris, we can find his critically-acclaimed and groundbreaking designs for three different arts and cultural organisations:


Institut du Monde Arabe


Institut du Monde Arabe/ The Arab World Institute ( 1 Rue des Fossés Saint-Bernard, 75005) on the Left Bank by the Seine was constructed from 1981 to 1987 in conjunction with Architecture-Studio after winning the ‘Grands Projet’ architecture competitions. This beautiful glass building has a museum, a library, a shop, a cinema, an auditorium, a restaurant and offices. Inspired by the traditional Moorish screen, Nouvel designed an intricate lattice of photosensitive apertures, which open and close to modulate the light that enters. Visitors can visit the permanent and temporary exhibitions on the 5th and 7th floor.

I have always enjoyed my visits here, not only for the Islamic/Oriental theme exhibitions, but I also like the slightly futuristic interior. Normally, I am not a big fan of glass and glossy architecture, but here, the use of traditional Arabic architectural elements, geometric shapes and light sensitive apertures are original and innovative. Although the building is already 27 years old, it does not look dated, which is rare if you compare it with some of the architecture being built around the same time.


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Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain 


Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain/ Fondation Cartier ( 261 boulevard Raspail 75014) is one of my favourite contemporary art venues in Paris. Not only the exhibitions here are often highly inspirational, the architecture here is another big draw. Opened in 1994, Nouvel worked with landscape artist Lothar Baumgarten to create a very tranquil environment with use of light, space and nature.

As you approach the site, the glass and steel building is hidden behind a glass facade with trees ‘poking’ out onto the streets. The reflection of the trees on the glass creates an illusion that intrigues passerby and makes you wonder what is actually inside. And even when you are inside the building, you feel as if you are in the middle of a woodland because you are surrounded by trees and plants.

The unique garden created by Theatrum Botanicum, a term used the Middle Ages where monks would take inventory of medicinal and aromatic plants. Unlike other landscape garden, it is created to look ‘wild’ and ‘natural’ which depicts the notion of passing time, with an emphasis on seasons and years. 


Musée du quai BranlyMusee du quai Branly Musée du quai BranlyMusée du quai BranlyMusée du quai Branly Musée du quai Branly

 Musée du quai Branly


At Musée du quai Branly ( 37, quai Branly 75007) near the Eiffel Tower, Nouvel continued his exploration between architecture and landscape except that glass is not used as the main material of the building. Instead we see a row of disorganised jumble of colorful boxes on the museum’s exterior. Opened in 2006, the museum is dedicated to indigenous art and cultures of Africa, Asia, Oceania, and the Americas.

Again, the museum itself is hidden from the street behind the very tall glass panelling. And beyond the glass facade is a ‘wild’ garden with very tall trees and plants that evoke a sense of a maze designed and planted by landscape architects, Gilles Clément and Patrick Blanc. The garden even extends onto the exterior of the building next door where a 200m long by 12m high vertical garden can be viewed from the street by passerby.

I like the fact the visitors have to walk up the circular ramps to get to the exhibition area and while the lighting inside is very dim, I think it adds a sense of mystery related to the subject matter. I think the artifacts and objects at this museum are absolutely fascinating, of which many are related to France’s colonial past. Personally, I think the overall project is visionary and highly commendable, and best of all, Nouvel‘s design complements the contents and concept perfectly.


Cité de la Mode et du DesignCité de la Mode et du DesignCité de la Mode et du DesignCité de la Mode et du DesignCité de la Mode et du DesignCité de la Mode et du Design Cité de la Mode et du DesignCité de la Mode et du DesignCité de la Mode et du Design Cité de la Mode et du Design

Cité de la Mode et du Design


In 2012, an intriguing and eye-catching green structure appeared on quai d’Austerlitz by the Seine. This odd-looking structure is the facade of Les Docks: Cité de la Mode et du Design ( 34 Quai d’Austerlitz, 75013), which occupies a 1907 shipping depot and now houses the Institut Français de la Mode, shops, designer’s showrooms, temporary exhibitions, cafes, restaurants, a bar lounge and a nightclub.

The building was designed by architect Jakob + MacFarlane in 2004 for a competition held by the city of Paris. The architects have kept the concrete structure mostly intact but added a glass covered steel tube green structure to the side of the building which is highly visible from the opposite side of the river. The roof top has wooden decks and grassed areas with plants created by landscape gardener Michel Desvignes.

Although I like what the architects have achieved (esp. the spacious rooftop), I found the venue itself very confusing… there are different sections on each floor but most of them were closed when I was there. I wandered around but I didn’t see a lot of fashion or design related stuff here, I honestly have no clue what this venue is about.


Cité de la Mode et du Design Cité de la Mode et du Design graffiti parisCité de la Mode et du Design

The Paris equivalent of London’s Southbank undercroft at Cité de la Mode et du Design


However, the biggest surprise came when I saw a group of skaters practising in the concrete skate park full of graffiti ( and homeless people). I never realised that there is an equivalent of London’s Southbank undercroft in Paris and I love it!

I was so glad when the Southbank’s proposal to move the skate park was rejected. I am appalled by what has been happening to the landscape of London in recent years… if we don’t intervene, London will soon become a homogeneous city consisted of only Westfield shopping malls, chained coffee shops restaurants ( it is already heading towards this direction). Hence, to see a skate park created here in Paris demonstrates that the French still value arts and culture ( including sub-culture) over commerce.

N.B. If you want to support the Southbank skateboard community, you can find out more on Long Live Southbank or Save Southbank skatepark Facebook page.


 Le campus de Jussieu


Another Parisian architecture firm Peripheriques architectes has been leaving their footprints in Paris’ contemporary urban landscape in recent years. The firm won the competition to design the extension for the campus of Universitaire de Jussieu in 2002, which was eventually completed in 2006. The metal facades are glazed on the same pattern as the one on the existing building. Although I did not get the opportunity to go inside of the building, I am impressed by the photos of the interior/atrium seen on their website.

The firm was also involved in the 133-acre redevelopment project, ZAC Clichy-Batignolles by the City of Paris ( which I mentioned in the earlier post) in the 17th district. The firm has created an eco-friendly building which includes 117 housing units on Rue Cardinet in 2012. The low energy consumption building ( 50 kWh/m2 per year) has a textured metal protection as an insulating layer on its exterior and it overlooks the eco-friendly Parc Martin Luther King.


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Eco-friendly housing on Rue Cardinet, part of the ZAC Clichy-Batignolles regeneration project


When the entire project is completed, it will provide 3,400 housing units with at least 50 percent dedicated to public housing, 30 percent of units for sale, and 20 percent set aside for rent. Other firms involved in the project include many big names like Renzo Piano ( Palais de Justice is due to complete in 2017), Jean-Paul Viguier architecture, Babin+Renaud, Scape and MAD etc. This regeneration project is Paris’ most ambitious ad exciting one in recent years, and if we look at the success of London’s regeneration of Kings Cross, then there is much to look forward to.