Message from Paris: Lighten up

Special to The Times

Design junkies hoping to get a fix on next season's chicest trends in home furnishings and accessories have made the 10th biannual Maison et Objet the unmissable design rendezvous in Paris.

This week, more than 65,000 international exhibitors, design editors, buyers, journalists and other design professionals congregated at the unscenic Parc d'Expositions in Villepinte, an hour outside the capital near Charles de Gaulle Airport.

Trends that have emerged in the last few years — the blurring of fashion and home design; the mixing of styles, periods and influences; and the studied art de vivre that requires the thoughtful designing of every last corner of the house — were in evidence. And in every price range, the show offered serious design with a light heart.

A Philippe Starck-designed black crystal Baccarat chandelier priced at nearly $60,000 is nice if you can get it, but the show was also full of glamorous, high-impact accessories. Just as this season's ladies are pinning brooches to their winter coats and cashmere sweaters, similar adornments added refinement, detail and a bijoux effect to lamps, throw pillows and furniture. A gray tweed couch upholstered with Swarovski crystal buttons from D'Argentat (www.dargentat.fr) had plenty of sex appeal, and lamps dressed up in goose feathers, black lace or giant sequins from Hervé for Mat & Jewski in Paris were as playfully racy as lingerie.

Nature seemed to be many a designer's star muse, offering a welcome respite from the gray Parisian winter weather and giving urbanites a taste of the great outdoors.

Exquisitely faux flowers and trees from Hervé Gambs (www.hervegambs.fr) offered city dwellers the charm of the garden, and made-to-order Japanese-style triptych paneled curtains featured bold nature scenes from 33-year-old Paris-based photographer Hans Denele (hansd@free.fr). The "Idées de la nature" collection included poetic, planet-inspired paper Noguchi-esque lighting fixtures from Céline Wright (www.celine-wright.com). French designer Cyril Delage bent chestnut branches into elegant firewood holders (www.enkidoo.com), and bare walls were transformed into wonderlands with giant wall stickers in the form of trees, butterflies, insects and sunflowers from sisters Sophie and Celine Fakhouri from Paris-based Dona Rosa.

Virtual flowers bloomed everywhere, including on sophisticated paper napkins decorated with graphic flowers and birds in turquoise, fuchsia, white, orange and scarlet by Paris-based Atelier LZC (www.atelierlzc.fr) and on finely crafted lotus-flower lampshades made from hardened liquid polymer by the Belgian company MGX by Materialise (www.materialise-mgx.com).

Digital photography was used to decorate Lise Laure Batifol's tables, plates, household linens, lampshades and Plexiglas tables with flowers (www.liselaurebatifol.com) and to adorn French designer Pierre Lequeux's "pouspous" table — upon which the image of a giant red Gerber daisy is broken up on individual ceramic tiles that can be deconstructed at will (www.artenciel.net). A rectangular lamp is imprinted with a photo of a life-size orchid from Mulhouse, France-based Mérésine (www.meresine.com).

In addition to flowers, photographic scenes of Paris, New York, other people's children and pets, and everything else — including film stills from Jonas and Adolfas Mekas on ceramic plates from Italian Concept Otto (www.conceptotto.com) — look like a trend that's here to stay.

If photographs were being printed on everything but paper, paper itself was a material of choice, in Tord Boontje's laser-cut Until Dawn curtain, paper wastebaskets and washable ruffled paper plates from German designer Jurgen Wedhorn's It's Only Paper (www.wedhorndesign.de) or the ephemeral, fairy-tale, oversize beetle sconces or magical tree table sculptures with twisted branches and butterfly leaves that Parisienne Géraldine Gonzalez (www.geraldinegonzalez.com) makes with crystal paper — a mixture of papier-mâché, cloth, crushed glass and pearls.

Ingenious panels that turn from mirrors into multicolored mood lighting with the flick of a remote from Rotterdam-based Traxon bring disco glamour to the home. Paris-based Octavio Amado's garlands of puffy disc lights, which can be suspended or posed on tables or floors or left bunched and lit up in a transparent bag (www .octavioamado.com), add quick ambience to any room. Young Berlin designer Leif Schmidt (www.tl-d.com) showed off prototypes for his mesmerizing lava lamp-inspired aquarium.

The official theme of this season's Maison et Objet was "luxe," and its vast offerings were meant to be a study in the changing codes and never-ending possibilities that modern luxury embodies. But it seemed, from the visitors flocking to Italian company Ivano Redaelli's sleek display of couches and beds, that its "Easy Chic Collection" (www.ivanoredaelli.it) was everybody's idea of luxury. The company calls its products "a new bed system for a new lifestyle experience in the home: As a corner arrangement or centrally placed." And it's easy to imagine emptying the living room to make space for its sensuous round bed, adorned with throws and pillows in white rabbit and fake leopard fur, cashmere, corduroy and an embarrassment of sumptuous fabrics.

It was the proliferation of fur on everything from Redaelli's round bed to pillows, furniture and other accessories that struck one New York designer as particularly luxurious — and unapologetically European. But trends flow both ways across the Atlantic. Among this year's newest cult items are the flat-screen TV and le home cinéma — a few years behind in affordability here — and the giant sofas to go with them, menacing the five-hour French dinner party whose entertainments were once limited to conversation, wine and food.

"It's a new conviviality," one French design editor commented, extolling the joys of trading the 45-degree angle of a dining chair for the horizontal luxury of a couch. At least one big trend in Paris this year is straight from L.A.: bigger, flatter TV screens, fat sofas and waistlines to match.

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