Photography by Brit Leissler for Core77
There has always been a big buzz about the Maison & Objet show, which happens twice a year in Paris—and, as of a couple of years ago, Asia, where the brand has expanded to include a large tradeshow in Singapore as well as various "road shows" in different Asian cities.
Whereas the September event in Paris coincides with the Paris Design Festival, the show in the end of January is a pure trade fair on its own, sans side events celebrating the more artsy end of the design world by investigating ideas and concepts. No, this is all about sales, no bones about it.
Unfortunately, I'd say that the majority of the objects on view was unimaginative, average product overload at best—and kitsch at worst. Happening upon a booth that was full of taxidermied animals, most of them dressed up and put into ridiculous poses, I was compelled, in a disgusted kind of way, to take a picture, and briefly considered compiling a truthful photo essay, reflecting an unfiltered version of the 'real' Maison&Objet. After all, as a designer you often hear that "your portfolio is only as good as the weakest project that you present in it." Does this not also apply to design shows?
But then I remembered the conceit of digging through the muck in order to find the truffles—in order to present the "best of Maison&Objet" to our readers. And so I did, the result being yet another photo gallery showing lots of "nice stuff."
What remains undocumented, though, is the halls full of tacky goods aimed at buyers who intend to decorate the interior of a five-star hotel in the Middle East or Russia (or worse, still, a private client in one of those locales). Nor can you feel the headache caused by getting lost in—and overexposed to—the smell of a hall full of fragrance products (how design is that!) due to the poor signage of the whole fair.
Which brings me to the point of user experience, which started with a press room where there wasn't even a working wifi connection... or even a free glass of tap water. In almost every hall, I stumbled at least once over some unmarked bumps, thick cables visually but not physically smoothed over by carpet, which makes me wonder about the percentage of visitors who break their ankles at Maison&Objet. Considering that this show charges every visitor €65 even if they stay only for a day, as well as the rather proud prices for exhibiting, I would have expected a higher general level of experience design.
But once a show is established, the organizers can justify their "laissez-faire" attitude towards these details, since they know they can get away with pretty much anything. But being a critical member of the design community, I do feel very strongly about pointing out the flaws of it all, instead of just tuning into the general praise anthems about Maison & Objet.
As you can see in the gallery, there was of course a great number of delightful design objects on show - but they should be seen as a "best of selection", rather than the standard. The overall experience of my visit is certainly not marked as "delightful" in my memory.
» View Maison&Objet 2014 Gallery
Brit Leissler lives and acts between London and Berlin. After receiving a Master degree in product design from the Royal College of Art in London she started her own Shoot the Stylist! design studio. She also works as a design educator for various institutions and founded Punch'n'Cuddle Ltd., producing and distributing her own products.
When taking a break from the design world she writes, sings and composes quirky electronic pop or travels the planet. Brit loves all forms of eccentricity, joins up the dots and aims to get into interesting conversations with all kinds of weird and wonderful people. As a hardcore digital camera gunslinger she shoots everything that moves and grooves. She doesn't eat animals, is hot for cheese, loves the Kensington Squirrels, robotic dance moves and life enhancing ideas.