Some go to Cologne for the beer, others to admire the gritty realism of the city’s colourful street art. Designers? Well, they go to the trade fair. Every January, the international design community descends upon this fashion-forward city, armed with cameras and ready to capture the trends and ideas that will shape global tastes for years to come.
It’s a space of discovery and inspiration, one that seeks not only outstanding aesthetics but to make sense of our political zeitgeist through a series of lectures and carefully curated exhibitions. If you weren’t able to make it to IMM Cologne this year, don’t panic. The Chaplins Trend Report decodes all of the fair’s major themes with an exclusive look at the products and brands that stole the show.
For an increasing number of people, furnishing is no longer a question of just style and aesthetic. The constant noise of a hyper-connected world has encouraged us to adopt an inward-out design philosophy to our living spaces, creating homes that promote clarity and wellness. This year’s IMM Cologne developed this sentiment; the call for softness echoed in luxurious textiles and muted pastel tones. A preference for rounded, oversized lounge seating confirmed the demise of angular and unfeeling minimalism in our communal areas. Meanwhile, nostalgia for mid-century optimism had many designer furniture brands reaching back for the very best of the 50s and 70s.
And while, of course, there were noticeable trends, the Chaplins team noticed a peculiar type of magic going on at this year’s fair. Whether it was a reaction to individualism in America or a consequence of the momentous Brexit vote, each exhibitor seized the moment to reestablish strong, distinct identities. De Sede‘s unveiling of a collection of quirky, leather furniture pieces, surprised and delighted us weary trade-fair veterans, bringing back memories of the first De Sede armchair to grace the Chaplins showroom back in the nineties. Of particular note, was the DS-1000, which provides a futuristic update on the modern chaise longue.
Rediscover Your Roots
All striking leather straps and light gold tubes, this unique chaise lounge represents the past and future of this exciting Swiss manufacturer. While paying homage to their rich tradition as expert leather craftsmen, the avant-garde DS-1000 peaked our curiosity, encouraging us to lie down and indulge in a moment of revolutionized relaxation. The light stitched leather mat seemed to stretch weightlessly between the head and foot section, offsetting the rather industrial appearance of the piping and allowing for a pleasant floating sensation. Meanwhile, adjustable straps ensured that the chaise long could be retightened to customize and heighten the experience. Our Creative Director noted how the DS-1000 asserted a strong, architectural presence over its surroundings, recalling the iconic silhouette of De Sede’s Non-Stop Modular Sofa, designed by Eleanora Peduzzi-Riva in 1972. This sense of moving forward while expertly rediscovering their roots is precisely what is needed in modern interior design, and meant that De Sede was one of our super-star exhibitors at IMM Cologne 2018.
It was a similar story for Italian powerhouses Porada and Cattelan Italia. A resolved determination to play to their strengths lead to breathtaking exhibitions that stood out in the design-heavy extravaganza. New Keramik finishes were introduced at Cattelan, with the enigmatic Portoro attracting particular acclaim.
Meanwhile, Porada let rich walnuts and dark woods take centre stage, conveying the honest and peacefulness of this raw material with several key pieces, including the Fuji Dining Table and the new oval Thayl Dining Table.
At a time when interest in interior design is booming, it was refreshing to see such confident displays of brand identity. Perhaps, it’s that in 2018 designers are realising that authenticity is the only game in town. Or maybe, as the home becomes more of a refuge than ever, furniture brands are realising that in order to help people tell their private stories, they must live, breathe and extend their own.
An Oriental Escape
Ligne Roset’s Paipai series was another belle of the ball, a delightful contemporary sofa inspired by the delicate art of Origami. Clean, deliberate folds create an enveloping modern sofa, a relaxing visual cocoon on which to unwind.
Its appeal is a testament to its flexible style and globalized roots. Fusing the philosophy of Japanese simplicity with chic, French styling, one can just as easily imagine this stylish sofa in a timber apartment in Tokyo as propping up a polite rendezvous in Paris.
And yet Paipai remains a natural extension for Ligne Roset’s seating collection, existing somewhere between the relaxed styling of the Togo and the more orthodox, capitonné form of the Ploum. Upon closer inspection, the team noticed highly technical armrests, each completely supple in order to facilitate relaxation in every position. While simple pleasures are key for homeowners in 2018, Paipai is a reminder that they shouldn’t necessitate the absence of 21st-century comfort.
Ligne Roset were not the only manufacturer to indulge in a moment of Oriental escapism. Cassina created a nook of Japanese-inspired tranquillity with their Baleno shelving and Le Beau Wood Dining Table. Of course, the design team could not entirely avoid adding a touch of Italian glamour, opting for a brown marble finish for the table top. The overall result was one of understated luxury, a globalised infusion of the best of East and West.
A Soft Touch
Elsewhere, the prevalence of velvet and lustrous upholstery were an invitation to luxuriate in softness, a reminder of the importance of tactility in the age of the screen. For those not persuaded by some of the more adventurous red and peach velvets, the refitting of Gio Ponti’s D.156.3 Armchair with a sleek black velvet seat will be just the thing to warm up winter evenings.
Velvet’s natural affiliation with gold and metallic accents was widely explored throughout the fair, first at Gallotti & Radice and again at Molteni & C. From the luminous trim of the extra large Chloé Room Divider to the delicate gold-and-walnut legs of the D.151.4 cocktail chair, gold provided a fresh update to monochromatic and colourful furniture alike, a gilty pleasure for homes in a need of a little opulence.
And yet the abundance of gold and metallic detailing managed to avoid seeming overly ostentatious, conferring merely a whisper of 70s glamour rather than a full-fledged revival. De Sede’s deconstructed DS-515 chair contrasted the lustre of gold with the rawness of leather; it’s exposed stitching serving to remove some of the put-togetherness often associated with these two materials. In 2018, clear, austere lines are offset by generous upholstery, reclaiming a role for comfort and luxury in contemporary interiors.
Michelle O’Gundehin’s aptly named “new neutrals” were ever present at IMM Cologne, recalling Pantone’s predictions about the soothing power of pastels in times of social uncertainty. Jasper Morrison’s Soft Sofa was adorned in powdery pink loveliness at Vitra, offset by a minty green armchair and a distinctly 70s geometric rug.
The team noticed how the art of colour blocking and the garish hues of the 50s and 70s had matured into cool toned pastels and harmonious colour combinations, adding a gentle touch of optimism to the seasonal colour story. The classic proportions of Cassina’s LC3 Armchair received one such playful update, with the introduction of baby blue and aqua green frames.
B&B Italia also sought mid-century inspiration, unveiling an exciting outdoor furniture collection designed by Jonathan Levien and Nipa Doshi. The high-backed armchairs of the new Bay Collection appeared to reference ornate Peacock chairs, a favourite of Hollywood stars throughout the 50s and 60s. The result is an intimate set of outdoor furniture, a series of stylish cocoons in which to while away the summer nights.
A desire to connect to the history and process of the things we surround ourselves with was overtly apparent, reflecting our need for authenticity in the post-truth age. Rich woods, natural stones and earthy hues were present throughout the fair, with many brands opting for the stabilizing influence of a warm autumnal palette.
The mix of the old and new meant that the Chaplins team came away from this year’s IMM Cologne with one resounding message. We must trust in the power of the past to shape the present, applying the lessons of hindsight to our current plights and design dilemmas. Nostalgia can be a powerful driver of change, and for us, 2018 will be about opening our homes to new neutrals and gold finishes, while remaining confident in the power of timeless design to act as a decorative anchor for years to come. We look forward to welcoming all of these innovative designs from IMM Cologne both online and in-store in what promises to be a spectacular year for contemporary design.