Germany calling

Nicky Churchill hotfoots it round the Cologne Furniture Fair and brings us her pick of the crop

Branding is creeping into the international furniture world, if evidence at last month’s furniture fair in Cologne is anything to go by. Both Spanish and Italian companies are labelling their upholstered designs like a pair of Levi jeans. Matthew Hilton’s London sofa series for Perobell was one such design where a red label could be seen poking out of the upholstered seams.

And darker woods, predominantly walnut and wenge, are in this year, coupled with natural finishes and neutral tones. Flexform introduced an armchair by Antonio Citterio in walnut and cane, and B&B Italia showed the Maxalto Apta range of benches and wenge tables also by Citterio. Driade displayed a host of new products, including King Tubby, a rattan armchair by British designer Platt & Young, and Punt Mobles reintroduced Terence Woodgate’s River collection in walnut.

British furniture designers held their own this year with Hilton, James Irvine and Platt & Young all with new designs for European manufacturers. Meanwhile, Inflate, Tom Dixon, Michael Young and Jeremy Lord presented products at the British Council offices for the second year running. Regular exhibitor Aero returned to showcase new sofa designs and bedroom furniture by Paul Newman, Nazanin Kamali and Richard Entwhistle. And Hitch Mylius and Allermuir took advantage of the Department of Trade and Industry funding available to the Association of British Furniture Manufacturers to exhibit for the first time in the avant-garde halls.

It is disheartening though, that there is not a more extensive British presence, especially when you are faced with the huge representation from Spanish group SIDI, as well as companies from France, Denmark and Sweden. However, says Caroline Haye of the BFM, space in these halls is severely restricted. So, although the BFM would welcome more contemporary companies, and fund them, there is no guarantee that space will be available.

The Spanish presence was as strong as ever. Amat launched a new in-house design called Boogie-Boogie (where do they come up with these names), a polypropylene chair not unlike the old favourite by Robin Day. This one has an accompanying 600mm diameter table, also with aluminium legs, and both are stackable. Disform showed Jorge Pensi’s Glassbox tables and display cases with accompanying Mouse Lamp. This latter item is intriguing – being no larger than a computer mouse and just as flexible. You can move it with ease to cast light on the items underneath. Punt Mobles showed two new table designs – Lima by Lola Castello with a beech or cherry surround and an etched glass centre, and Tric by Vicent Martinez – as well as introducing Temps, a stackable timber chair, also by Pensi. Temps is made of beech or cherry, with the seat and back in moulded plywood and an optional die-cast aluminium armrest. These are available from Neil Rogers Interiors priced from 150.

Pensi has also been designing for Italian company Cassina this last year and his Duna dining chair and Artico table, both in cast aluminium, are a good pairing. Artico comes with a thick glass top with the extruded supporting bars visible underneath. The chair, however, despite being compact and beautifully proportioned, is extremely heavy and impossible to lift – there is simply nothing to hold on to. The UK supplier for Cassina is Robert Webster.

Nanna Ditzel meanwhile continues to design for Danish company Fredericia. Her latest chair, Tempo, claims to be the first chair ever to be assembled without screws or rivets. The laminated wood moulds around the frame and is secured in place with a structural bonding tape. It’s not as pretty as her previous Trinidad chair, but just as comfortable and possibly more flexible.

Across the aisles, Fritz Hansen introduced new colours for its successful Ensemble chair, and showed three designs for freestanding screens, each very different. Labyrint, by Pelikan Design, is formed from a series of angled wooden slats which, depending where you are looking from, gives the screen an open or closed appearance. Solid versions in coloured fabric and linoleum are also offered. Pelikan Design is also responsible for Wing, a flexible screen system in solid or perforated aluminium or wood, with an optional sound absorption specification.

And then comes Viper, perhaps the most innovative of the three. Designed by Hans Sandgren Jakobsen, a young Danish designer, Viper is made from oval cardboard tubes which link together to form an infinitely flexible screen. When not in use, it can simply be rolled up and put into a corner. The cardboard is surface-treated to make it easy to clean.

Viper was one of the stars of the show for me, alongside a revolving CD rack designed by Pascal Bauer for Ycami. CDRoll is a circular wall-hung unit made of matt anodised aluminium. It is secured to the wall by a pin, allowing you to rotate the unit until you reach the CD you want. It is 700mm in diameter, holds 50 CDs, and should be available in the spring at a list price of 300. Contact JT Contract Marketing for further details.

Finally, a review of the week’s events could not pass without mentioning German lighting designer Ingo Maurer, who presented an extravaganza for the second year running underneath the Deutzer Brcke (one of the bridges across the Rhine). The show was called Tales of Light, and was a homage to Philippe Starck. Light fittings on show included Wo Bist du, Edison?, Maurer’s hologram light fitting presented in Milan last year, the Zettel’z chandelier made from printed and plain sheets of paper which are fixed to the wires using bulldog clips; and a new limited edition table light in cast aluminium aptly named Horny Philippe.

1 King Tubby by Platt & Young for Driade

2 Jorge Pensi’s Artico table for Cassina

3 Lima tables by Lola Castello for Punt Mobles

4 Duna chair by Jorge Pensi for Cassina

5 Hans Sandgren Jakobsen’s Viper screen for Fritz Hansen

6 CDRoll by Pascal Bauer for Ycami

7 James Irvine’s one-seater and two-seater Tubo for BRF Design

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