The first event in the yearly calendar of international furniture fairs takes place next week in Cologne. Oh no, I hear you say, we’re only just recovering from the Christmas break. Well too bad, for as the preview pamphlet produced by KlnMesse puts it, it is once again time to “focus on furniture”.
Those interested in contemporary furniture should head straight for the Avantgarde Design Centre in the upper level of halls 1, 2 and 3. Here you will find the recognisable names – Fritz Hansen and Fredericia from Denmark, Artek and Inno from Finland, XO from France and Wittmann from Austria – and have a chance to see and test the products first-hand. Here too, you will find the Italians, though those expecting anything new will have to wait for the Milan fair in April. You will, however, be able to catch up on the latest products from the likes of Cassina, Driade, B&B Italia and Moroso.
Matteograssi will also be returning after an absence of more than five years, bringing upholstered seating in soft, sumptuous hide as well as the more delicate Venezie chair by Franco Poli. And Segis will be introducing the new Multi Storm beam seating by Carlo Bartoli, with its four lengths and one-piece polypropylene seat and back. Both these products will be available here from Neil Rogers Interiors and the European Design Centre respectively.
There will also be a strong collective of Spanish manufacturers exhibiting under the SIDI umbrella, with both old favourites and new designs promised from the likes of Carlos JanÃ© Camacho, Stua, Amat and Indecasa – many of which were launched at the Valencia International Furniture Fair last autumn. Mobles 114 will be showing the new Nautilus clock designed by Oscar Tusquets, while Andreu World introduces the Apta stacking chair designed by Gabriel Teixido for lecture halls and conference areas. This compact, lightweight design is something of a departure for Andreu World, which is more commonly associated with crafted dining chairs and upholstered seating, but with its various finishes (wood, plastic and upholstery) and range of accessories (attachable writing desk and optional tray), Apta offers an adaptable and stackable option for a variety of situations.
Following the success of the River collection, Punt Mobles continues its collaboration with Terence Woodgate, his latest design being the compact Alfil chair, available with removable covers and a painted steel frame. Other new products include chairs, tables and sofas by Punt Mobles regulars Vincent Martinez and Lola CastellÃ². And from soft seating specialist Perobell comes the comprehensive Metropolitan sofa series designed by Lievore Asociados, which includes both individual modules that can be configured for different situations and a rather solid-looking chaise longue. Not a new idea, but Metropolitan did achieve a “menciÃ²n de honor” at the Valencia International Furniture Fair 1996, so it is definitely worth a look.
There will also be a few contemporary delights among the UK exhibitors, though a number of the regulars will be missing. New Designers in Business has unfortunately failed to get sponsorship this year, and SCP and Zoeftig & Co have decided to channel their energies into their transport seating products following the interest shown at Orgatec last October. We are promised new designs from regular exhibitor Aero, however, which will be at Cologne this year for the fifth time. Following the current trend for the home office, Paul Newman has designed The Study Wave (the Straight Wave with steel uprights is shown here), an adaptable desk unit complemented by a range of five Incognito Cabinets for filing and storage. More unusual is the Slatted Coffee Table by Nazanin Kamali which follows on from her Nesting Tables launched two years ago. This is a two-tier structure, however, built of flattened steel bars with a recessed glass top and surprisingly, it is KD, simply bolted together with stainless steel machine screws. The metal slats run perpendicular to each other to create a mesmerising chequered effect.
Also from the UK and at Cologne for the first time is Chairs, which will be promoting Nocturne, part of its limited edition High-Back range. We are told that this creation draws inspiration from atmospheric paintings of the River Thames by Whistler and Gene Kelly dancing on the banks of the river Seine, and as ever, the shapes and finishes are remarkable – this time a silk and steel weave fabric by German couture fabric designer Schlapfer and a Manuel Canovas black velvet. Quite what the Europeans will make of this remains to be seen, but if success at the UK’s 100% Design exhibition is anything to go by, Chairs should do well.
On the next stand are new designs by sculptor and designer Rob Mulholland, who has made his name in recent years producing individual pieces of furniture with fluid lines and dramatic shapes. Mulholland has now expanded his production capacity by teaming up with Glasgow-based Morris (Metal) Furniture to produce chairs and tables for restaurant and cafÃ© use and two ranges from this partnership will be on show. The latest is Spiral, a distinctive collection inspired by Celtic scrolls. Spirals are the main focus, whether appearing on the backs of chairs or used as a holder for the floor-standing ice bucket. Produced in mild steel, the collection may be too ornate for some tastes, but has the appeal of flexibility within the range and an economic pricing point.
Having trawled the halls, check out Cologne’s city centre, where those companies that choose not to join the throng at the exhibition centre (or simply can’t get in) will display their wares in showrooms and warehouses, turned over for and tuned into this event. Here you will undoubtedly find many more new and interesting products that we haven’t been told about and all in all, it promises to be a busy few days. So if you only attend one trade fair a year, I recommend you shake off those post-Christmas blues and make the trip to Cologne.