Comfort: where design and technology combine
My out of office said I will be travelling overseas to attend a trade event and conference (in Paris) …. that’s the part everyone remembers. Having been, and now humbly returned, It’s what I remember too.
I had two journeys of discovery on this 10 day trip. One is the comfort story the other is culture, separate but I actually think connected. Let me start with comfort.
My trip was to attend Maison et Objet, home and object, a trade event for retail, design, architecture that I have longingly romanticised for many years, filled with anxiety and FOMO as my colleagues and contemporaries talk of their impending trips to Paris each January and September for M&O. Described as among the 3 most important European events for interior design, ( I am yet to discover the other 2, but smile at the humility of this positioning). Leading international interior design magazines return triumphantly promoting proudly their next issue dedicated to M&O, showcasing what we will be lusting after and the impacts on design that we will be emulating, when the trickle finally reaches our shores. Further amplifying what I had missed.
This year, I chose not to attend any local trade events, deciding that my time was better spent travelling to M&O. I wasn’t disappointed. I also wasn’t ready for the experience. M&O is innovation and talent in one place, in bucket loads. I was equal parts inspired, excited and at a certain point overwhelmed. I have never been to an event quite like this, from its sheer size, to the execution (which we know is everything), to the presentations, products and people. I travelled with huge numbers of people every day on the Metro to the Paris Nord Villepointe, filling the train and moving through the station in a mass of bodies towards the purpose built event halls. All 10 of them. 8 massive halls each one dedicated to a specific design area — plus a couple of extras when you include Hall 5A and 5B. Halls 6 and 7 included event spaces, hosting the comprehensive list of extraordinary presentations each day of the show.
We live in an uncomfortable world defined by instability and un-sustainability, impacting on our wellbeing, attacking our base level safety and security. It seems we are increasingly looking in, rather than out, to find our place, to live the good life, in our own home. Our happy place, where we have peace of mind. Design in response to this has replaced straight lines with curves and shapes are more enveloping. Protective like a favourite snuggly jacket, reassuring as a favourite child’s cuddly toy.
I observed references to bubbles, balls and clouds, inspiring designers to create a new generation, of a connected cocoon.
Chairs have always been a marker for our desire for comfort. Representing changing expectations, the shapes of chairs reflect our desire for wellbeing and comfort. New techniques and materials coupled with shape, define each adaptation of the chair. From the 18th Century Louis Chair to the 20th Century, where the timeless (and endlessly copied) Egg Chair by Arne Jacobson is emblematic of contemporary design and comfort. Curiously, the decline of armrests and arm pads (akin to shoulder pads in fashion) that declined in popularity during the 70’s are making a come-back today.
Precious comfort is a major style trend where furnishings and other objects are produced to the very highest standards — and we are opting to have less to achieve more. A new art deco is perhaps emerging, building bridges between tradition and new technologies. Colours are subtle, with a light and natural palette as well as rich velvety deep hues (like precious stones!)
Comfort is different for everyone. We are being encouraged to develop our own comfort playlist with words and objects that define our own ideal of comfort. This playful approach allows us to create our own selection that is always unique, varied and coherent and ultimately reflects our own inner desire for comfort.
Wellbeing in the workplace is a key objective of workplace design. The digital 21st Century breaks with tradition, disrupts. Heirarchy is replaced with collaboration, walls are removed and open plan spaces are turned into landscapes of activity. These spaces need to be adaptable to different situations, and what has become indispensable is to create spaces within the space. Where we can temporarily remove ourself from others. Leading to the need to create islands of extreme comfort, places such as bubble chairs and cabins. To resolve the ergonomic issues associated with these new spaces we have keyboards and desks that can move up or down depending on whether you are sitting or standing and stools to offer some intermittent comfort.
Cushions on legs
The snugly down jacket is moving out of our wardrobe and into our living room. Responding to our desire for something soft and cosy. Reflected in hybrid furniture that is part sofa, part bed. Fulfilling our need for warmth and protection. Imagine a sofa wrapped in a quilted duvet, ideal to cocoon in, curl up and make our nest. Cushions with legs.
Can you imagine a device — google home for example, broadcasting sounds that only you can hear! This is the acoustic well-being proposed, where a speaker reinvents the listening experience using directional sound. Imagine it as a beam of sound, where it is no longer necessary to have total calm to appreciate a sound effect. It’s actually easy to hear despite background noise. Digital sound…
enhances the perceptual experience and provides real comfort in a world where noise pollution is everywhere. Akoustic-arts
The application: At home or in a public space, for shows or different sorts of informative messages.
Curves are returning to furniture, lighting, fixtures and objects, and air is adding extra comfort. The benefits of lightness, transportability and economy appeals to our desire for a nomadic urban lifestyle or the smaller home, apartment and tiny home as a consequence of skyrocketing realestate prices. It complements our desire to be part of a global village, where we can travel the world with our very own design camp with us! The roundness and blown up shapes evoke happy memories of lilos at the beach and party balloons give these objects a relaxed, leisure style vibe.
Humour and comfort
Cuddly toys and other gentle monsters provide comfort in the form of poetry and fun. Where humour and comfort combine in our homes and apartments with objects straight out of our childhood, infused with an elegance of luxury, they are now being transformed into hotel concepts. Where a hybrid hotel is part youth hostel part chic boutique hotel, targeting a youthful generation and at the same time reinventing the hotel industry paradigm, at a time where the industry is under siege from disruptive technology players focusing on community and collaboration.
Comfort has evolved, combining playful, physical and mental comfort. It is warm and inviting, introducing technology to blur the lines between the private and public sphere. It’s all about feeling good. I’ll end here and return with a summary of the equally inspiring culture trip.