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Development of the French market for interior design products

21.01.2011 10:11 by British European Design Group

Savoir vivre!

Savoir vivre! There is a reason why these two simple French words have become an internationally recognised expression for something quintessentially French and utterly desirable: the art of living.

To be more precise - the art of living with, through and for one’s senses – the pursuit and enjoyment of visual beauty, refined taste, acoustic harmony and the elegance of mind and manners.

"Creativity in France is booming, and design is present in renewable and sustainable energy projects, as well as in the luxury goods sector. Enterprises now see design as a vital part of their innovative strategy."

Interior decoration is no exception. French interior designers or décorateurs – never to be interpreted as painters! – prefer the luxurious feel of heavy silks, damasks or velvets, solid wood, marble or soft leather, pure wool or cotton to cold plastics, steel or fibreglass, not only because they know their clients, but also because they themselves firmly believe in the test of time for quality and comfort.

Since the 17th century when Louis XIV ruled the world, France has always been a trendsetter in style and French antique furniture and art objects are still some of the most expensive design items sold in the auction houses of the world. But in the last three decades France has also begun to become a contemporary trendsetter and Paris a world centre for international contact and trade in creative industries and design related activities.

Starting in the late 1980s there has been a considerable shift in French consumer taste and French style coupled with significant coordinated government promotion to try making France one of the European centres of creative talent. There is little doubt that Paris is today a very important destination for creative design and France a global player for design production and development.

This has been largely due to famous French designers and companies like Ligne Roset, Roche Bobois, Artelano and Fermob also flying the flag for a ‘France more contemporary’.

Ligne Roset, for example, have triumphed with intelligent collections of furniture, home accessories and even textiles by a team of 50 European designers, whose designs are distributed worldwide through the Ligne Roset network of some 900 stores. According to President Michel Roset, efforts to awaken the French to design are finally working and consumers are behaving differently buying pieces not for status but for personal satisfaction.

Samuel Coriat, founder of Artelano, and another of France’s outstanding contemporary design producers, has put together avant-garde collections by such talents as Pascal Mourgue, Didier Gomez, Christophe Pillet, Piero Lissoni and EOOS, which now account for 60 percent of the company’s business.

According to Pierre Staudenmeyer, French style guru and founder of Galerie Neotu, who has produced the creations of a star-studded list including Garouste & Bonetti, Olivier Gagnère and Martin Szekely for nearly two decades, the French public’s awareness of contemporary design has emerged only recently. 'We had to wait until the end of the century - the century of design - for it to materialize in people’s minds,' he explains. 'But now, when people buy a product, be it cookware or a car, they demand good design.

Big names in French design since the war include André Arbus, Jean Royère and Jean Prouvé in the ’40s and ’50s and Pierre Paulin, whose work is experiencing a renaissance in France today making him more popular than he ever was back in the ’60s, when New York’s Museum of Modern Art gave him his first show. Or industrial designer Roger Tallon, who made his name in the 1950s with the P111 Téléavia portable television set. Half a century later, he continues to lend his inimitable style to the mini as well as the mammoth—sunglasses, ceramic picnic sets, the double-decker Eurostar TGV, Paris’ sleek Météor metro. Today France’s mega star designer is Philippe Starck, whose products and projects range from lemon squeezers to designer hotels and span the globe from America to Japan. And Andrée Putman, the First Lady of French design, who in 1984 designed the very first boutique hotel, Morgans, in New York and whose projects include private museums and private residences all over the world as well as the Ritz-Carlton hotel on the site of the Volkswagen factory between Berlin and Hanover in Germany.

The French Government since the mid 1990s has put a lot of effort into promoting French design. President Georges Pompidou attempted to set the tone, when he had Pierre Paulin design interiors at the Elysée Palace. President François Mitterrand similarly called upon contemporary talents, commissioning Starck, Wilmotte and others to redecorate the Elysée’s private apartments.

Yet, for many conservative French, abandoning the ‘Louis’ looks is like venturing across a minefield. VIA Director Gérard Laizé explains: ‘You feel reassured that you made the right choice when you see the piece in a museum. It is what I call ‘la validation de l’histoire’. Furniture by Prouvé and other 20th-century designers is setting records at auction. Now that these pieces are worth something, people are taking them seriously.’

The year 2006 marked an important turning point as the year when – for the first time - more contemporary and casual furniture was sold in France than traditional and classic design items. While there is still a strong international market for French classical décor (Louis XIV, Louis XV, Empire etc.) and a huge following in the UK and in France for ’Le Style Provençal’, the young French are turning more and more to contemporary design to decorate their homes.

Even hallowed department stores like Galeries Lafayette and La Samaritaine have been revamped with contemporary fittings. Many of the big names in Italian design have branches in the French capital, and more are coming as the market for contemporary design is booming.

"Creative Industries (also known as Cultural Industries in France) are a growing sector, but the French still look to the UK as a lead country: daring, innovative and creative."

From the late nineties both the British Council and the British Embassy in Paris have made considerable efforts to promote British design in France. Today there is a growing number of famous British design brands with their own outlets in France – such as Conran, Designers Guild, Colefax, Laura Ashley, Burberry, Paul Smith, Stella McCartney, Monsoon and Accessorize.

There are undoubtedly very significant and still growing opportunities for UK companies both in the field of products and design consultancy to further increase the UK share of the French market.

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Your comments

Comment by mackmans | 21.12.2016

This INTERIOR DESIGN IMAGES collection is graceful and cool.

Comment by 10月 シープスキン | 28.11.2014

I wanted to get the basics of the process using an ignition coil, a few capacitors and a battery.

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