A few weeks ago I got the chance to look into the future of design when Philip and I traveled to Paris to attend Maison & Objet, the huge interior trade show.
It was the first time I had been to that show, and I’m so glad that I went. I have heard so many times that what is exhibited there is such a powerful influence on the course of design here in the States.
As I traveled to Paris, I was unsure of what I would find there. European design has struck me at times as being so sleek, so precise, and sometimes more than a little artificial.
If you are familiar with my design work, you probably know how much sanctuary means to me. The practice of creating peace around us to inspire peace within is central to my life and to my design philosophy.
I am all about bringing our built environments into a more congruent relationship with the natural world. I am all about using design to reunite with nature, rather than separating from it.
And so as our cab drove around the exhibition space to the entrance (the entire exhibit is the size of five LaGuardia airports lumped together) I had a certain amount of skepticism that I might see designs that could help me accomplish my aims.
There are no words for the surprise and delight that I experienced.
The first thing I saw as I entered was an exhibit put together from creators on the forefront of the European design world. It was called “ALIVE” and was all about the role of nature in design.
A wall explained in French and in English the zeitgeist of what this exhibit, and this entire show was about:
This focus on organic life inspires significant parts of creative design in various ways, through structures, surfaces, and depth, driven by biomimicry in terms of shapes. Combining roundness, curves, and sensuality, as well as cellular structures or vertebrate chains, this lifestyle thus offers purely organic shapes that are enveloping or sculptural. Somewhere between suppleness and exposure of the flesh, this organic life offers both the possibility of a certain softening and a rediscovery of the very essence of things.
And so while this passage highlights some of the challenges of writing about design (the problem of trying to use one language to explain another), it points to a deeper trend of going back to nature for inspiration, for support, for enrichment. Of bringing our design and the natural world closer together.
A particular manifestation of this movement that I found were several designs of lamps, tables, accessories, and other objects that featured butterflies, birds, bees, and other representations of living things.
To see so many of these invocations of the natural world in designed objects caused me to wonder if in our deepest hearts we feel the disconnection from nature that is the unsavory byproduct of our civilization and technology, and are somehow inviting nature back in, by proxy, to reanimate our spirits and soothe our ragged edges.
Design that bring us back to nature also brings us back to ourselves.
This is at the very heart of what ecologists and philosophers refer to as the re-enchantment of the world.
There was one other trend I noticed. These designers, craftspeople, artisans, and business owners were leading with their message. They understood that the “why” of their work was just as important as the work itself.
This is exactly why I write these emails. Sanctuary is my “why” and it is the first thing I want people to know about my work.
If finding out more about sanctuary and learning how to create it for yourself is something that calls to you, then I am creating a workshop just for you. Read below to find out more.
With deep appreciation,
If you’d like to go deeper in what it means to create sanctuary, you will want to know about the next edition of Seven Days to Sanctuary, my popular workshop on creating sanctuary in our homes and in our lives.
We have learned so much from our first edition, and are bringing all of that knowledge to bear on making this next workshop even better than ever. We’ll be limiting the number of participants in order to make this experience even more intimate and rewarding.