Elegance, art and creativity! These three words describe both the image that people have of France as well as the world of design! Therefore, it is not surprising to discover that the country of Concorde,Bic 4-colour pens or Tsé-Tsé vases has positioned itself in the forefront of design. And it also has design shops, renowned designers, unique venues, unusual (but always useable!) inventions, etc.
From clothing fashions to everyday top-of-the-range or mass-market objects, today design seems to be a “trendy” factor that is more and more present when we buy things and is now accessible to everyone!
A design culture
France and design: a long-standing love story! Beautiful objects have always been a part of French culture. Its artistic history bears witness to this. Stemming from the French words “dessin” (drawing) and “dessein” (idea), design took off at the beginning of the 20th century with the rapid development of industrialization.
This term describes the practicality and the elegance of an object in keeping with cultural, fashion or economic trends. Today it is recognized as being an applied art and is taught in many specialist schools, which are the cradles of a large number of designers.
In the course of time, the use of design has become more popular, manufacturers draw their inspiration from it and integrate designers into their teams. “Exclusive objects” thus become (more) accessible and the number of specialist stores, agencies or galleries has increased. Design has become democratic…
French people who are continually making our daily lives change
Stark, Putman, Jouin, Prouvé, Le Corbusier, etc. and so many others! You know their names but above all, you know about their designs. They are innovative and audacious and bring to life objects that change our way of life. From a 1970s globe lamp to a Ribboon chair to a Laguiole knife redesigned by Philippe Stark, design has become part and parcel of our society…and to a large extent thanks to these “everyday researchers” : Le Corbusier,Philippe Starck, Andrée Putman, Christophe Pillet, Patrick Jouin, Jean Prouvé, Matali Crasset, Pierre Paulin, Damien Langlois-Meurinne.
Where to shop for design items
Whether you like products that are practical and reasonably priced or top-of-the-range and exclusive, there is something for everyone. Paris, the French design capital, has a large number of boutiques, workshops and brands dedicated to design, which are situated in the districts of Saint-Germain des Près and the Marais in particular. The province are not to be outdone and also have a wide choice in terms of design articles.
If you want to treat yourself without spending a fortune, head for some of the major French retail chains that are present throughout the country. By using a “popularization” strategy for beautiful objects, they have been able to develop their products using original and clever collections.
In the world of comfortable furniture, Cinna, Ligne Roset, Roche-Bobois or Steiner, the creator of the Young Designers Award, spring to mind. Crockery enthusiasts will appreciate the work of Bernardaud, the porcelain manufacturer from Limoges, which produces its collections in close collaboration with design firms, as do Villeroy & Boch, of which the designs regularly receive awards. For several decades Habitat stores have been indispensable and they remain a benchmark due to the renewed designs of its collections and its “mass-market” sales strategy. Guy Degrenne, the highly renowned cutlery brand, continues to use modern and innovative designs. The more recently established brand, Jardin d’Ulysse, has achieved considerable recognition with collections that are designed around natural materials.
As for the Parisian department stores, (some of which also have branches in provincial towns) they showcase more and more inexpensive creative ranges, imagined and made by the great names in design. At Galeries Lafayette you can take advantage of an exhibition about design, between two purchases, so that you can better “feel” the trends, while at Printemps or at Le Bon Marché, the collections are constantly renewed offering a huge choice of products for the home and decorative purposes.
The shops of the Musées des Arts décoratifs [museums of decorative arts] in Paris, Bordeaux, Strasbourg or le Musée d’Orsay [Orsay Museum] in Paris, also provide other places to make reasonably priced purchases.
In a slightly more expensive price range, we tend to think of renowned brands or designers who have their own boutiques, shops or galleries, which produce unique collections in general and where it is still possible to treat yourself with goods that remain reasonably priced. In general, the designs are more “experimental”, sophisticated and even aesthetic.
Here are a few of the many designers in this category:
Moustache : a group of designers of contemporary furniture.
Toutlemonde Bochart: design devoted to rugs.
Jean-Pierre Lépine : an original pen designer.
Ibride: a workshop which designs “animal-themed” furniture.
Design brands naturally present luxury collections, with rare, top-of-the range and even unique items.
Baccarat : the elegant link between crystal and design.
Artelano : a Parisian manufacturer of top-of-the-range contemporary furniture.
Galerie Yves Gastou[Yves Gastou's Gallery]: a specialist in design furniture from the 1940s to the 1970s.