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East meets West: Minimalism, but with feeling - The new international design: warmth, sensuality and clear concepts

Furniture World Magazine
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Article Summary: Today, design of the ambitious kind is international. Modern media ensure that trend setters and market leaders today are well-known everywhere, from Tokyo to Cologne, from Shanghai to Helsinki.


Today, design of the ambitious kind is international. Modern media ensure that trend setters and market leaders today are well-known everywhere, from Tokyo to Cologne, from Shanghai to Helsinki. This networking within the world of design, however, goes a lot deeper. One look in any international design office shows this quite clearly. "Cross Culture" applies to both staff and clients and includes other components, which are also international, such as manufacture, advertising, marketing, distribution... people, nations and cultures meeting each other, working together. This can be seen particularly intensively in design offices, as also it will be at the most significant event in the international furniture industry's calendar, namely the INTERNATIONAL FURNITURE FAIR in Cologne (18 th to 24 th January 1999). Will these multinational relations together with the globalization of the markets lead to the creation of a uniform "International Design"? At the very top end of the furniture market, this is already a reality - and a welcome one at that. For every so-called "good" design is rooted in a particular cultural setting (otherwise it wouldn't be good). And this setting, nowadays, does not stop at national borders. Its spectrum has been extended and enriched by international contacts and sources of inspiration. Clarity and reduction continue to be the main recognizable trends in international furniture design today. The minimalism of the past has, however, become too cold and functional for many people. They are also looking for warmth and sensuality, peace and tranquillity. Europeans and Americans have discovered these qualities in the culture and philosophy of the Far East. They want to incorporate some of it into their own private life style and environment. Asia is "in", but in a deeper, more substantial way than a here-today, gone-tomorrow fashion fad. Nowadays almost everyone has heard of Futon beds, every Volkshochschule (adult education institute) offers Tai Chi courses, many health insurance funds pay the costs for acupuncture and Chinese medicine and, in the bookstores, books on Buddhism and Feng Shui, the doctrine concerning the balancing of spatial energies, are prominent. East meets West - but not the way it used to be, when all things exotic brought embarrassment and tension to well-ordered Western homes. For the first time in history, a synthesis of the two cultures has arisen, taking from both of them "simply the best". The cool relaxed atmosphere and emotional diversity of the West, as well as its technology, and the meditation, selection and innovations of the East. In the case of furniture, the Eastern components include the select material and workmanship and, of course, the harmonious balance of all the elements. Comfort, convenience and system come from the West. "Less, but better" is the general motto for the new East-West divan, and "more comfortable, but more conscious". A new design quality and culture have arisen, wonderfully capable of combining "foreign" influences with local roots, modern needs and desires. The international melting pot "Design" is of course not immune to the danger of negative and substandard "egalitarianism". Its big opportunity lies in being conscious of this danger. In addition to the new international aspects, it encourages the preservation and cultivation of regional and traditional ones, to make them better-known. This, too, helps us to respect and understand each other on an inter-cultural level. The world thrives on creative diversity, in particular the international furniture world, which at the INTERNATIONAL FURNITURE FAIR in Cologne from the 18 th to the 24 th January 1999, will again have multi-cultural representation on a scale second to none at any other exhibition ground anywhere in the world. Go To The Cologne Fair Web Area on Furninfolcom.

Furniture World is the oldest, continuously published trade publication in the United States. It is published for the benefit of furniture retail executives. Print circulation of 20,000 is directed primarily to furniture retailers in the US and Canada.  In 1970, the magazine established and endowed the Bernice Bienenstock Furniture Library (www.furniturelibrary.com) in High Point, NC, now a public foundation containing more than 5,000 books on furniture and design dating from 1620. For more information contact editor@furninfo.com.

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