The German furniture fair the imm Cologne is huge. Every year it kicks off the annual international trade fair circuit with over 1,000 exhibitors from all over the world showing their wares in 14 halls. The imm is also a regular occasion for a great gathering of the clans from the host nation’s furniture producers and designers and an opportunity for a mass meet and greet amongst some of the finest and most respected furniture producers and design know-how worldwide. German design and the label “Made in Germany” still carries a reputation for quality and innovation on a technical as well as design know-how level that is the envy of many, so keeping an eye on the mood swings of the German designer/producer scene is still a good way to gauge furniture foibles that will influence our interiors in the coming years.
A strong sense of sobriety paired with superb material quality and beautiful hand-finished surfaces is more evident than ever this year. Thonet, for example, have brought out a new version of their Marcel Breuer cantilevered classic chair design from the 1920s covered in finest nubuck leather with oiled wood armrests from sustainable forests. And carpet meister Jan Kath introduced a new range of vibrant silk rugs made from recycled saris.
A return to German functionalist roots with high tech adaptations is reflected in Interlübke’s Bookless shelving system with its clever hidden technical interface sockets that anticipates the evolution of the bookshelf in an era where our libraries become ever more virtual. Konstantin Grcic’s much-lauded new Pro chair for the 100 year old firm Flötotto from East Westfalia is a contemporary version of the classic school chair that is a masterclass in contemporary sitting, stacking and construction design. The moulded plastic shell is shaped in such a way as to be strong and springy without the need of added fibreglass. “You can see it still has the company DNA” says CEO Elmar Flötotto proudly comparing the Pro to their old wooden school chair model, the legendary Formsitz from the 1950s.
Upcoming young designers get to make their statements at the imm too thanks to the D3 Contest show curated annually by the German Design Council. Stools made of stitched concrete and industrial shelving made of wood show too that German students take both their design heritage and material innovation traditions seriously. And in the imm Das Haus study in contemporary living by guest designers Doshi Levien the London-based pair have introduced a number of new prototypes and editions including a superb mixed-materials dining table in collaboration with Stilwerk.
We took our imm pick of the fair this year from pieces by German manufacturers and German designers to show that when it comes to form, fabric, function and innovation they are still well ahead of the game…