Whether its exploring exhibitions on aesthetic and functional objects, admiring exceptional artworks in modern museums, sleeping in hotel rooms created by well-known designers or dining out in quirky venues surrounded by unusual artefacts, lovers of design are well served in France. Follow your guide!
Design-related cities, museums and events
There is no shortage of venues or events celebrating design throughout France. In Paris, don't miss a visit to the Docks, Cité de la mode et du design, located in an ultra modern building between Austerlitz Station and the François Mitterrand Library. Or (re)discover the Musée des Arts décoratifs, with its several exhibition spaces dedicated to contemporary objects and furniture.
In October, make your way to Place des Vins de France in Bercy Village for the Puces du Design, a flea market and authentic open-air museum of all things design. The city of Saint-Etienne, near Lyon, is less than three hours from Paris by TGV and is well worth the trip. Part of UNESCO's Creative Cities Network, Saint-Etienne's Cité du design really comes alive every two years in March, for its Biennale internationale du design. Continue your trip southward to attend the Design Parade, an international festival organized by the Centre d'Art Villa Noailles in Hyères. This contest, open to young designers worldwide, is an innovative platform that allows visitors to meet and exchange with the artists in a unique setting.
French designers make the grade
Jean Prouvé, Charlotte Perriand, Le Corbusier… In the wake of their illustrious predecessors, today's French designers are renowned well beyond their native borders. The most famous is without a doubt Philippe Starck, best known for his concept of "democratic design." Isabelle Stanislas, for her part, associated with Leiko Oshima to create the So-An Agency and prefers to work with raw materials: to decorate the Zadig & Voltaire boutique on the Champs-Élysées, she chose concrete, marble and exposed piping to give the space an industrial look.
Interior architect and designer Christian Liaigre, on the other hand, creates furniture that focuses on craftsmanship: his famous wooden Nagato stool, for example, has become a classic of French design. Another well-known designer is the media-savvy Ora Ïto, creator of "simplexity," or the art of making objects with complex functions appear simple. The Marseille native recently took over the roof of Le Corbusier's Cité Radieuse to set up an art centre.
Hotels, restaurants, theatres: day-to-day design
The most famous designers invite you on a veritable tour de France. Near Saumur in the Loire Valley, prolong your discovery of the Fontevraud Abbey by taking a breather in the more modern Orangerie, or at the Aliénor Café, a wine bar designed by Laurent Vié. Spend the night at the Sōzō Hotel in Nantes, a design boutique hotel set up in a 19th century chapel. In Aix-en-Provence, the new Marriott Renaissance Hotel is a true art gallery, with sculptures by Traquandi and furniture signed Christian Ghion. Another contemporary design hotel is the Why Hotel in the heart of Lille, which welcomes guests in one of its 46 rooms decorated in 70s-inspired colour combinations.
Looking to experience something truly original? Discover the unique ambiance of Mama Shelter hotels, a brand developed by Serge Trigano. From Paris to Marseille and Lyon to Bordeaux (opening in fall 2013), enjoy the Philippe Starck touch and trademark, also found in the renovations of the La Co(o)rniche restaurant on the Bay of Arcachon and A'Trego at Cap d'Ail, on the French Riviera. Back in Paris, it's impossible not to come across a venue signed by the famous Andrée Putman, a designer whose clean and elegant style is recognized in France and abroad. Have lunch at the restaurant of the Pershing Hall Hotel, at the foot of Paris' most remarkable green wall. Still in the Capital, Café Campana is another unique environment, on the fifth floor of the Musée d'Orsay: the famous Brazilian Campana brothers created an "onirico-aquatique" setting, an homage to Art Nouveau and Emile Gallé, the great glass artist from Lorraine.