The Minimalism in Ornamentation
Making a comeback to bolster design and conquer new markets
Jean-Marc Barbier, June 3, 2019
MauriceRENOMA Ateliers Philippe Coudray - SST
MauriceRENOMA Ateliers Philippe Coudray - SST
Design took a short time out… and then gradually began its emancipation “from the minimalism all around, from the black and white that is still dominant at the end of 1983 when we launched ‘Waiting for the Barbarians’ ( to produce designs by the duo of Elisabeth Garouste and Mattia Bonetti,” says Agnès Standish-Kentish. “We wanted just the opposite: to live out our dreams and whims by creating products that were oriented towards a very primitive form of modernism and that were later, at the end of the 1980s, ornamented as a variation on the 19th century. The economy, which has a great impact on people’s tastes, was flourishing. The 1993 economic crisis sounded the death knell of this baroque spirit in favour of a climate of austerity that took no risks and emphasised ecru and plain wood.” So what about now? “Items that are a little bit out of the ordinary and have at the same time been produced with great attention to detail - in France - have almost become a gesture in support of national heritage. This is particularly the case with Garouste and Bonetti, whose profile rose when they separated.” And she adds with a smile: “Even Andrée Putman has added a baroque touch to the precious sobriety of her boxes we will be exhibiting in April (7-25 April 2009).”

"Crochet Table" occasional table, design by Marcel Wanders, Moooi
“Neo-baroque design claims its place in the purest ornamentalist tradition for which France has always been a stage,” Gérard Laizé continues. “In the 1980s, it offset the mainly minimalist design that was dominant because the industrial process constantly looked for gains in productivity. It has now become an advantage for customising small runs.” Jean-Paul Jubineau, managing director of Arcasa ( has observed that “there has been a clear trend towards a very contemporary style of decoration from our suppliers for about a year now, even going as far as the inclusion of gold. Along with Philippe Starck’s mirrors with silkscreen-printed frames, I’m also thinking of the Italian models by Glas Italia and Fiam. And the public likes them, especially at the very top end of the range.”

MauriceRENOMA Ateliers Philippe Coudray - SST
MauriceRENOMA Ateliers Philippe Coudray - SST
Even better, “yesterday’s critics of ornamental details are now enthusiasts,” Gérard Laizé confirms. “Even the Italians, who have mainly built their reputation for design on minimalist forms and plain finishes. There are, indeed, many reasons for this such as public demand for customisation, the need for manufacturers to stand out from the competition, and the use of new technologies that make it possible to create decorative effects at moderate cost.”

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