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Brighter prospects ahead for interior design industry

Prospects for the furniture industry are looking up after years of stagnating sales

(Keystone Archive)

Swiss interior designers are showing off their latest innovations in furniture, lighting and textiles for the home. The Swiss Furniture Fair International in Zurich is the industry's biggest annual event and comes at a time when things are looking a little brighter for the sector.

With the economy in a healthier condition, it appears that people are spending more on their homes. Sales of furniture increased by 3.8 per cent last year and the export business grew by more than 10 per cent.

The title of this year's "Home 01" is "Everything new for the Home" and designers are hoping to take advantage of this new optimism. "After a few years of depression, we have a lot of hopes," says the deputy-director of the Swiss Furniture Fair, Gertrud Schneider.

The focus of the fair is very much on function as well as form and brings together special shows such as Design Plus that will feature both new and established designers. Those appearing include Neue Werkstatt, Chamäleon Design and Irion Möbelsystem.

Included in this part of the show will be "The Concept Room", where new industry prototypes will be unveiled.

"Of our 35 members, 10 have worked on a project with students from the college of Art and Design in Zurich," says Schneider. "It's very interesting and the furniture is extremely innovative but very functional."

The Swiss Furniture Fair has also tried this year to widen the content of the show to include all aspects of interior design.

"We wanted to include textiles, lighting and pictures, too, " says Schneider, "and this is set to become a valuable addition to the show."

The organisers say visitors to the show will be able to explore fabric and its cultural significance. Veit Rausch from St Gallen developed the textile exhibition in cooperation with the College of Art and Design in Zurich and London's Chelsea College of Art.

The show's international dimension will be further enhanced by the presence of Italian designers. "Made in Italy" is making its third appearance at the show and will be focusing on the latest trends in the kitchen.

The recession of the 1990s hit Swiss furniture producers hard and the industry is trying hard to shake off its old image and to bring itself in line with the tastes of the modern consumer.

"There's a trend for people to be much more mobile now and heavy furniture is out," says Schneider. "Furniture has to reflect modern life-styles."

The Swiss Furniture Fair runs until Monday evening and expects to attract around 25,000 visitors.

by Michael Hollingdale

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