Biennale Interieur (1): What to expect?

Forever Advancing


Since 1968, the Kortrijk Biennale has had its finger on the pulse of the interior design world, a pulse that in 2016 has been exceptionally fast, and at times even irregular. Living trends are pretty much a thing of the past, the days of the star designers seem to be over, and furniture and furnishing brands are looking for the shortest route into the living rooms of the millennials.


Back in 1968, there were no online shops, 3D printers, or pop-ups. DIY enthusiasts were around, as were the social economy and the influencers, but without tutorials, apps, or blogs. The fact is, the structure of the inte-
rior design world has changed in the near-50 years that Biennale Interieur has been running. Buyers can access information and catalogues online, just a convenient click away. But it takes more than dry product-information to seduce the search-savvy millennial. You have to offer something extra. Which IKEA knows only too well. Never before has an IKEA catalogue contained so much copy as the 2016 edition. “True. We want to move more and more from publishing a product catalogue to making a design magazine, so that we can inspire even more people”, IKEA states. And the 13 stories contained therein can, of course, also be read in full online. This gives rise to a kind of online furniture phenomenon: acces- sible, conveniently-packaged objects that can be delivered quickly, right down to flat-pack sofas. Somewhat generic perhaps, but fitting nicely in the average millennial rental- flat found in cities across the globe. At the same time, personalisation is the password to gaining access to the liv- ing room of the modern-day consumer. With the help of apps, of course.

So where is all this heading? That’s a question many professionals are asking themselves. Jo Libeer, CEO of Biennale Interieur, is fully aware of this. “That’s why we’ve organised the Design Retail Summit, for instance.” What’s more, this is the first time Biennale Interieur is facilitating the pur- chase of objects. “Any of the selected items can be added to a wish-list via a mobile site, after which it is prepared for collection and payment at the fair entrance. The whole project is an experiment”, stresses Bert Pieters of DIFT, who was commissioned by Biennale Interieur to set up the shop. “We wanted to explore the boundaries of offline and online retail and see how they relate to each other”, he explains.


“We’ve never had a Biennale Interieur with such an unequivocal focus on the interior”, Libeer points out, speaking of one of the major shifts characterising this edition. “Not only are we exhibiting furniture, but also a lot of furnishings that help complete an interior. And in the Interiors rooms created by OFFICE Kersten Geers David Van Severen, Joris Kritis, Richard Venlet, and their international guests, we see interesting questions being raised. “If heat rises, why are we positioning our chairs so low in the space?”, is a question posed by architect Philippe Rahm”, Libeer continues. This anniversary edition of the fair has gone all out for inspiration and experience: including a real circus, for instance, and our own DAMN° Bar Basso, both very Instagram-able, by the way.

Almost half of the exhibitors are from Belgium, and they traditionally bring quite a lot of new things along – very often in collaboration with Belgian designers. muller van severen at Ashtari, Van Den Weghe, Serax with PJMARES and Studio Simple; Sylvain Willenz at Tal and Jori; Nedda El-Asmar at Magnitude; Michael Verheyden at Hullebusch … And the winner of the 2016 Designer of the Year award, Vincent Van Duysen, is showing a white cube as a living space.

Naturally, Biennale Interieur also continues to have an international character. “While there are fewer Italian and Dutch exhibitors participating, there are more French, Spanish, Swiss, and particularly Danish exhibitors”, Libeer informs. The Grand Prize Interieur Award winner, Dimitri Bähler, is Swiss, but Germans, Americans, as well as a Japanese, a New Zealand, and a British designer have all picked up awards. As for the young Germans, they have been given their own exhibi- tion, The Wall, curated by Belgian Max Borka who lives in Berlin. The design galleries also add an international flavour to the event: valerie_traan from Antwerp, MANIERA from Brussels, Carwan Gallery from Beirut, and Etage Projects from Copenhagen.

Young people have once again been given plenty of space at INTERIEUR 2016. “We are filling almost 3,000 m2 with young brands and labels”, informs the CEO. “This platform is an answer to the major shifts that have been taking place in the design industry and economy over the last decade. Many of these manufacturers and designers produce and sell their objects directly to the end consumer.”

This article was commissioned by Damn° Magazine° for their Free Damn° Interieur Kortrijk Guide 2016, download here

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