The Milan Design Week – the Salone del Mobile fair, plus curated events across the city – grows by the year, both in numbers and in vision. Once essentially a trade event, it has now been upgraded to a blend of interior products and artistic expression plus plenty of fanfare. Here is our selection of the latest products and designers to look out for.
DECORATIVE OBJECTS Furniture may be something that we only tend to change every few years. But while super-luxe may be one trend in a booming market, there are also other, more accessible, ones.
Conversely, there is room for a welcome, Memphis-style playfulness and humour. Andrey Budko’s Hear My Roo oar trophy carpet has plenty: it is a nod to a leopard skin rug, of course, but comes in digitally embroidered wool felt; or there is Hanna Anonen’s uplifting and unique collection of colourful wooden Plizé and Beebee boxes; or Alberto Casati’s vase, based on a bust of Queen Elizabeth.
Hanna Anonen’s Beebee boxes.
Lastly, experimentation with materials is also well to the fore, using both new and old production techniques. Designer Keren Wang, for example, uses spray glazing and plaster moulds to give her ceramics varied colours and textures, while Zhekai Zhang recycles coffee grounds as pigment in ancient pit firing for his work.
Zhekai Zhang’s Coffire pendant lamps
Haminishi Design uses high-intensity bursts of flame to pattern its Graffito metal vases, and Carina Wagenaar reimagines the delicacy of porcelain as a stunning wall-hung medallion.
This year’s Milan Design Week pays tribute to celebrated Italian architect Gaetano Pesce by exhibiting an 8-metre-high recreation of his Maestà Soffrente artwork, meaning “suffering majesty”, in Piazza Duomo. More furniture reinterpretations of the classic are seen at Salone del Mobile Furniture Fair in Rho.
Alat daybed by Andreu Carulla.
On a macro-scale, there are two countervailing trends in furniture. Like fashion, it is increasingly an exercise in brand power, if not brand over content – a single piece from the likes of Philippe Starck or Marcel Wanders can draw crowds to a showroom, as did Wanders’ BFF modular sofa, which takes the capitonné technique of deep buttoned upholstery and, fittingly, blows up the scale so that one fragment becomes a full module.
Cyryl Zakrzewski’s Dune chair collection
Furniture is less focused on expressing an overall mood. Individual, statement pieces allow the work of younger designers to receive due recognition. Catalan designer Andreu Carulla’s unconventional octagonal outdoor daybed stands out at Calma’s exhibition.
Joanna Sieradzan’s Vila rocking chair
Some ideas still spread: one-piece wooden chairs, for example, are something of a trend – consider elegant examples such as Sollos’ update on the Windsor chair, or more exploratory shapes in the form of Cyryl Zakrzewski’s Dune chair, or Joanna Sieradzan’s Vila rocking chair. Similarly, rattan – another key trend of the fair – gets an overhaul in the shape of Florestan Schuberth and Janis Fromm’s cute Andy chair, and Hong Kong-based Studio RYTE’s rattan series bench and table.
High-end and highly crafted designs make innovative use of age-old natural materials such as rope, cane and beading, as in Atelier Fesseler’s witty o432 lounge chair, which seemingly takes its inspiration from pram toys and the abacus.
ARTISTIC EXPRESSION Although historically an interiors show, recent years have seen Milan Design Week provide a playground for luxury brands, typically by collaborating with designers or architects on an installation that blurs the line between fashion and design.
To this end, the highlight of this year is Bulgari’s collaboration with Argentine artist Tomás Saraceno to mark the 20th anniversary of its B.zero1 ring: Weaving the Cosmos comprises displays of spider silk stretched over carbon fibre frames, dramatically lit in the almost pitch-dark of the Ulrico Hoepli municipal planetarium. The effect is at once beautiful and profound.
Proving that such an arresting space is not always required to have an impact, Issey Miyake used the back of its Milan store to showcase Journey of a Raindrop by artist Jólan van der Wiel, comprising a meandering array of glass tubes – akin, perhaps, to a giant chemistry experiment – around which endlessly circulate bubbles of water. Like Saraceno’s piece, it deals in the elemental.
Tod’s teamed up with architects studio Andrea Caputo to explore the fundamental basis of human shelter, from igloo to yurt to cabin. Yachtmaker Sanlorenzo collaborated with studio Lissoni Associati in building From Shipyard to Courtyard, an installation exhibited at the Milan University. Louis Vuitton’s suitably lush Objets Nomades collection continues to promote a fashionable and well-travelled life.
Small wonder, too, that Dior calls its new Dimore Studio-designed metal, plexiglass and rattan pieces – vases, frames, umbrella stand, even an ashtray – “art objects”. Hermès displays its time-honoured know-how with the finest materials and craftsmanship inside a space designed by its deputy artistic director Charlotte Macaux Perelman.
SHINING LIGHTS This year’s Salone del Mobile also hosts Euroluce – its occasional focus on lighting.
Two key trends are to the fore. Firstly, lighting continues its longer-term move away from a means by which functional light is provided to an interior space, towards one in which the lighting becomes a sculptural object; secondly, lighting design in which the light projection itself becomes the point.
Running the gamut from minimalism to maximalism are stand-out pieces such as Daniel Becker’s classic-in-the-making Charlotte chandelier, the One Zero floor lamp from Karel Matejka – the elegance of which belies a clever balancing system that allows the lamp to tilt and freeze in any position – Susanne de Graef’s Knotted Light, where knitting meets illumination; Bjarke Ingels’ Ripple, or Giovanni Gastel’s La Linea, both from Artemide.
In the latter camp – in which the effect is as important as the object – count among the successful new products the likes of Ferruccio Laviani’s UpTown, which, in something of a trend, bathes the area in a rainbow of coloured light, or Justin Bailey’s Crenellated Lamp, which does something similar. Light given a pinpoint focus – a simple, flame-like drop of light in space – is the thinking behind the Hymn table lamp from designer Hiroto Yoshizoe.
More highlights include creative director of Preciosa Michael Vasku’s interactive lighting creations in Rho. While in the city, renowned British designer Tom Dixon opened his first restaurant/lighting showroom, The Manzoni; The Meet Lab, an Italo-Taiwanese art collective brought an enlightening installation to the City Life district.