Each April, the global design industry descends on the Northern Italian city of Milan for the field’s largest annual event. Hundreds of
Salone del Mobile and Fuorisalone showcases—spread throughout the metropolis and its sprawling convention center—cater to over 350,000 visitors. They come to discover new furniture, lighting, accessories, and finishes, but also to experience a wide range of indoor and outdoor installations, school showcases, conceptual exhibits, and experimental displays. The massive, multifaceted event sets the tone for the rest of the year by introducing the latest trends while ideas cross-pollinate among commercial, cultural, and avant-garde offerings. Major brands draw influence from emerging talents and vice versa. Here, we share the colors, shapes, styles, and themes from this year’s Milan Design Week.
Header Image: Studiopepe’s Manifesto Project took place inside of a 1900s gold-manufacturing industrial space. Here, in a basement swatched in a sea of white, Società Mantica held a set of symbolic divination objects read by a tarot card reader. At the heart of the installation, a diegetic soundscape washes over the pitter-patter of crunching feet walking atop a bed of salt crystals. (Giuseppe Dinnella)
Fear of the Void
Breaking the shackles of the cautious minimalistic norm, industry mavericks are returning to a maximalist style characterized by highly ornate details.
The Wardian Case by Space Popular for Alcantara: Displayed as part of micro-fiber textile producer Alcantara’s de/coding exhibit at Milan’s Palazzo Reale, The Wardian Case by Bangkok-based Space Popular was a small “tapestry room” installation symbolizing the transportation of something precious, through both physical and digital worlds. (Davide Calafa) Milan-based designer Cristina Celestino draws inspiration from 17th-century Italian set designers to develop the Scenografica collection for heritage terra-cotta tile manufacturer Fornace Brioni. Araldica by Federico Pepe is a new CEDIT ceramic wall covering collection that evokes “interior psychedelia.” Seemingly ancient marbled patterns are juxtaposed by sharp geometric shapes. Vlinder Sofa by Dutch designer Hella Jongerius for Swiss furniture brand Vitra was developed as an armature conducive to highly crafted yet industry-produced woven textiles. Japanese architect Jo Nagasaka collaborates with Finnish furniture brand Artek to create new surface treatments for Alvar Aalto’s classic tables and trolleys, using age-old Udukuri and Tsugaru-nuri techniques. Italian laminate brand Abet Laminati releases its 2019–2021 collection of reinterpreted classics and three new material-inspired designs: Fabriek, Metal Effect, and Febo.
Exuberant blues, greens, and oranges join well-established millennial pinks and moody grays as furniture designs adorn new color tones.
Far was an exhibition curated by Studio Vedèt and designed by Space Caviar that sought to subvert the cavernous void of Nilufar Gallery‘s depot location. Far surveyed a recent serge in young experimental designers that challenge the conventions of production and consumption. (Pim Top) Designed by American duo Sam Hecht & Kim Colin, FRONDA is a new typology for Italian furniture brand Mattiazzi: a seat that also houses storage. Inspired by contemporary nomadism, this new design comprises a single wood shelf and a sculpted steel seat. Inspired by circularity and longevity, British duo Barber & Osgerby designs the On & On chair and stool collection for American brand Emeco. The new series comes in orange, blue, and green, as well as black and white. Danish heritage brand Carl Hansen & Søn releases Australian practice EOOS’a Embrace chair in an armless variant in pastel colors. Its minimalistic structure accommodates a seemingly untethered cushion element. Spanish duo Lievore + Altherr reinvigorates Arper’s Parvan modular office collection with colorful and geometric accessories. The functional add-ons allow users to store, collect, and display personal items. At this year’s Milan Design Week, Belgian designer Alain Gilles debuts the BuzziBracks modular workspace enclosure for BuzziSpace using an architectural frame and curtain wall system. The microenvironment helps alleviate the constant distraction of today’s open-plan offices.
An Ode (Woven) to the Production Process
Brightly colored textiles with rich textures thread together stories that visually allude to their material and production histories.
Inspired by a hardened gemlike material that came from Ford assembly lines in Detroit, these rugs are made from excess materials leftover from CC-Tapis’s production process. Like its namesake, fordite is formed from “piling” layers of surplus textiles. Using the techniques of courtiers, the studio fashioned textiles of different thicknesses woven together its “heirloom yarns.” Out-of-scale geometric patterns reference Art Deco motifs, a trope from every previous year the collection was released since 2015. Often referenced as “Japan Blue,” indigo is deeply seeded in the country’s history of dying. Using the same technique, Moooi’s Japanese denim is dyed with the color, which contains natural properties that make it more resistant to the kind of wear subjected on furniture. At Galleria Rossana Orlandi, textile artist Liz Collins and fabric manufacturer Sunbrella designed a three-room installation featuring natured-inspired vignettes swathed in textiles, including a “fur roosdfdsf” made from selvedge mill waste. Japanese designer Rikako Nagashima’s collection of abstract ink-stained curtains offered a comment about the problem of waste. Featuring streaks of seemingly random color blots, the patterns are fittingly inspired by the leftover scraps of paper from offset printing production.
At the convergence of revived Brutalism and radical Primalism, established and emerging talents alike are employing or evoking raw natural materials while forming monumental shapes.
Stockholm-based Note Design Studio erected double-story-high totems in Milan’s striking Circolo Filologico Milanese to demonstrate the full potential of the French vinyl producer, Tarkett. Its new IQ Surface collection comprising terrazzo- like materials can be continuously recycled. Inspired from Sicily’s Mount Etna, Amsterdam-based Italian duo Andrea Trimarchi and Simone Farresin, as Formafantasma, develops the new ExCinere tile collection for British architectural material brand Dzek using volcanic lava and ash. (Marco Cappelletti) Montreal-based boutique light design brand Lambert & Fils debuts the Hutchison pendant collection; an investigation of how soft curves can juxtapose hard lines in distinctly geometric extrusions. (Arseni Khamzin) Pushing the material properties of aluminum to its limits, MM8 and Void are two new table and stool collections by designer Guglielmo Poletti for Italian brand Desalto. Both designs play with the structural tension of heavy and light surfaces. Paris-based designer Constance Guisset expands on her Francis mirror collection for French brand Petite Friture by creating new table applications. Reflective surfaces are embellished with cloudy watercolor treatments. Resulting from French designer Noé Duchaufour-Lawrance’s first collaboration with Hong Kong carpet brand Tai Ping, the new Raw collection draws inspiration from the origins of our planet, the foundation of civilization, and the tension between tectonic plates.
Moving mechanical systems of light pivot, rotate, and slide to create endless configurations of illumination.
At Ventura Centrale, porcelain surfaces manufacturer Cosentino collaborated with designer Benjamin Hubert of LAYER on an immersive lighting installation aptly called Raytrace. Cascading light refracts from osculating crystals onto the triangular passageway swathed in large-scale Dekton slabs. (David Zanardi) Three globes of light suspended on a translucent disk rotate to produce diffused light, or, conversely, full exposed illumination. Meanwhile, the white shade is fabricated from a sustainable material, Glaskeramik, made from repurposed shards of broken solar panel glass. As the story goes, Slaatto intended the fixture to be made from metal, but it wasn’t possible with contemporary production methods. Now, it is newly offered in a shimmering silver to realize his original design. The iridescent qualities emulate patches of shadow and light cascading from treetops in a forest.
Vertical lines and spheres connect five pendants that can be repositioned on a magnetic tracking system. The vertical disk can be adjusted into an up or down light, while the horizontal disk can project light in a 360° circular motion (and double function as a mirror on the reflective surface). A flexible tube emits a warm diffused light that can be twisted and formed to interact within the built environment. The fixture can be adjusted with the Artemide app and is suitable for use indoors and outdoors. The weight of this suspended pendant is equally distributed between the blacked nickel light canister and a translucent glass orb counterweight. It measures 52” x 2½” x 32” and is available in custom sizes upon request.