The mood in Milan for the 53rd Salone Internazionale del Mobile was as bright as the sunshine. More than 355,000 visitors gathered in the glorious spring weather of the Lombard metropolis of design to be inspired by the flood of items on display. Clear trends: the huge variety of colours, solid craftsmanship and sophisticated functionality. TIMBA fits right in with this: Bene’s new table was presented in Milan for the first time.
The trend towards Scandinavian modernism was also obvious among the variety of items offered at this year’s furniture fair. There was more wood on show than has been the case for a long time, lots of light oak, and lots of solid wood. The very rustic wood look – often kept ostentatiously coarse by using a brushed finish – is contrasted in an exciting way with smooth upscale materials such as glass and high-gloss surfaces. Vintage metals are also being combined with wood. Metal is a must have, whether it's gold, brass or copper.
But some of the items which seem to be metal are actually synthetic. Kartell makes an impressive show of this with its booth completely covered in gold, under the motto “Precious”. The return of stone is also striking. Marble tables were presented by almost all of the manufacturers, led by Zaha Hadid for Citco. The colours remain predominantly pastels, with a brash coral providing a new emphasis all round.
Vitra presented the much anticipated new version of the “Landi” chair, which Hans Coray designed for the Swiss National Exhibition of 1939. The weatherproof aluminium chair has found a new home at Vitra, 75 years after it was first presented. True to the original design the punched holes give the seat shell its characteristic appearance.
The aluminium chair has been expanded to include a slimmer version of a dining chair. Hella Jongerius, designer and long-term colour expert for both Vitra and Artek took this as an opportunity to extend the Hopsak fabric collection by 28 colours. In addition to the new Hopsak colours, Jongerius also presented her new colourful East River Chair for Vitra.
Artek was exhibiting right next door. The company, which has predominantly made its name with furniture designed by Arne Jacobsen and Yrjö Kukkapuro, was acquired by Vitra last year. The colour design by Hella Jongerius also shed a new and contemporary light on quite a few traditional pieces.
Fritz Hansen also had a “new classic” to highlight. After more than 50 years the Danish manufacturer is expanding its collection with the “Drop”. The “Drop” was designed in 1958 by Arne Jacobsen for the Radisson Blu Royal Hotel in Copenhagen and never became part of standard production. Now the small chair with the big personality is also available with a modern plastic shell in addition to the upholstered version of the original design.
The “Analog Table” for Fritz Hansen is a design by Jame Hayon, who was also featured prominently at Cassina's exhibition with the new “Vico” sofa. Konstantin Grcic could be found almost everywhere, or so it seemed: The “Rival Chair”, his first piece for Artek is, with its round design, almost untypical for the renowned designer. His lounge chair “Medici” for Mattiazzi is more typical, as is the “360° Chair”, which is neither a stool nor a chair, and the cantilever chair “Kyudo”, both for Magis. The innovative cantilever chair “Kyudo” is made completely of bent wood, including its frame, although wood and carbon fibre sheets are combined in the frame. A further experiment with materials from Magis was provided by Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec: a wrought-iron frame supports the table top in its “Officina” table collection.
Arper presented a range of new products and product enhancements under the slogan “Work Life”, including the modular sofa system "Zinta" by design trio Lievore Altherr Molina. Tom Dixon presented his new furniture, luminaires and accessories under the slogan “Club”.
Another slogan: “Confession of Design”. Contemporary Austrian design was presented in Milan under this sonorous name. The “Rotonda della Besana”, a former church from the 18th century in the centre of the city was the impressive venue for the exhibition. Curated by Viennese studio Vasko&Klug, the exhibition gave visitors an insight into current design trends from Austria. In addition to Backhausen, Wittmann and Team 7, the approx. 60 exhibitors also included Bene, with a preview of the new TIMBA table from design studio PearsonLloyd.
Apart from the exhibition hall, the whole town opened its arms again with its countless design hotspots. Visitors were enticed into all corners of Milan with Brera, Zona Tortona, Ventura Lambrate, top designers and up-and-coming talent, countless showrooms, pop-up stores and galleries.
This included the new “Docet” around Via San Gregorio. Kvadrat celebrated the 30th anniversary of the classic “Divina” here, a fabric designed by Danish designer Finn Skjödt in 1984 which has a felt effect as a result of its fulled structure. For the anniversary celebrations, Kvadrat asked 24 designers to give their interpretation of the popular material - the result was a spectacular exhibition. The figures for the lavish exhibit “Layer Cloud Chair” by Richard Hutton were impressive: 840 square metres of fabric, 100 colours, 545 layers, 300 kilogrammes.
In addition to Kvadrat, Wallpaper also presented its fifth “Handmade” collection in Docet: the London-based lifestyle magazine once again celebrated the fruits of the cooperation between designers, craftspeople and luxury manufacturers in the Leclettico design gallery.
The 14-part collection from British artist Sarah Lucas showed a little less luxury and a lot more brute force. She presented chairs, benches and shelves made of concrete blocks cast in MDF frames.
Our overall opinion of this year’s visit to Milan? All in all it was an inspiring and exciting exhibition of the design industry – in any case Milan will be well worth a visit again next year.