last week i visited milan design week for the third time, but whereas in previous years i’ve concentrated all my design explorations on the city centre, this time around i was determined to actually get out to the experience the actual main event: salone del mobile.
i’ll confess that i’m often guilty of seeking out my favourite brands at design shows such as this – mainly because attempting to navigate the 24 halls (yep, twenty four!!) without a clear plan seems like madness and i know that i’ll see some incredible things from my go-to brands – most of whom tend to all be scandinavian in origin which, lets face it, kind of defeats the purpose of coming all the way to milan!
this time around though, i was lucky enough to be a part of a bloggers safari organised by design diffusion magazine, which promised to introduce us to the very best in contemporary italian design.
believe me, it was a sheer delight to just sit back and let someone else be in charge of my navigation around the show, safe in the knowledge i would uncover some fabulous new design gems along the way that i’d have been unlikely to discover had i been left to my own devices and stuck to old habits.
so, i’ve rounded up my favourites from our design stops below and hope you’ll find a few new-to-you brands to lust over, as well as some emerging trends to keep an eye out for..
i have to start with what must have been one of the most eclectic design brands at the show – jcp – whose glass pagoda presentation invited us to enter the jcp ‘universe’ for a unique space-age inspired visual and sensorial experience.
the brainchild of a radical think tank held in milan in 2015, jcp was conceived by architect livio ballabio and is orchestrated by ctrlzak studio. the collection is a fusion between art and design, blending classic and contemporary style in a surprising new idiom that defies the norms to present, in their words, “an imaginative universe that transforms our normality by encouraging us to reflect on our own way of life, here on earth.”
all of jcp’s designs investigate the theme of time perception between physics and imagination by playing with geometries, optical illusions and primordial materials.
i particularly loved the antivol side tables, made from lava stone sat atop a brass structure to look like a meteor from outer space, and the naia mirrors housed in marble on a polished brass base which looked like globes. my favourite though had to be the cheeky robot lamp series by richard hutton. threeve, betoo and rone are, as you might suspect, inspired by sixties science fiction – embracing a wonderfully retro approach to what the future might look like. i so want one of these cuties for my home, don’t you?!
gallotti&radice are an italian design house who specialise in glass and one that, despite being on my radar for a while, i hadn’t had the chance to see in the flesh before.
their new collection unveiled at salone was developed in close collaboration with ten designers – including gabriele & oscar buratti, massimo castagna, carlo colombo and lanzavecchia+wai – who have created a new line of sixteen products that all share the same vision: to innovate through creativity and interpret the various interior concepts using a common visual language. the different designs come together to offer a truly luxury living experience that speaks to an international audience.
there was an abundance of warm hues, soft curves, rich textures and sumptuous gleaming metals, and the collection felt both opulent and glamorous yet with an intimate and personal appeal too.
i particularly liked the brera wall system, twelve day bed and zen coffee table, all by massimo castagna, as well as the strikingly angular diedro cabinet by pietro russo.
it also didn’t hurt that the stand was generously propped with plants and geometric decorative accents that helped create a few very instaworthy vignette opportunities too – well, once a blogger, always a blogger, eh?!
my favourite stand from our tour was probably arflex, for the gorgeous pastel colour palette and soft approach to geometry which created a wonderfully accessible sixties vibe. the alba glass bookcase by paola vella and ellen bernhardt was pretty spectacular, with rounded floating glass shelves in delicious pastel hues that are as much geometric decoration for the home as they are functional storage pieces.
vella and bernhardt have also designed a matching vela screen comprising two coloured curved glass panels in complementary shapes and colours, that divides a space in a light and simple way that creates beautiful layered tones of multi-coloured shadows.
the lovely soft semi-circled silhouette was also extended into the wonderfully tactile shape of the arcolor sofa by jaime hayon, who wanted to create a modular system designed around the classical geometry of the arch. while many modular systems today can be quite square in appearance in order to enhance their modularity in different configurations, hayon has employed the disciplined use of the arch to create something more organic and fluid that would work wonderfully both in domestic and commercial environments.
i’m just about ready to throw out all my angled geometrics now and embrace this softer, more comforting silhouette in my home; i think we’ll be seeing a lot more of this relaxed shape in the months to come..
pastel shades were also the order of the day over on the mdf italia stand, where the random bookcase had been given a modern update from 2017 – i just love the graduating hues of grey into pink into blue!
the brand also presented the new axy table by claudio bellini, which represented an exciting challenge for the designer, who was on the stand to talk us through the design on the stand. originating from reflections and research on materials, the new table system features an eye-catching, innovative cross design and ultra thin table top that ingeniously conceals extendable panels. the design utilises the basic architecture of two structural bridges, entirely made of aluminium, to recompose the tensions and strength lines with expressive efficacy.
another design that caught my eye on the stand was the flow eco chair by jean-marie massaud. an innovative environmentally friendly update to mdf’s iconic flow collection, the flow eco utilises a new technopolymer material made up of wood fibres: beechwood fibre for its light version and coconut fibre. the environment-friendly nature of flow eco chair is sustained through the use of fabrics containing wool and nettle for the small pads, and oak treated with oil and water for the natural oak and brown finish of the base.
i’d really love the white version for my new home office set-up!
our everyday existence, thanks to the communication media which have changed the speed at which we perceive images and information, is represented by an aggregation of moods, acquaintances, cultures and minds that overlap, interface and intersect, contaminating and evolving symbiotically to produce unique moments of sublime creativity far removed from any pre-established guideline or trend. ~ kartell
probably the best known of all the italian brands on our tour (to me at least), kartell‘s salone presentation centred on the theme of ‘contamination’. this concept is closely bound to “that of uniqueness and identity, not only of an ethical or cultural nature” say kartell, and encompasses the essence of design today. reading between the lines, i’d say the general emphasis is on the fact that they’d like every home to include a kartell piece – not that i’d mind adding a few designs from their new collection to mine! my favourites from their salone presentation had to be the patricia urquiola-designed tableware collection, trama, that draws inspiration from the sophisticated textures of japanese ceramics and the natural, opaque colours of the earth.
our final stop of the tour was one that i was hugely excited for: italian lighting brand artemide‘s showcase of their latest innovations at the international lighting exhibition, euroluce. we were welcomed onto the stand under the dramatic sweep of the new alphabet of light, described as “a language based on light intended to convey freedom,” which can be used to write and to express one’s thoughts and give shape to spaces. the round elements can be separated into modules to join the linear elements together according to different angles, thus designing ever-changing geometries of complex, linear or curved structures of light, producing suspension appliances that match architecture or space functions.
i also found myself particularly drawn to yanzi, a collaboration between artemide and shanghai-based neri & hu which resembles birds perching on a wire, merging nature and technology, as well as the innovative harry h pendant lamp, a collaboration between artemide’s vice president carlotta de bevilacqua and laura pessoni.
a hybrid optical device that represents a change in the light design paradigm by bringing together led and oled to make the most of both technologies, the harry h pendant is an interpretation of the most advanced technology combined with the tradition of hand blown-glass. within the soft geometry of a blown glass diffuser, two separate optical devices which work together to provide a light quality suited to the surroundings and best possible performance output.
and here’s a special treat for all of you who’ve stuck it out to the end of the post – a special salone dispatches video from ddn following our little tour, which will give you an insight into just how much we packed in to 3 short hours and a little peek at the other stops on our tour include gianfranco ferré home, roberto cavalli home interiors, annibale colombo, poliform and natuzzi!
many thanks to dnn magazine for putting together such a wonderful tour and to my fellow design bloggers for being such great company on the day – sending virtual hugs to tiffany, annie, agata, desiree, judith, mette, holly, ula, anastasia, wendy, riikka, claudio, massimo, valentina and alessia!