From pastel plastic bunny chairs at about £70 each from qeeboo.com to £30,000 hand-painted folksy limited-edition fridges by Smeg for Dolce & Gabbana, there were plenty of surprises at Milan Design Week. This international event filled 300 venues all over Italy’s design capital — from palazzos, churches and former warehouses, to an ice cream parlour and the back of a van.
Dwarfing them all was the 55th Salone Internazionale del Mobile, the international furniture fair in its 20 hi-tech exhibition halls, all silvery metal and glass, on the outskirts of the city. This year’s fair had a record 372,151 visitors, nearly 70 per cent from abroad.
Big continental brands vied for most exotic stand — here an enclave of giant designer “talking heads” on video, there a modernist villa — parading colourful furniture with strongly figured upholstery, steel frames, asymmetric shapes and wire woven into jazzy ethnic motifs. There was even a stained-glass sideboard.
Milan Design Week 2016
Milan Design Week 2016
1/13 Utilitarian looks:
Tubular aluminium Bipod table with glass top folds flat. By Dai Sugasawa for Industry +
2/13 Green is for go
The Aquario sideboard in coloured glass and stained wood, with glass shelves inside, is by the Campana Brothers of Brazil for BD Barcelona Design and is stocked by Chaplins in Uxbridge Road, Pinner
3/13 Now that’s cool
£30,000 hand-painted limited-edition folksy fridge by Smeg for Dolce & Gabbana
Anna Lindgren and Sofia Lagerkvist, from Swedish design group Front, created the plastic asymmetric Loop chair with an injection mould, “digitally inch by inch”. Visit qeeboo.com
5/13 Curve ball
Tom Dixon's Curve Pendant Ball comes in two sizes, 32cm and 50cm, from £340
6/13 Shimmering display
Multiples of Tom Dixon's newest lights were suspended in a vast baroque rotunda, converted into a kitchen/restaurant.
7/13 Ears, m’dears
Italian designer Stefano Giovannoni of qeeboo with his Rabbit chair, priced about £70 for the smallest version and about £126 for a larger size
8/13 Storage solutions
Neat space-saving notions from London included Orla Reynold's "As If From Nowhere" storage wall with pull-out coloured chairs and tables.
9/13 Outdoor sofa
Everywhere tubular and square-section metal made striking frames for comfy upholstery or supports for elegant tables. MILAN outdoor sofa by Front for Moroso
10/13 Copper pendants
Teardrop shaped Fade Pendant Copper, 50cm, £480, by Tom Dixon.
11/13 Marble has a moment
This six-ton chair, by Paul Cocksedge, is carved from a single block at Dutch brand Moooi
12/13 Classic style
The Lap chair by John Alfredo Harris in American black walnut frame with shrunken bull hide leather
13/13 It's a wrap
From the motor industry, “Wrapping” technology is used to put patterns on to chairs by Kartell. Visit madeindesign.co.uk
As a welcome counterpoint were quieter, considered designs from the UK, notably from SCP of Shoreditch, whose new sofas by top designers displayed the skilled handiwork of the firm’s Norfolk workshops.
“Materiality” was the buzzword and materials took centre stage, usually with the help of technology and sometimes a good dollop of craft. Architect David Chipperfield, creative director of Italian furniture brand Driade, discussed design with Deyan Sudjic, director of the Design Museum in London. Chipperfield argued that materiality is the essence of design and key to longevity — “beautiful materials carefully crafted make furniture you will love to keep”.
French celebrity designer Philippe Starck made a plea for individuality. He needn’t have worried — Milan Design Week couldn’t have been more eclectic. Kartell showed off a new kind of plastic. Made from plant waste, it can be injection-moulded like polycarbonate, and a chair, by Antonio Citterio, proved it. Elsewhere, traditional materials held their own. The stunning Prism seat was simply flat slabs of glass bonded with today’s miracle glues, for Glas Italia by by Tokujin Yoshioka.
Thin sheets of wood were stitched together for a seat as tailored as a suit, from BD Barcelona Design. Timber was richly crafted by Britain’s John Alfredo Harris, whose chair, with padded bands of leather by Bill Amberg, seemed poised for takeoff. All around, tubular and square-section metal made striking frames for comfy upholstery or supports for eye-catching tables.
Marble shone in a six-ton chair by Paul Cocksedge carved from a single block at Dutch brand Moooi. Swarovski commissioned top designers to create exquisite vases, candle holders, bowls and trays, mixing wood, metal and resin with its Austrian crystal. Expect these pieces in London this autumn.
Londoner Tom Dixon called his whole collection Materiality. Marble, wood, plastic, glass, iron, brass and copper are his basic building blocks, he says. Multiples of his newest lights — shimmering assemblies of huge lenses, blown glass and metallised foils — were suspended in a vast baroque rotunda, converted into a kitchen/restaurant. Visitors ate at monumental slabs of Caesarstone, a composite quartz material that mimics all kinds of stone.
As always, Milan had its mad moments, such as illuminated graphics for a “new forest” that Dutch designer Maarten Baas is planting in Holland. Its carefully structured tree canopy, seen from above via Google Maps, will reveal a message — but only in 200 years. “The planet is my canvas,” says the designer. Elsewhere were levitating stone slabs and an “internet enabled” sofa.
MILAN IN LONDON
- Kartell, 223 Brompton Road, SW3
- A new Moooi showroom opens soon at 23 Great Titchfield Street, W1
- Cassina, 242 Brompton Rd, SW3
- Moroso, 7-15 Rosebery Ave, EC1
- Poltrona Frau, 147-153 Fulham Road, SW3
- SCP, 135-139 Curtain Rd, EC2
- A Smeg showroom comes to London soon