When it was first conceived in 1961, the Salone del Mobile was focused on presenting the newest, best and brightest in Italian furniture design. While that still largely remains the furniture fair’s goal (as well as all of the associated exhibitions for the kitchen, bathroom, accessories and young designer showcase), it has since become a more international affair; nearly 30% of exhibitors are foreign.
So, while continuing to highlight the best in product design, the fair is a week-long showcase of universality of good design. Whether you’re in Italy or elsewhere, the design represented at Salone del Mobile can be appreciated by all.
There’s a certain design spirit that’s captured with each fair, and it never fails to renew our excitement year after year. These aren’t so much trends, as they are tenets to great design that we see throughout Milan Design Week, whether that’s in exhibits, new product introductions or even the city itself. Here are a few ways we saw those principles at work during our trip this month:
Finding the “Wow” with Lee Broom
This aspect of new design discovery will never go away: it takes your breath away, elicits exclamations of surprise and excitement. It creates an immediate sense of desire. One noteworthy exhibit that certainly brought the wow factor was Lee Broom’s “surreal roadshow,” a showcase of his 1990s-inspired lighting collection created in the back of a delivery truck that was decked out to look like an Italian palazzo. It wasn’t just the introduction of a new design (though it itself was stunning), but the show-stopping presentation that was turning heads all through Milan.
Timelessness, or Design that Surpasses Design with Carl Hansen
This year, Milan sought to define what is meant by “Design Classic.” Design classics are pieces that have that certain something, that “wow” that remains even over time. They are and will remain eternally relevant and even exciting. The last word you would use to describe them is “trendy.” Even new designs can be grouped into the design classic category if you get that feeling of timelessness.
Carl Hansen & Son has mastered this approach to design, and this year showcased some both early, much-loved designs (such as Hans J. Wegner’s iconic Wishbone Chair) with new introductions, like the CH26 Dining Chair. Wegner drew inspiration from his CH22 Lounge Chair to create a blueprint for a dining chair: the never-produced-before CH26.
Tell Your Story with Moooi
In the spirit of universality, more than ever, design is personal. Rather than choosing design for its own sake, people want design pieces that say something about who they are. These designs complement the narrative of—and hopefully improve—a story that is already being told.That tale can be sleek and minimalist or wildly eclectic and colorful, like Moooi’s Milan showroom, which always proves to be a dynamic representation of personal style.
Typography Innovation with Kartell
Unless a product is meeting a brand new functional need, really the only way it can innovate is through reinterpreting a known form. The trick is to do so elegantly and with a certain sense of cleverness. In Milan, Kartell introduced a minimal rocking horse by Nendo—a familiar object from any childhood, but with a new spin (inspired by an I-beam) that makes it equally modern, unique and quintessentially Kartell.
Nordic Minimalism with Menu
People want spaces that feel roomy and clean, but not antiseptic. Modern Nordic designs meet this desire with lines that are unfussy, and are made out of comfortable and natural materials like wood and natural fibers. Copenhagen-based Menu knows this ethos all too well, as unveiled in its updated Afteroom collection shown during Milan Design Week. The new family bench is a minimal table-seating combination built to use a minimal amount of material for a maximum aesthetic appeal.
Ethnic Attraction with Nanimarquina
To help start conversations, it is definitely appealing to acquire pieces that have a story to tell. There is a sense of history, craftsmanship and pride to ethnically-inspired designs. Such pieces also appeal to people’s curiosity about and admiration for the various cultures of the world around them. Nanimarquina blends the colors and patterns of contemporary design with an artisan aesthetic that represents where each rug is crafted by hand.
Modern Utopia with Vondom
What does our future look like? Designs with a futuristic aspect appear to predict a comfortable, stylish way of life to come. They also appeal to our modern desire to have the latest, greatest and most tech-savvy pieces out there, whether they be computers, cell phones or coffee tables. Spanish design brand Vondom has pioneered a future-is-now aesthetic, and this year was no exception.