On this page you'll find an overview of products and trends seen at this, the 53rd Milan Furniture Fair (or, if you can rustle up an Italian accent, the Salone Internazionale del Mobile di Milano!)
As usual, the trends you see in Milan will reach the high street shops during the next six months to a year, so stay ahead and read on to know what to look out for.
This was probably the biggest and most prominent trend seen this year. Not just marble, but obsidian and onyx were seen in everything from chairs, to tables and coasters. These gemstones, normally found in small amounts in jewellery, are impressive with their luxurious and opulent nature when used in such large quantities – for example, Alessandro Mendini’s recreation of his iconic Proust chair, an attempt to create an object with a "hyper-realist" appearance by using marble to create an "almost surreal" effect (Robot City).
Other objects made in marble were the Luna Table by Zaha Hadid (left), Bethan Gray’s Alice tableware (middle) and the Button Tables by BarberOsgerby for B&B Italia (right).
Studio Drift created a mirror from Obsidian (below left) and the Peugeot Design showed their Onyx sofa (below right)
In terms of colours, there were several instances of contrasting, abrupt and segmented colour changes (not like the gradual colour changes seen last year in the Bikini chair by Werner Aisslinger for Moroso) - the Gemini Collection by UNStudio for Artifort (left), Vitra’s lounge chair by Hella Jongerius (middle), and the chair designed by Paul Smith and Maharam for Carl Hansen and Son (right) all did this.
Glass and Glass Mix
Glass was mixed as an accent material with marble, wood and metal – On the Rock vessels by Lee Broom (left), Still vessels by Formafantasma (right) and Nendo’s Peg furniture collection for Cappellini (below).
Ethical and Sustainable Production
This is still a hot topic. This year we saw a lot of pieces in which the designers began to move away from mass production methods, to more ethical ones. The woven plastic bottle Chimbarongo Pet lamps by Alvaro Catalan de Ocon, are wicker constructions combined with recycled plastic bottles, manufactured by artisans in Chile. The bottle neck provides structure and support for the traditionally woven material.
Pepe Heykoop went one step further by designing a product that could be manufactured in an Indian slum – the Paper Vase has enjoyed massive success and has so far created employment for 80 families in the first year. Workers making the Paper Vase earned the equivalent of eight Euros per day, which is eight times the average wage in the Mumbai slum. "The ambition is to have 700 people out of poverty in ten years time," said Heykoop. "We are pretty much half way". As part of the Tiny Miracles Foundation that was founded to lift people out of poverty in Mumbai.
New Production Methods and Materials
Products are being made in more imaginative ways, with manufacturing methods crossing over disciplines and new materials being created. The Diatom sofa by Ross Lovegrove was the outcome of the designers desire to explore contemporary aluminium-pressing technology developed by the car industry.
Max Lamb showcased a new material called Marmoreal, which is a man-made, stone like surface that combines coloured marble with a polyester binder to create a durable stone for architectural applications.
De Natura Fossilium by Formafantasma uses lava erupted from Mt Etna - "Mount Etna is a mine without miners – it is excavating itself to expose its raw materials." Sicilian-born Simone Farresin and Andrea Trimarchi of Formafantasma experimented with cooled lava and paired it with brass elements, using it to create clocks, tables, chairs and vases.
Both Martijn Rigters (left) and Shibari (right) utilised foam which was either cut or tied together, then coated in plastic.
Thirty-three years after designs by the Memphis Group first appeared at the Salone del Mobile, the bold graphic style they created is back. Below is the Carlton bookcase by Ettore Sottsass, 1981.
Memphis was apparent as a style, but also as a continuation of the bold colours seen at Milan in the last few years – red being seen especially en masse.
Using Terrazzo (a composite material) in a range of bright colours, designers at the Terrazzo project built geometric sculptures reminiscent of work by Sottsass. Philippe-Albert Lefebvre, one of the designers there, agreed, "What we wanted to do this year was colourful and it's true, [the installation] is similar to Memphis in many ways." His colleague Ana Varela added, “It's something that's in the air."
Nathalie Du Pasquier, an ‘of the moment’ textile designer, also showed Memphis-eque work in the form of a sculpture (left). Right you can see one of her patterns designed for American Apparel.
Cut and Paste Wallpaper by All the Fruits is an alternative to traditional wallpaper – it is pre-glued and doesn't need to be matched up or aligned to cover your walls. The colours and shapes appear random and include block colours in different sized strips, grids, dusky pink backgrounds scattered with white stars and collections of triangles and brightly coloured long, intersecting lines.
First seen last year, pastels were abundant - sometimes mixed with greys like the Nubilo Sofa by Constance Guisset for Petite Friture and the chair by Uchiwa for Hay:
Pedrali had a whole range in pinks, blues and greens, showcased on a multi-pastel backdrop.
Brass was used as a feature in many pieces, and could again be seen in the work of Tom Dixon.
Our personal favourite this year, was Martaan Baas's indoor fairground exhibition - a critique of Milan's design week, which he likens to a circus where products are "nothing more than a snapshot to share on Facebook". A red carpet led visitors past Baas’s real work, as well as ones created specifically for the show – including one randomly shaped chair upholstered in a red fabric that was held together at the back with sticky tape. He explained “It hardly makes sense to develop a piece from A to Z and then present it in Milan because in the end it's nothing more than a snapshot… and the product is never sold even though it's widely published."
Bart Hess also made a comment on production methods, by creating an exhibition called Work with me People, where the visitors became the workers and created the material themselves. An experimental Dutch textile designer, Hess highlighted the amount of human input needed to sustain the creative industries. Visitors were asked to sit at work stations and drop liquid latex onto a stretched latex sheet, which then solidified; as each person performed their task slightly differently, the end result was a unique fabric.
Just for their loveliness, we couldn’t finish without telling you about the Spring Rings by Gahee Kang, which incorporate real flowers – the stems thread through the holes, turning the silver and gold jewellery into posies.