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One city, 2,000 exhibitors and more than 300,000 visitors. Now in its 57th edition, Salone del Mobile has concluded for 2018 and cemented its title as the largest furniture fair in the world. As with any international trade show, Milan Design Week is our looking glass intro future trends and products.
The demands of #mdw2018 have escalated over recent years and this means each showcase is no longer just about stunning visuals, but also the experience it delivers. Now we are seeing highly conceptual installations and interactive technology curated in a way to engage the consumer (or ‘audience’) sensually, physically and emotionally. The home is no longer a furnished vessel but rather a proactive space that has the ability to change our emotions and habits. We touched down in Milan ready to walk miles and absorb the very best that the international design community had to offer; here we are our highlights.
Starting with the headline installations, Marc Ange appeared at the Wallpaper* Handmade exhibit last year and took the title of the most Instagrammed picture with the famous millennial pink daybed.
This year Ange was back with a vengeance showcasing ‘Le Roi’, a larger-than-life installation featuring the signature leaf lamps and a giant bear lounge chair – of course. The bear sits on his throne with two beautiful Les Araignees chairs on either side, both upholstered in blue Sunbrella fabric. Also note the colour: Marc Ange led the way for the millennial pink stardom last year, so we should expect to see more royal blue throughout 2018.
We can’t discuss installations without mentioning British designer Lee Broom, who stole the show in 2017 with a haunting carousel in a disused railway archway. This year Broom returned to Milan with the ‘OBSERVATORY, a pared-back installation designed to put lighting at the heart of the show. Seven new stellar-inspired products were unveiled, designed to play with proportions of horizontal space and the refraction/reflection of light.
Another favourite includes Caesarstone x Snarkitecture, a visually stunning installation that explored the changing state of water. The exhibition was set inside the long-shuttered Palazzo dell’Ufficio Elettorale di Porta Romana, soon to become the Milan Edition Hotel, and showed that a product showcase – even industrial pedestals – can become sensory and emotive.
Looking at the colour trends throughout Salone del Mobile, we found ourselves in a 1970’s time warp. Burnt oranges and greens were prominent colours throughout the fair and along the design trail.
The orange set by Vitra was a glowing example of its triumphant comeback, whilst greens were seen everywhere as clever, sophisticated accents – as shown by Muuto through chairs, lighting and the stunning Thomas Bentzen sideboard. This retro vibe is also evident in furniture, prints, handcrafted materials and the heavy use of velvet; all reminiscent of the desire for design that lasts. The ‘Woody Chairs’ by Philippe Starck for Kartell that will surely stand the test of time.
Looking at materials – there were some interesting headliners. Firstly, concrete. Once a primitive architectural material, it has now been elevated to a higher design status. We should expect to see it used in more unusual ways e.g. furniture, tables, wallcoverings. None explored this notion more acutely than Sardinian furniture-maker Poltrona Frau, showcasing it on the wall.
It may not come as a surprise to learn that marble was also celebrated throughout the fair. What was more interesting were the ways in which it was being used – delicate tables and comfortable stools; all designed to contradict its familiar characteristic as a heavy, impractical material. An example is the Bold table by Daniele Lago, which leads the mind to think the material is almost light enough to float.
We also saw wood in the context of form, rather than pure function. This humble material was used in creative ways, from Philippe Starck to Cristina Celestino, an emerging talent on the Italian design scene. Calestino paid homage to wood with the Caryllon table, which made headlines for its creative flair and understated elegance. If that doesn’t provide a glowing review for wood as a design material, we don’t know what will.
Last but not least, technology. The term ‘smart home’ is as familiar to us in 2018 as ‘hygge’ was in 2017. Brands are now proving that technology can overcome its many stigmas and, ironically, become a force for good in the home. The Sony ‘hidden senses’ exhibition smoothly blends technology into familiar objects to explore the relationship between technology and human behaviour.