Freshly carried back against the jet stream from Milan Design Week, your Curbed correspondent returns with a scene report, compiled after browsing the booths at Salone del Mobile—the design world’s largest showcase, about 3.7 million square feet of it—and bopping from gallery to studio to palazzo for events across Italy’s capital of industry.
So, what were the highlights from this year’s paean to design? And how long before what we saw at galleries, showrooms, and booths becomes the metaphorical mainstream blue sweater folks will be buying in the next few years?
Below, a look at our favorites from the show—and predictions for what retail frenzy they’ll induce.
Most Exciting Category: Lighting
Trends that gripped the city and the fair were largely ones we’d seen in previous years: Iridescence? Check. Metallic accents in brass and copper and stainless steel? Check. A sustained love of Ettore Sottsass and his PoMo peers? Check, check. Marble? Always.
What gave this year’s Milan Design Week a real jolt was the wealth of original designs in lighting, showcased at both Euroluce—the doctrinaire biennial lighting showcase at Salone del Mobile—and at edgier galleries and showrooms across Milan.
Designers embraced modularity (as in Konstantin Grcic’s Noctambule series); novel forms (Formafantasma’s loop-de-loop wall lamps enthralled us); and inventive presentation (Lee Broom built an illuminated carousel to stage a decade-long retrospective from his self-titled brand).
Most Instagrammed: COS x Studio Swine’s “New Spring”
The minimalist, Stockholm-based fashion brand COS teamed up with London’s Studio Swine on “New Spring,” an installation that was one part architecture, one part science experiment, one part social media thirst trap.
Japanese architect Azusa Murakami and British artist Alexander Groves, the duo behind Studio Swine (“Swine” stands for “Super Wide Interdisciplinary New Explorers,” by the way), created a tree-like design that periodically released “blossoms:” bubbles of a proprietary composition that burst on skin but remained intact on fabric.
It was transfixing, and quickly lit up Instagram after a press preview on the Monday of Milan Design Week. Childlike wonderment in design: 10. Self-seriousness: 0.
Most Ubiquitous Designer: Faye Toogood
It was hard to miss London designer Faye Toogood at Milan Design Week this year: Her collection of rocks appeared in Airbnb’s installation of site-specific designs at the Casa degli Atellani (where one Leonardo da Vinci lived as he painted The Last Supper), and her work had pride-of-place at the Ikea Festival, which saw the Swedish furniture giant take over a 37,000-square-foot warehouse in Milan’s Lambrate district.
Toogood’s eerie deconstructions and remixes of Ikea classics, like the iconic Poang chair, added a bit of Surrealist whimsy to the whole affair. Also on display—at New York-based manufacturer Matter Made’s small but mighty exhibition—were bulbous, mushroom-like floor lamps by Toogood.
Best National Showing: Australia and Norway (tie)
We went into Milan Design Week fully expecting to be impressed by “Everything is Connected,” an exhibition of 30 Norwegian designers. And we were: The work on show—small vitrines in colorful glass, wood dining chairs, tabletop mirrors, vases, and more—married simple design ideas with novel material combinations and forms.
What we didn’t expect was such a strong showing from another country: Australia. From Melbourne designer Adam Cornish—who worked with Alessi on stainless-steel bowls and clocks—to Sydney-based Tom Fereday, who created outdoor furniture for new brand SP01, a new design brand that teamed up with Italian company Metrica on indoor furnishings—Australian designers were out in force.
This was especially evident at Local Milan, a show of work by 11 Aussie designers (including the above-mentioned Tom Fereday bent-metal outdoor chairs for SP01 Design), organized by Sydney design hub Local Design. Seating, cabinetry, decorative objects, and lighting were all on display, another reminder that design Down Under is great, too—and not to be ignored.
Trendiest Trend: Green everything
We’ve hit peak green.
When Pantone announced “greenery” as its color of the year for 2017 last December, we looked askance at the news. The hue—more yellow than green—is not a universally accepted shade, like hunter, forest, or emerald.
Clearly, though, Pantone was on to something: We spotted shades of green all over Milan last week, from emerald-green hexagonal rugs by Nika Zupanc (pictured above), to a Cloud Sofa by Marcel Wanders upholstered in grass-green velvet at Moooi, to Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec’s embroidered “Veil”—which featured dozens of linear stitches in shades of green—at Wallpaper* magazine’s Handmade showcase.
There was also Birkenstock’s (yes, that Birkenstock) pop-up at Spazio Rossana Orlandi, where the German footwear company showcased a sample from its new line of luxury beds against a deep-green backdrop. Green—the new neutral.
Best Booth: Flos at Euroluce
Flos impressed with its roughly 10,000-square-foot booth at Euroluce, where a handful of marquee designers showcased their work for the Italian lighting brand.
The booth was a work of architecture in itself—designed for this year’s show by Fabio Calvi and Paolo Brambilla of Calvi Brambilla—a two-story clean-lined box with a wavy facade and generously proportioned spaces perfect for the outsized lighting showcased inside by the likes of Konstantin Grcic, Formafantasma, Barber & Osgerby, Michael Anastassiades, and more.
The Doing-the-Most Award
Ikea stormed the fair this year with two marquee events: its first-ever Ikea Festival, in a giant warehouse in outer Milan, and a takeover of the Teatro Manzoni—a 19th-century theater just outside Milan’s Brera neighborhood—where the company showed off versions of its new “hackable” sofa, the Delaktig, designed in collaboration with Tom Dixon. In truth, the Tom Dixon sofas disappointed—unlike many Ikea staples, they looked inexpensive and their spindly metal legs were a sticking point we couldn’t get past.
The “Good to See You Again, Old Friend” Award: Marble
Marble, the forever-favorite material at Milan Design Week (and, of course, Italy in general), caught our attention again this year.
This year, designers remixed marble with dramatic veining that made it feel graphic and fresh: Knoll displayed marble tables in trendy rust red with high-contrast white veining; Paris design company CoEdition showcased coffee tables by Rodolfo Dordoni in thin black marble; and Vincenzo de Cotiis exhibited a coffee table topped with what T magazine describes as “marble and Murano glass impregnated with what looks like spilled ink.” At Poliform, new side tables topped in round slabs of amber- and lapis lazuli-hued marble by Jean-Marie Massaud played counterpoint to rectilinear Poliform staples.
Material of the Week: Glass
As we predicted, glass had its moment in the sun. Granted, glass is not a new material; what we found most innovative were the shapes.
Luca Nichetto created colorful, stacked-glass lamps for Venetian-glass company Salviati (pictured above), while Yabu Pushelburg produced a glass vanity and desk for Glas Italia, featuring alluringly curved frames.
At the Roll & Hill booth at Euroluce, Ladies & Gentlemen Studio showed off its fine art-inspired pendant lamps, which combined corrugated glass with small colored sheets for arrangements reminiscent of the work of early-20th-century Russian artist Kazimir Malevich.
There were, too, glass room dividers and chairs: Amsterdam-based designer Germans Ermics created angular, iridescent seating and a gently curved glass room divider, Horizon Screen, that caught the light in the courtyard at Rossana Orlandi—as per usual, among the most cutting-edge spaces to see new design in Milan.