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What to expect from Salone del Mobile 2018

The annual furniture fair kicks off tomorrow in Milan

Danish design brand WON coral sofa.
Danish design brand WON will be showing its new collection at the “Danish Living Room” presentation.

What does an over-the-top furniture fair in Italy’s fashion capital have to do with you, with me, with anyone we know?

Well, I’ll tell you: In between the crush of loafer-clad gawkers and volumetric tons of prosecco, a practiced eye starts to pick up on industry news (did I hear “recession”?), material trends (marble: always a trend), and general inklings of what you, dear reader, have to look forward to on mass-market retailers’ shelves in the coming years.

Here, we highlight a few salient design stories you can expect from this year’s edition of Salone del Mobile. —Kelsey Keith

Materials serving lewks

One thing we can always count on from Salone is materials galore—after all, dazzling new work has the prerogative of using outrageous and expensive materials designed to wow... before any manufacturer gets involved to talk actual production.

From Doppia Firma 2016: Ollare stone wares by designer Lorenzo Damiani and artisan Roberto Luccinetti.
Doppia Firma

We’ve got our eyes on Doppia Firma, an initiative of the Michelangelo Foundation for Creativity and Craftsmanship bringing together contemporary designers and traditional artisans. Previous shows introduced incredible products elevating lacquer, stone, ceramics, and this year’s exhibition will feature works by the likes of Studio Swine, India Mahdavi, and Nathalie du Pasquier, a founding member of the Memphis movement.

From Doppia Firma 2017: Iridescent ceramic wares by designer Dimitri Bähler and artisan Maurizio Tittarelli.

There are also next-level wood treatments from an Alpi collaboration with design duo GamFratesi and the atmospheric “Verdigris” finish from Lindsey Adelman, who is collaborating with Calico Wallpaper on a presentation that explores natural chemicals to oceanic effect.

New collection of wood surfaces from Alpi and GamFratesi.
Lindsey Adelman’s Drop lighting system with a “Verdigris” finish, shown in front of Calico Wallpaper’s “Oceania” design.
Lauren Coleman

The Scandis hold on

Scandinavian design has been so dominant for a while now—the aesthetic has even trickled down to entire tiny houses. And it’s still going to be big this year.

There’s the Zona Tortona debut of “Norwegian Presence,” an exhibition of furniture, textiles, lighting, and craft art from contemporary Norwegian designers and manufacturers.

Danish design house Hay is also putting on an installation, taking over Palazzo Clerici with fresh (Salone) faces Sonos and WeWork. And Stockholm-based design retailer Hem is introducing new pieces, including a flatpack sofa.

Despite this Scandi flexing, we can’t help but wonder: Which country’s national aesthetic will be next to rule them all?

Norwegian Presence, debuting at Zona Tortona.
Photo by Lasse Fløde & Torjus Berglid, styling by Kirsten Visdal

Happy birthday, Achille Castiglioni!

One name to know this Salone is the legendary Italian designer Achille Castiglioni, who would have turned 100 this year. Italian brands Flos and Alessi are slated to reissue a few Castiglioni pieces. There’s also “100x100 Achille,” a show at Castiglioni’s studio—a must-see Milan spot—featuring objects from 100 living designers that were created to honor him.

Milan Design Week | 1. For each of the next seven days I will post about a favourite project at Milan Design Week. Where better to start than a place steeped in the city’s rich design history, Studio Museo Achille Castiglioni? Here is the admirably dapper Castiglioni, one of the greatest designers of the 20th century, sitting in the ground floor apartment of an 18th century palazzo beside Parco Sempione where he worked from 1944 until his death in 2002. As he wishes, the studio has been left just as it was at the end of his last day there from his bizarre collections of soda bottles and chimney brushes, to doodles by his friend Ettore Sottsass, the Swiss milking stool he used as a prop for lectures at Politecnico di Milano and his own products, like the Spirale ashtrays he designed for Alessi and placed in every room so he always had somewhere to rest a cigarette. Every time I visit, I discover something new about Castiglioni himself and the ingenious and inspiring and irreverent design culture he forged in Milan. Though the studio isn’t quite the same as Castiglioni left it right now. To celebrate the centenary of his birth in 1918, Fondazione Achille Castiglioni has invited a hundred designers to donate ingenious vernacular objects of the type he loved for an exhibition, 100x100 Achille, as a prelude to the retrospective of his work curated by Patricia Urquiola that will open in October at the nearby Triennale. #design #salonedelmobile #salonedelmobile2018 @isaloniofficial #mdw2018 #achillecastiglioni @fondazioneachillecastiglioni #100x100achille #studiomuseoachillecastiglioni #ettoresottsas #spirale @alessi @latriennale @patricia_urquiola Photograph ©FondazioneAchilleCastgilioni

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The Castiglioni festivities are part of a bigger trend of celebrating the past, with various brands mining the archives for lesser-known gems and no-brainer reissues. Stay tuned for our follow-up coverage on the the revival of classics in the design world.

A tech invasion

Some of the biggest tech companies are vying for the Salone spotlight this year. Google is making its Salone debut with a multi-room installation highlighting its hardware designs in homey settings. Sonos is announcing a global partnership with Hay and we can’t wait to hear the details. And don’t forget Instagram, which will be launching its @design account alongside the fair. Look out for further coverage with a more thorough look at how tech is stepping up at Salone.

Google’s exhibition, “Softwear,” is curated by curated by Dutch trend forecaster Lidewij Edelkoort.
Thomas Straub/Studio Edelkoort

And a manifesto for the future

One interesting development to watch play out is how exhibitors and the rest of the industry will respond to a new manifesto issued by the fair itself. Published ahead of the event, the manifesto calls upon the industry to up its innovation and sustainability, citing specifically the need to embrace the “circular economy” and forge meaningful relationships with cultural institutions in the city.

One example of a response already comes via Really, a new company part-owned by Kvadrat that explores upcycling end-of-life textiles into new materials. Salone will see the debut of eight products created for Really by designers like Jonathan Olivares, Jo Nagasaka, and Claesson Koivisto Rune.

For the latest on Salone del Mobile and Milan Design Week, watch this space and stay tuned to Curbed on Twitter and Instagram.