MILAN — The surprising turnout at the recently concluded Salone del Mobile in Milan (262,000 visitors in six days from 173 countries and over 3,500 journalists from all over the world) confirmed that the exhibition is still a most anticipated event for the architecture and design industry, despite the lingering health crisis. It also reflected the strong desire to come together again, meet and discuss with one’s peers and just get on with it.
Of course, after two years, the world isn’t the way it was and this could be seen in the trends that emerged. For one, the 60th edition of the fair was organized around inclusive design, “fostering autonomy, comfort, usability, interaction and safety,” as well as emphasizing environmental responsibility. Designers explored the relationship between nature and the way we live through a variety of outdoor furniture and by bringing the outdoors inside the home. Craft is also paramount, with slow design as a reaction to the overproduction of the past. Comfort is a primary concern, which can be seen both in soft curves and textures, as well as colors that bring lightness, freshness and joy.
Talking about joy, the ’70s is back to get us swinging back to normalcy.
Indoors go outdoors
After being confined in the house, we all want to be in touch with nature, hence the rush on outdoor furniture. The boundaries of indoor and outdoor have been erased, as we look outside for the same comforts that have pampered us indoors: textiles pleasant to the touch, softer, more flexible. Even vintage pieces like Marco Marenco’s 1970 puffy seating series was reissued for outdoors in patterned waterproof fabric.
Beauty, of course is still a consideration, as seen in the Baxter x Studiopepe “postmodern meets pool party” high-gloss lacquered seats and tables inspired by David Hockney’s paintings.
Outdoors go indoors
Nature provides a sense of calm through natural materials, earth tones and images of landscapes. With Japan closed to tourists, Calico Wallpaper brought the country indoors through their collection inspired by the changing seasons of the Japanese Alps.
“Bringing the outside inside is something we’ve always done but now we’re even more focused on bringing in these immersive landscapes that can transport us to another place and time,” says Rachel Cope of Calico.
Floral scenes like the Pictalab’s “Portaluppi Herbarium,” a tribute to the garden room of the late architect Piero Portaluppi, also have an immersive quality. The blacks, whites and grays of the past are being replaced by shades found in nature: burnt brown, cream, and shades of beige, complemented with muted shades of green, blue and terracotta.
Craft is king
“I feel that every time there’s a big change in culture and technology, crafts re-emerge in an important way — a kind of slow design that is similar to the notion of slow food,” says Paola Antonelli, curator of MOMA.
“This Is America,” an exhibit by a diverse selection of independent American designers, highlighted craft, identity and storytelling. Martino Gamper upcycled damaged 1930s Cox furnishings by combining old and new.
Rope was a noticeable trend: Giving a country touch to Antonio Citterio’s Klismos collection for Knoll and acquiring a more futuristic slant in Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec’s Rope Chair for Artek, the chair of choice at the Bourse de Commerce Pinault Gallery in Paris.
The need to chill on plush, comfortable seating has given rise to designs that are curvaceous and voluptuous to be able to cradle the body, from Eny Lee Parker’s Cloud Chair to Bohinc Studio’s Peaches seating collection.
Sam Klemick, a fashion designer who turned to woodworking during the pandemic, is obsessed with “sleeping and dreams, and that we spend so much of our lives dreaming without even understanding or making sense of it.”
Her slumber-inspired collection for Otherside Objects has a fairytale quality with oversized chairs and stools that look like mushrooms sprouting out of the ground.
Back to the ’70s
The Seventies always brings laidback memories, as seen in the new collections of large, lounge-like, often tufted sofas of Minotti, Living Divani and Fratelli Boffi.
The swinging aspect of that era was channeled in Sé Studio’s disco-themed room, Dimore Studio’s combination of leopard carpet, smoked glass and gleaming chrome at DimoreMilano and fringe and ferns at Buccellati.
“Across the board, the use of color this year is really refreshing to see, where previously it was quite monochrome,” observes designer Kelly Wearstler. Just take a look at Gaetano Pesce’s “Tramonto a New York” multicolor and multi-print screen divider for Cassina and Laila Gohar and Muller Van Severen’s Pigeon table with charming tiered levels like bird perches.
Even stone surfaces, which normally have a somber palette, have gone vibrant at SolidNature’s exhibit of a candy-colored archway of nine slabs of polychromatic onyx, done in collab with OMA and Sabine Marcelis.