Sunrise over Milan

The recent Milan Furniture Fair 2023 has just finished. Its legacy of forms, colours, materials and sunny-bright ideas has just begun to be discussed. We check out some of the highlights.

Milan in the spring is as enticing as it sounds. The hordes of tourists have not yet arrived in their droves, the temperature is a pleasant 18–23°C making it ideal for al fresco dining in the city’s plazas or by the canals along the Navigli or Porta Ticinese quarters. If you are lucky to be there when the Salone del Mobile is on — Milan’s renowned annual fair which gathers the world’s most successful and creative furniture, light, kitchen and home accessory makers and brands — then you have a trifecta.

This year’s event was no different: 307,000 visitors from 181 countries descended on the sunny ‘design capital of the world’ to see the latest machinations from some 2000 brands. 

The venues included old historic palazzos, industrial complexes and private homes and apartments across the city’s design districts of Isola, Brera, Tortona, and 5VIE. One of the most impressive venues, however, was the famous Scala theatre in Milan where the gala opening took place to the tune of classical musicians, contemporary dancers and more. At the Fair, Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni spoke of the importance of the industry for global economic recovery as well as its cultural significance. “Before the pandemic, before smart working, before the internet, before live streams and video links, our homes were our private sphere, our refuge,” Prime Minister Meloni said. “Today, we ‘wear’ our living spaces just like we wear an outfit. That ability to express identity, to express character, to define ourselves, makes what we see here a key element of people’s well-being.”

If the Fair was anything to go by, then the global identity being expressed through design is one of post-pandemic optimism. There seems to have been an overarching vibe of happiness, comfort, renewal and vibrancy in most of the offerings. 

Here are some of our favourites.

Light and other ephemera

The Fair has sub-themes of kitchen (EuroCucina) and lighting design (Euroluce) which alternate every year; 2023 marked a return to lighting and Italian architect, critic, and academic Beppe Finessi curated the city of lights. The Euroluce spaces moved away from the stand-centric look of a commercial fair toward a more urbane mood of city streets connected by lights.  

Some of our faves included ‘Fiat Bulb: The Edison Syndrome’, a production-line influenced installation paying tribute to the classic incandescent light bulb. Likewise, the stand by Czech brand Preciosa Lighting — which uses crystal shaped old-fashioned styled fluorescent light tubes in intricate grids synchronised to music — reminded us of New Zealand artist Bill Culbert.

Furniture and accessories

For a bit of irreverence and harmless fun ceramics specialists Bosa (Venice) as well as Madrid’s enfant terrible of design Jaime Hayon turned up the colour heat spectrum. Bosa unveiled a collaboration with Karl Lagerfeld — who was concurrently being honoured at the Met Gala in New York — where the iconic fashionista was rendered into small statuettes. 

Madrid’s colourful and somewhat outlandish designer Jaime Hayon brought a few smiles with his InfinitaMente pieces which seemed as if artists Joan Miró and Keith Haring were devising an exclusive line for Disney. However, at surface specialist Caesarstone’s pavilion, Hayon seemed more restrained and emotive, using tribal motifs with stained glass-like grids and allusions to Mondrian.

One of our favourites came from iconic tastemaker Nina Yashar who unveiled ‘The Bright Side of Design’ in her own galleries. The exhibition of state-of-the-art collectible design included ‘Poikilos’, which showcased milky white, translucent acrylic sculptural furniture and accessories that seemed as space age as they did classical.

It is nearly impossible to condense the enormity of the Salone. Veteran masters of design and architecture like Tom Dixon, Patricia Urquoilla, Shigeru Ban, and Snøhetta all rubbed elbows with and inspired a new generation of students and early career craftspeople. There were continuation of themes and truly head-turning moments. There were bombastic parties and small reading nooks devised by every recognisable designer under the sun.

Sure, there were a few questions about the future of the event. Did the Fair properly acknowledge the shipping disruptions? Did it engage China’s design and manufacturing might as well as the copyright issues that also arise from many of its operators? Was a more circular economy in such a resource-hungry industry properly addressed? That’s a topic for another piece… for this one, however, enjoy the ensuing eye candy.

The Salone del Mobile took place in Milan, Italy, between 18–23 April.

Words: Federico Monsalve

Viewpoint

Dulux colour specialist Davina Harper explored the Milan Furniture Fair.  Here are her highlights – and the colours and trends of note. 

Cassina

Hitting the flagship showrooms during design week is a must and Cassina didn’t disappoint this year! The showroom was a feast of colour and unexpected colour combinations that felt both fresh and interesting. Raspberry pinks and maroons were paired with chocolate brown and soft aqua, mid-blues were teamed with red, and rust that highlighted rich deep blues. It was a colour-lover’s dream.

Gubi

A 1930s lido and cultural venue with public pools that have never been open to the public during design week before, set the scene for Danish brand Gubi’s unique installation.  Visitors wove their way around an array of stunning spaces featuring neutral and natural colourways with accents of gold, yellow and mustard, as well as layered textures and drapery intermingled with stripes.

Nilufar Gallery

Nilufar Gallery’s Nina Yashar showed us the “Bright Side of Design” taking us on a journey that put the spotlight on all that design has to offer and continues to create. I fell in love with the restful and elegant spaces featuring sophisticated colour combinations and exquisite design and art pieces including cabinetry by designer Bethan Laura Wood.

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