Designers blend emotions with creativity to create design magic
Designs that really capture people’s interest make you think about things in a different way
“It is all about emotions, even if it is just about things in your everyday life. Design that really captures people’s interest usually just makes you think about things in a different way,” says Japanese designer Oki Sato.
It was a prescient observation during the Salone del Mobile, which celebrated its 56th anniversary in April with more exhibitions, installations and events at the Rho fairgrounds and across Milan’s many palaces, boutiques and museums than any one person could possibly see.
Touted as the most important event on any design aficionado’s calendar, the week-long extravaganza sets the tone for the design industry, offering a snapshot of the newest emerging creative trends.
The most obvious this year, on show from creative pop-ups to the most established brands, was a focus on soft, organic forms with natural curves.
For example, the silica, hand-dyed sand and powdered glass furniture of Fernando Mastrangelo, from the US. Then there was Shanghai-based design studio Neri&Hu’s sleek “Mandarin Chair” for Stellar Works, which featured a seamless blend of classical form and mid-century style that the designers say translates Asian temple design typologies.
Curves also extended to lighting at the Nilufar Gallery, where Cypriot-born industrial designer Michael Anastassiades showcased a new maroon iteration of his mobile chandelier, while at Euroluce, Czech glass specialists Lasvit introduced Zaha Hadid Design’s graceful “Eve” chandelier comprising 15 fluid glass bodies that combine to create a floating sculptural effect.
Meanwhile, outdoor furniture reflected a trend towards tactile materials with tailoring that takes the luxury and contemporary elegance of indoor furniture outdoors to the terrace or garden.
Standout examples included the high-backed wood and bamboo “Cala” chair, by Josh Levien for Ketall, the “Erica” range by Antonio Citterio for B&B Italia and atelier oi’s leather hammock for fashion house Louis Vuitton.
One of the most instagrammed outdoors works, designer Marc Ange’s whimsical “Le Refuge” daybed featuring a canopy of laser-cut steel palm trees in a pink colour, also tapped into the entrenched trend for pastels.
Delicate hues were also seen at Rossana Orlandi’s cult emporium of innovative designers, where Sé styled an “apartment” with several rooms featuring the likes of Nika Zupanc’s dusty pink “Stay” daybed and marble dining table alongside handwoven rugs by Cogolin, and Brooklyn-based Mastrangelo introduced his pastel-hued crystalline “Escape” console table, stools, bench and mirror.
“I try to make objects that transport people even if for a moment, and this new series takes that idea to the extreme. It literally attempts to infuse even our furniture with a true sense of nature, a horizon, a sunset, a foggy morning,” Mastrangelo says.
This is not to say that the ’70s-inspired trend of bold, retro graphics and colours is dead, but it appeared in a more refined manner in fabrics by Eley Kishimoto x Kirkby design and Jaime Hayon’s stained-glass architectural pavilion for Caesarstone in the neoclassical Palazzo Serbelloni. Alongside its Objects Nomades exhibition, Louis Vuitton also hit a glamorous high note with the canary yellow Futuro House, originally designed by Finnish architect Matti Suuronen in 1968 and housing a futurist-looking modular sofa by the late French designer Pierre Paulin.
Technology was omnipresent, including at the intriguing “Ghost Café” installation created by Milan-based studio anotherview. The designers, who also presented a prison door featuring a video “window” overlooking a beach near Cape Town, film each view for 24 hours, capturing a glimpse of another world.
When it came to materials, marble appeared everywhere from Voie lights by Studio Sabine Marcelis curated by Bloc Studios for Marble Matters, and Maarten De Ceulaer’s Tectonic tables with brass legs for the Nilufar Gallery, to Israeli designer Arik Levy’s bookcase extracted from a single stone volume for Citco, and London designer Lee Broom’s whimsical grandfather clock.
Environmental sustainability remained a strong trend with Italian designer Enrico Cinzano’s “Stealth” table at Rossana Orlandi. The angular form comprising locally recovered wood was made using traditional joinery techniques local to the Torino area while Paul Cocksedge’s “Evicted Evocation” collection of furniture was created from the floor of his London studio.
One of the strongest trends, however, featured design as an experience of mindfulness. Fashion house COS paired with London duo Studio Swine to produce “New Spring”, a tree-like sculpture that emits soft miniature clouds of scent that vapourise upon bursting, and Mini showcased its sustainable compact living with a three-storey conceptual installation called “Breathe” in the Tortona district. Designed by New York architects SO.IL, it features a semi-translucent material that filters the air and an oxygen-generating roof garden.
Meanwhile, for Jil Sander, nendo’s Oki Sato’s “Invisible Outlines”, a series of ephemeral silicon vases submerged in an aquarium tank, drew a long queue of visitors.
“Everyone knows what a vase and jellyfish is, and what water in a fish tank looks like, but slightly changing these things and their relationship with each other creates a small click, a slight shift between people and things that captures people’s imagination,” he says.
The lesson for the year ahead? Designers need to win our hearts first.
This article has been amended to say the silica, hand-dyed sand and powdered glass furniture was designed by Fernando Mastrangelo, not Jacob Gossett. The main caption has also been amended accordingly. The caption about an installation by anotherview has been corrected to say it is a Rossana Orlandi gallery installation, not “Ghost Café”.