The 10 Best Things We Saw at Salone del Mobile

The annual Salone del Mobile furniture fair has always been big — it’s the event of the year for the international design world, drawing hundreds of thousands of makers, curators, editors and buyers to Milan each April for a week’s worth of inspiration, shop talk and aperitivi. Even more so than fashion week, the fair consumes the city. But this year’s edition seemed to buzz with a new level of excitement, with more people from outside the design industry joining the throngs and hourlong lines forming outside events like the launch of the French luxury brand Hermès’s interiors collection, the annual installation by the Milanese architecture firm Dimorestudio and the satellite fair Alcova’s takeover of the Modernist architect Osvaldo Borsani’s former home — this despite the house being a 45-minute drive north of the city center. Luckily, there were so many interesting presentations on view that braving the crowds felt well worth it. Here, 10 standouts.

Formafantasma’s Floral Chairs and Futuristic Lights

One of the most talked-about openings of the week was the Milan-based design duo Formafantasma’s solo show at the Fondazione ICA Milano, for which the pair — Andrea Trimarchi and Simone Farresin — drew on memories of their childhood homes in Italy to create surprising hybrid chairs and lamps that pair steel armatures with colorful wood, frilly fabrics and hand-painted or embroidered floral motifs. The aesthetic was institutional furniture meets Italian grandma’s house. Formafantasma also debuted a new series of utilitarian but delicate lights for Flos made from LED strips enclosed in thick glass panels.

A New Furniture Line From Dimorestudio

Once people began posting photos on social media of the launch of Interni Venosta, a new furniture brand from Britt Moran and Emiliano Salci, the founders of Dimorestudio, the line’s exhibition quickly became a must-see — partly for its pairing of bold minimalist forms with luxe materials like walnut and steel, and partly because it was presented in an extremely photogenic local plaster workshop. The brand’s name pays homage to the cult Italian designer Carla Venosta, who created modernist furniture and interiors in the 1970s and ’80s.

Gucci’s Blood-Red Design Icons

Having recently redone part of Gucci’s Milan flagship store entirely in a deep oxblood red, the brand’s creative director, Sabato De Sarno, partnered with five Italian design companies to reimagine some of their classic pieces in the house’s new signature color, Ancora Rosso. The lineup, installed for the week on the store’s second floor — inside a lime-green carpet maze created by the Spanish designer Guillermo Santomà — included Gae Aulenti and Piero Castiglioni’s Parola lamp, Nanda Vigo’s Storet cabinet, Mario Bellini’s Le Mura sofa, Tobia Scarpa’s Opatchi vase and a new rug created by Nicolò Castellini Baldissera based on motifs by his great-grandfather Piero Portaluppi. Each item will be produced in a limited edition of 100.

A Takeover of a Modernist Architect’s Fomer Home

Since its inception in 2018, the Alcova satellite fair has become the place to discover new talent during Salone. This year, it occupied two historic mansions outside the city: the 19th-century Villa Balgatti Valsecchi and the 1945 Villa Borsani. The latter venue, the former residence of the architect Osvaldo Borsani, was the hotter ticket and featured pieces like a two-tone wood room divider by Anthony Guerrée for Atelier de Troupe, a family of marble tables with columnar legs by Agglomerati and Tino Seubert and a suite of galvanized-steel office furniture by the Russian designer Supaform, which was exhibited in Borsani’s onetime home office.

A Dispatch From the Americas

Hidden down a long, dark hallway directly next door to Hermès’s big Salone presentation was “Origen,” a comparatively understated show of works by four up-and-coming Latin American(-ish) designers for the New York- and Mexico City-based Unno Gallery. Among the pieces on display were brown lacquer desks and shelves with reverse-waterfall legs by Mark Grattan, an American designer who was based in Mexico City for many years, and a series of glittering stools and mirrors, covered in crushed iridescent seashells, by the Colombian designer Andrea Vargas Dieppa (a co-founder of the 2010s-era shoe brand Dieppa Restrepo).

Unusual Lamps Commissioned by Loewe

For its eighth and biggest Salone exhibition, the Spanish luxury house Loewe commissioned 24 artists and designers from around the world to create lamps in materials and styles of their own choosing. The results range from the futuristic (a tangle of neon tubes by the London-based artist Cerith Wyn Evans) to the eccentric (a miniature storefront with metal shutters and a pull cord by the London-based painter Alvaro Barrington) to the rustic (an ancient-looking ceramic vessel punched with holes, and lit from within, by the Japanese artist Kazunori Hamana).

Interesting Beds From a Georgian Design Duo

Eye-catching beds are a true rarity in the design world, which is why there was so much interest this week in an exhibition of six of them, all produced by the Tbilisi, Georgia-based firm Rooms Studio — founded by Nata Janberidze and Keti Toloraia — in materials ranging from chunky wood to thin steel tubes with steer-head finials. The design duo were inspired to focus on the oft-overlooked category by their struggles to source great bed frames for their own interiors projects.

Dolce & Gabbana’s Next Generation of Design Talents

The Italian fashion brand Dolce & Gabbana’s second annual Gen D project reflects the company’s commitment to supporting young talent both within and beyond the fashion world. For the ambitious group exhibition, the house enlisted the Italian curator Federica Sala to pair 10 international designers with sixteen Italian craft workshops. Among the resulting pieces are interesting stylistic and cultural mash-ups like the Chinese designer Jie Wu’s wild, squiggly vessels, which feature Chinese and Sicilian good-luck motifs and are coated in classical Venetian enamel.

Close-up Photographs of Modernist Interiors

In a simple but memorable exhibition mounted in one of the tunnels that flanks Milan’s central train station, the Czech writer, curator and photographer Adam Štěch — along with his colleagues Matěj Činčera and Jan Kloss — displayed over 3,000 photos of details from famed Modernist homes and buildings. In shooting the photos, which he’s shared on his Instagram account, @okolo_architecture, over the years, Štěch focused on interiors and furnishings that were custom-made for each project by their architects. It was easy to get lost in the show, poring over doorknobs, stair rails and lamps from around the world.

A Circular Ping-Pong Table

The exhibition “Design Duo Double Feature,” also curated by Federica Sala, was a thoughtful example of a materials brand commissioning designers to show off the potential of its products: The six pieces in the show were all made from the acrylic-resin surface material Fenix and designed by up-and-coming Italian studios like Cara Davide, Mist-O and Zanellato/Bortotto. A standout was the Match table by Martinelli Venezia, a circular two-tone Ping-Pong table whose “net” is formed from a tenting of its top.


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