Salone del Mobile Milano is the world’s biggest design and furniture fair, capturing the attention of thousands of visitors from all over the world for a solid six days every year. We asked three South African design heavyweights to share their highlights.
Philippe van der Merwe: Tonic Design cofounder
Vincenzo De Cotiis
Trained as an architect, Vincenzo De Cotiis creates interiors and furniture, too. He often chooses unexpected materials – things that most people would discard, such as old fibreglass and concrete – and uses them in a way that almost makes them seem precious. This year, he presented a collection called Baroquisme, which consisted of a combination of silvered cast brass, marble and Murano glass impregnated with what looked like spilled ink. I always leave his display feeling totally inspired. For me, this is what design is all about.
Michael Anastassiades is another designer who never fails to impress me, and this year he presented new products under his own label, as well as tables for Salvatori and lighting for Flos. His Floor Composition lamp was a standout, proving that the beauty of Anastassiades’ creations is in the minimal refinement of the simplest shapes and materials, as well as his clever twists. Genius!
Over the past few years, New York-based Matter Made has grown its repertoire of exquisitely made and designed furniture and lighting, which features forms that are both elementary and refined. The brand works with designers such as Faye Toogood, Henry Julier and Philippe Malouin. At this year’s fair, some of my favourite pieces on the Matter Made stand were the solid brass Avoa chair by Pedro Paulø- Venzon and the Slon table by Ana Kraš.
Flos presented work by a group of talented designers and gave us hope that cold LED is a thing of the past. Michael Anastassiades, Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec, Konstantin Grcic, Piero Lissoni, Barber & Osgerby, Philippe Starck, Vincent Van Duysen, Formafantasma and Nendo contributed to a collection of desirable products: I adored their unique approaches and how each designer brought their own ideas to the already much-lauded lighting manufacturer.
Julia Day: Interior designer and Generation founder
Oki Sato, head of design studio Nendo, is one of the brightest talents in a new generation of Japanese minimalist designers. He presented the Sail collection for furniture brand De Padova, which comprises a small table and console best described by Sato himself: ‘The table seems as though its top is floating because of the detailing of the legs passing through the centre of the holes in the top,’ he says. ‘The protruding legs resemble a mast, which conjures up a vision of a boat being drawn by the wind… the name “sail” was derived from this image.’
Design house Studiocharlie set out to produce a light for De Padova so minimalist that it resembles a drawn line that runs from floor to ceiling. The Cielo-Terra light is a clutter-free, linear lamp in the form of a thin adjustable pole with two light sources that can be separately operated.
I fell in love with the Banana Lamp from the new design brand Blow, a partnership between Studio Job and Seletti that was presented as a design project aimed at bridging the gap between exclusivity and accessibility. Originally only available as limited bronze editions at Studio Job’s exhibition at the Samuel Vanhoegaerden Gallery in Belgium, the lamps are now offered in three variations – Huey, Dewey and Louie.
Nicholas Criticos: Woolworths head of store design
The new classics
Minimalists, Scandiphiles and purists were scurrying for cover in a sea of ’70s throwbacks and Bauhaus interpretations, with big houses such as Ton, Kartell and Knoll refreshing their classics with a modernised ’70s patina. While Knoll reworked some of its Mies van der Rohe pieces, Ton gave wicker an up-to-date spin. And luxury brands, including long-standing anchors such as Moroso, Vitra, Arper and Magis, all drew on a palette of dusty pinks, velvet fern greens, earthy mustards and high-gloss teals.
While the main halls inspire and provide an understanding of the year’s direction, there was exceptional work on the Milan fringe and throughout the 10 major design districts. On the experiential and immersive side, Moooi’s A Life Extraordinary at Zona Tortona drew attention to the functional yet curated appearances of different hospitality areas such as bars and restaurants, and included blown-up insect prints by Levon Biss.
At Ventura Centrale, Lee Broom celebrated his studio’s 10th birthday with ‘The Time Machine’, an almost-chilling, all-white carousel laden with his products. Cos teamed up with Studio Swine on a similarly haunting, ephemeral sculpture that spewed mist-filled blossom bubbles.
Other heavy hitters included Tom Dixon’s takeover of the Multiplex with fragrance-sprayed cocktails and ice creams, and Ikea’s Let’s Make Room For Life interactive exhibition, which gave visitors a glimpse into the living room of the future. After six days, myriad design offerings and many an Aperol Spritz to keep you discovering, you certainly return home from Milan brimming with inspiration.