The design week in Milan, which takes place every year in April is the largest of its kind and showcases the latest trends in furniture, bathroom, kitchen and lighting design – it’s an interior designer’s wonderland!
Facts and figures:
ISaloni, consists of a number of exhibitions, including the Salone del Mobile (furniture), SaloneSatellite (young designers and students under 35), Salone del Bagno (bathrooms), EuroCucina (kitchens), Euroluce (lighting) and SaloneUfficio (office furniture). Euroluce & SaloneUfficio alternate with Salone del Bagno & EuroCucina each year.
The exhibitions are held at Fiera Rho Milano, on the outskirts of the city. The building itself is a masterpiece of modern architecture, holding 20 pavilions and spreading across an area of 405’000 m2, featuring mostly indoor and some outdoor exhibition space as well as a pedestrian walkway of one kilometer (which explains my sore legs and feet!).
This year was the 53rd edition of iSaloni and there were more than 2500 exhibitors and 357’212 visitors from over 160 countries. Needless to say it was very busy. During the week the show is reserved for professionals only, but on the weekend it also opens to the public.
In addition to the exhibition itself there is the Fuorisalone (literally: outside of the exhibition), which transforms certain districts of the city into a wonderland of design, featuring installations, special exhibitions, events and more. My favourite exhibition of the Fuorisalone this year was the one at the University of Milan in view of the Expo 2015.
What is it about?
Milan design week is the place to be for architects and interior designers, who want to dive into the world of design, explore the latest innovations, get inspiration, source products, meet suppliers, discover new ones and network.
Many of the products shown are still prototypes and the manufacturers exhibit them in Milan in order to get feedback from the trade, before going into production. Some of the products will be produced as shown, others may be slightly altered and some may never be produced.
Colour(s) of the year:
Natural colours, such as taupe, beige and grays continue to be popular, but also bold colours are back in fashion. Pantone named ‘radiant orchid’ and Dulux launched ‘teal’ as the colour of the year 2014. However, it appears that very few manufacturers follow these trends. On the contrary, many have their own teams dedicated to researching colour trends. For instance Lago Design had launched a teal-coloured kitchen in 2013. Davide Oppizzi, one of Graff’s designers, said ‘I am a creator of trends, not a follower of trends.’
Salone del Bagno:
On the first day I visited Salone del Bagno, because bathrooms are my favourite rooms to design, followed by kitchens. There appears to be a trend towards new shapes and forms in the bathroom universe and coloured sanitary ware is celebrating its comeback – black, beige, pink and blue sinks and toilets, reminding us of the 70’s, but featuring new shapes and forms and often times in a matt finish. Another trend is coloured taps, especially white, black, gold and bronze and even some bright coloured ones.
I had an interesting interview with Davide Oppizzi of DCUBE, who designed the colourful Ametis tap collection for Graff faucets as well as their exhibition stand. He told me, that he had noticed an increasing trend towards bathroom furniture suitable for small spaces. In his opinion, designers and manufacturers have finally realized that not everyone has got a huge bathroom and they are therefore developing new products, which are space efficient, yet sexy. Rationalizing on space, offering compact design solutions, without compromising on the aesthetics. Graff, mostly known for tapware, launched their first bathroom cabinet and sink collection this year, including a very unique all-in-one sink, cabinet and mirror unit designed by Nespoli e Novara.
Swiss manufacturer Laufen on the other hand exhibited their Kartell by Laufen collection, which was launched in 2013, offering an eclectic and colourful option for the bathroom. Whilst maintaining the modern shape, they also added gold to the collection, which was presented in Milan, catering to additional markets.
The Project Manager at Laufen, explained that their key innovation was the material SaphirKeramik, which is a secret recipe developed by the company. The new technique allows creating extremely thin and new forms thanks to the hardness of the material. This is achieved by adding the mineral corundum, which is a component of sapphire. SaphirKeramik is also very sustainable, because it uses less material, takes a shorter time to fire, is very durable and recyclable.
Salone del Mobile:
In my opinion, furniture design hasn’t changed much from last year. There continues to be an interest in vintage design, in particular from the 50’s, which is seen in chairs, cabinets and sideboards. Also the combination of materials, such as wood, glossy and matt laminate in various colours, glass, metal and leather, is still fashionable.
The key innovations of Lago Design this year were transformable tables, new materials in the kitchen and the combination of rustic wood with glass. Marco Traverso, Project Manager at Lago, also pointed out their newly developed wallpaper, using Velcro, which allows for decorative objects and cushions to be placed on the wall.
Personally, I was rather disappointed with EuroCucina this year. Partially, because some of my favourite companies were not present, but mostly because there were a lot of over-the-top, classically designed kitchens featuring gold and baroque styled elements, obviously targeting the growing demand from Russia, Eastern Europe and the Orient.
However, there are also some interesting trends. Kitchens are ‘opening up’ again, featuring freestanding and asymmetrical elements, but without compromising neither functionality nor design. It is also increasingly common to display items and utensils, but offering the option to close off the area or even the entire kitchen with intelligent shutter units, folding and sliding doors, sometimes at a touch of a button. Many cabinets tend to be ‘floating’ rather than floor-to-ceiling cabinets. Matt surfaces are slowly replacing high gloss surfaces.
Some manufacturers launched vintage style kitchens, recreating the kitchen of the 50’s as well as industrial style kitchens, but again maintaining modern functionality and technology.
Bulthaup, one of my favourite kitchen manufacturers, didn’t exhibit at EuroCucina, but displayed their new collection at their showroom in via Durini. The company’s philosophy says ‘We focus on the human being and the product must adapt itself accordingly.’ It’s another way of saying ‘form follows function’, which I believe is particularly important in the kitchen. Kathrin Mühlhofer, Head of Corporate Communications at Bulthaup, showed me their latest innovations, the Solitaire elements and the cooking table, which confirms that the freestanding kitchen is making its comeback.
The SaloneSatellite was quite inspiring and it is always great to see new and young designers from all over the world, presenting their sometimes very innovative products.
As much as I love iSaloni, the Fuorisalone is always my favourite part of the design week. Strolling through the streets, visiting the special exhibitions at the showrooms, admiring the creative installations and not to forget the stunning Milanese architecture, whilst absorbing the unique ambiance, savouring the Italianità and enjoying an Italian gelato (a friend from Napoli told me that Italians eat an average of 6 kg of ice cream per year!).
As mentioned previously, I noticed a number of high-end Italian manufacturers, known for their ultra-modern European design, developing classical collections. Sadly, the financial crisis in Italy and other European countries seems to have taken its toll and some companies decided to look for new markets, even if it means losing their identity.
However, the overall atmosphere was very positive and people seemed optimistic about the future, so hopefully there won’t be a need to diversify to such extremes in the coming years. The sheer number of visitors gave me the impression that the market is picking up and the feedback from the suppliers I interviewed confirmed this.
Personally, I am feeling very inspired and cannot wait to implement some of the products I have seen at a client’s home – maybe at yours? 🙂
I really hope you enjoyed reading my post and look forward to receiving your comments. Please feel free to share with family and friends.
Photography: snapshots taken by the author Simone Aïda Baur, unless otherwise mentioned in the caption