The most dominating annual furniture fair in the world, Salone del Mobile, has finally come to an end. This highly regarded fair with its satellite events, namely known as Fuorisalone, takes place every April in Milan. It is an electrifying showcase of the design industry’s new products and brand projects. Over its 57 years run (first launched in 1961) it has come to signify the design possibilities and birth of new ideas. Obviously, new trends unfold right before the eyes of some 300,000 people who eagerly await to experience and take in all that info that’s being presented to them. But this year, a couple of changes, that I will be discussing briefly, may have very well set a new directive for the years to come and hence, renewed my interest in this global design event.
For the first time, a Manifesto was published by the Salone del Mobile prior to the exhibition, in order to promote innovation and sustainability calling for a shift towards circular economy and the sharing of ideas. The intent of this Manifesto was clear enough; the forces behind this fair, must pave the way for tackling the global challenges we all face.
In my opinion, this redefined the evolving character of this fair. The timing was as good as any, for in the latter years, this fair had received some negative, but constructive criticism i.e. from Alice Rawsthorn, a design critic. Three years ago, she raised a valid point, pointing out that the fair serves as a grand promotional opportunity for brands, but has discontinued itself somewhat from the original furniture fair it once was. Therefore, I think it’s fair enough to say that this Manifesto might actually shift the focus back on design itself as a means to global solutions, mainly because it has such a vast influence and impact on the design world.
This great initiative was backed up by a project called Living Nature. La Natura dell’Abitare, a garden pavilion where all four seasons coexisted at the same time via an innovative energy management system that controlled the climatic conditions. It was designed by the International design and innovation office CRA-Carlo Ratti Associati and developed for the Salone del Mobile. This was a great experiment (you can view the experience here), reflecting on domestic spaces in relation to challenging environmental changes at a time where we are looking to bring nature back to the city.
As a matter of fact, some brands employed designers that took up this challenge and developed concepts for spaces dedicated to multi-functionality that meet individual needs and ultimately enhance sustainability. One such installation was created by Studiomama for MINI Living, with customize-able capsule living spaces, to suit different types of people living in them. The point made by the installation, was that a modular scheme allows adaptation to suit the owner’s needs. That is one of the underlying principles of slow design and although, many brands may not be ready to embrace all of its principles, surely this is a step in the right direction.
The underscored focus on real living, with “comfortable” furniture and a retro nostalgia didn’t go unnoticed. Many brands actually, elaborated their design “solutions” to offer more quality “me” time, while triggering a greater appreciation of living in a well-designed habitat. (Get a feel of this by watching this video here). Emphasis on “lifestyle-orientated” design with function in mind, resonated throughout this fair. On this note, a newcomer brand like Google explored how electronic devices can promote well-being. It will be quite interesting indeed to see how these will integrate in our everyday lives within our home spaces.
After all that’s said and done, the fair’s poetic mood was created primarily due to the following spotted trends that reclaim glamour. So, do watch out for these:
- Colors – red, yellows (including mango hues), blue, sage green and lots of subdued pastels dominated the scene, highlighting forms. The Hermes exhibition is an outstanding example of this concept.
- Texture – appealing to our sense of touch, including tiles laid with a wabi-sabi philosophy behind them. Also, lots of textiles with weaves inspired by tweed.
- Round shapes vs. contrasting clean lines, adding a softer feel to everything. Geometry becomes center stage.
- 70’s comeback – including lots of iconic furniture from the archives.
- Wood + marble – wide use of these materials that looked more airy and lightweight, interpreted in new ways. Even Kartell turned to wood instead of plastic for its chairs!
- Tech – orientated innovations.
Salone del Mobile in Pictures
Although I haven’t visited myself, this huge design fair (yet), but reflecting back on all I read and saw via various Instagram accounts, I was reminded of a fundamental truth expressed best by Jeffrey Zeldman:
Content precedes design. Design in the absence of content is not design. It’s decoration.
Therefore, I was happy to see this Manifesto that delivers the content behind the design in this super important fair. After all, design is about the interaction between humans and the environment. Furthermore, aside any labels or hashtags one may want to use to classify design, the fact remains that design is a very powerful tool. And it is all about a vision that has the potential to affect our lives and be the agent for future changes. It is the tool that gives shape to our values. And this year’s fair might actually bring a refreshing wind of change…