Milan - Trendsetting & highlights

Each year, more than three hundred thousand creators, designers, architects, creative geniuses and global media descend on the Italian city of Milan for the city’s annual Design Week, combining the Salone Internazionale del Mobile design exhibition and the Fuorisalone’s events and installations across the city’s different Design Districts. Lauded as one of the world’s most important design events, it’s the inspiration for the products, people to watch and trends that will be dominating the world of interiors over the coming year.

The scale of the week long showcase (9th-14th April 2019) was astounding - there are over 2,350 exhibitors spanning acres of halls at the Salone and more than nine different Design Districts to explore across the city and its outskirts. Alas, it is impossible to see it all, but during my week in Milan I absorbed a breathtaking amount of inspiration from the best creativity on offer in the design industry from furniture, lighting, décor and more.

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SUNSET PALETTE

Fashion and interiors are always closely intertwined, and the colour palettes dominating Milan were definitely cued from fashion’s warmer, richer hues. Palettes were rich, earthy and organic - but they were far from muted, instead they were confident, sophisticated and undeniably sexy. Think burnt orange, mustard yellow, burgundy and peach. Evocative sunset palettes and desert tones. Marmalade, sienna and terracotta were by far the hottest hues. Dusty mauves and inky indigoes were key accents. There were no more shades of grey and blonded timbers have made way for richer, warmer tones.

Iconic European brands Moooi and Missoni both displayed these palettes to stunning effect. Moooi’s Walking on Clouds carpet included hundreds of different tones and shades in a collage of clouds. Missoni’s Salone space, bordered by ombré fringed curtains, showed highly tactile water colour-like fabric patterns inspired by alpine scenery in rich earthy tones, complemented by their distinct zig-zag pattern.  

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TAILORED DETAILING

Sofas, seating and cushions at Milan were beautifully detailed with stitched quilting and flanged seams.  Fabrics were confidently and expertly contrasted, creating a stylishly eclectic vibe. Fabrics weren’t just upholstery, they were integral to the overall piece of furniture. 

Aerre Italia’s diamond quilting was perfectly executed on their modular sofas in a woven fabric contrasted with rich tan leather. The oversized ottomans by Poltrona Frau, inspired by the bold style of actor Carey Grant, blended a range of shapes and materials, unified by a common woven leather base. The buckled detailing was perfect!

The artisan technique of caning was a definite trend, re-imagined in beautiful shapes and forms. Ratan weaves were beautifully showcased by Thonet’s re-edited classics - my favourite being the curved Mos bench, perfect for an entry hall or bedroom.

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Metals were beautifully brushed and burnished, not polished. De Castelli’s metal finishes and furniture was one of my favourite stands at the Salone - luxury Italian craftsmanship combined with innovative technology. The Pandora Drawer was the perfect treasure chest!

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Stones, porcelains and marbles were coloured and richly veined. Cedit’s ceramic tiles had clearly defined Italian flair in beautifully saturated shades inspired by traditional marbled papers, the super larger format slabs intended for feature walls and floors throughout the home, beyond traditional bathroom applications.

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ART DECO 2.0

There’s a clear move away from minimalism, and many forms were Art Deco inspired, with more than a hint of the 1920s and 1930s in sweeping curves and brass detailing, themes seen in Milan’s many glamorous Campari bars. Shapes, colours and a mix of lush fabrics create a luxe feel. The traditionally ornate Art Deco detailing has been pared back for a more modern feel. Henge displayed the ultimate in sophisticated Italian craftsmanship. Their pieces oozed timeless luxury with super stylish re-interpretations of Art Deco lines and forms.

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MODERN URBAN LIVING

Urban homes are becoming hybrids - common living spaces of kitchen, living and dining are now completely integrated and fused with space for working from home. These multi-function living spaces were beautifully brought to life at the Boffi flagship showroom in the Brera district, featuring living, bedroom, kitchen and bathroom spaces in a gallery-like two story Milanese character building. Kitchen cabinetry seamlessly integrates into living room display shelving, benchtops blur into dining tables, materials were luxe and refined. The wardrobes deserve a special mention - rather than spaces to store items away, they were fully integrated with the bedroom, displaying clothes and shoes with lighting, glass shelving and drawers. 

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CONTOURED CURVES

Like the colour palettes, silhouettes are warmer, softer and rounder. Shapes are cocooning and lineal architectural lines are combined with softer contours and curves that create a visual flow, making spaces feel calmer and more organic. But the modern take is about balance - the softer shapes are contrasted with strong angles for a more sophisticated and less feminine feel. 

For me, one of Patricia Urquiola’s stand out pieces at Milan was the Gogan sofa for Moroso. Inspired by Japanese stones that have been polished by wind, water and time, the sofa looked both sculptural and irregular, like a carefully balanced stone sculpture. I also loved how the boucle fabric mirrored a river stone, but also cleverly made the seams in the upholstery disappear. 

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GREENERY

Every installation and display was beautifully accessorised. And the accessory of choice? Without a doubt, indoor greenery. The inclusion of plants and trees was yet another example of nature’s inspiration and was used to add visual interest and soften many different schemes. Of course, greenery comes with the benefit of being a natural air purifier and stress-reliever. But it also provides an organic beauty to any space.

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LIGHTING AS AN ART FORM

This year the Salone also hosted Euroluce, a bi-annual lighting exhibition. There was is a trend for hero feature lighting, art forms in their own right. A favourite was a spectacular modular and sculptural piece by Michael Anastassiades for Flos - simple in concept but perfectly formed.

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ECO DESIGN

There was a clear trend for new ways to use recycled materials. Designers are creating different and new materials based on recycling and alternative technologies - a pleasing balance between nature and technology. I loved the initiative of Danish brand Mater who re-issued their classic 1955 table and chair using recycled ocean plastic waste.

Schneider Electric ran a global competition for architects and designers who had recently completed a project specifying their product. Kirsten Ford Design was selected as the New Zealand winner by an international judging panel. Kirsten and her client travelled to Milan, Italy in April to attend the 58th annual Salone Internazionale del Mobile, one of the largest shows on the global design calendar where the biggest international designers reveal what they’ll be launching in 2019/2020. See the winning submission here.