No single outstanding trend could be perceived, but rather a wide spectrum of currents, a diverse picture of different design ideas and variations.
Anyone expecting elaborate stage settings, as seen in recent years, was disappointed. Instead: restraint everywhere. You had to take a closer look to notice fine nuances. For instance echoes of the 50s and 60s. Or the persisting trend for natural beauty, which was demonstrated, for example, in fine wood working. Recycling is still a major theme, with old things being artistically put together to make something new. And: The designers have rediscovered their liking for blue.
Every year in April, design is writ large in Milan. This year too, which saw the Furniture Fair take place for the 51st time, large crowds gathered on the exhibition grounds and in the Lombardy capital once again. A total of 331,649 visitors from all over the world were counted on six fair days, which represents an increase of 3.5 per cent compared to 2011. Even if the support event turned out to be more modest this time than in previous years, a carnival atmosphere reigned well into the night. Exhibitions and parties in all the streets and alleys, the whole city appeared to be back on its feet. The expectations of those interested in design are high, and even beforehand there is a lot of talk about which points will be made, which trends will play a part and what will be new.
“I hardly saw anything really new,” summed up Birgit Kunth, Marketing Manager at Parador. “My impression is that many manufacturers and designers have allowed their ideas presented over the past years to mature further. People have abandoned the idea of having to present completely new trends every year. Concentration, feeling one's way into the depths and the different types of any given trend is more important than running after the pressure to explore new territory or present sensations every year.
What remains: sustainability
What you notice whilst walking around the trade fair is a kind of implicitness in dealing with the value of sustainability. The term “sustainability”, which is known to have originated from forestry, has long since become the model of a megatrend, which, besides the ecological aspect, also includes economic and social questions these days. Designers meet the strong need for a sustainable life, in harmony between mankind and the environment, with many ideas – sometimes even ironic installations. Witty examples include furniture and objects covered in greenery, which make the onlooker smile and think. Real plants appear to reclaim interior spaces. Many exhibition stands were decorated with sumptuous plants, which turned whole living and bedroom walls into a green oasis. The stylish transition from indoor to outdoor areas flowed smoothly in this respect. This also applies to outdoor furniture. At times you were only able to see on closer inspection that whole living room suites were made of waterproof materials, which also withstand rain. The quintessential thing derived from this: not only do the indoor and outdoor spaces merge, but an exchange also takes place. Nature is brought back inside in the form of living plants, whilst people like it to be just as homely outside and install weatherproof upholstery and accessories there.
Appreciation of material and craftsmanship
Thinking sustainably means above all treating naturally available materials with particular appreciation. With wood products, this is demonstrated in two ways: on the one hand by emphasising the “raw” material, for example by integrating split wood or almost unmachined materials. Rough-sawn surfaces can still be seen in many places. Respect for the valuable, natural material wood is also demonstrated, however, in the particularly careful, sometimes almost loving finishing work that is also shown at times in artistic inlays. The recollection of the qualities of handicraft skills was already observed at the last Milan Furniture Fair, a revival of the arts & crafts movement that emerged in England in the middle of the 19th century. The central feature of this movement – simplicity, processing to suit the material
and appreciation of traditional skilled craftsmanship – could be seen on many exhibition stands once again this year. What was also apparent in this context: great attention was paid to the texture of surfaces, for example with embossed leather or fabrics with an interesting feel.
Everything flows: Recycling
Panta rhei – everything flows, the well-known philosophical principle of Heraclitus was added to by Plato: “And nothing remains still, there is only a constant becoming and change”. This constant process of change is demonstrated by the designers by transferring existing materials and things into a new context or by deliberately allowing beauty to emerge from ageing. For example on carpets and fabrics that feature genuine (or genuinely trimmed) signs of wear. “When it comes to recycling, an abundance of resources is drawn on,” says Udo Tünte, Head of Development and Innovation at Parador. “Tables and chests emerge from reclaimed and waste wood, jeans turn into sofa covers, paper fibres are poured into moulds, plastic bottles melt into a new life. This results at times in extreme materials and open-ended experiments with plastic.”
The familiar creates confidence
A yearning for what is old, familiar, for things that have long since been trusted is expressed in re-issues of classics and echoes of the 50s and 60s of the last century, for example with soft, rounded shapes. Things borrowed from this period convey a current idea of homeliness. These reinterpretations are shown off in purified versions and partly in typical, simple powder shades. Re-emerging from an even further distance in time are the baroque elements, which appeared in trendy guises, for instance in the form of a dresser that was adorned with colourful sketches and drawings. What also caught the eye in this context was a certain opulence in upholstery and cushions, which looked almost “pumped up”. “Furniture in a black and white look with geometric patterns recall the aesthetics of the 1960s,” explains Frank Petersen, laminate flooring product developer at Parador. “The strong contrast between white and black is strikingly staged in this respect.”
Colourfulness, material and materiality
Contrasts can also be observed when it comes to the colours: whilst walking round, garish, fluorescent colours jump out at you. On the other hand, earthy and pastel shades emit an air of tranquillity. It is noticeable that garish colours are combined with delicate pastel or unusual colour constellations, which were previously deemed unharmonious, are placed side by side over the whole area. Blue, the most widely accepted colour by all people, can be seen everywhere once again. There is furniture both in bright shades of blue as well as powdery, subdued blue or playful details in blue-white combinations. Colours and materials correspond. With some items you get the impression that materiality and colour merge into one, for example in the case of surfaces or upholstery made of the finest felt. How can the walk round the fair be summarised? Thoughts are allowed to take any direction. The world is developing from cluster thinking to wide variety of ideas; what is familiar is being modified, what is established is being questioned and partly remixed. The design industry reflects this process. And strives for sustainability.
Parador GmbH & Co. KG
Birgit Kunth / Head of Marketing und Communication
T +49. (0)2541.736-169
F +49. (0)2541.736-8169