The times when the big furniture manufacturers wanted to outdo each other year after year at the Milan Furniture Fair with numerous, at times spectacular new products, are over. Big sensations or novel designs were therefore not to be expected this year either. Instead you were able to feel subtle influences that will shape the next era. For example a return to classics combined with new ideas. Or the preference of the designers for the material wood in its most beautiful facet: its original, natural form. And things are getting bright, with every colour allowed!
For the 52nd time, the international furniture fair “Salone Internazionale del Mobile” took place in the Lombardy capital. Once again a slight increase in numbers was registered, with around 2,500 exhibitors and over 324,000 visitors making their way to Milan. Large crowds gathered in all the halls, which were divided into the themed areas of Classic, Modern and Design. Some manufacturers who had relocated their exhibitions and installations to the former working quarter, “Zona Tortona”, or to the city, returned to the Milan exhibition grounds in Rho. As in every year previously, Cosmit, the fair organiser, was very satisfied. Claudio Luti, president of the fair organisation, emphasised in many interviews: Quality is the most important attribute that we can use to hold our own even in times marked by the financial crisis.
Oak emphasised by a stripy look
The classic furniture industry has rediscovered wood as a material. Oak dominates here, as has been the case for years. Beyond that, walnut in particular, and elm here and there too. Finely worked out wood textures underline the typical character of the types of timber. What is apparent on oak finishes is the emphasised stripy look, which is developed lengthways and crossways. Rusticality is still in fashion. This is shown by the use of solid, almost untreated wood in an earthy assortment. In keeping with this, some manufacturers are turning away from the strategy of making individual pieces of furniture and reinstating complete book or wall units to their range.
Cork and the sustainability factor
Coasters or pinboards made of cork? Indispensable for alternatively thinking people in the 80s. Cork reintroduced itself this year as a base material for furniture and lamps, because as a renewable raw material it is ecological, whilst also feeling warm and soft. You could therefore see cork stools and cork tiles as well as lamps with cork shades. The cork light, Popcork, by the young Portuguese designer, Tania da Cruz, won the first prize at the SaloneSatelliteAward. The light made of dark brown expanded cork won over the jury with the contrast of the bulbs cheekily peeping out of the cork lamp shade and jazzy textile cables. The expanded cork used is made of waste products from the manufacture of cork, which are pressed under water pressure. In view of the limited occurrence of cork trees, this material is particularly sustainable.
Re-editions in new colours
Many manufacturers have released themselves from the high pressure of expectation that comes with having to present ground-breaking new products every year. Poltrona Frau, Meritalia and Agape reintroduced sofas and tables from the 50s, whilst other companies, like Driade and Porro, brought designs from the 90s back to life. Some new editions were displayed in completely revised colour ranges, such as at Vitra or the design label, Cassina, whose range newly featured the classic table LC 6 by Le Corbusier, Pierre Jeanneret and Charlotte Perriand with a mint-coloured frame and rhubarb-coloured glass top.
Old, well-known classics hook up with a very human sentiment that is expressed in the desire for familiar things. Designs borrowed from the 50s and 60s convey an idea of homeliness that people
know from stories, films or their own childhood. Added to this is the fact that no genuine, long-term trends are discernible in furniture design. Quite the opposite: every new design is a unique specimen, an individual trend, that takes social, political and artistic currents and interprets the subjective zeitgeist in its own way.
Life is colourful!
Up and down the colour palette, trendy colours, powder shades and unusual colour combinations: whatever people like and enjoy is allowed. A trend that definitely comes from the fashion industry and continues unstoppably among furniture designers too. This array of colour was put on display in a particularly impressive manner on the Vitra stand. Here there were individual home settings, each of which strictly followed a colour concept. A colourful atmosphere also reigned on the Moroso stand, here with predominantly more pastel, powder shades like rosé, bleu, mint and light yellow.
Automotive industry and furniture manufacturers cooperate
At the fair's support event, the “Fuori Salone”, many brands from the automotive industry drew attention to themselves, above all by working with well-known designers. Renault showed the electric-motored concept car, “TwinZ”, which was developed by the British designer, Ross Lovegrove, and caught the eye above all due to its generous space, oppositely-hinged doors and an unusual light concept. BMW started a cooperation with the Bouroullec brothers. They developed the “Quiet Motion” installation for BMW's electric line, in which four rotating cork platforms provide comfort. “Everything is quieter, more gentle, it is no longer about speed and aggression,” said a BMW spokesman.
Luxury brands like Aston Martin and Maserati have got together with premium manufacturers such as Zanotta and FormItalia and are turning to an especially brand-led, luxury-oriented clientele with partly limited pieces of furniture. In the Zona Tortona, the Japanese company, Mazda, presented a futuristic chair that is supposed to convey dynamism and movement in line with the “Soul of Motion” Kodo design philosophy. Hyundai addressed interactive light installations, which are supposed to show the company's design philosophy. The concept was set out interactively: with the help of 12,000 small luminescent balls, visitors were able to create sculptures made of light.
Euroluce experiments with LED
Every two years, Euroluce, the “light exhibition”, complements the Salone del Mobile. Almost 500 exhibitors took advantage of the opportunity to present their new ideas, whereby experimenting with innovative lights such as LED is in some way at a stage of cautious beginning, because the framework conditions are completely new: unlike light bulbs, LEDs have almost no body, no light space of their own. That means that a new freedom of design has emerged with unimagined perspectives, which has yet to be explored. For lighting systems with spotlights or recessed luminaires, this is not a challenge, but when it comes to decorative lamps, creativity is required because the punctiform light emitted by LEDs is not perceived as pleasant. Pioneering new products were to be seen, for example, from the light manufacturer, Flos, where the light emitted from diodes is distributed using a diffuser or LEDs are arranged on discs.
The Salone Internazionale del Mobile 2013 was comparatively unexcited, without a clear (fashion) statement. Few genuine new products were to be seen, hardly any highlights but plenty of “product manipulation”. On closer inspection, one was able to discover the joy of colourfulness and colour combinations and a regained preference of the furniture producers for the natural material wood and untreated wood finishes.