Learn to love the 1980s, says Milan Furniture Fair

Learn to love the 1980s, says Milan Furniture Fair

The Italian event is the largest of its kind — think Glastonbury Festival, but with better-dressed people

The Milan Furniture Fair — the Salone del Mobile — has just come to an end. There may be other such international events, but Milan remains the largest and most influential. It is a fair on a vast scale: think Glastonbury Festival — only with better-dressed visitors. People may tell you that it is impossible to see everything, but Bricks & Mortar can give you an overview of the trends on show, thanks to some footsore experts. Remember that if it’s in Milan this spring, it will be on its way to our high streets in the next year or so.

The 1980s are back
The next decade revival is the 1980s, with Memphis patterns and block graphic shapes, according to Kirsty Whyte, a product and design manager at Heal’s. At the fair, Kartell launched a collection created from unseen designs by Ettore Sottsass, the founder of the postmodern Memphis Group, one of the biggest name of the 1980s. The Ettore Sottsass collection — which comprises colourful furniture and homeware — was exhibited with furniture upholstered with fabric designed by other members of the group. Rose Etherington, of Clippings.com, says: “Many brands are still embracing 1980s colours but this is a very clear and direct reference.” The Altar Chair (made from thin black metal piping and with an orange seat), the Split Mirror Long (a split mirror) and the Drunken Table Lamp at Lee Broom’s exhibition, the Department Store, had a strong Memphis vibe.


Metal and glass lighting

Tom Dixon, with the help of the design group Front, has created a range of pendant lights made from metallised glass. The Melt lights — made by using a process called vacuum metallisation — look like a compressed ball of molten glass when illuminated. The Caliemero light, by Dan Yeffet for Wonderglass, has a domed shade made from smoked, handblown glass which is overlapped by a copper shade. There is also a trend for lamps with shades in milky white glass, graduating to clear — as seen at Flos, Lightyears and Artemide, according to Ruth Aram, of the furniture shop Aram.


Tech without the cables

High-tech features are getting more subtle, particularly when they are related to lighting. Etherington says: “Many lighting design brands are now integrating technology into home products in a way that’s much more subtle than we’ve seen before. This isn’t about sticking screens on everything and making a big show of products being ‘smart’, but integrating technologies in a seamless and almost invisible way to subtly enhance everyday life. A big part of this is reducing the need for cables, plug sockets and switches.” Cobra by Innermost, for example, is an LED wall light with an integrated USB charging point in its base so a separate plug socket isn’t needed.


Natural wood

The opposite of the high-gloss look, reclaimed or unfinished wood is a trend that has been growing for a few years. Kim & Heep’s parquet and brass-framed sidetable, called the Scattered Servant, was a notable piece, according to Whyte. The makers used 130-year-old parquet flooring from the piano nobile (the principal floor of a large house) of a Viennese property. Ercol’s new Flow chair, designed by Tomoko Azumi, is another example. The British furniture manufacturer describes the chair — which goes on sale in this autumn and will cost £495 — as having a “high level of craftsmanship”. The British architect David Chipperfield’s furniture range for the German furniture brand e15 is rustic and contemporary — the solid wood table, bench and stool are made from flat, plank-like pieces of wood that have a prominent open grain.


Exit through the (online) gift shop

Yoox.com, the Italian online retailer, launched an exclusive collection of luxury home accessories at the fair. The Made in Milano collection — a project that was created in celebration of Yoox.com’s 15th anniversary — pays homage to Milanese design. Created by nine designers based in Milan, the pieces are inspired by the city and, as its name suggests, they are all made there. Those visiting the exhibition could browse the collection and then order a piece from the website using tablets provided. Dimore Studio’s Peqpab lamp — designed as a tribute to the modernist architect Mies van der Rohe — sold out on the first day (though it was restocked).

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