Design trends to watch from Salone del Mobile and, soon, NYCxDesign

Varier’s delightful Ekstrom chair—whose rerelease in the States we are praying for nightly—was designed in 1984.

Intel from Milan Design Week and predictions for this month’s
design festivities in New York City

I’ve got to be honest: This wasn’t Milan’s most
cutting-edge year. In 2018 there was enough Big Design Energy

to ask some big questions
of the industry’s most hallowed
affair. In 2019, we saw a lot of retreads from previous fairs, and
noticed more than a few fairgoers singing the praises of
Milan’s architectural attractions
rather than the temporary
installations occupying the city.

That being said, let’s not get too jaded, shall we? There’s
still plenty to discuss, particularly as a lens for what one might
expect this month, as New York puts on its springiest design season
hat.

Fair intrigue

Typically, the biggest contemporary exhibitors (Poltrona Frau
Group, Molteni, B&B Italia) and smaller but mighty brands
(Muuto, Emeco) are housed in Halls 16 and 20. This year, it took a
half day of getting my steps in to find where some of the big
players were hiding: downstairs, in Hall 24. That space was
anchored at the back by an absolutely massive B&B Italia Group
pavilion encompassing individually built-out experiences for
B&B proper, plus Flos and Louis Poulsen (usually found in the
every-other-year Euroluce pavilion). Unconfirmed rumor has it that
B&B requested more floor space, and thus, a new hall was born
around it.

Yes, we all love terrazzo

One thing I spied at this year’s Salone included terrazzo as
pattern—versus terrazzo, the aggregate stone flooring. My
personal theory (as a self-proclaimed
collector
) is that what was once a cost-saving measure for
marble flooring is now almost as expensive, given that artisans who
can do terrazzo aren’t as common these days. The pattern is
visually friendly, and it’s had
such a resurgence
that the new thing is to use aggregate stone
as a pattern, rather than an actual material. Case in point, this
armchair upholstery at Moroso.


Terrazzo-printed upholstery fabric, as seen at the Moroso booth at
Salone del Mobile.

Design diplomacy

Outside of the fairgrounds, the city of Milan is chockablock
with exhibitions, presentations, and excuses to nip into palazzos.
A few bright spots for me this year included a compelling Artek show pairing contemporary
Japanese designers with classics from the Finnish company’s
vault. (Artek was purchased by Vitra in 2013 and didn’t have much
presence at the fair proper last year, so it’s a relief to see
that the company is still doing its own offbeat thing.) The space
was designed by Linda Bergroth—she of last year’s
Zero-Waste Bistro
at WantedDesign in New York—and the
pairings felt much more authentic and considered than the typical
designer collabs.

Norway takes the stage

Another Nordic highlight was Norwegian Presence, a
group show whose name speaks for itself. Sweden has been
manufacturing design forever (Ikea, Volvo), Denmark has a long
history of woodworking that has morphed into domination of the
pastel-hued
mid-priced furniture market (Hay, Muuto)
, and Finland has its
own design cred that exists a bit outside the Scandi bubble
(Marimekko,
the aforementioned Artek). It’s exciting to see the Norwegians
start to own their sensibility. I was especially into the new
creative direction for Varier, whose name you
may not know but whose ergonomic chairs you most certainly do! Look
out for these stateside, coming soon.


I ended this year’s Milan Design Week with a trip to the
Triennale museum to see the recently-installed permanent collection
of historical Italian design—an absolute must-see.

Varier Varier’s Balans seating—recently reintroduced with a new
creative direction by Shane Schneck—is the kind of ubiquitous
classic I adore.

Just Google it

“Experiential” is a common buzzword during Milan’s design
week, and the outstanding instance of an immersive exhibition was
courtesy of Google and the International Arts + Mind Lab at Johns
Hopkins University. “A
Space for Being”
had visitors enter into three different
rooms, each designed by Suchi Reddy and sporting Muuto furniture,
while wearing a sensor wristband that tracked one’s physiological
responses to each environment. While focused, the experiment was an
attempt to demonstrate how bodies change according to environmental
and designed inputs—as Lab director Susan Magsamen told me, “to
show how people feel neuroaesthetics, by making the invisible
visible.”

Palazzos? So last year

And finally, churches were kind of a thing. The highest
concentration of #salone Instagrams seemed to originate at Santa
Maria Annunciata in Chiesa Rossa (where there’s a permanent Dan
Flavin installation), Chiesa di San Francesco d’Assisi al
Fopponino (a Gio Ponti-designed church that completed a lighting
restoration
last year
), Chiesa San Paolo Converso (the location of WSJ.
Magazine’s design week party, and the former location of
architect
Massimiliano Locatelli’s office
), and San Bernardino alle
Monache (a chapel from 1279 that played host to Anton Alvarez’s
extruded bronze work with Fonderia Artistica
Battaglia
).

View this post on Instagram

Vibrant
artwork from the American artist Dan Flavin in the Santa Maria
Annunciata church in Milan. . . @stephanjulliard

A post shared by Stephan JULLIARD
(@stephanjulliard) on Apr 10, 2019 at 5:53pm PDT

Moving on to New York City

And now, for the Milan happenings that I predict we’ll see
again this May, during New York City’s month-long design
exhibitions
:

I mentioned
Anton Alvarez
, who worked with a Milanese bronze foundry under
the creative direction of Nicolas Bellavance-Lecompte to extrude
hot bronze into a water bath then shape them into sculpture.
Extrusion—in which great amounts of pressure are
applied to a malleable material instead of a die, then pushed
out—is all the rage these days, my friends, whether it’s
free-form or rigorous. For the latter, I’m thinking of Philippe
Malouin’s extraordinary Pole collection
of lighting for Roll & Hill, which you can see in NYC this May.
For the loosey-goosey extrusion fans, the debut of mini-fair
Object &
Thing
in Bushwick did not disappoint.

Overall, art editions seem to be appealing to
designers who have been working in industrial mode. The primary
example is Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec, who reliably and dutifully
come up with something nice for Vitra every year. This year, their
“new” was not a chair or table or system, but a collection of
hand-built ceramic vases with (I’m not making this up!) extruded
accoutrements. If you’re looking for something extra-beautiful
and non-industrial, head to Casa
Perfect
, The Future Perfect’s new showstopper of a showhouse
in the West Village for two exhibitions: “The
Chair”
, comprising one-off seating imagined by 46 designers,
as well as
“Romancing the Stone
,” a collection from Chen Chen and Kai
Williams.* Their signature combination of raw materials and
polished finishing is extremely complex, tactile, and
irresistible.


L: Vitra. R: Eric Petschek for The Future Perfect. Left: Erwan and
Ronan Bouroullec’s Découpage vases for Vitra, which debuted in
Milan this April. Right: Chen Chen and Kai Williams “Romancing
the Stone exhibition at Casa Perfect in New York City.

Everyone is Bauhaus-obsessed this year,

present company included
. In terms of new furniture production,
that homage can read as cheap, or legit. I won’t bother to trash
the multitude of bad examples, but I will rep for an informed and
technically excellent colorblocked version of Gropius’s F51 chair
by Katrin
Greiling
for Tecta. The company’s “Bauhaus Nowhaus”
collection
also includes a spiffy Tobias Gross remake of an
Erich Brendel table, plus Esther Wilson’s take on a Breuer
folding chair. And considering the across-the-board

coverage
of the Bauhaus’s 100th anniversary, I would be
shocked if it doesn’t make an appearance during NYCxDESIGN.

I’m calling it now: the Ingo Maurer revival! The German
lighting designer has been a wee bit overlooked in the Postmodern
revival of late (perhaps because his work can skew more surrealist,
perhaps because he’s still alive). In any case, Ingo
Maurer
staged a huge display at Euroluce, and the
oh-so-Brutalist
Torre Velasca was lit up
in Maurer-designed blue for the
duration of design week. Curious whether we’ll see Maurer putting
on a show in New York this May.

Last but not least: Food as a design object has
transcended the cutting-edge (hats off to our old fave, MOLD
magazine) and become something a little more de rigueur for
companies looking to add some edge to a design event. Equal parts
artist and chef, Laila
Gohar
is racking up some real transatlantic miles between Milan
and New York this spring—and Paris, and Los Angeles—doing her
specific brand of elaborate food
installation
.


Studio Binocle “Six Tableaux,” an
installation of inventive marble tables by the architecture firm
Studio Binocle in their incredible domed office space in Milan,
also featured food as design elements.

*Deep cut: Chen and Kai designed Curbed’s
Groundbreakers trophies
in 2017.

Source: FS – All – Architecture 10
Design trends to watch from Salone del Mobile and, soon, NYCxDesign