Because of Covid-19 and unrelenting global supply chain issues, the annual Salone del Mobile furniture fair in Milan moved from April to June this year, and thus celebrated its 60th anniversary last week, a bit behind schedule. Typically the international design scene’s harbinger of spring, this latest edition, which T kicked off with a rollicking garden party at Villa Necchi Campiglio, turned into something of a sticky endurance test, one with 30-degree temperatures, sudden rainstorms and nary an air-conditioned room in sight. Yet more than a quarter-million attendees decided to brave the elements for the sheer creativity on display, from recent graduates’ wild experiments with material to anticipated new releases from established names. Here are 13 of the most inspiring things we saw.
“By the Fire” by Studio Luca Guadagnino
A year after he told T that he secretly wanted to be an interior designer — in our 2016 story on his home in Crema, Italy — the film director Luca Guadagnino actually founded his own namesake design firm, which counts Aesop and the Yoox Net-a-Porter Group founder Federico Marchetti as clients. For its Salone debut, the outfit presented two complete living rooms inside Spazio RT, both oriented around a stone or multicoloured ceramic fireplace, with wood panelling, carpets and coffee tables all designed by the studio, plus a pair of wavy glass sconces produced with FontanaArte.
“Weave, Restore, Renew” by Loewe
Jonathan Anderson, the creative director of the Spanish fashion house Loewe, is a longtime collector of crafts, and this year he funnelled that affinity into an exhibition for which the brand collaborated with artisans specialising in traditional weaving, who worked with reclaimed leather, recycled paper, reeds, briar and straw. For the main part of the project, Loewe gave 240 existing baskets in various states of disrepair to four makers — Idoia Cuesta, Belén Martínez, Santiago Basteiro and Juan Manuel Marcilla — who, using a special leather string repair technique, made them new again.
“This Is America”
For the group furniture exhibition “This Is America,” Hello Human, Aditions and Canoa brought the discussion of diversity and representation in American design to the international stage with an inclusive roster of 15 U.S.-based designers and artists. It included established names like Ladies & Gentlemen Studio, which debuted two lights made from an assemblage of textile panels, and rising stars like Nifemi Ogunro, who contributed a delicately arched bookshelf coated in gritty concrete.
“Innesto (Rubbing Up the Wrong Tree)” by Martino Gamper
Martino Gamper took over the sizeable ground floor of Nilufar Gallery’s Depot space with his newest collection of furniture and handwoven rugs, Innesto, which means “grafting” in Italian. To create its chairs, mirrors and tables, he — with the help of Nilufar’s founder, Nina Yashar — acquired a suite of vintage steel-tube furniture by the 1930s English brand Cox, then added his own interventions, including upholstery, to their frames.
Formafantasma for Maison Matisse
Founded by the fourth generation of Henri Matisse’s family, Maison Matisse creates new object editions in partnership with contemporary designers who are inspired by his work — in the case of Andrea Trimarchi and Simone Farresin, the duo behind the Rotterdam- and Milan-based Formafantasma, his seminal series of paper cutouts. The pair borrowed the artist’s concept — and his colour palette — to cut and fold paper models for six limited-edition lamps in brightly hued laser-cut steel.
“Spoken Lines” by Colin King for Beni Rugs
At the exhibition platform Alcova, which each year invites nearly 100 brands and designers to show in an abandoned military hospital just outside Milan’s centre, the interior stylist Colin King launched the first of three collections he’ll create as the recently appointed artistic director at large of Beni Rugs, which produces hand-loomed carpets with Moroccan artisans. King’s high-pile pieces feature borders inspired by architectural details pulled from Milanese entryways, and two of them were displayed in conjunction with a large raw-wool sculpture by the Moroccan artist Amine el Gotaibi.
At Milan’s Rho Fiera convention centre, where upward of 2,000 furniture brands launch their collections each year, Glas Italia’s stood out. The company was founded in 1970, but its wares — particularly a minimalist two-sided settee by Piero Lissoni and a set of small storage units by Patricia Urquiola that use lenticular glass to distort the appearance of the objects inside — felt as modern as ever. It also reissued a set of geometric 1970s mirrors by Nanda Vigo that could have been designed yesterday.
Two Outdoor Furniture Collections
It was a big year for outdoor furniture at the fairgrounds, but two collections were especially notable. Arflex made an outdoor version of Marco Marenco’s namesake 1970 seating series, wrapping the extra-puffy armchairs and sofas in colourful and in some instances patterned waterproof fabric. And Baxter collaborated with the Italian design firm Studiopepe on sculptural, high-gloss lacquered seats and tables in colours inspired by David Hockney paintings, for a look they describe as “postmodern meets pool party.”
“Escenas” by Sancal
The women-owned Spanish brand Sancal eschewed the typical trade fair booth, instead opting to show its furniture in three more expressive contexts: an all-beige set, a terrazzo-lined Scandinavian-style fantasy apartment by the Swedish designer and photographer Tekla Evelina Severin of Teklan and an ode to ’70s and ’80s Milanese glamour, complete with brown carpeting and a matching louvered wall, by Studiopepe.
Gheama by Rooms Studio
Restaurant interiors aren’t typical Salone del Mobile fodder, but this year everyone was buzzing over an impressive one by the Tbilisi duo Nata Janberidze and Keti Toloraia of Rooms Studio, created for the first Georgian restaurant in Milan, Gheama. During the fair, Rooms co-hosted a dinner party inside the space, where, in addition to several new lamps by the London up-and-comer Elliott Barnes, there was furniture, textiles and lighting of their own design. Their newest sconce evokes a ghostly hand holding a torch.
“Divine Inspiration” by Lee Broom
Since the London designer Lee Broom’s new lighting collection was inspired by Brutalist architecture and midcentury Scandinavian church design, he styled his presentation to look like a house of worship. In addition to five series of lights that, divorced from this context, would appear simply as finely crafted fixtures in wood, metal and glass, Broom also unveiled three limited-edition pieces he made himself in his studio by dipping swaths of fabric in plaster and draping them around illuminated rings, spheres or tubes.
“Galateo — a Journey Into Conviviality” by Buccelatti
In recent years, Salone has been increasingly infiltrated by fashion brands looking to court the design world with splashy collaborations. This year marked the entry of a new player, the Italian jewellery house Buccelatti, which tapped Federica Sala to curate an installation around its archival silver housewares, and its collaboration with Ginori 1735. Sala, in turn, invited one firm and three interior designers to create lavish tablescapes around the pieces: Dimorestudio, Chahan Minassian, Patricia Urquiola and Ashley Hicks, who went for a sea-themed setting inside a dramatic red tent.
“Portaluppi Herbarium” by Nicolò Castellini Baldissera
The faded glamour of Alcova’s buildings proved the perfect backdrop for a re-creation of the architect Piero Portaluppi’s famed garden room — originally installed at the architect’s former home in the 15th-century Casa degli Atellani — that was creative directed by his great-great-grandson Nicolò Castellini Baldissera. The interior designer commissioned the handmade wallpaper atelier Pictalab to survey and paint a reproduction of the entrance to the home, then make it available as a customisable wall covering; he then added a new collection of furniture inspired by Portaluppi’s designs but produced by the brand he co-founded, Casa Tosca.