With just under half a million visitors from the worlds of art, design, architecture and fashion descending on Milan at its highest rate yet, all eyes were on the 58th edition of Salone del Mobile and the talent to watch for the year ahead.
Such is the public’s exhilarated interest in interiors and lifestyle, brands are more ready than ever to champion their takes on the homeware market. Indeed, the city was a hotbed of activity with furniture launches from Dimore Milano, design installations from resident collaborators COS, and a wave of luxury fashion houses such as Loewe, Gucci and Hermès. Shopping Editor Naomi Smart spent the week zipping around by scooter (with the odd pit stop, most memorably at much-loved London restaurant Rochelle Canteen's pop-up): here are her 2019 highlights.
Pouf cushions. Who knew you needed them? But when they look like this, thanks to Belgian interior designer JP Demeyer, you won’t be able to resist. From colour-pop wheels in pin-tucked bold stripes, to plumped frills and thick cascading tassels falling from its display stands at his Palazzo Clerici presentation, for those in the UK who can’t wait, a taste of his designs can be snapped up online at Alex Eagle.
La Double J
When it comes to capturing the elegance of Italian style from days gone by (think graphic retro prints that wouldn’t look out of place in a Slim Aarons set-up, poolside at Il Pellicano), American-born Milanese resident JJ Martin is your woman. Working with historic Italian producers, it doesn’t get much more “Made in Italy” than a piece from her brand La Double J’s reissued vintage print dresses, plates, table cloths or Murano glassware. Now in her second year, she’s come a long way from just a couple of starter toiles of dresses to launch yet another category: bed linen. Aptly named the Print-cess and the Pea, six mix-and-match printed sheets, covers and cushions in 300-thread, Italian-made cotton, made in collaboration with Mascioni linens were displayed in her showroom, layered bed-on-bed-on-bed. Cue the homes of Positano’s glitterati ringing her phone off the hook this spring.
‘Loewe Baskets’, the fifth Salone installation by Jonathan Anderson, successfully turned any preconceptions of traditional woven baskets on their head immediately. Just like last year’s focus on blankets, which were deconstructed, embroidered and displayed as exquisite wall hangings, this year the luxury leather house pushed the parameters of basketry. Anderson, the house’s driving force for supporting craft, invited 11 artists who weave to replace rattan, bamboo and straw with bundles of Loewe leather. The results? Reincarnations of baskets like you’ve never seen before. From wall-hung basket planters, basket weaves around rock formations by American Deloss Webber, to Ireland’s Joe Hogan’s durable baskets fashioned from homegrown willow, these exclusive objets d’art were ready for purchase. And for the visitor who can’t bear to leave an exhibition without a visit to the gallery gift shop, a ceiling of existing Loewe baskets (the trophy bag of the summer) and limited-edition woven bags, accessories and charms created by Spanish artisans took a savvy shopper’s understanding of ‘add to basket’ to a whole new level.
Now enjoying its eight-consecutive year at Salone, COS has been one of the most enticing brands leading the charge of fashion and design collaboration working with such luminaries as Nendo and Studio Swine. This year saw Hackney-based Arthur Mamou-Mani, of award-winning architecture practice Mamou-Mani, step up with a towering 3D-printed, bio-brick dome sculpture inspired by the geometry of COS's Salone site, Palazzo Isimbardi. It was Mamou-Mani’s extraordinary wood-latticed temple, Galaxia, transported to last year’s Burning Man in the Nevada desert, that first caught the eye of COS creative director Karin Gustafsson, and her hunch paid off: it pulled in over 30,000 visitors. Thank goodness, too, because it was a hell of an undertaking: Mamou-Mani played on his expertise in fabricated architecture to create a "truncated pyramid" with over 700 individual interlocking pieces 3D-printed across four of his “Fab Labs” every day for two months. He wanted to find an alternative to commonly used plastic, experimenting and ending up with a compostable material – bioplastic and wood. A technology breakthrough for the studio, the structure weaved its way in and out of the palazzo’s arched colonnades linking it to the garden, its changing colour waking you up to the diversity of the materials.
If you’re into marble (and, quite frankly, who isn’t) you’re going to go wild for Bloc Studios. Working out of Carrara, the Italian epicentre for marble quarries, since 2014, creative directors Sara Ferron Cima and Massimo Ciuffi cherry-pick international artists and invite them to create limited edition collections for the home. Up this year, Odd Matter and Studiopepe, which each transformed raw marble into vases, trays, and tables. Ever thought you’d see dégradé sprayed marble? Well thanks to Federica Elmo’s 3D-digital liquid painting onto table top surfaces, you can marvel.
Iconic Milanese designer Gabriella Crespi’s 1970's and '80s designs were celebrated with a number of installations throughout Dimore Gallery. Multiples of her reissued 1970 Fungo lamp sat amongst tumbling sand dunes on a fuchsia pink carpet – Instagram catnip! Even better, the trust founders Britt Moran and Emiliano Salci have added another string to their bow in the form of Dimore Milano, a new brand encompassing their furniture, fabric, object and outdoor collections. The launch space? The ex-Cinema Arti, a historical building of the Rationalism-era. And inside? Leopard print carpets leading to a central stage of decadent room-scapes illuminated by white neon tubes reminiscent of the bedroom film set in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Putting sex back in interiors. That’s just what Dimore does.
Kvadrat x Raf Simons
Raf Simons has been busy. A meadow pathed a way to No Man’s Land, the 6th upholstery collection from Danish textile house Kvadrat in partnership with the Belgian fashion designer. A selection of day beds, minimalist 1970s style sofas and cushions played host to Simons' characteristic flair with colour, all upholstered in the latest four fabrics, which sat in a collection of Jean Prouvé’s prefabricated wooden homes in a disused warehouse. Favourites were the richly hued corduroy and speckled Atom fabric inspired by the gardens in Impressionist paintings. But if that wasn’t a big enough pull, London institution Rochelle Canteen had also taken up residence on site, giving the Milanese a sweet taste of British cuisine from Margot Henderson and Melanie Arnold.
The Socialite Family
Retro Franco-Italian design was the starting point of online design emporium The Socialite Family’s latest homeware collection. Showcased in a reimagining of founder Constance Gennari’s own Parisian apartment in the heart of Milan’s Brera design district, pieces included lacquer and cane benches (coming in at just over £300), elegant table lamps and - stop the press – a tasselled trim update on that sumptuous pink velvet sofa you’ve been searching for at just over £1,000. Quality design, made in Europe and at fair prices comprise the core values of Gennari’s business - this was one of my discoveries of the week for affordable product. Go online to see endless home inspiration courtesy of some of the chicest families around the world.
Richard Ginori x Luke Edward Hall
Florence-based Richard Ginori is a king in the porcelain world. Anyone who is familiar with its ceramics knows it represents the utmost excellence in Italian artistic manufacture and quality porcelain dinnerware. A visit to its Florence or Milan based store is a must, and with previous notable artistic directors including Gio Ponti, any future collaborator is in very good company. The latest is our very own London-based artist and illustrator Luke Edward Hall, known for putting his playful stamp on brands including Burberry, Christie’s and Le Sirenuse in Positano. The results for Ginori? The Viaggio di Nettuno collection, inspired by Hall's love of Greco-Roman mythology, and featuring Neptune, the Roman god of the sea, hand-painted across a selection of serving platters. We can't get enough.
Life in Vogue
Last year the temporary redesigning of the Vogue Italia offices by a carefully curated selection of designers, undertaken by editor-in-chief Emanuele Farneti, proved such a success, that this year the doors were opened to the public. Eagle-eyed visitors were given a guided tour of their reimagined offices from the fashion cupboard "in action", to show the moment before a cover star arrives for a fitting decked in new season samples, to fashion designer JW Anderson’s take on the fashion editor’s office – painted bright sunny yellow, and with cream carpets. Meanwhile the multidisciplinary artist Ana Kras had shipped in her clear glass and colour pop edged desk and bench from her Mara series into the Creative Director’s office (cementing my desire to order it immediately for my dining room). And Beirut-based David/Nicolas designed the Editor-In-Chief’s office, its warm earthy tones so inviting that no doubt there might be a petition for them to stay just that little bit longer.
Hermès’ Moroccan tile towers were stand-out at last year’s Salone, and the labyrinth of traditional stone walls developed under the artistic co-direction of Charlotte Macaux Perelman and Alexis Fabry for Hermès Maison 2019 had the same eye-popping affect. Not too dissimilar from those that line miles upon miles of Europe’s country lanes, the Hermès take was displayed in chevrons and graphic patterns that took bricklaying skills to a whole new level. Guests were encouraged to meander through this raw backdrop, a natural palate cleanser to all its new rainbow coloured home pieces. My favourites were the bold, striped vases and signature wool blankets.
Just like Dimore Studio, you would be making an amateurish mistake in missing the offering from Nina Yashar’s Nilufar Gallery and Depot, the latter a masterpiece of curated design talent from past and present. This year the Nilufar Gallery curated three installations with designers that they have collaborated with the most, including Piano Nobile (pictured here) with Martino Gamper, Michael Anastassiades, and Brigitte Niedermair in collaboration with DEDAR packing the biggest punch. Inspired by one of those serendipitous moments that artists tend to run with - a faulty internet connection whilst trying to download a picture from Picasso’s blue period to a mobile phone – the pixelated image served as an ideal starting point for the Screenshot patterns now seen on the Dedar fabric wall panels.