A vision of the future

Words by Julie Lasky, The New York Times News Service


A 3-D printed house that left a chalky taste in the back of your throat. Adorable animals transformed as if by a wizard’s wand into lamps and tableware. Chairs and sofas as chubby and pale as marshmallows.

These were some of the irresistible objects on display at last month’s International Furniture Fair in Milan, the world’s pre-eminent showcase of contemporary design. People visit “to have a vision of the future,” said Claudio Luti, the fair’s president.

Here are 6 things that revealed where design is now and where it may be heading.

Woody seating options by Kartell. Image: The New York Times News Service


Breaking Up With Plastic

As the so-called sea of plastic grows not just in the ocean but in consumers’ minds, some plastic objects are being reinvented in wood. Kartell, the Italian plastic furniture company, unveiled a seating prototype called Woody, which rendered familiar Philippe Starck-designed silhouettes in thin shells of ash and striped rosewood. But the company has not completely repudiated its heritage — the chairs legs are still plastic.

The Four Wheels coffee table. Image: The New York Times News Service


The ‘80s, Now and Forever

Will the decade of big hair and tiny portions ever go away? Standing out among the ‘80s retreads was Four Wheels, a coffee table designed by William Sawaya of Milan that paid affectionate tribute to Gae Aulenti’s 1980 classic: a low slab of glass on four functioning wheels. Sawaya created a cheeky update from a folded sheet of brushed steel with round, flat feet going nowhere. The piece is part of his continued experiments in what he calls “soft origami.” Available in August, with enameled or plain “wheels”.


Marcel Wanders, founder of Moooi, a Dutch design company, showcases a jungle wallpaper featuring extinct animals at the International Furniture Fair in Milan. Image: Andrea Wyner/The New York Times.


A Dodo Here, a Leopard There

“We have to make things that will not be thrown away, that people love,” said Marcel Wanders, a founder of Moooi, a Dutch design company. Exhibit A is Moooi and Arte’s Extinct Animals wallpaper collection, inspired by 10 bygone creatures like the calligraphy bird and the blushing sloth. The 11th paper, the Menagerie of Extinct Animals, is digitally printed with the whole departed zoo. Available in October.


Nigerian-American designer, Ini Archibong. Andrea Wyner/New York Times.


Furniture Mythmaker

Ini Archibong, a Nigerina-Maerican deisgner living in Switzerland, introduced his Below the Heavens collection for the British company Sé. The Circe lounge chair, shown with the designer at Rossana Orlandi’s gallery, exemplifies the fat white pillowy seating found throughout the fair. His oblong ceramic Eos table, with an asymmetrical galvanized steel tray top, has the jolly silhouette of a penguin. And his Gaea pendant lamp is pure jewellery.


Bloom Table Lamp. Image: New York Times News Service.


Scandinavian Cozy

Now that hygge is a global aspiration, a Danish brand called Warm Nordic is here to help. It is reissuing the Bloom table lamp, a 1950s classic by Svend Aage Holm-Sorensen, with a swan-neck stem and a bonnet-like shade. It will be available in the United States in autumn.


Image: New York Times News Service.

Is it a Sofa or Table?

“What if a carpet becomes three-dimensional and blurs the line of seating, dining, walls, decoration and floor covering?” That was the question posed by Lyndon Neri, of the design duo, Neri & Hu, who created a modular seating concept called Lan, including a sofa with a vertical textile-draped frame reminiscent of a weaving loom. Available in September through Gan, a Spanish textile brand.


Feature Image: Andrea Wyner/New York Times News Service