Furniture and design: 12 trends

“Competition has become fiercer, time frames have become tighter and the market has become more demanding. In the global race, winning is only possible through constant innovation and high quality,” says Claudio Luti, President of Salone del Mobile, Milano. It records a record increase in the number of visitors (about half a million from 188 countries), marking the bet on the “best buyers” – designers and expert dealers.

The Milan Furniture Salon is a key event for the European furniture industry. It occupies two dozen extensive pavilions, focuses on young designers (the SaloneSatellite site), and changes the accompanying thematic biennials every year: in 2018 – kitchens with household appliances and bathrooms, in 2019 – light. From a purely Italian exhibition, the event has turned into an international occasion to see the cutting-edge design and understand where its manufacturer is heading.

During the Salone del Mobile, Design Week takes over the city, with thousands of brands showcasing their latest designs. Unlike fashion week, events are open to the public. Everyone attends as many exhibitions, exhibitions, and parties as possible. In-demand designers such as Luca Nichetto, Marcel Wanders, Patricia Urquiola, and Oki Sato celebrate dozens of new premieres. For example, Matteo Cibic presented 75 new properties for 9 different companies, incl. and for the Indian Scarlet Splendor.

We have identified 12 important areas that designers, furniture makers, exposition architects, and dealers spoke about.

1. Passeism  2018 looks like a year where retro designs take center stage. Factories are passionate about reissuing their icons, and designers are happy to create new items “based on”. The Italian industry celebrates the centenary of Achille Castiglioni, still selling Gio Ponti, after the centenary of Ettore Sottsass in 2017 is actively promoting his radical design. Increasingly, the Superstudio group is remembered: young people tend to pick up ideas and images born from the fantasy of advanced rebels of the 70s.

Postmodernist, master of color, 87-year-old maestro Alessandro Mendini appears as the author of several fresh projects at once – from the exhibition at the Triennale Museum to the kitchen (Sanwa) and dishes (Alessi). Fashion Quote Sources: Latin American Modernism and Its Forwards ( Lina Bo Bardi,  Joaquín Tenreiro, Sergio Rodriguez ); the art of Osvaldo Borsani, Luigi Caccia Dominioni, Gabriella Crespi, and Nanda Vigo. Cassina recreates Gerrit Rietveld’s chair, and recalls the value of the De Stijl movement and modernism: Le Corbusier and Frank Lloyd Wright, architects of modernism, a style that gave meaning to 20th-century interiors.

Ahead of the Milan Expo, Dutch entrepreneur and former Moooi brand co-founder Kasper Vissers launched a brand called Revised, with collections inspired by early 20th-century styles. Ini Archibong’s novelties for London-based brand Sé reinforce the desire to “bring back the charm and quality of 20th-century furniture”.

Gufram broadcast the image of the disco of the 70s. Flou celebrates the anniversary of the Nathalie bed, designed by Vico Magistretti in 1978, Molteni&C continues to reproduce Gio Ponti. The Cappellini catalog contains mixes of things created in the 70s and 80s (in particular, rare items by Shiro Kuramata ), hits of the 90s (Tom Dixon wicker chairs), and new universal systems. Things from the past are sometimes far from museum exhibits: they are adapted to the present. For example, in 2018, Barovier & Toso reimagined the 1938 lamp – now it is a lamp without wires that turns on with one touch.

Post-war design is prolific: rich in names, and beautiful objects, both in wide circulation and in prototypes. Fashion for it is developing rapidly along with the general development of design as part of cultural consumption. Museums buy design, and furniture makers understand this very well.

2. New Nordic, Scandic-Chic, and Danish Design In 2018, interest in Scandinavian design will be fueled by the anniversary of the Finnish architect and designer Alvar Aalto. Interest in simple, durable, and elegant things, light wood, soft diffused light. Scandinavians teach us to value personal memories. We always welcome vintage items and textiles with a touch of twenty years ago. They are inspired by the principle of DIY – “do it yourself”.

Created to give a second chance to designs that were once popular in Scandinavia but less known elsewhere, the new Warm Nordic brand features originals from the 50s and 60s and new items in the spirit of the past. Among the companies that reflect the New Nordic trend, Danish companies are in the lead: Fritz Hansen, Carl Hansen&Son, Hay, & Tradition, Gubi, Fredericia, Muuto, and Woud. Factories from other countries have successfully mastered the Scandinavian-style formula. Even Italian luxury flagships such as Flexform or design brand Magis willingly convey New Nordic aesthetics and values.

3. Miniliving Design for small spaces is the absolute trend of the year. Manufacturers compete in micro-scale achievements: it can be modest thin-legged tables, compact sofas, mini-light bulbs, and folding chairs. Developers around the world are reducing the average area of ​​apartments: the minds of designers are occupied by everything that will help the modern nomad fit in a small number of meters, while not losing comfort. A case in point is the kitchens of Sanwa, the company that won the Salone del Mobile 2018 award.

In the era of Soft Minimal – urbanization and lack of space – people try to get by with less: do not buy too much, get rid of the unnecessary in small apartments. This means that the demand for things that are multifunctional and adaptable is growing. Which are easy to take with you to create a feeling of home in a new place. Fabio Novembre recalls that the NoLo style (living on the move, easily changing address, exchanging necessary things, choosing a new profession every six months, and so on) has an increasing influence on the environment and design of the item.

4. Customization Local artisans and global businesses are touting “flexible” solutions: interiors that are customizable, i.e. customized to the needs of the owner. The term has become hyper-popular: the marketer of each Italian top brand is ready to tell how their company creates bespoke things better than others – things to order, according to individual measurements and sizes. Furniture makers offer modular collections: “growing” kitchens, dressing rooms, shelving, cabinets, and even sofas. Ready to change fillers and upholstery, finishes, and dimensions.

The future belongs to immersive intuitive interiors that fully meet the lifestyle of a particular person. Google debuted in Milan this year, Panasonic and Dassault Systèmes created large-scale events. The key topic was how digital devices can become part of a healthy lifestyle: become more “friendly”, and tactile, and integrate into ordinary interiors and everyday life scenarios. The time is coming when technical gadgets will become objects of decor and “master” the niche of collection design.

5. Instagram-ready is a trend that underlies most shows, installations, and set designs. Now you can’t sell a chair or table without a spectacular shot or a popular video. Old furniture factories are increasingly attracting new stylists and tuning in to young bloggers. Instagram-ready – drama, music and performance, mirrors, colored walls, and arches, elements of theatrical mise-en-scenes – everywhere. Kartell, acting under the slogan Smart design for smart people, gives the showroom exposure to influencers from the creative industries – now the brand is forever connected with online communities.

“I think designers have a responsibility to try to create places that touch all the senses,” says American architect  David Rockwell. MVRDV is building a kaleidoscopic maze for Bvlgari. Charlotte Mako Perelman – exquisite decorations for Hermès. The Czech brand Lasvit is hosting an exhibition called Monster Cabaret in the theater, the architecture studio Stanton Williams is building a pavilion dedicated to dance…

6. Craft The term craft means “craft” or “skill”. We see an appeal to the uniqueness and manual work. Attention is drawn to furniture made by people, not machines. In furniture design, technocraft triumphs – things created using handicrafts and ancient techniques, along with the latest technologies and/or materials.

Young buyers want modern shapes in their homes but are willing to buy things that have a “rustic” look. The decorators recalled the Japanese principle of wabi-sabi, the emphasis on using objects made with inherent imperfections, and an accentuated sense of authenticity. Natural wood always coexists with something shiny and smooth. For example, in the Boffi collections, rough wooden shelves coexist next to a thin metal frame, bowls made of modern composites, and large mirrors. Old wood plus metal is an absolute must in many collections.

7. Ready to sell Sebastian Wrong, director of Established & Sons, said at a preview of the new collection that the brand will only display products in Milan that are ready to order. He argues that customers now easily lose interest in what they can not buy right away. And it looks like he’s right. Prototype exhibitions are crowding pop-up stores where you can buy your favorite thing now and immediately. Those times when a year or even more could pass from the premiere in Milan to the launch of the prototype into production are rapidly fading into the past. Brands cannot afford the luxury of time. The market is moving fast – immediately after the presentation of the idea, you need to run and sell as quickly as possible.

8. Affordable Exclusive With the availability of copyright items through Internet purchase, the global factory assortment may lose a buyer. This affects furniture brands of all price segments. How do flagships react?

Cassina is haute couture furniture based on the highest quality and craftsmanship. However, the 139 Cotone Legno chair on a lightweight aluminum base with a wooden back and seat cost only 90 euros. It was designed by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullecki. For them (and not only for them), design is an expression of political views. They are also proud of their new Elementaire chair for the Danish company Hay. “He is like jeans or a white T-shirt,” the brothers say.

Ikea, a symbol of mass demand for modern design, has plunged into capsule collections and collaborations with global influencers. Another Swedish company, Hem, also attracts artists from different disciplines, such as Austrian fashion designer Arthur Arbesser. Hem has challenged the concept of retail: in the US alone, 60% of products ordered online are shipped from a warehouse in Pennsylvania. In an effort to create a luxury version of Ikea, the brand has adopted a “no-store” strategy that keeps prices down but sells designs.

9. Ethical design Today, the word ecology is less and less heard, more and more – ethics. An ethical piece of furniture is based on production that uses renewable materials, and green technologies, and minimizes energy and water costs. Companies talk about sustainable design – thoughtful, balanced, “non-polluting” consciousness. “I don’t care about aesthetics anymore, but ethics is another matter,” says designer-philosopher Philippe Starck. “Ethics in the sense of ecology, ethics in the sense of accessibility and fair price, correct gender position…”

The study of the impact of plastic and plastic waste is in vogue. Shahar Livne and Théophile Blandet reflect on this. Japanese designer Kodai Iwamoto has made Pipe vases using a technique he calls plastic blowing, and Dutch company Trashplast has introduced an innovative material made from recycled polyethylene. 

Veganism and vegetarianism are gaining momentum around the world – it’s only a matter of time how and on what scale this will begin to influence the design industry. Following the launch of the Vegan Homeware Awards, Israeli designer Erez Nevi Pana plans to delve deeper into animal cruelty in design.

10. Africa and Afrofuturism Africa’s burgeoning creative scene has taken center stage thanks to the popularity of Marvel’s Black Panther film, with its Afrofuturistic aesthetic. In Milan, this theme was highlighted at the Salone Satellite at Africa / Latin America: Rising Design – Design Emergente: 18 designers from all over the continent were brought together by French-Moroccan Hicham Lahlou. The influence of Africa is also evident in the brand collections. For example, among the novelties of the German brand, Walter Knoll is a series of carpets based on African landscapes, and the Italian brand Waxman Brothers advertises a collection of home accessories made from African textiles.

11. Emotional design The manifesto of the Salone del Mobile, which was first presented since its launch in 1961, featured themes: “emotion”, “quality”, “culture”. “The Salone del Mobile is, above all, an emotion”, stresses the president of the exhibition, Claudio Luti. The awards of the exhibition were received by CC-tapis, Magis  – companies whose exposition and presentation called for an unusual cultural experience.

The term “empathy” is an essential aspect of the work of Patricia Urquiola, Art Director of Cassina and one of the most sought-after designers of our time. “You have to be like an antenna that receives and resonates,” she says. One of Urquiola’s latest “experiences” is the tradition of Indian handloom in the collection of furniture and textiles for GAN. “Everyone is looking for well-being, peace of mind, daylight, clean air, and comfort. A new facet of minimalism is being formed – its version is warmer and more sensual,” Parisian trendsetter Elisabeth Lerish warned us.

12. Fashion+ The international fashion presence in Milan this year is perhaps stronger than ever. Louis Vuitton has continued to fortify the stellar Objets Nomades collection with new names ( André Fou ) and a new scale (Petits Objets). An American artist created an installation in the Palazzo Isimbardi for the fashion brand Cos. The Spanish Maison Loewe is advancing into the realm of art and design with British designer Jonathan Anderson with a collection of 50 rugs and bedspreads showcasing the world’s craftsmanship, from Japanese boro textile techniques to Indian embroidery. La Double J, an online clothing and decor store, has partnered with Kartell to create a 15-piece collection. A new generation has grown up in Milan who are excited to break down barriers and do new things.

During the Salone del Mobile 2018, the opening of the nine-story Torre Tower, designed by the Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas OMA, took place. Torre has completed the construction of the Fondazione Prada, the most important artistic point, symbolically located on the industrial outskirts of Milan. The cultural complex serves as a visual marker of the spread of fashion into the intellectual life of the city. It symbolizes something of an artistic renaissance in Milan, where the heroes of art, architecture, interior design, and fashion increasingly converge on something more important than selling furniture.

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