Mary Middleton is an interior designer turned writer who contributes to Interior Design Magazine, Kitchen and Bathroom Design News and Decor8, as well as authoring her own blog hellopeagreen.com. She is in the top 10 of the Designhounds influencers 2018. Mary gives her take on Milan Design Week.
For the uninitiated, Milan Design Week is a beautiful chaotic and overwhelming design circus spread across the city of Milan for one week each year. Anchored by one of the world’s largest furniture fairs Salone del Mobile, with its almost 2000 exhibitors you will find new launches and the latest décor trends. Across the Fuorisalone, a series of events distributed across various areas of the city, there are thrilling installations, eclectic pop-ups and trade only showrooms open to the public. The city is teeming with designers, trend hunters and international design aficionados. This compelling design showcase needs plenty of preparation to get the most from it… and extremely comfortable shoes.
Collaboration is the name of the game for many of the big installations. This year fashion retailer COS partnered with American artist Phillip K. Smith III to create Open Sky – a light and reflection-based art installation, housed in the historic courtyard of Palazzo Isimbardi in Milan. COS’ understated aesthetic and Phillip K. Smith IIIlight-based art were a perfect pairing. He is known for capturing and conveying light in large-scale installations, designed to reflect the infinite scale of the earth and sky. The Open Sky installation, made of a semi-circle of mirrors set at an angle, successfully captured the sky but also the historical architecture of the Palazzo’s courtyard. In previous years, COS has collaborated with artists and designers, such as Studio Swine and Sou Fujimoto for Milan Design Week.
The Milanese gallery, interiors and furniture studio Dimore has become known for creating some of the most Instagrammed and unmissable events of Milan Design Week. This year they presented three installations; an immersive exhibition of vintage furniture including designs by Osvaldo Borsani, installed inside Bedouin-style tents created in de Le Cuona fabric, a mazelike display of their newest collection that included an antique vitrine full of flowers and finally an installation of one-off furniture pieces made from antiques the designers had repurposed. With queues around the block, it seems their appeal continues to grow.
For the first time, Villa Borsani: Casa Libera! the home of renowned architect and designer Osvaldo Borsani was open for viewing. An immaculately preserved Italian Modernist jewel completed in 1945 and occupied exclusively by members of the family ever since. Borsani considered and designed every facet in his projects, and the extensive archives including sketches and blueprints were also available to be viewed including his collaborations with Lucio Fontana and Roberto Crippa.
Lighting designer Lindsey Adelman joined forces with Calico Wallpaper to present Beyond the Deep, exploring the effect of naturally occurring chemical reactions on surfaces, particularly with salt. Adelman launched the Drop System, a De Stijl–inspired lighting series that features hand-blown mini globes attached to verdigris finished brass tubes. As a complement to the lighting fixtures, Calico wallpaper’s brand-new Oceania collection by Rachel and Nick Cope used a salt-resist process combined with watercolour painting. The effect was startling and evocative of the depth and movement of the sea.
Luxury European furniture brand Sé once again showed at Rossana Orlandi’s Gallery space in Milan, a hot spot for trend (and celeb) spotting. Designed by Ini Archibong, Collection IV, entitled Below the Heavens, unveiled a 22-piece collection that will be released over two years. The predominately curvaceous pieces featured high gloss and metallic surfaces capturing the tension between delicacy and strength.
Preciosa Lighting presented Breath of Light design during Milan Design Week. Associated with more traditional chandeliers, they showcased a dynamic, playful lighting installation revealing the contemporary side of the brand. The interactive installation invited visitors to walk around the orbs, which brightened and dimmed, and to blow into specific orbs creating a manipulation of the lighting patterns and sound. An unexpected and other worldly presentation from a traditional glass-making house dating back to 1724.
Visiting Palazzo’s that aren’t usually open to the public is one of the highlights of Milan Design Week. The 1200 square metre installation by Gubi in the Palazzo Serbelloni, dating back to 1770, was the perfect foil to the head-turning contemporary design of the Danish brand. The reissue of designs by renowned mid-century designers Greta M. Grossman and Jacques Adnet were a firm favourite, as well as, seen for the first time, designs by Finnish master of light Paavo Tynell and legendary French designer Pierre Paulin.
Designer of Australian brand SP01, Tim Rundle created an elegant series of armchairs, mirrors and tables – all defined by a rich palette and luxe materiality. The growing range of products available captures the spirit of the Australian lifestyle, and as a brand, they never shy away from presenting their products in a colourful setting.
Rugs appeared on every surface in Milan from floors to ceilings and walls. Clearly, a room is never fully dressed without a rug according to the style makers of a number of installations, especially the talented Studiopepe who created the Club Unseen installation. They also unveiled a new wall hanging for rug company CC-Tapis. Other new designs released by the company included vibrant and colourful designs by Bethan Laura Wood, Patricia Urquiola and Mae Engelgeer. They also received the prestigious Salone del Mobile Milano Award for their stand, which was probably in the top 10 most photographed spaces at the show.