Key Trends Spotted at Salone del Mobile 2017 in Milan
Instead of disruptive design, we found a focus on classic pieces, quality and relaxation at the biggest of design fairs
Basic, unfussy pieces, simple contours, round forms and warm colors dominated at this year’s Salone del Mobile furniture and design fair in Milan. When the world is going through turbulent times, it seems, design tends to turn to the classic and safe. The fair ended without a dramatic statement — there were no polarizing designs or crazy showpieces. The trend for this year was mature, calm and timeless design that reflects a wish to relax, escape the tendency toward “fast furniture” and instead concentrate on quality and a few significant details.
This year’s Salone del Mobile took place April 4 through 9 and attracted more than 2,000 exhibitors and 343,600 visitors from 165 countries. Houzz editors Leonora Sartori (Italy), Elena Ambrosimova (Russia) and Rafael F. Bermejo (Spain) were on the scene. Here, they share nine key trends they spotted at the world’s biggest design fair.
1. The New Basics
The fair’s main concept can be described as “back to basics”: Companies concentrated on well-thought-through items that did not necessarily have a wow factor. In this way, design seems to be taking a cue from the clothing industry, where key pieces are often plain and neutral but have a timeless form and are made of quality materials. Brands can then mix them with fresh and bright accessories according to season and fashion. Similarly, rather than presenting new shapes for major furniture pieces, Salone showcased updates to existing designs, paired with a new definition of luxurious minimalism.
In a sense, omitting showstoppers highlights the underlying similarity of major furniture pieces across all brands. However, it also shows that it is possible to obtain timeless items that have no expiration date and to combine such classic pieces to adapt them to your home design.
2. Individual Environments
Many designs at the fair celebrated this freedom in individual home decor. Daniele Lago, head of the Italian design company Lago, told Houzz that “design is now focusing more on atmosphere and environment than on just creating and showing off single furniture pieces.” This idea was illustrated at Lago’s booth, where furniture designed in past years — such as the suspended Fluttua bed or the small Air table — was combined in various new environments. With the concept of “kindness” serving as an abstract prompt, the company designed the installations in collaboration with eight well-known Italian women. One of these was prima ballerina Carla Fracci, who created the airy all-white interpretation pictured here.
Here, the same furniture has a different look and feel. Interior designer Cristina Celestino designed this room at the booth.
3. The Past Is the New Future
This year’s fair highlighted a longing among designers to create the new classic, the new design icon. Simple forms from the past — which are now easier to produce — were presented, adapted to today’s tastes. One example is the work of Spanish designer Jaime Hayon, who created a collection for Austrian manufacturer Wittmann. “This work is the result of my imagined trip back in time to the Vienna of the 1930s,” the designer says. Hayon adds that he was happy to find a company that is so deeply rooted in tradition but that also gives him a lot of freedom in his design process.
4. The Sofa as Domestic Landscape
This year’s sofas are huge: XXXL is the new standard. The intention is to create a place to gather and to evoke a feeling of coziness and safety.
Other approaches included large, low sectionals made by combining a number of smaller sofas, or models like Pack, by Francesco Binfaré for Edra, which resembles a large play area more than a couch. “It is a concrete object, a domestic landscape, an exciting landscape inside the house,” Binfaré says in a press release. He describes his design as a “polar bear on an iceberg that breaks apart,” an object that evokes “innocence, happiness and fairy tales.”
5. Lightness and Simplicity Are the New Black
Sofas have become bigger, but not necessarily bulky. Simple lines, neutral colors and rounded forms often interplay with a fragile-looking framework that bears the weight of these huge sofas. These frameworks provide a kind of elegant and delicate feeling: They are simple but powerful at the same time. A Moroso press release states that the design of the sofa pictured here “draws inspiration from men’s tailored suits: clothes sewn beautifully, with tasteful and sophisticated materials and details.”
6. Gray, Beige and Dignified Patterns
Shades of gray, beige and terra-cotta were the main colors to be seen at this year’s fair, but they were enriched with interesting textures and dignified patterns. We see, again, the influence of timeless fashion: Tweed, salt and pepper, bicolored plaids with tiny checks and melange patterns — the same patterns that are used in suits — appeared again and again. They can be matched to upholstery, pillows or the geometric patterns on rugs, tabletops or works of art hung on walls or placed on surfaces.
7. Focus on Materials
The restraint designers showed in their designs this year was balanced with a deep attention to detail, especially when it comes to materials. Jonathan Levien, of London design duo Doshi & Levien, told Houzz that they “like to concentrate on little things, like a fabric or a rope” — as they did for Kettal, making the chairs of their Cala collection out of ropes.
Stone also played a big role in coordinated color schemes this year. Imperador marble in brown was among the top favorites, but deep blue-green granite and amber-like onyx were very prominent too. Even companies that traditionally specialize in glass furniture, such as Fiam or Galotti & Radice, produced at least one piece that uses imperador or imitation lava stone.
Brass also continued to be popular this year. It appeared not only in furniture supports, but also covering surfaces, similarly to how wooden veneer was used for many years. This is another way of expressing the combination of brutal and fragile in interiors.
8. Homes Are Blooming
“Nature is the greatest designer in the world and the most expansive source of inspiration at the same time,” says Dutch designer Edward van Vliet. Many of his colleagues might agree. Flowers and the jungle trend are still hot. There were a lot of banana palms, Japanese maples and regular houseplants, often matched with huge flowers on wall art. Many companies let butterflies and flowers take center stage on screens (Driade), carpets (Missoni) or upholstery (Kartell and Moroso).
9. Customization and Playfulness
A lot of manufacturers worked from the standpoint that users may want to adjust a product’s appearance to their personal mood. We are used to changing the pillows on a sofa’s backrest (now even in outdoor collections, as that from Tribu) and selecting the color of lightbulbs (Philips Hue). Now designers are offering even more innovative ways of modifying furniture.
The backrest of this sofa by Rubelli, for example, can change color thanks to a double-sided cover. Its front is the same color as the rest of the couch, but it can be flipped to reveal a bright orange underside.
The Graffiti lamp, designed by Kazuhiro Yamanaka for Pallucco Italia, is ornamented with metal rods that are attached with magnets. They can be rearranged to change the overall appearance of the fixture to match the rain, one’s mood or anything else.
These customizable designs are a great example of the overall theme of this year’s Salone. Rather than focusing on disruptive ideas, it showed how innovative takes on classic designs can put the focus back on the most important feature of all: the way furniture can be molded to our spaces and our lives.