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Celebrating 50 years of design – Scott King’s take on the Milan Furniture Fair 2011

Photos

Fiera MilanoZona Tortonadiscarded fire extinguishers to create hanging lampsvibrant colour, and pattern and texture

It was a week where beauty met utility in the city of Milan. Associated with of the arts, culture, fashion and design, the city saw more than 2,700 companies exhibiting their latest designs at the 50th Milan Furniture Fair – the largest trade show of its kind – to more than 300,000 trade visitors.

Scott King, Senior Design Manager with Electrolux Asia Pacific was in attendance this year and shares his insights though a photo journal.

A Designer’s Journal, Milan Saloni 2011
By Scott King

One week a year in April, Designers from around the world descend on the fashion capitol of the World, Milan for Salone del Mobile. The 2011 marked an important milestone with the 50th anniversary for the event.  The Milan Design event continues to grow and spread across Milan, with new areas emerging every year, as young designers look to move away from the more established and commercialised areas.

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The Fiera Milano is the main focus for the larger mass furniture and lighting companies to show their wares, spanning almost 345,000 square metres of exhibition space, with more than 16 pavilions.

In a positive sign that we may be entering post-recession times, the Fiera was full to capacity with exhibitors spaning every possible furniture design taste! High profile brands, Capellini, Kartell, Poliform, and Flos spared no expense constructing large & elaborate stands to showcase their new products.

Away from the Fiera, scattered throughout Milan are pockets of design enclaves.  Retail shops, motor mechanics and factories cleared out their businesses for the week to allow designers and companies to transform their spaces to display their latest products, fabrics, concepts and design installations.

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The biggest of these areas is Zona Tortona, usually home to the world’s leading fashion houses and modelling agencies.  Saloni transforms the narrow streets into a design mecca that is busy by day, but truly comes to life after dark with a street party atmosphere filled with both designers and design savvy Milan locals, wandering the streets.

Other areas to embrace the event are the Brera District, that is full of wine bars and cafes and Via Monte Napoleone, one of the world’s most expensive fashion streets where you can find lighting companies sharing window displays with fashion labels.


In recent years, Zona Tortona has become less focused on new design talent with big corporate companies like the Corian & Disney collaboration moving in and creating installations providing more of an overall brand experience.

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In the outer suburbs of Milan, an area known as Lambrate has emerged as one of the new spaces where young designers have found a new home.  Savvy creative types, universities and small companies scattered throughout a residential neighbourhood provide a wealth of inspiration on new uses of colour materials and finishes.  It was here that we found a design feel with a focus on sustainability, recycling & re-use. One designer used discarded fire extinguishers to create hanging lamps.

Colour & Materials

The connection between the Kitchen and Living space continues to strengthen.  At Eurocucina 2010, we saw subdued tones reflected in Kitchen Cabinetry.  In 2011, we can see a greater similar use of the colours and materials used in the living room, and furniture.

The major furniture manufactures displayed their products in context of the living / kitchen space and  continued to build on the colour trends we saw at Saloni in 2010.  Earthy tones, Grey’s, off whites take on the base tones for the space and main furniture pieces , providing a sense of warmth and security in the living space.

Perhaps a sign of the current economic climate, new furniture was in the most part less flamboyant and more about a sense of longevity, and a real focus on fit, feel and finish.

The flat screen TV has become the focal point of the living space and many companies are looking for ways to integrate or hide these black monoliths with their furniture, in much the same way as kitchen suppliers have long been doing with appliances.  Black appliances in the kitchen will again be popular as consumers learn to live with a high degree of contrast.

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There are still elements of vibrant colour, and pattern and texture, but they are added through accessories, cushions, vases etc. that can change with time.  Gold and Copper accents and accessories worked well with the base tones adding an element of bling instead of colour.

Timber is back again in a new form, Lapalma presented the Otium chair using the exploration of boundaries of formed timber.  The outcome is a new softness to timber that makes it not only feel more natural and inviting, but allows it to be combined with other materials.  The formed timber provides a strong thin base, allowing other materials to be combined with it to create a layered effect.

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My personal favourite piece of furniture was the Manzu Armchair by Alias, the Retro Design inspired by the Interior of Italian Sports cars of the 70’s.

Overall, there was a lot of inspiration to draw from, with a real focus on attention to detail, and craftsmanship.  I am looking forward to the 2012 Milan Kitchen Fair to see how these colours and material trends with influence trends in the kitchen.

Scott King is an award-winning designer with Electrolux Asia Pacific.  Having joined the company in 1995, he has since worked on product design across all categories in Europe and Asia Pacific.  More recently, he lead a team that picked up top honours at the Singapore Design Awards and China’s Most Successful Design Awards for the inspirational ‘Keyhole Hob’.

To view more photos of the Milan Fair 2011, click here.

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