Highlights from Salone del Mobile

Louis Vuitton Objets Nomade

Milan’s annual Salone del Mobile (or furniture fair) took place last week and the city was in surprisingly fine form. Not only has Milan long been gearing—and sprucing—up for the opening of EXPO 2015, but spring was also in full bloom with wisteria blossoms the size of footballs dripping off every balcony, façade and palazzo courtyard, scenting the air and giving the Italian industrial hub an unexpected blitheness. The fair and all of its satellite design districts (of which there are at least half a dozen) offered plenty of design news, but even stars like Martino Gamper, Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec, Patricia Urquiola and Naoto Fukasawa could not outshine Italy’s number one son, Leonardo da Vinci, who excelled as not just a painter and sculptor, but also an architect, scientist, inventor, city planner, and is the subject of the largest exhibition in Italy to date at the Palazzo Reale. Talk about a one-man show.


Nilufar Depot Milan’s reining design doyenne Nina Yashar inaugurated her new warehouse space with a lavish dinner party, along with the designer (and Yashar’s occasional partner in crime) Martino Gamper. Famous for having dismembered a collection of Gio Ponti hotel furniture in 2007, Gamper, for this occasion, assembled a series of tables and chairs from Yashar’s storage into theatrical dining vignettes.


Palazzo Crespi Milan design week offered many prime opportunities for indulging in Palazzo porn, prime among them “Housewarming,” a joint project between Airbnb and the design think tank Fabrica at Palazzo Crespi, which was built to celebrate the coronation of Napoleon Bonaparte. Nineteen young designers, stationed throughout the Palazzo’s spectacular baroque interiors, humbly interpreted the concept of “welcome.” And it worked. Visitors were definitely inclined to make themselves at home.


Max Lamb Exercises in Seating Speaking of chairs, in the newly minted 5Vie design district, which is anchored by BDDW’s grand Milano outpost, design darling Max Lamb presented “Exercises in Seating” a retrospective of chairs he has made since 2006. As the docent on hand pointed out, it is an exercise in materiality rather than comfort.


Louis Vuitton Objets Nomade, Charlotte Perriand house The French designer Charlotte Perriand’s diminutive, though no less fetching, seaside house was installed in the courtyard of Palazzo Bocconi, where Louis Vuitton presented its latest collection of Objets Nomades, which this time around included charming plant stands by Damien Langlois-Meurinne and a lounge chair that looked ready to walk away on centipede-like legs by Gwenael Nicolas.


Lee Broom Department store In the San Gregorio district, young Brit design darling Lee Broom transformed a series of disused shops into a surreal gray on gray on gray “Department Store” for his playful, Memphis inflected pieces like this Acid Marble table and table light.


Memphis show It wouldn’t be Milan without a heady dose of Memphis and evidence of the design movement’s legacy was everywhere from Kartell’s tribute to Ettore Sottsass to Paola Navone’s Panda furniture collection at Cappellini. But nowhere was Memphis more alive than at the Memphis Milano installation in San Gregorio, where pieces like Masanori Umeda’s 1981 boxing ring cum conversation pit were punchy enough to compete with the pulsing nightclub-like setting.


Snarkitecture x COS Another immersive experience, this one white and serene rather than gray and surreal, came courtesy of Snarkitecture’s Daniel Arsham and Alex Mustonen for the design-minded Swedish fashion brand COS. Several kilometers of fabric ribbon were transformed into an airy, maze-like space that culminated in a pop-up shop where among the pieces on offer was a cheeky Snarkitecture concrete “pillow.”


Caeserstone X Philippe Malouin At the Palazzo Serbelloni, the designer Philippe Malouin played, quite literally, with this Italian company’s quartz surfacing materials, in the form of an enormous swing set (fit for several adults) and a series of very handsome (and decidedly more practical) planters.


2016/ at Rossana Orlandi Dutch duo Stefan Scholten and Carole Baijings along with Teruhiro Yanagihara have been spearheading the revival of porcelain making in Arita, Japan, teaming up local craftsmen with designers from all over the world. Their latest efforts were presented at a breakfast in Rossana Orlandi’s lovely courtyard where the coffee was served in the most delicious little Aritaware porcelain cups. Alas, it was not possible to place your order to go.