Milan Design Week 2024: The trends and designers to have on your radar

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Inside the biggest date in the interior design calendar

words Owen O’Leary

From furniture to futuristic technology, Milan Design Week showcases the latest designs in what is the world’s biggest celebration of design. For mainly established interior design brands, Salone del Mobile just outside the city hosts the latest innovations in interior design amongst emerging showcases and special commissions. The scale is breathtaking as hundreds of thousands of visitors flock to the Fair.

In the city, the Furiosalone gives Milan an atmosphere akin to the Edinburgh Festival as pop-up exhibitions and installations appear in temporary spaces, showrooms and galleries.

Taking in the Salone and criss-crossing the city to discover exciting new work these are the trends and highlights our writer Owen O’Leary picked from an invigorating week.

The interiors of the David Lynch installation at Milan Design Week
The interiors of the David Lynch installation

Design embraces the worlds of art, film and fashion

Cross disciplinary collaboration is nothing new in design but one of the things that stood out this year was how many brands and events put other creative artists in the design spotlight. Filmmaker David Lynch’s immersive Thinking Rooms installation at Salone del Mobile was designed to give visitors a moment to pause while thousands outside scurried from stand to stand.

cc-tapis design

Artist and designer Faye Toogood’s collaboration with rug company cc-tapis took inspiration from her own paintings for Rude Arts Club.

Chest of Flames by Hannah Lim at Milan Design Week
Chest of Flames by Hannah Lim

Artist Hannah Lim who readers may remember from Issue 145 (Nov-Dec 22) created Chest of Flames as part of Dolce & Gabba’s Gen D exhibition curated by Frederica Sala. Scaling up from her beautiful snuff box designs, Hannah created colourful seating created around a symbol of defiance and strength — fire.


Very Simple Kitchen's installation at Milan Design Week
Very Simple Kitchen’s installation

Modular furniture goes up a notch

In response to the need for flexible living and working spaces many brands have pushed the boundaries of what modular pieces can bring to the home.

Italian brand Noctis’ am / pm sofa and bed combinations on display at BASE in the Tortona District were particularly fun.

Molteni & C’s Logos living room and wall unit system designed by Vincent Van Duysen looks like a stunning piece of minimalist architecture which offers endless configurations with a materials palette of wood, lacquer, glass and metal finishes.

Ratio by David Nicholas for Marsotto

Ratio by design studio david/nicolas was one of the highlights of Capsule Plaza at Spazio Maiocchi in the Porta Venezia District. The modular kitchen features modular marble panels with small delicate inlays and is complemented by a bar trolley to extend the aesthetic to other rooms.

At Salone del Mobile’s Eurocucina kitchen showcase Italian brand Very Simple Kitchen create freestanding modules in stainless steel combining industrial style with simple forms.


Classic designs return — but not as you remember them

In part through celebrating anniversaries or confirming the timeless appeal of great design, this year saw the return of classic pieces but reimagined and updated.

IKEA

IKEA’s exhibition 1st introduced a range of new products, one of which had the familiar form of Japanese designer Noboru Nakamura’s POANG armchair. Now in a low slung form the headrest has been removed and the chair is smaller with a lower seat for a more active sitting position.

From bentwood birch veneer to tubular steel, Knoll’s reissue of Mie Van der Rohe’s classic Tugendhat Chair originally created in 1929 returns with the option to be customised in an array of fabrics and leathers.

Celebrating a 10th anniversary of his iconic IC lights Cypriot designer Michael Anastassiades has created a new collection of larger versions for lighting brand Flos.

Other trips down memory lane worth taking are provided by Italian Radical Design at Salone del Mobile who are showcasing pieces from the Memphis Milano, the design group founded in the city in 1980 by Ettore Sottsass and others.


Bright colours only in new bathroom designs

The dominance of risk-free muted or monochrome tones for bathrooms may well be over. A series of bathroom designs at Salone del Mobile put colour front and centre.

From Scarabeo’s colourful bijou Cross washbasins to the most talked about toilet in town by designer Samuel Ross. Ross’s bright orange Formation 02 toilet is inspired by brutalist architecture and natural forms and was shown surrounded by a network of pipes in the courtyard of the Palazzo Del Senato. The collaboration with bathroom brand Kohler is available to buy for $25,000.

Roca Nu Faucets by Inma Bermudez

Spanish brand Roca have given the humble bathroom tap a colourful makeover with their Nu collection inspired by Mediterranean architecture. These playful taps are available in six colours and are designed to brighten bathroom spaces. Designed by Studio Inma Bermúdez, the hidden smiley faces revealed when you turn on the tap add to the sense of fun.


An abundance of soft power

Perhaps it was all of the trekking across Milan that made the opportunity to sink into sofas, beds and anything comfortable all the more appealing.

Fufuly

Taking comfort even further were innovative designs by Japanese company fufuly whose cushion that breathes was being embraced by visitors to Superstudios in the Tortona District.

Designed to help us breathe more deeply by allowing our breathing to match that of the cushion just by holding it, fufuly is designed to calm you and boost productivity. The cushion also releases scents encouraging us to unwind, focus and sleep.

Alessandro Bremec’s Talamo installation

Nearby at BASE Studios Talamo’s cloud-like installation enveloped those sitting and lying in what felt like giant marshmallows.

Activated initially through a contemporary dance performance by dance artist arisandmartha and designed by Lemonot Studio, this dreamy landscape reminded us that being soft is always better.

Adding playfulness and colour as well as super softness Italian furniture brand Paola Lenti continued their successful collaboration with Brazilian designers the Campana Brothers. Their new collection of sofas and seating is made from polyester fibres derived from the recycling of PET bottles.


Final thoughts

While it’s impossible to see everything, one of the benefits of visiting Milan Design Week is the opportunity to see a snapshot of international design in a series of showcases.

Highlights included DesignSingapore’s Future Impact: Homecoming Showcase curated by Tony Chambers and Maria Cristina Didero, the visually stunning Designblok Cosmos showcase of Czech design talent, the mixture of ancient craft and fresh interpretations at Inspired in Barcelona’s Terra Rossa, the sense of fun at House of Switzerland Milano and the diversity of design on show as part of Budapest Design Walk.

Perhaps it’s time for the Scottish Government to support Scotland’s design talent with a showcase at next year’s Milan Design Week empowering Scotland’s designers to make an impact on the world stage? Watch this space.


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