Design Revealed: Exploring Salone del Mobile


In this recap, Ted Moudis Associates‘ Nicole Zack takes us with her to Milan for Design Week. Here are some highlights through a designers’ eyes.

Nicole Zack at at Loro Piana’s tribute to Cini Boeri.
Can you spot contributor, Nicole Zack, at Loro Piana’s tribute to Cini Boeri? Hint: She’s near the side wall that reads, “You think better when lying down.”

Milan Design Week, which includes Salone del Mobile, showcases a fusion of celebration, conversation, and critique within the design industry. It’s a design extravaganza attracting nearly ten times more visitors than our familiar NeoCon. Going beyond showcasing products and furniture, this weeklong event serves as an essential forum for creative exchange and a dynamic outlet for designers and dreamers alike. Throughout the week, spectators transform into participants, engaging deeply with innovations and full immersion into the future of design.

Shaping Design through an Intentional Future

This year, two themes stood out across various shows: Future and Intention. Design occupies a space where the unwritten future challenges our imagination. This elusive, yet-to-be-defined future awaits our interpretation and transformation. The exhibitions displayed transformative ideas of sustainability and circular use in real products, pushing the boundaries while acknowledging our past consumption patterns and shifting towards intentionality in design. Intention manifests in every aspect of product development, from sourcing and fabrication to the product’s end of life. Exhibits showcased the human stories behind companies and artisans, forging a deeper connection with the design process and company culture. The sensory experiences created were intentional, guiding visitors through movements, sights, and sounds to create distinct focal points. It was the crunch of gravel beneath your feet, the trickling flow of water, and the focused spotlight in the darkness that heightened visitors’ awareness of texture and form.

Products were not merely displayed; they were revealed.

Arper at Milan Design Week 2024.
Arper at Milan Design Week 2024.

Top 5 Trends and Highlights

Evolving Colors

Pedrali Milan Design Week 2024
Pedrali at Milan Design Week 2024.

The color palette at Salone showcased a blend of cool mixes of soft and light blues and olive with warm terracotta and golden yellows, set against a background of creamy ivory and oatmeal neutrals, contrasted by deep, rich accents of jet black and deep burgundy. This trend emphasizes a shift toward colors that offer both grounding and earthy qualities while adding unexpected tonal combinations. It was common to see an immersion into one color story of multiple shades to emphasize textural differences: soft, rough, smooth, shiny, and sandy. Opposite of the common natural and pastel expression, there were still pops of bright and neon colors for a fun, energetic and whimsy touch.

Material Usage

Material Futures at Milan Design Week 2024.
Material Futures at Milan Design Week 2024.

The exhibitions highlighted an adventurous use of materials, from colored marbles and natural travertines, textured glass innovations to cutting-edge, eco-friendly alternatives like leathers, fabrics, and hard surfaces made from recycled plastics, mushrooms, compostable paper, fishing nets, shells and algae. The materiality studies showcased a full lifecycle approach with minimal waste. The use of natural plant and leafy flora materials was prevalent again, bringing everyday nature into our interior environments. This focus on sustainable and innovative materials reflects a growing industry commitment to reducing environmental impact while pushing the boundaries of design aesthetics and functionality.

Sculptural and Functional Forms

Kohler at Milan Design Week 2024.
Kohler at Milan Design Week 2024.

Furniture design at Salone moved away from traditional forms, embracing curves, modularity, chunky tube forms and plush cushions to create a cozy, comfortable expression. Furniture, rugs, light fixtures, and accessories seemed to defy the rigidity of rectangular constraints this year. Shapes were bolder, edgier, and softer all at the same time. The emergence of furniture as sculptural yet functional pieces indicates a trend toward making a design statement that is striking yet comfortable for everyday use.

Table bases stole the show, becoming incredible gravity-defying sculptural elements with purpose.

Invisible Technology

Base Milano, Design Week 2024
“The future is an invisible playground”. Milano Design Week 2024.

Technology was seamlessly integrated into design elements, ensuring functionality without compromising aesthetics. This trend towards invisible tech highlights a move towards smarter, more responsive environments where technology enhances the user experience discreetly and effectively. Monitors, speakers, and controls were almost invisible within the product designs, appearing only when needed. Adding in the portability and mobility of light, the user had environmental control that adjusts to their preferences.

Human Touch

Vivian Coser con its Natural at Milan Design Week 2024
Vivian Coser con its Natural at Milan Design Week 2024.

Amidst the backdrop of AI and technological integration, the human aspect of design remained at the forefront, with a strong emphasis on craftsmanship and tactile experiences. The showcasing of hand-carved travertine and marble, exposed fastener detailing, and beautiful textured chunky weaves emphasizes a continued appreciation for the artisan touch. There was a blend of artistry and inspiration that remained essential in the design process, showcasing a blend of traditional techniques with modern touches.

The Spirit of Design

Salone del Mobile and Milan Design Week is more than just spectacles and social media posts. The city invokes a feeling that resonates deep within. It is found in the passionate conversations, the gasps of awe at unexpected discoveries, and the shared glances between strangers. Whether attending in person or following virtually, Milan Design Week is an experience not to be missed.

Pointhouse Milan Design Week 2024
Pointhouse at Milan Design Week 2024.

Consider this article a nudge to place Salone on your design radar. Let it inspire and allow the design spirit to infuse your work with renewed creative energy. Design week reveals the hidden layers of Milan every year as the palazzos, villas, and warehouses come alive with performance. However, the true spirit of Milan Design Week lives in the post-exhibit discussions, the formation of new friendships over dinner, and the communal laughter at Bar Basso. Alla prossima!

Mark Your Diaries!

Milan Design Week and Salone de Mobile will be from 8th to 13th April 2025.

 



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