Best of design from Milan


From new technologies to nature-inspired designs, check out five top home decoration trends spotted at this year's Milan Furniture Fair

This year, 434,509 decoration and design professionals from 188 countries visited the Milan Furniture Fair in April, which showcased 1,841 exhibitors.

Attendance rose by 17 per cent, compared with the 2016 edition, which featured the biennial Eurocucina and International Bathroom Exhibition, and by 26 per cent compared with last year's edition.

The turnout demonstrates that the fair is one of the main drivers of the Italian economy and a global benchmark event in terms of showcasing creativity, innovation and quality in the furniture sector.

Here is a look at the trends that will dominate the furniture market in the months ahead.

• This article first appeared in the August issue of Home & Decor, which is published by SPH Magazines.

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1 Designers embrace new technology

In this modern age where technology permeates everyday lives, objects are becoming increasingly smart, whether in function or in the manufacturing process.

Exploring new boundary-pushing ways of creating products is a collaboration between British designer Ross Lovegrove and Spanish design brand Nagami, resulting in the Robotica TM stool that can double as a table. It is made of polylactic acid plastic and thermoplastic elastomers, and mixes computational design with large-scale robotic 3D printing.

As for Tokyo-based design studio Yoy's next-generation Cotodama Lyric Speaker, which looks like an artwork for the living room, it displays lyrics in real time to the song it is playing through specially developed music-analysis technology.

Japanese designer Kengo Kuma's 6m-tall, spiralling and air-purifying Breath/ng installation for Dassault Systemes is crafted from 120 hand-folded origami panels made of state-of-the-art fabric developed by Anemotech.

It comprises a nano-molecule activated core that attracts and separates polluting and toxic molecules, and is able to absorb the equivalent of 90,000 cars' worth of emitted pollution.

2 Brands answer the call of nature

The decorative possibilities of flora and fauna are endless.

Having long inspired designers, nature is back in a big way this season, as are materials in their pure, raw state, with wood, marble, stone, bamboo, rattan and even paper placed in the spotlight.

Dutch label Moooi and Belgian brand Arte introduced the Extinct Animal textured wallcovering collection (above) in soft suede, metal foil, paper weave, raw jute or moire textile, which echoes drawings of forgotten species, from dodo birds to dwarf rhinos.

The Knoll Grasshopper table (above) by Italian designer Piero Lissoni comes in a 4.5m-long, super-extended rectangular version with ultra-slim tops in unusual stones, including Rosso Rubino marble.

3 Seats go sculptural

Porto-based Portuguese furniture brand Munna introduced the Margot mid-century modern-styled sofa (above) with geometrical forms.

Meanwhile, Italian label Sawaya & Moroni welcomed Chinese architect Ma Yansong's take on the traditional wooden armchair - with his smooth, organic Gu chair alluding to skeletal structures whose joints produce a network of sinuous forms.

Italian stone brand Citco's elegant Volta bench (above) by Zaha Hadid Design, with its seamless intertwined loops carved from a single block of black granite, revealed a dynamic calligraphic gesture, and Italian label Cappellini revisited Australia-born Marc Newson's legendary anti-conformist Felt chair (below) made from the bending of a fibreglass plate, by upholstering it in baby blue, violet or celadon leather for its 25th anniversary.

4 Lines break the monotony of furnishings

Whether radiating outwards in a sunray pattern or running parallel, vertical or horizontal, lines decorate everything from wallpaper and vases to tables and chairs, sometimes on flat objects and other times on circular pieces of furniture.

Take, for example, Dedon's graphic and lightweight Aiir chair (above) by Gamfratesi, whose slitted backrest provides the perfect balance between solid and empty space and evokes the image of a forest of birch tree trunks.

Shanghai-based design studio Neri&Hu's Lan collection (above) of seating modules, cushions, dividers and rugs for Gan references old-style weaving looms, and has a richly integrated surface of criss-crossing lines.

Elsewhere, Italian glass maker Glas Italia's Rayures modular screen (above) by Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec comes in translucent glass with bi-directional veining.

5 Shine in the home

Mirrors pop up everywhere, so too glints of metal and other reflective and glistening surfaces.

Spanish architect-designer Patricia Urquiola launched her first Atelier Swarovski collection, a range of flexible vases called Brillo (above), made from an innovative, fluid metal mesh material covered in small crystals, giving the appearance of sparkling, draped fabric.

Exploring refraction, reflection, light and colour, Eindhoven-based studio Martens & Visser's Holons (above) are spinning objects composed of strips of material that capture the surrounding light and give the illusion of soap bubbles ready to burst.

Amsterdam-based studio Germans Ermics proposed the Frosted Ombre chair in acid-etched glass in tribute to Japanese designer Shiro Kuramata's iconic 1976 glass chair, while Colourscape mirrors shimmer in the light, showing a palette of colours that merge into one another, as when day turns into night.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 01, 2018, with the headline 'Best of design from Milan'. Print Edition | Subscribe