One beautiful thing about visiting Milan for the world’s largest design fair is the way the city comes alive with contrasts between the past and the present. Milan’s historic architecture—its palazzos, cobblestone streets, courtyards, and steepled skyline—serves as a foil to the experimentation, innovation, and fresh ideas on display. That’s not to say that Salone del Mobile doesn’t nod to traditional craft—but the arc of this year’s fair is unmistakably forward looking.
At this point, sustainability (as buzzy and broad as the term may be) is a design necessity, rather than a novelty—yet we remain in dire need of products, technologies, methods of making, and ideas that can lead us (and our built environments) toward a bright future. Excitingly, these elements popped up in exhibitions across the city (alongside some purely pretty stuff, which is sometimes just as lovable).
Read on for a few of favorite designs and exhibits from Salone del Mobile 2022.
Ekaabo by Studio Lani
Lagos, Nigeria–based Studio Lani, helmed by Lani Adeoye, envisions a future that preserves the past. On view at Salone Satellite—an exhibition dedicated to cultivating the work and practices of designers under 35 years old—is Adeoye’s capsule collection, named Ekaabo, which means "welcome" in Yoruba. The lights and furnishings incorporate striking ornaments cast in Benin bronze, and they tether heritage techniques to what Adeoye calls "new futures and imagined possibilities." The designer mixes materials and methods from different Nigerian tribes to celebrate unity and traditions of hospitality.
Children’s Structure by Marija Kojić
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Also at Salone Satellite was Young Balkan Designers, a group show of award-winning projects that focus on well-being through sensory engagement, with dashes of fun, unanticipated function. Belgrade-based Marija Kojić, for example, created a modular structure for children that serves as a both a play structure and a circular workspace.
SOR Collection by Loose Parts
California-based designer Jennifer June, of Loose Parts, launched a new set of modular furniture at Alcova, an exhibition set on the grounds of a former military hospital and nunnery. June drew upon the site’s history for inspiration, shifting the assemblies and layouts of her furnishings daily (reconfiguring a daybed to create a standing storage unit, for example) to reflect different ways nuns might have used the space for fun, rest, hosting, and other activities. The exhibit showcases Loose Parts’ intuitive building system, which consists of simple, sustainable materials that can be disassembled and reassembled at a whim.
IoT System by Mui Lab
At the Superdesign show, Kyoto-based "calm technology" startup Mui Lab exhibited its new IoT System, which consists of a collection of furnishings with built-in smart technology. The interfaces respond to simple stimuli—for example, wiping down a dinner table directs the dining room lights to switch on, and drawing the curtains can cue subtle classical music for winding down. Rooted in tactility, Mui Lab’s innovations point to a home automation system that works without an app or remote control.
Sometimes, analog design solutions can yield the most rewarding outcomes in support of easier, more comfortable ways of living. Italian designer Andrea Maggiarra took inspiration from his grandfather for his new series of seating, which accommodates aging and supports stability. The chair is strategically slanted, both in the seat and in its armrests, to support standing, and to ease exertion of the lower limbs when moving into or out of the chair. These simple tweaks were put to the test on-site by a 91-year-old visitor—and the chair passed, with glowing approval.
Camelot Table by Marco Brenna
Milan-based Marco Brenna’s Camelot Table (also at Salone) likewise responds to the call for more inclusive, accessible design. The circle table—a classic form that offers equal visibility and access all around—has a cinched-in supporting structure (made of black iron) that allows for wheelchair accessibility, as well as stationary seating—with a focus on comfort for both. The tabletop also rotates, allowing for the easy sharing of platters, documents, and other objects without anyone having to move around.
Ich un Du by Anava Projects and Matter of Course
In the heart of the 5VIE design district, Anava Projects partnered with Matter Of Course, a Berlin-based female design collective whose ethos centers on mutual uplifting and exchange, for an exhibition that tethers physical well-being to social emotional support. Ich und Du (which is German for "me and you") is rooted in debunking notions of "the Other." The objects on display range widely in medium—however they celebrate the connections between people through a diverse tableau of exquisite craft expressions.
This is America by Hello Human and Aditions
This is America, a group show at Alcova, roots itself in a similar ethos. Curated by global PR company Hello Human and San Francisco–based creative studio Aditions, with support from Canoa, the show features design works from a diverse group of makers (both emerging and established) in the United States. The curators set out to shift the perception of what it is to be, make, and look like an American designer today by bringing BIPOC designers of various cultural, racial, and creative backgrounds to the center stage.
Side Tables by Dean Norton
Dean Norton is a British designer based in Melbourne—a city whose pandemic lockdowns were some of the strictest in the world, rivaling those of Italy. Exhibiting at Rossana Orlandi, Norton’s series of moody side tables reflect the emotional, physical, and creative containment the designer experienced during these periods. The tables have solid timber internal structures, while their exteriors are covered in ten-millimeter-thick panels of frosted glass, joined with resin. Mortan cages the organic material carefully in glass to create enigmatic and murky forms that reflect the time period of their production.
Gaea Pendants by Ini Archibong
Also on display at Rossana Orlandi is Switzerland-based designer Ini Archibong’s new series of Gaea pendants for longtime design partner Sé. The limited-edition lights are handcrafted in Venetian glass, and produced in Murano. The dramatic installation spans an entire corridor at the gallery, and the lights hang from a trail of bespoke, ceramic-beaded cord that reflects the designer’s Afrofuturist aesthetic.
Insectum by Kickie Chudikova
Insectum, an installation at Alcova by New York–based designer Kickie Chudikova, features highly colorful, geometric lighting, furniture, and stained-glass windows. Upon closer look, each design reveals a formal connection to its source of inspiration: bugs. The pieces call attention to the threat of extinction that faces many of the world’s insect species.
Lunar Lander by Laufen, EOOS, and the University of West England’s Bristol Robotics Lab
The bathroom design company Laufen collaborated with the Vienna-based design firm EOOS and the University of West England’s Bristol Robotics Lab to present a mock spaceship that uses microorganisms sourced from urine to power an LED lamp. By showing how bathroom "engagements" can be used to generate electricity, the project calls us to reconsider that which we call waste—and how it can potentially be useful in unexpected ways.
The Garden by Otherside Objects
Elsewhere at Alcova (an absolute trove of inspiration in general), California studio Otherside Objects presented a series of cushy, sculptural furnishings. Set outdoors in a small clearing, The Garden showcases large-scale, hand-turned wood structures that support droopy, cloud-like duvets—creating a dreamlike scene, and a hankering for naptime.
Super Group 2.5 by the Attico and Superhouse
The show Super Group 2.5, put on by retailer The Attico in an inaugural partnership with New York gallery Superhouse, features a range of spectacular vessels by contemporary designers. Highlights include a painted ceramic vase by Fernanda Uribe-Horta—complete with a sinuous pink snake ornament—and Martina Guandalini’s off-kilter, mixed-media Moon vase in psychedelic acid green. The exhibition ranges from nature-inspired designs to out-of-this-world creations, and everything in-between.
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