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Date published: May 05 2014

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Jim Evans celebrates a return to creativity and design risk taking

Chances are many of you reading this may also have endured the pleasure (and sore feet) of the vast exhibition that is iSaloni. It is a proud annual showcase for undoubtedly the greatest collection of quality furniture suppliers. We tap in to a fraction of the talent on offer and report that austerity is being left for dead.

It is apt that the nation that owes so much of its culture and tradition towards design - whether that is cars, fashion or products - is the traditional home to the world’s most important furniture event of the year. Now in it’s 53 rd year Salone Internazionale del Mobile in Milan (where else!) is actually not the biggest Interiors event in square meters of the year. However, when you consider a colossal 300,000 visitors pass through 150,000 square meters of superbly designed, expensively produced, exhibition instalments (I can’t bring myself to say ‘stands’) from over 2,000 of the world’s best furniture producers, it never disappoints as the place to spot new directions for the interiors market.

What was invigorating to see was that furniture designers are now taking ever more bold steps year after year. Instead of the cautious recent years manufacturers are  emerging from the safer places of the sombre global climate to take bigger risks and once again create a stir.  It felt that this year finally the shackles were off for full creative freedom. This year’s show was both an upturn in sales buoyancy as it was creative effort.

With such a vast playground to absorb, many could come away with completely different influences. In our opinion in the contemporary and design halls we were noting that last years emergence of minor seventies style influences mixed with the bolder nods of the fifties were being pushed to the fore. Strongly influenced lighting with brass (now the defacto metal of choice) moving to copper in a range of muted and antique finishes and patinas as well as the simple polished effect. From a colour palette perspective it was the clash colours of oranges with browns and green with blues along with big geometrical patterns that had us no doubting the 70’s references. Rather than go the whole hog with an entire room scheme as a throw back look, these fabrics and wallcoverings played strong compliment bringing a wonderfully eclectic mix of era influences together without completely overpowering or steeling the show entirely as seen to effect with newcomer from the fashion world Emanuel Ungaro.

High gloss lacquers add an elegant touch especially when finished by solid brass tip legs like Dom Edizioni’s dining table and in contrast more natural edged timber ‘plank’ tables on solid metal legs in muted and aged sheens were equally in abundance punctuating the clean lines of the more linear ranges. The dog tooth, hounds tooth and Harris Tweeds fabrics we first saw last year are bigger than ever along with a general clash of monochrome patterns seen together.

For many designers so called ‘trends’ are irrelevant as without doubt the dominant factor is quite rightly about the overall look and suitability for a client’s home. However, what I like about seeing furniture in this way is that it makes you think about your comfort zone and hopefully opens you up to try styles, patterns and colours in new ways seeing them in a grand setting. This particular show reflects the panicle of the industry and it can be understandable that many of us prefer to play it safer with a large investment furniture pieces so that longevity is maximised. But cutting edge ideas and quality need not be mutually exclusive. This show encourages you to be bold and add personality. Isn’t that what design is about?

With superb design lines and comfort a given on Flexform’s area our attention turned to the colours which we had noted on many a contemporary stand: a base theme of either soft stone greys, taupes or slate tones and then given an accent chair in a shot of a block colour deep jewel blue, burnt orange, mustard yellows and this years colour of choice, teal, all in sumptuous fine velvets or heavy cottons. A prevalent ‘new’ traditionalist look as it carries opulence with a sophisticated air. Maybe a 70’s style pattern rug or a wallcovering or perhaps lighting fixture and you complete the look most commonplace in the contemporary section halls. It has an excited tempo of something different, yet with reassurances of vintage approval.

Whenever our legs begged for forgiveness inspiration was stirring us on at every turn. As an innovative approach Ron Gilad’s work for Glas Italia was captivating as they have created a table, Sublimazione, which has the appearance of transparent wood. A new printing technique allows the essence of Chestnut wood to be absorbed and supported within the extralight glass. Patricia Urquiola has produced a glued glass side table ‘Shimmer’ also for Glas Italia, which reflects the iridescent light offering different hues dependant of the viewer’s position.

Frustratingly for me I only have a few pages here in which to summarise all the magic and expanse that is this important show. As expected I barely crossed off a few lines of my extensive notes to share with you here. Yet hopefully it goes some way to giving an optimistic glimmer that Italy’s recovery is encouraging and Milan is reaffirmed as the pivotal location for furniture inspiration. I hope to see many of these new directions in the schemes and homes of the work yet to be published here.

Author: Jim Evans

Company: UBER Interiors

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