The Oscars of design, Salone del Mobil, iSaloni furniture fair. Call it what you will, Milan Design Week has become one of the global events in the design industry calendar since its first outing in 1962. Back then, it was a prestigious but low-key fair to promote the best in Italian furniture design and accessories. Now, it’s an experience playground and innovation showcase for the world’s biggest and most experiential brands to exhibit their design-thinking prowess.
Airport hangar-sized halls are filled with products, interiors, digital, print and graphics across six days at the fair, located just outside of town. The rest of the city boasts a wealth of free events that pop up in historic palazzos, showrooms and open-air spaces - all with the aim of bringing the high-end back down to earth.
And from the electrifying exhibitions and beguiling pop-ups to delectable product launches, the Sleep + Eat team wandered the city’s streets to gather the best in hospitality design and experience.
Inside the Salone del Mobil:
A zeitgeisty twist on ‘timeless’
The original furniture fair has now morphed into a 20-hall playground that represents a full spectrum of international design, from classical through to the latest tech. Aesthetic nature met clean design in Alpi’s latest wood collection, Cloudy, which launched at the show and delved into the beauty of wood and its myriad forms.
Meanwhile, Icelandic designer Hlynur V. Atlason collaborated with Ercol to craft its first commercial collection of modular furnishings. The series reinterprets the British brand’s 70-year-old Windsor chair in on-trend tones and a functional form suited to hospitality and work spaces alike. The epitome of bohemian design, Essential Home also offered an intimate take on timeless and decadent furniture with mid-century modern influences and bold colour palettes.
Life in miniature; life meat-free
MINI and London architecture firm Studiomama created a micro-neighbourhood to explore the effects of better collaboration between residents and architects. And at the 5Vie district, an exhibition of work by vegan designer Nevi Pana, curated by Maria Cristina Didero, explored the question: is it possible to design without using any material from animals?
Seen in the city:
Gabriel Scott x Bar Basso
A historic slice of Milan and a bar oft used in the movies, Bar Bosso is as famed for its enduring interiors as it is for its negroni sbagliato. For the first time in its history, the renowned watering hole changed up its interior in collaboration with lighting designers Gabriel Scott. The studio installed an updated version of its Myriad series with blown-glass and new satin copper finishes, chosen to compliment the bar’s signature cocktail.
Rumour has it that owner Maurizo Stocchetto loved the lighting installation so much, he’s decided it should remain indefinitely.
Around the USA in four diners
Attention to detail peaked in David Rockwell’s The Diner concept. A futuristic twist on a 1950s American diner, the fully functioning restaurant took visitors on a journey through the US in four distinct design aesthetics. Bold hues, ostentatious globe lights, delectable wall art and illuminated typography were seen across The Roadside Diner, the East Coast Luncheonette, the Midwest Diner and the West Coast Diner.
Subtle, intelligent touches including graphics, print materials and signage for the space and menus created a rounded, encapsulating hospitality experience.
Tech brands play nice
Tech brands took turns to make cultural impact at this year’s show, with the likes of Google and Sony going soft to showcase poetic, design-led events. Tactile home comforts met Google hardware products in the tech giant’s much-anticipated Softwear show, against the backdrop of spectacular Spazio Rossana Orlandi.
The darker implications of tech are hot topics at the moment, but Sony’s Hidden Senses show worked to turn them on their heads. Using cutting-edge projection and sensor technology, Sony made a series of expressive, experimental objects that each interact differently with passersby. Its aim? To prove that tech can blend into and enhance life, rather than distract from it.
Spotlight on vanguard talent
Promising designers and studios who exemplify the evolution of design culture were announced at the Swarovski Designers of the Future awards. Each year, it hand-picks avant-garde talent whose creations go far beyond the realm of simple product and furniture design to meld inspiration, innovation and concept.
Announced on 18 April in Milan, this year’s winners are Frank Kolkman, an experimental Dutch designer focused on robotic ; Study O Portable, a research based Dutch-Japanese practice making objects around the designed environment, and Yosuke Ushigome of TAKRAM, a creative Japanese technologist specialising in emerging technologies.
Avant-garde restaurant, bar and hotel concepts are equally at the core of Sleep + Eat’s new look for 2018. A reimagined floorplan takes visitors on a journey through the wider hospitality supply chain across the entire show. New installations like the Eat Sets and a dramatic Instagrammable entrance sit alongside renowned exhibitors and cult favourites like the Sleeper Bar. Every aspect of Sleep + Eat will reflect and amplify the evolution of hospitality design and experience. You can now register your interest in attending or apply for a stand to join the creative collective.