ITALY, Milan. The 55th Salone del Mobile came to an end on Sunday April 17th with more than 300,000 professional visitors from over 160 countries having attended the furniture fair to cast their eyes over the latest products being showcased by more than 2,400 exhibitors.

Image by Justin Ratcliffe

Despite its reputation as an international centre of design, Milan is not a pretty city and much like the metropolis itself the annual Furniture Fair it hosts — the largest of its kind in the world — offers flashes of brilliance set among works of dull disappointment. This year was no exception and many of the top brands looked to the past for inspiration and the safety of modern-classic design.

Although we were generally disappointed by the lack of genuinely original design, there was an upbeat and playful vibe to the show with a preponderance of bold even garish colours and voluptuous forms. Combined with traditional materials and finishes such as wood and bronze, this added a touch of retro-glam to furniture and accessory designs that might otherwise have appeared derivative and underwhelming.

The more market-friendly solutions may well result from the ongoing effects of economic recession. There are signs of recovery for the Italian furniture industry, however, and 2015 closed with turnover worth nearly 25 billion euros, 3.4 per cent up on the previous year. Moreover, since its Italo-centric origins in 1962 the event has become increasingly international in scope and some 30 per cent of the exhibitors today are from overseas. A host of design brands from China, in particular, were exhibiting this year and there were visibly high numbers of Asian visitors to the show.

Digital technology is now part and parcel of home design and hyper-connectivity as a bridge between the physical and digital worlds spilled over into many of the furnishings and objects that become the interface through which these realities communicate. The management of residential spaces through ‘smart’ connectivity capable of responding in real time to users’ needs was especially evident in the Eurocucina exhibition with the kitchen as a ‘theatre’ to create and share fun experiences among families and friends. This year the Salone also launched a revamped web portal with a new ‘Trend Lab’ section that looks into contemporary living trends and lifestyles. With the focus on user experience, the website certainly makes for much more interactive and engaging navigation.

In 2015 SuperyachtDesign focussed on the satellite events of the Fuori Salone, but this year we returned to the enormous Fiera complex to take in the main fair along with EuroCucina, the Kitchen Furniture Exhibition that runs concurrently with the International Bathroom Exhibition in the broader context of the furniture fair during even years. We will be presenting a selection of our favourite designs from the 2016 Salone del Mobile in Issue 28 of the magazine.

If you have enjoyed reading this article, you’ll love our upcoming event, The Superyacht Design Forum, taking place on 25 - 26 June 2019 at Design Centre, Chelsea Harbour. The Superyacht Design Forum provides anyone in the superyacht design world with a unique opportunity to explore new thinking and share smarter solutions for the future of superyachts. To find out more or to register, click here.