Highlights of Milan Design Week

This article is part of our Design special report previewing 2022 Milan Design Week.


Three years after its last full-scale event, Salone del Mobile.Milano, or the Milan Furniture Fair, returns in its 60th iteration. Over the decades, Salone, which is widely judged to be the world’s pre-eminent design fair, has evolved into a platform for about 2,000 international exhibitors and a laboratory for ideas about sustainability in design materials and manufacturing. This year, the fair includes “Design with Nature,” a 15,000-square-foot installation offering a “virtuous” vision of the future of home living. SaloneSatellite, a launchpad for young talent, which is returning for its 23rd year, has invited more than 600 participants to reflect on design that fosters “autonomy, comfort, movement, usability, interaction and safety for all” in a show called “Designing for Our Future Selves.” Other exhibitions at the fairgrounds in the Milanese suburb of Rho are devoted to offices, kitchens, bathrooms and decorative housewares.

Salone anchors Milan Design Week, with hundreds of concurrent displays of furniture, textiles, tabletop objects and lighting in almost every pocket of the city. The fair and many of the surrounding events continue through June 12. What follows are some highlights.

La Mura (The Wall), a modular seating system first produced in 1972, is the latest project by Mario Bellini to be revived. Mr. Bellini, one of Italy’s greatest architects and givers of forms — 25 of his designs are in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York — was inspired by ancient buildings when he created the monolithic sectional.

“In my projects, one can often find a clear allusion to architectural elements,” he said in an email. He changed the original only by putting more emphasis on the buckles and hinges that join the modules together, “to give grit to the project,” he said, adding, “A timeless piece remains contemporary in design but evolves in material.”

Tacchini, the current manufacturer, uses cold foam — a highly elastic polyurethane — combined with memory foam and iron inserts to update the sofa’s construction. La Mura will be shown at the Milan Furniture Fair and from Tuesday through June 12 at the Spazio Maiocchi exhibition space at 7 via Achille Maiocchi; tacchini.it

In a time of climate change, is there still room for optimism? Baillie Mishler and Lauryn Menard, the founders of the Oakland, Calif., design studio Prowl, would like to think so.

“The earth is resilient,” Ms. Mishler said. “And in the California wildfire narrative, burnt earth is rich with nutrients and builds upon itself again — as something different — but still life prevails.”

This notion of a silver lining inspired a lounge furniture collection that Prowl will present at Alcova, an exhibition of independent design at different sites in Milan during Design Week. The environmentally focused company used sustainable materials and worked with the Amsterdam manufacturer ByBorre, incorporating 3-D knit technology to create computer-generated upholstery for a sleek chair and a stool. The dark, textured fabrics drape a stainless-steel base; one has imagery evoking charred earth, while the other features a swirling pattern representing forest regrowth.

The pieces, which are not for sale, are displayed to encourage sustainable practices and possible licensing of the designs. On view from Monday through June 12 at Casa Delle Suore, Via Simone Saint Bon 1; alcova.xyz

In 1919, Mario Buccellati, a goldsmith from Ancona, Italy, opened his first boutique, attracting aesthetes like the poet-nationalist Gabriele D’Annunzio. That same year, Piero Portaluppi, a prolific architect best known for the Villa Necchi Campiglio in Milan (a luscious setting for Luca Guadagnino’s film “I Am Love,” as well as for Ridley Scott’s “House of Gucci”), designed a six-story modernist office building in a historic part of the city.

Now that building is Buccellati’s headquarters and the site for a show of the jewelry company’s tabletop items. The objects, including four existing silver-service patterns and new porcelain that was designed with Ginori 1735, will be arranged in four vignettes created by eminent designers — Dimore Studio, Ashley Hicks, Chahan Minassian and Patricia Urquiola — who are interpreting the theme of etiquette. Stefano Boeri Interiors outfitted the exhibition space and the terrace just outside it with mirrored surfaces and greenery to reflect and refresh the surrounding skyline.

“The result of all of this, I hope, will be quite an immersive experience,” Mr. Boeri said by phone from Milan. On view through June 12 at Via Brisa 5; buccellati.com

Maison Matisse, the company founded in 2019 by Jean-Matthieu Matisse, a great-grandson of Henri Matisse, has collaborated with designers like Alessandro Mendini, Jaime Hayon and Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec to perpetuate the artist’s philosophy. Now, to celebrate Matisse’s paper cutouts, a late chapter in his career, Andrea Trimarchi and Simone Farresin, the founders of the Milan-based studio Formafantasma, have designed a collection of limited-edition lights, called Fold, that reinterprets these creations with steel, LED tubes and cut paper.

“We wanted to look into Matisse’s process and how it intersected with our work,” Mr. Farresin said. While the results are more geometric than Matisse’s organic shapes — most feature 90-degree angles, except for a sinuously curved wall light — some, like a red floor lamp (above), are coated with the artist’s rich colors, a departure for the designers. “We intersected in our use of paper,” Mr. Farresin said.

The show can be seen through June 12 at Studio Nerino, Via Santa Marta 21. maison-matisse.com

Lara Bohinc, a Slovenian-born designer, is showing new furniture based on a voluptuous female form at the Alcova exhibition during Milan Design Week. And just in case that inspiration is not obvious from the billowing curves and creases, she is making her mission clear with the collection’s name: Peaches.

“I’m lucky I’m not a man,” Ms. Bohinc said by phone from her home base in London. “I would have to be very, very careful” about inviting people to sink into the provocative seating. “But because I’m a woman,” she explained, “I can celebrate my own body. It’s the difference between objectifying something and celebrating something.”

Having worked as a jewelry designer in the fat-shaming fashion industry for many years, she added, she was especially keen to honor a woman’s “flesh and folds” and encourage acceptance of the body, “with all its faults.” She called it a “happy coincidence” that the pieces — two armchairs and a pouf — will be presented in an abandoned nunnery, under a portrait of a former pope. After all, the furniture signifies a replacement of antiquated values with modern progressivism. And why would the pope be offended?

The pieces are “not naked,” Ms. Bohinc said. “They’re nicely covered in upholstery.” On view through June 12 at Casa Delle Suore, Via Simone Saint Bon 1. bohincstudio.com

The furniture Andrés Reisinger creates isn’t always intended for the physical world. This Barcelona-based digital artist, who was born in Argentina, is perhaps best known for realistic renderings of petal-covered chairs and undulating couches that seem to defy Newtonian laws. Mr. Reisinger has sold these projects as NFTs, or nonfungible tokens, but during Milan Design Week, he will bring his dreamlike furnishings into reality with a collection of light fixtures inspired by 1960s free jazz.

The four pieces, which Mr. Reisinger calls “illuminated sculptures,” will be exhibited at the Nilufar Depot design gallery in the office of its founder, Nina Yashar. Made of metal and wood and each topped with a glowing glass orb, the designs represent jazz’s improvisational nature with their varying heights and shapes. Each sculpture seems to suggest its own song.

Mr. Reisinger said he initially envisioned the pieces in a room akin to a musician’s rehearsal space, low-lit and smoky, so the office will be outfitted with rippled metal sheets for a hazy effect. He said he was also planning a soundtrack, recorded by a jazz trio, “with errors, with stops, with hiccups and all the things that life, and also the free jazz movement, was empowering.”

Price available upon request. On view through June 11, Viale Vincenzo Lancetti 34.

Lucia Eames (1930-2014), a sculptor, photographer and artist, was the only child of the designer Charles Eames and his first wife, Catherine Woermann. Never as well known as her father and stepmother (Charles’s second wife and design partner, Ray Eames), she did not receive much attention for her prolific output. But now her own children are highlighting her career and seeking a market for her creations with a show called “Seeing With the Heart,” which runs during Milan Design Week.

“There was a juicy, rich, exuberant trove,” said Carla Hartman, one of Lucia’s five offspring, who are all involved in the endeavor, along with Form Portfolios, a licensing company based in Denmark. “We could see that an exhibition was needed,” she said in a video call. “We felt it was important to show it in a cultural venue before commercial releases, and Milan was the perfect place.”

The exhibition, above a shop in the city’s Brera district, fills four rooms with paper butterflies, industrial furniture and hand-cut metal sculpture. A video shot by Lucia’s son Eames Demetrios documents his mother’s work with a combination of archival and new footage. Like the senior Eameses, Lucia reveled in the art of repetition — her children discovered that she had drawn 740 suns, each different. Ms. Hartman said she and Mr. Demetrios hoped to see them adorning a shower curtain in the near future.

The show is on view from Tuesday through June 10 at Via Solferino 11. eamesinstitute.org

Galerie Philia, which deals in contemporary design and art, is presenting the first limited-edition works by Studiopepe, the Milan design agency founded by Arianna Lelli Mami and Chiara Di Pinto. Studiopepe’s collection, Temenos, will be installed in a former Necchi sewing machine factory in the Baranzate district outside Milan. The designers collaborated with the Luigi Pigorini National Museum of Prehistory and Ethnography in Rome on research into the ways that the function or purpose of an object can be changed by the symbolism attached to it.

Among the pieces on display will be thronelike, sculptural chairs in charred wood; tubular concrete lights; and a low table (above), made of tiered slabs of onyx, on what the designers call two “triangular prisms” of charred wood. Ms. Lelli Mami and Ms. Di Pinto said in a statement that they “wanted to create an alphabet with our works” and acknowledge their admiration for 20th-century art and design masters like Constantin Brancusi, Isamu Noguchi and Le Corbusier. On view through June 12 at Baranzate Studios, Via Milano 251, Baranzate. galerie-philia.com

Paul Smith, the British fashion designer who made stripes sexy, customized suits for David Bowie and finds time to write a column for the Italian architecture magazine Domus, has now ventured into designing furniture for the company De Padova.

His new Everyday Life collection of sofas, armchairs and poufs bears such personal hallmarks as luxurious, textured fabrics and vivid color.

“It’s a dream come true,” Mr. Smith said, referring to joining a cohort of storied designers for this Milanese furniture brand, which merged with the kitchen and bath company Boffi in 2015. Among his forerunners are Vico Magistretti and Achille Castiglioni, in whose company he said he was humbled.

The seating, Mr. Smith added, was designed for comfort and durability — like clothes, only more so. The environmentally minded upholstery is woven from hemp, cotton and nylon in hues of peacock, deep blue, red and lime green. The cushions are filled with organic cotton and recycled feathers.

Contrasting exposed stitching is a stylish sartorial detail, as are leather straps attached to the wooden frames.

Everyday Life will be introduced at De Padova’s showroom at an exhibition from June 7 through 12 celebrating Mr. Smith’s career. depadova.com

The Italian lighting brand Flos was founded in 1962, the same year that Arco — the floor lamp designed by the brothers Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni, and one of the company’s most famous products — also made its debut. The exhibition “See the Stars Again,” created by the studio Calvi Brambilla at the industrial space Fabricca Orobia in Milan, will show new lights, including Arco K, a limited-edition version of the Castiglionis’ celebrated design.

Instead of a marble base, which the original had, this lamp’s will be made of a lead-free crystal used for optical prisms. This material, which reveals the model’s inner workings, is cut very precisely to discourage knockoffs. A wood support, which looks like a rolling pin, can be inserted into a hole in the base to carry the light from one place to another — an update on the broomstick that the Castiglionis first recommended. Purists may gasp, but the future is clear. On view from Tuesday through June 24 at Via Orobia 15. flos.com

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