Out of the box – innovation at Salone del Mobile, Milano
Jess Puttock, Interior Designer, was one of the 386,236 impressed attendees at the 58th edition of Salone del Mobile, Milano.
A guest of Tarkett Flooring, my first stop of the visit was Tarkett’s own Formations exhibition, a stunning and well-reviewed celebration of material and unexpected forms. Working with Note Design Studio, Tarkett used its new iQ Surface collection to pay homage to shape and structure. The re-imaging was suggestive – not “you can do this or you can do that” but looking at the forms and volumes iQ Surface can create and leaving it up to the designer to take it further. From vertiginous sculptural totems to more than 20 small-scale experiments in shape and layout, the creative scope of Tarkett’s homogeneous vinyl explores beyond flooring, to a new generation of design applications for multiple surfaces including walls and furniture.
The Salone itself was so massive, housed in an amazing glass building that was itself a work of art, I only saw part of it. It was startling how unconstrained the designs seemed. I felt in the UK we were restricted and still very traditional. The designs here – especially from studios and manufacturers I’ve never seen in the UK – were completely out of the box.
Some of the designs were very elite – the gold and platinum chess board or a rosewood casino table with pop up bar are probably not right for our public sector clients. But the range of ideas around reusing and recycling materials match well with the push in the UK for sustainability and environmentally conscious resourcing. I saw an old lamp-post re-purposed as a lighting feature, and I think it’s that sort of thinking that we need in our designs to make any space green, fun and practical.
One company, Pedrali, stood out for me. They are a lighting and furniture manufacturer, and the shapes and lines of their products are so fluid, such clean designs, but completely practical. Their sustainability credentials stand out too. Not only are their raw materials – plastic, metal, wood and upholstery – scrupulously drawn from certified sources, but they will take back their own products and recycle them into new pieces. I found that idea incredibly satisfying.
The UK seems so far behind in our interiors, especially our workspaces. We’ve come a long way on flexible working and providing different spaces and types of furniture so people can work as they wish. But here the office areas looked more like a living room. One chair allowed its user to lie down and work. It’s such a complete rejection of the traditional view of sitting hunched at desk for hours on end. It should feel controversial or at least “cutting edge”, but it’s such an instinctive continuance of the design that it feels effortless and natural.
Visiting even this small part of the Salone del Mobile was such an eye-opening experience. Seeing new products and the whole design process – from materials to entire room-scapes – was exciting, challenging and stimulating. The seamless transition between “living” and “working” re-emphasised a very simple idea: we need to be comfortable, positive and productive, whatever we’re doing and wherever we’re doing it.
One final note: many thanks to Ashley Fearon, our guide and host from Tarkett, who made sure we were comfortable and saw everything we wanted to – or as much as could be fitted into the three days we were there, anyway!