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What Wendy Goodman Loved at This Year’s Milan Furniture Fair

The off-site wonders and provocative installations of the design world’s biggest showcase.

Photo: Giuseppe De Francesco, Sean Davidson, Wendy Goodman, Carlo Banfi
Photo: Giuseppe De Francesco, Sean Davidson, Wendy Goodman, Carlo Banfi

The Milan Furniture Fair (or Salone Internationale del Mobile) rebounded in a big way after two years that included a downsized show in September and a canceled one in 2020. The event usually takes place in April, but Salone president Maria Porro pushed the comeback to June, which resulted in even more anticipation for the design world’s biggest exhibition. Here are some standouts I saw at the sprawling, citywide showcase.

Daniel Arsham’s ‘Divided Layers’ installation Photo: Wendy Goodman

Daniel Arsham’s Divided Layers collaboration with Kohler was a large-scale sculptural portal made of wavy arches set in a reflective pool that filled one end of the courtyard at the Palazzo del Senato (and echoed the stacked sink he created for the company).

On left, a ring wrapped in fabric. On the right, a column of small lights that's very tall
From left: A light from the Requiem series by Lee Broom. Photo: Arthur WoodcroftThe Rapture by Lee Broom Photo: Luke Hayes
From top: A light from the Requiem series by Lee Broom. Photo: Arthur WoodcroftThe Rapture by Lee Broom Photo: Luke Hayes

Lee Broom’s Divine Inspiration transformed a gallery space into a series of sanctuaries that featured six new lighting collections. The most dramatic was a waterfall of fluted aluminum tubes that cascaded to a mirrored floor. (It was inspired by the Rapture.)

Lamps by Tomás Alonso in Hermès’s installation at Le Pelota. Photo: Maxime Verret/Courtesy of Hermes

As usual, Hermès took over La Pelota, a reconstituted 1947 arena built for playing pelota, a game similar to a combination of squash and handball. Herve Sauvage and Charlotte Macaux Perelman designed four colorful, glowing towers made of wood and translucent paper that displayed the new collection of textile pieces — including vivid cashmere patchwork throws by Carson Converse and sherbert-colored bamboo table lamps covered with parachute cloth by Tomás Alonso.

Lani Adeoye’s RemX walker. Photo: Studio Lani

The theme of SaloneSatellite, the showcase for designers under 35 held at the huge Milan fairgrounds, was “Designing for Our Future Selves.” Nigerian designer Lani Adeoye was selected for the top prize by MoMA’s design curator Paola Antonelli for her elegant sculptural walker, “RemX,” that she made for her grandfather. “While helping to take care of my grandfather in the last few years, I’ve seen how a lot of the objects that are meant to help always tend to have a ‘clinical aesthetic,’” she said. “I wanted to design a walker that exuded some dignity. Something that would boost the user’s spirit. Something that they would appreciate in their environment and truly be empowered to use.” The water hyacinth she used to cover the pipes adds a sense of warmth to the walker.

Calico’s “Forest of Reflection” wallpaper. Photo: AB Concept for Calico Wallpaper
Mooi installion of Extinct Animals. Photo: Wendy Goodman

Calico’s Forest of Reflection wallpaper, made in collaboration with AB Concept, captivated me with its non-repeating, alpine, tree pattern based on photographs of a forest in Karuizawa, Japan. Moooi continued its Extinct Animals collection by mixing made-up creatures like the Queen Cobra and Golden Tiger with floral wall coverings and carpets. For the Golden Tiger design, laser-cut wooden veneer panels with gold foil covered the walls.

Ferm Living chair. Photo: Courtesy of Ferm Living
Fornasetti’s outdoor furniture. Courtesy of Fornasetti.
Fornasetti’s outdoor furniture. Courtesy of Fornasetti.
Photo: Loop design by India Mahdavi for Gebruder Thonet Vienna GmbH

Rossana Orlandi presented Ferm Living’s line of fabrics on furniture and floor coverings woven out of material (made from recycled plastic bottles) that was surprisingly soft. For the garden, Fornasetti launched a collection of outdoor furniture in graphic prints and bright colors, a tribute to founder Piero Fornasetti’s aesthetic. India Mahdavi’s Loop Armchair, a reinterpretation of the classic Thonet Chair with jaunty circular armrests for Gebrüder Thonet Vienna, referenced the iconic bentwood chair with new colorways and a graceful, modern edge.

One side of room of the installation for This Is America at Alcova. Photo: Jonathan Hokklo
Lights by Ryuichi Kozeki. Photo: Giuseppe De Francesco
Beni Rugs installation at Alcova, a collaboration between artistic director Colin King of Beni Rugs and artist Amine El Gotaibi. Photo: Sean Davidson

For me, design week is also about discovering new, surprising spaces in the city through the outlier presentations — like the old military hospital chosen by Alcova, a platform for independent designers founded by Valentina Ciuffi (from Studio Vedèt) and Joseph Grima (from Space Caviar), for its fourth edition. The standouts were Ryuichi Kozeki’s debut lighting collection of four different sphere-shaped lights (each one emitting pools of light that projected a sense of serenity and calm) and the collaboration between designer and artistic director Colin King of Beni Rugs and artist Amine El Gotaibi, who hung a great rope of the natural wool yarn used in the carpets handwoven in Morocco in their space. Alcova also presented “This Is America,” a debut group exhibition co-curated by the cause-driven design PR collective Hello Human and experience-design studio Aditions. Both companies, founded by women of color, saw the opportunity in Milan to feature a diverse group of designers and artists — including Madeline Isakson, Ginger Gordon, Jialun Xiong, Nifemi Ogunro, Monica Curiel, and Mym Studio. In yet another installation at Alcova, Isabella Del Grandi built a silent space for Italian acoustic company Slalom, covering the walls with a vivid array of colorful op arty shapes of felt.

Slalom installation at Alcova. Photo: Wendy Goodman
Pictalab and Nicolò Castellini Baldissera’s Portaluppi Herbarium wallpaper. Photo: Wendy Goodman

Pictalab and Nicolò Castellini Baldissera presented a new floral wallpaper collection, Portaluppi Herbarium, in an installation in Alcova to reflect the entrance hall of Casa degli Atellani, the family home of Milanese architect Piero Portaluppi, Baldissera’s great-grandfather. The carpet in the installation was designed by Federica Tondato.

A plate from a collection by Laboratorio Paravicini. Photo: Carlo Banfi

Of course, there were also parties, which gave guests a chance to see new collections and meet old friends in stunning locations. The first was The Grand Tourist podcast host Dan Rubinstein and Federika Longinotti Buitoni’s energetic and fun welcome brunch (to present Collecto at the home of Nicolas Bellavance-Lecompte), which banished jet lag. The plate shown here is by Laboratorio Paravicini.

Moore Center Hall table by Ralph Lauren. Photo: Courtesy of Ralph Lauren
The courtyard at Palazzo Gallarati Scotti for Poltrona Frau’s celebration. Photo: Alessio D’Aniello

Ralph Lauren opened their palazzo, which they have owned for more than 30 years, to display the Moore Center Hall table, part of a new furniture collection. Poltrona Frau CEO Nicola Coropulis celebrated the company’s 110th anniversary with an exquisite dinner by chef Andrea Berton of Ristorante Berton at the Palazzo Gallarati Scotti. Martina Mondadori, founder of Cabana Magazine, opened her magnificent childhood home designed by Renzo Mongiardino (now a setting for Cabana’s special events) for a breakfast to showcase Cabana’s new line of lighting inspired by Mongiardino’s original decor. Her tabletop setting, from the plates to the tablecloth, was from the company’s collections.

A floor lamp from Cabana’s new lighting collection. Photo: Cabana
Tabletop from the Cabana Collection. Photo: Wendy Goodman

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What Wendy Goodman Loved at This Year’s Milan Furniture Fair