The first thing to strike regular visitors to the Milan Furniture Fair this year will be the new halls, designed by Mario Bellini, providing 50 000m2 of additional display space, and a new home for the Euroluce lighting exhibition.
SaloneSatellite is new, too, in Hall 9 – an area devoted to avant garde designers and schools of design. It will be the only hall open to the public (as opposed to trade) and will have longer opening hours than the rest of the fairground.
Nine furniture designers from Buckinghamshire University College have been invited to exhibit alongside other design colleges from the US and Europe. Its show, entitled Mo-Billy, will start off at the British Council on Via Manzoni where Tom Dixon, who provided the initial inspiration for the project, is also launching his latest design Chock-a-Block. Mo-Billy will then move to the fairground to join the other designers taking space in the Satellite hall. Here you will find Droog Design, Eurolounge, Jeremy Lord, Marc Newson, and Inflate, which is showing a new piece by Michael Young and a collection of rucksacks developed with Craig Morrison, housed in a 3m2 inflatable stand.
Elsewhere in the fair, Allermuir is exhibiting for the first time and Aero will launch half a dozen new pieces ranging from storage units by Nazanin Kamali to the Edison Light designed by Winfried Scheuer.
Meanwhile, SCP is introducing a new collection specifically developed to showcase the design quality of wool-rich textiles from Bute Fabrics. There are five pieces – a simple dining chair by Jasper Morrison; a stainless steel chaise longue by Tom Dixon; and three sofas by Terence Woodgate, Matthew Hilton and Andrew Stafford. Upholstery is from a new range of fabrics which Bute introduced earlier this year following input from SCP and the five designers.
There will also be lots to see from the Europeans. Driade is exhibiting for the first time in three years with new products by Matthew Hilton, Oscar Tusquets and Ross Lovegrove, all of which will be available here through Viaduct. Segis is launching Wing, a new chair by Carlo Bartoli in chromed steel tube and bent plywood – contact London’s European Design Centre for further details. And XO launches a new wall-mounted bookcase by Philippe Starck as well as additions to the Cheap Chic Chair range, again available through Viaduct.
Milan city centre is also worth wandering around, with many companies choosing to launch at their showrooms rather than taking a site at the fair. And most of the showrooms are relatively near to each other. Sawaya & Moroni on Via Manzoni will show a new chair designed by Michael Young (MY68), while across the road at Driade the latest products launched at the fair will also be on display. Cappellini will also show three of Young’s designs – the Smartie cushion, the occasional table and bar stool, and following the move from Via Montenapoleone (Gucci has taken over the old showroom), Cappellini can now be found at Via Statuto. On the Via Durini, Cassina will show the new Jorge Pensi range of chairs and tables launched in January at Cologne, as well as a new product by Starck which it is keeping strictly under wraps.
Ron Arad is again taking space at Spazio Krizia alongside Ingo Maurer, showing a new range of inflated aluminium pieces made using the cavity forming process. Low tables, vases and bowls will be on display.
And when you’ve had enough of furniture, pop into Alessi to see the latest accessories – a CD rack from Ron Arad, a radio from JerÃ´me Olivet, thermometers by Oscar Tusquets and yet another toothbrush from Starck.
The Milan Furniture Fair runs from 16-21 April
If you can’t get to Milan, then a visit to Spectrum, which starts on Monday at the Royal College of Art, is a good alternative.
The Spectrum committee has been working hard this year and, despite a 36 per cent turnover in exhibitors, it has come up with what promises to be an exciting show.
Inflate is designing the external entrance to incorporate a bright orange dip-moulded plastic sign with inflatables pointing the way in. The exhibitors are promising plenty of new products – predominantly furniture – and alongside the main stands watch out for exhibits from a number of smaller outfits – Studio Delo, Tin Shed, Glasgow 99 and Salt.
British companies are well represented as usual. Opus Magnum will launch Cache, a new stacking and linking chair by Ron Carter. Designed in timber, it will be available in three versions, the most interesting of which features an industrial rubber backrest.
Also in timber and stackable is the new Kite chair from John Coleman. Designed to be an inexpensive contract chair, it has a steel underframe with white beech seat and back. Boss Design introduces Flo, a stacking chair for conference environments and UKII will show the Pull-Up chair by Paul Heritage introduced two years ago in prototype form and now available as a production item. New for UKII are the series of Put Down tables by Jeremy Harvey and Frank Andrew, which cover the whole range from coffee and reception tables through to those for the meeting room.
RDS will show its Linguine beam-seating system, originally developed for the Dublin Dental Hospital by architect ABK. Available in curved and straight beam options, Linguine beam has a steel underframe with timber shell seats. Alongside, RDS will introduce the new Chaman sofa and a series of coffee tables.
Still on the subject of seating, Wittmann will be bringing new products fresh from Cologne, Scandia will show its new Lotus chair, KI promise the new Gate One beam-based seating range, and Cale Associates will launch the new Zao chair and Zacbar stool from a low-cost range by Swedish company Fritzsons.
Vitra, meanwhile, is relaunching two of the original designs from the Eames collection of plywood furniture. Known as LCW (lounge chair wood) and DCW (dining chair wood), these two classic chairs are moulded from plywood to achieve a high level of sitting comfort. Other items on display from the collection include the LCM and DCM chairs (plywood seats with metal legs) and the CTM table with timber top and chromed leg base.
Moving swiftly on to office furniture. Among the more interesting launches will be the new ABC office system designed by Claudio Bellini and John Bennett at Atelier Bellini for Forza Furniture. Wilkhahn, meanwhile, continues to move into the conference market with the launch of Conrack 2, an enclosed version of the open shelf system seen at Orgatec two years ago. This version introduces new cladding panels, drawer units and door assemblies allowing both open and closed frameworks for storage or display.
Elsewhere, Lamb Macintosh will introduce Abacus, a new desking system for the open-plan workplace or the home office, Samas HNB will show new HNB furniture developments, including a wall-storage system and a bench system, and K+N International, as first-time exhibitor, will display the Arte executive furniture range, Diva seating and Rega modular storage.
Away from furniture, sole lighting exhibitor, Zumtobel, will show the new Kava recessed wall-light and German company FSB introduces a new programme of lever handles and door furniture. Spanish manufacturer Vilagrasa will show a selection of accessories including Fargo, a recently developed cloak-hanging system of wall-mounted, free-standing and mobile units.
And from Italy, Rexite introduces the Hannibal tape dispenser designed by Julian Brown, now in its final, colourful form. m
Spectrum will be at the Royal College of Art, Kensington Gore, London SW7 from 20-23 April. Mon-Wed 11-9 pm; Thurs 11-6 pm.