Fair play

It can be a tricky task remembering where you saw that great piece of furniture, so Nicky Churchill offers some assistance with a round-up of launches at recent fairs around Europe

SBHD: It can be a tricky task remembering where you saw that great piece of furniture, so Nicky Churchill offers some assistance with a round-up of launches at recent fairs around Europe

My recent visit to Milan for the Salone Internazionale del Mobile has prompted me to reflect on the furniture shows that I’ve visited during the past six months, from Orgatec to Valencia, and Cologne to Milan. Not to mention London’s Spectrum exhibition of course, held recently at the Royal College of Art. Nice job if you can get it, some might say, but those who regularly attend these jamborees will sympathise with the sore feet and tired arms syndrome.

The major fairgrounds are daunting if you are a first time visitor – Kln Messe has 14 interlinking buildings, while Milan is made up of 24 halls spread over an area the size of a university campus. Thankfully the halls are sectioned into product type, which means that you can focus on the contemporary furniture and avoid the reproduction and rattan. But it’s still quite a task, and one requiring a methodical approach – basically to cover each aisle hoping to come across something a bit different. Then there are the sideshows – those companies that hold events outside the main fairground – either in showrooms or warehouses specially hired and tarted up for the occasion.

So here is my round up of the last six months, starting with Orgatec last October. The stars at this show were undoubtedly President’s Kyo range of desking and the new Aeron office chair by Herman Miller, both of which have provoked debate in the UK press. But while these two new products dominated the show, at least from the British perspective, there were a number of other less office-led surprises tucked away.

In a corner of Hall 10, Moroso quietly gave its first showing of the M collection by British designer Ross Lovegrove. This range presumably takes its name from the shape of the hollowed out armrest which, although surprisingly comfortable, could be prone to gathering dirt. The square lines of the sofas and chairs allow maximum use of modular combinations, which will appeal to lounge areas, as will the bright colourings selected by Lovegrove himself. M tables have also been designed in various shapes and sizes, with glass or wooden tops. This new addition to the Moroso contract range is now available from Atrium.

Discreetly on display on the Wilkhahn stand was Cana, a two-seater sofa cum bench. Cana is aimed at the independent office and as such has been designed to accommodate the different desires of the executive. For formal use, the sofa can be divided into two by folding down sections of the backrest. These sections then become armrests or tables. And should you wish to stretch out, simply pull the seat forward to turn the sofa into a divan. Cana is designed around a slim aluminium framework and is beautifully finished with black leather covers and beech or ash veneer table tops and backrest. It will be given its UK launch this summer.

Also spotted at Orgatec was the Lingotto chair, designed by Renzo Piano for the contract division of B & B Italia – now owned by Herman Miller. It was originally designed for the new multipurpose hall in the Lingotto in Turin, which seats 3500 bodies. Unlike the majority of auditorium seating, the seat, backrest and armrests are all made up of layered polyurethane foam for greater softness and good acoustic insulation, important in any concert hall. Each chair is separately anchored to the bar using a vice clamp, meaning that different specifications of seat can sit next to each other, accessories can be added easily and individual chairs temporarily removed to make space for the disabled. Writing tables, row numbers and plastic-coated steel wire baskets come as optional extras. Should you have a suitable project, Lingotto is worth looking at and can be obtained through Robert Webster in London.

Auditorium seating was also evident on the Oken stand but it was Josep Llusc’s Ala that caught my eye. Constructed of polished aluminium and flat perforated steel, this sturdy public seating system has been designed for the transport market and is offered in two versions: high back and low back. Although best in its raw state, Ala can also be upholstered for interior use, as shown here. Coexistence is the UK agent for this young Spanish company.

Barcelona-based BD Ediciones de Diseno used its home trade fair at Valencia to launch designs by Pep Bonet, Pete Sans and Oscar Tusquets. My favourite was Serie Jardin by Tusquets, a straightforward yet versatile design. The bench is made of deploy&#233 steel, supplied in one metre modules and offered with five types of leg for single or double configurations. It is supplied either zinc-coated or with a paint finish, or for extreme conditions it can be hot galvanised. Serie Jardin has been successfully specified in Europe and we hear from UK supplier Interior Marketing that it is now being considered for a number of projects in the UK.

Back to Cologne for the January furniture fair, where one of the sideshows revealed two new sofa designs by Jasper Morrison for Cappellini, hidden away in the basement of Pesch Studio. The two designs, Jaipur and Jodhpur, are subtly different – Jaipur is aimed at the classic end of the market while Jodhpur addresses the younger sector. Both have a metal structure covered with ICI Waterlily multi-density polyurethane. The diecast aluminium or turned wood feet add that Morrison touch. The Cappellini collection can be obtained through SCP.

Cologne was also the launchpad for Edra’s new collection Square 2, designed by Massimo Morozzi and shown at Spectrum. Basically a modular upholstered unit on wheels which joins with the previously introduced Square sofa for a more leisurely seating arrangement, Square 2 has a personality of its own, as a single bench or divan that can be wheeled around for easy positioning. Although it takes up the Edra pattern for this year – the large dot – it is rather more staid than the company’s other designs L’Ego and Flessibile (Milan preview, DW 31 March), and as such should be suitable for a number of contract situations. Contact Corr&#233 in London for more information.

And finally to Spectrum, which saw the first showing of two new contract pieces from Hitch Mylius, one a small family of reception sofas by Sarah-Jane Wakely, and the second an extension to the Nigel Coates collection launched last year. The Slipper range now includes an easy chair, two and three seater sofas, a footstool and dining chair, all available in a range of fabrics and hides. Perhaps not surprisingly, it has already been used by Branson Coates at both Jigsaw and Liberty’s, but the simple contours and “no nonsense” solid beech legs make the range equally suitable for hotel lounges, reception areas and leisure environments.

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