Last month a dark cloud descended over Milan. The floating ash was not residue from a lingering recession but fallout from a dormant, 200-year-old volcano located in Iceland. This year’s installment of the I Saloni furniture fair ended its six day run with the majority of attendees including manufacturers, exhibitors, publicists, and journalists frantically plotting their escape from the design capital. After the volcanic eruption, thousands were left stranded in Europe with no way out, including this writer. Meanwhile, although the travel disruptions were annoying, I Saloni 2010 provided plenty of interesting products to ponder.
329,563 visitors were welcomed at the Rho fair grounds, including thousands of architects and designers who made the annual pilgrimage to see what’s new in international furniture trends. Eames Demetrios, grandson of the mid-century masters Charles and Ray Eames, comes each year to promote their legacy at the Vitra booth, which this year presented new reproductions of the 1950 Eames Plastic Chair. When queried about innovations at this year’s fair, Demetrios highlighted the 111 Navy Chair produced by Emeco, the 44 year old American company known for it’s Aluminum Navy Chair. The recycled 111 is composed of Coca-Cola bottles manufactured from 65% PET and 35% glass fiber. “The great thing about Emeco” says Demetrios “is that they’ve extended the brand into a new material.” The chair is a joint venture between Emeco and the Coca-Cola Company and will be sold at an affordable price to mass market companies like McDonald's.
Recycled materials continued to play a prominent role in the manufacturing process as well as thematically throughout the fairgrounds and at off-site exhibitions. The Dutch collective Droog presented “Saved by Droog” a selling exhibition of 5135 objects gathered from online liquidation sales that included bar stools, trays, mirrors, dog baskets, folding chairs and flower pots. Fourteen designers tinkered with the objects and the re-mastered items were then re-sold at the Droog exhibit at affordable prices. Speaking of affordability, Andrew Yang, managing director of the newly launched lighting company Roll & Hill was spotted in Zona Tortona at British designer Tom Dixon’s stand where his staff was part of an assembly line making lighting fixtures for 100 euros a pop. Yang was looking for products that were “spec-able.”
Patterns and colors ran the gamut from turquoise for upholstery at Arper and Poltrana Frau to bright primary colors for fabrics at MDF and finishes at Emu. Perforated metals and mesh were plentiful and minimalist forms were de rigueur. Cocooned high-back seating from manufacturers like Cappellini showed that creating a cozy corner in a public space was possible. B.D. Kim, former vice president of design for Sheraton was spotted in Milan at the launch of the Swarovski Crystal Palace exhibition. He recently joined the Chicago office of hospitality design firm Pierre-Yves Rochon and was in Milan looking for product that was “approachable as opposed to reproducible.” Kim was taken with a Siamese-twin wood chair whose seats were joined at the hip, [so to speak], which he spotted at the SaloneSatellite pavilion for designers aged 35 and under.
Highlighted below (click on the gallery link) is a selection of products from this year’s show: