Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Seats at Top Tables; at the Milan Furniture Fair, Designers Gave Us a Sneak Preview of What Will Be Making Style Statements in the Coming Year. Corinne Julius Went along HOMES & PROPERTY Milan Show Special

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Seats at Top Tables; at the Milan Furniture Fair, Designers Gave Us a Sneak Preview of What Will Be Making Style Statements in the Coming Year. Corinne Julius Went along HOMES & PROPERTY Milan Show Special

Article excerpt

Byline: CORINNE JULIUS

IT IS probably impossible to find more talent (and ego) than at the annual Milan Salone del Mobile, held earlier this month. Designers, architects, manufacturers and retailers flocked to see what was new. Usually Milan throws up its share of exuberant fantasies: products calculated to get lots of media attention. But this year was rather different.

Along with the Italian economy, the country's furniture industry has been going through a hard time, so companies have had less money to spend on flamboyance and silliness, resulting in more restrained and user-friendly designs.

Normally plastic is big in Milan, but this year even the major players cut back their research and development of the product.

Kartell was one of the few to create new technologies in this area. These allowed Philippe Starck to create Topcut, a side chair with an opaque base and a transparent top, made in one moulding. Also for Kartell, Spaniard Patricia Urquiola designed T-table, a dining table that comes with either a transparent or opaque top pierced through with a complex, random pattern that looks like embroidery.

German designer Konstantin Grcic experimented with reinforced polypropylene to create the Miura bar stool for Italian manufacturer Plank, a company that, until 1997, only made traditional wooden alpine chairs. Grcic is one of the few designers who investigates new forms, and his stackable stool looks like an angular beast stalking through the undergrowth.

There is a move spearheaded by Dutch designer Marcel Wanders to hark back to more traditional styles, but with a twist. His range, titled New Antiques, for Cappellini, is a collection of tables and embossed leather chairs with spindle legs. Cappellini was once renowned for its flamboyant offerings.

Under new ownership, its exuberance has been toned down, although there are promises to expand Wanders's range.

Wanders has also pursued the "new-old" with the Dutch furniture company Moooi, for whom he designed the spindly legged Two-tops secretary, a dining-table-cum-desk with a space to hide a computer.

Fratelli Boffi also joined in the "antique antics" this year, with Queen Kong, a silver, lacquered, baroque chair upholstered in black fake fur, and Corallo, a black, wooden chest covered with coralshaped, coloured carvings.

If all that irony seems wearisome, help was at hand at the show from the British designers, who displayed some of the most inventive, but also most practical, designs.

Leading the pack was Established & Sons, whose products from leading designers enter the consumer market in September. Architect Amanda Levete created Chester, which she describes as a "new, feminine Chesterfield", while Zaha Hadid came up with Aqua Table, an organic-shaped dining table the colours of which are reminiscent of the swimming pool in David Hockney's painting, A Bigger Splash. …

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