I recently had the pleasure of visiting the Milan furniture fair, Salone del Mobile, with Brian Gluckstein, Elaine Cecconi and Anna Simone of Cecconi Simone, as well as some of Canada’s top design journalists. It was quite the experience, mostly because we wound up in the midst of the Icelandic volcano chaos in Europe. We were hosted by Miele, and they pulled out all the stops to get us back to Canada safely. They commandeered a double-decker bus with its own café on the lower level to carry us through the Swiss Alps into Frankfurt, where we were lucky to get on a plane. And while the majority of the trip was spent figuring out how to get home, we did manage to see some great design moments in Milan and a few other places, too! It was quite the road trip.
This was my first time attending the show (hard to believe, having been in the design biz for so many years) and I was overwhelmed by its sheer size. If you took the size of Toronto’s Interior Design Show and multiplied it by three, that would give you the approximate size of one building in Milan. There were 20 buildings! It is massive and the amount of people is unreal.
To try to capture the extent of the crowds, I took this photo when I spotted a break in the rush of people moving along the main corridor. I jumped in and held my camera over my head, hoping I wouldn’t get trampled! There is no way you can see the entire show in two days. I only scraped the surface of the design and kitchen sections.
Probably the best part of the show was Eurocucina (the kitchen section) where there was a decided trend toward modern, streamlined kitchens. In fact, I counted no more than three traditional kitchens. And the predominant colour choices were pale grey, white, light grainy wood, or some combo of all three. Not a hint of wenge to be found anywhere. I loved the stainless steel and matte grey combo that was most popular.
Kitchen designs were extremely well integrated. This Arclinea kitchen was packed with people in awe of the giant 20-foot long island, including Brian, who was over the moon about this one. It was based on a professional, restaurant-style kitchen, complete with several custom functions: a plate warmer that could pop up and down, a retractable glass hood, a steamer, an open stainless steel cooking surface, even a fold-down sink!
Another section of the same space featured a wall of appliances neatly hidden behind closed doors, so that the inner workings of the kitchen are completely out of view. There was also a second island with an overhead shelf and hydroponic lighting, so you can grow your own greens indoors. Brilliant!
Appliances were also seamless — no sign of the bulky industrial stainless steel stoves and fridges that we have all been drawn to in the past few years. The Miele booth showed appliances that had white tempered glass front panels that would blend easily with an open-concept, lighter toned kitchen and living area. (Here are Brian and Anna checking it out.) Miele also featured a pop-up convection oven and retractable hood with touch technology similar to that of an iPhone or iPad.
I loved the combination of blond wood with matte white, as well as the elegant lines in this kitchen. It had a fresh, Scandinavian vibe.
I was particularly drawn to this trestle-style workstation with its solid surfacing top, trough sink and integrated plate storage and dramatic black hood. This booth had some fun styling and display ideas too, like painting old milk bottles, ladles and frying pans white and displaying them in rows and stacks for graphic impact.
Trough sinks were really big for bathrooms, too. I loved this light wood and stone version, with slatted lower shelving and a loose panel sideboard, for its rustic modern appeal.
The booths themselves offer a ton of creative inspiration. This is the exterior of another kitchen booth featuring massive crisscrossed pieces of back-lit chalky white flatware.
Or the B’ravo booth with floating chef hat lights and Polaroid art on slatted wooden walls.
And this one featuring carefully curated, boxed displays of timeworn artifacts.
Furniture-wise, there was a myriad of options, but one of my favourite booths was this one showing chairs and stools carved out of raw chunks of light wood.
The same booth featured this gorgeous Shaker-inspired wall, where shelves and storage hooks blend into the woodwork (literally) for efficient living. And there were raw wooden stools everywhere — often in place of chairs around the dining table.
There were some fantastic designs for kids, and they were a welcome burst of colour amidst all of the natural wood, stone and white finishes.
This is Karim Rashid’s booth (check out his H&H photo gallery too) — also very different and colourful compared to most of the show. It was almost glowing, and featured his futuristic feeling outdoor line of mesh metal furniture.
I was madly taking photos whenever I could get a clear view through all of the people. I couldn’t tell you where this shot is from, but it gives you a sense of the height of each booth and the amount of space they had to be creative with. I love the dramatic impact of the grid shelving as a backdrop to the bed — this style of grid shelving was everywhere. With its fitted leather storage boxes, this one stood out. And the horizontal striped drape (to the right) is so pretty. Neutral bed linens in natural textures were everywhere, too.
Flexform featured these stunning woven doe-coloured suede baskets filled with gorgeous box-shaped linen cushions in soft shades of lavender and putty.
Unfortunately, because we had to flee Milan in a hurry and board our bus that took us through the Alps (like a modern version of the Von Trapp family), our trip was cut short. Luckily we managed to see some gorgeous things along the way. We stopped at the famed Villa D’Este on Lake Como, but they wouldn’t let us in with our bus! So, we moved onwards to have lunch at this lovely Swiss restaurant in St. Moritz, called Steffani. I loved the feel of the space. The raw wood panelling, paired with gold framed oval portraits centered in the recessed panels, Frette linens, cute red and white drapes and a view to the Alps were a welcome break from the jam-packed whirlwind and crowds of the show in Milan.
The food was phenomenal as well. The best rosti potatoes you could imagine. Here is a photo of Brian and I, post-rosti and happy.
When we finally arrived at the airport in Frankfurt, the waiting areas were filled with cots, and sadly, lots of people stranded. We were pretty lucky to have made it home safely after our adventure. All of us, however, commented on how much we liked these fold-out cots! It’s hard to find natural canvas ones like these. If we could have figured out a way to get them in our luggage, we would have. Go figure, all of that gorgeous furniture in Milan and we get excited about the airport cots!
For more design show finds, check out Lynda Reeves’ blog from the SIDIM show in Montreal last year.