We’re all familiar with the idea of the American Dream, but what about the Italian version? Ever since the 1900s, it’s gone a little something like this: move to Brianza, open a furniture shop, create the future.
For many young Italians, there can be no finer way of living. And to this day, this nation remains the spiritual heartland for all that is bold and beautiful. As the city unwinds from the hum and thrash of the Supersalone, we took a moment to catch up with all our favourite Italian design houses, to find out the direction they’ll be headed in AW21 and beyond.
The Curves Have It
Soriana Collection by Cassina
The first thing to know about the homes of the future is that they will not look much like the ones we have today. Whereas contemporary homes are temples to all that is straight and boxy, life in the future will be curvy. As will the sofas, tables and chairs.
The prevalence of such shapes in the upper echelons of Italian design builds on the research of Ingrid Fetell Lee. A researcher who, in a now viral Ted Talk, revealed what many creatives had long suspected: sinuous, oversized shapes are clinically proven to spark joy.
Indeed, when neurologists conducted MRI scans, they found the part of the brain responsible for fear and anxiety lit up whenever volunteers were asked to examine linear objects. The reaction to round, colourful objects was entirely different. The amygdala lay dormant. But everywhere else came alive with signals usually reserved for moments of contentment and play.
9000 Sofa by Arflex
Round D.154.5 Armchair by Molteni&C
Kartell 'In Casa' Exhibition
It explains why today you’ll find contemporary designers experimenting with curvy silhouettes that would have seemed outlandish to devoted modernists just a few years ago. And why architects have begun to rethink the look and feel of schools and hospitals across the country.
The landscape at Milan was no exception. Among the new and noteworthy interior styles were cocooning loungers — more akin to cumulus clouds than formal settees — and undulating metal sideboards, inspired by the optical illusions of Alfred Hitchcock posters.
Butterfly Dining Table by Cattelan Italia
Vertigo Sideboard by Bonaldo
Softbay Sofa by Porada
The New Normal
The handshakes might be gone. And so (for some) is the office. But in our homes, the Supersalone Fair revealed that there is still lots to play for.
Taking first prize for innovation was Molteni&C with the release of their self-cleaning sofa. This futuristic development was the result of numerous laboratory tests which led to the creation of a bio-based treatment that prevents bacteria from surviving on leather.
With up to 99.9% effectiveness, it represents an important milestone in textile technology, while strengthening the case (first put forward by Lema) for a more scientific approach to wellbeing.
A’mare by Edra
It’s often said that with every crisis comes opportunity. And while the pandemic certainly brought with it a whole new set of worries, perhaps one of the most wholesome consequences was a newfound appreciation for nature. And just as many urbanites rediscovered how to roam, so too did a handful of heritage brands, culminating in the launch of three daring alfresco collections at this year’s Supersalone.
‘It all began when Valerio Mazzei picked up a drop of pure polycarbonate that had been sitting on my desk,’ says the collection’s designer, Jacopo Foggini. ‘Suddenly it no longer appeared to be solid matter. It looked like a drop of crystallised water.”
“When combined with the glass, we found that the union between these two materials expressed the principles around which the entire collection plays: fluidity, transparency and the natural integration of the object with its environment“.
Secret Garden by Poltrona Frau
Designs that complement rather than control the landscape were similarly unveiled at Poltrona Frau. The Secret Garden collection draws on a mix of Nordic silhouettes and Italian craftsmanship to deliver a generous and inviting alfresco experience.
Solaris, meanwhile, is the more classically Italian of the two. Designed by Roberto & Ludovica Palomba, it features a superlative corner sofa that lends a new softness to life outdoors. Accompanying this bountiful lounger are a series of lightweight armchairs, baskets and lanterns, each woven with elegant cords that set the stage for intriguing games of shadow and light.
Solaris Collection by Poltrona Frau
No Room For Nostalgia
Dudet Small Armchair by Cassina
Costume Sofa by Magis
Doing away with nostalgia might seem like an odd idea for a country that worships tradition. But we swiftly learned that there’s a difference between being steeped in something and being bound by it. So while the intelligence of the human hand remains the greatest asset of Italian artisans, a growing desire for sustainability has forced many design houses to rethink how they operate and grow.
To paraphrase one Creative Director we spoke to, it’s no longer enough to create designs that will be handed down and loved ad infinitum. Rather, the very fibres they are made from must also be actively working towards improving the health of our planet, too.
LC3 Grande Fauteuil Chairs by Cassina
At Cassina, this has led to the creation of the Cassina Lab. A dedicated R&D department focused on transforming both icons and novelties into the very best eco-friendly versions of themselves.
Charlotte Perriand & Le Corbusier’s classic LC3 armchair is a case in point. In the new Grand Fauteuil version, its cushions are reimagined with recycled fibres and polymers, obtained primarily from ocean waste and masterfully repurposed to ensure the cosiness one has come to expect of this Made in Italy design.
The reissued Soriana and the new Dudet Armchair also boast stellar eco-credentials, with BioFoam fillings and blown fiber padding made from 100% recycled PET.
Up 5_6 Lounge Chair by B&B Italia
Oplight Wall Light by Flos
It was a similar story in the new D Studio Milano, where the UP5_6 Chair, star of many a Milan Design Week, was re-released in cork — a deeply sustainable material that can be recycled again and again. The corks used for this particular edition were collected from schools throughout Italy, a thoughtful gesture that underscores the importance of circularity.
Lighting brand Flos also used the opportunity to announce carbon neutrality, alongside the launch of several new designs, all of which can be recycled after their lifetime.
Parentesi Light by Flos
Such initiatives don’t just nudge companies closer to their sustainability goals. They also show that we don’t have to swear off our history in order to trace a sustainable future. Rather, with just a little creativity, we can rethink how we make and consume, placing responsibility next to beauty in the contemporary pantheon of aesthetics.
Hide & Seek Bookcase by Gallotti & Radice
We couldn’t sign off without talking a little bit about some of the textures to abound at this year’s Supersalone. Top of the list: glossy lacquers — otherwise known as the perfect antidote to the memory of life in lockdown.
We spotted them first at Kartell, and were surprised to learn that they were the brainchild of Piero Lissoni — an Italian starchitect renowned for a more stoic use of colour.
Allure Tables by B&B Italia
Thierry Tables by Kartell
Each reinforced a view that we’ve been nurturing post-pandemic. In 2021, we want to feel enlivened by our living spaces. Be it through riotous colour, sumptuous silhouettes or invigorating alfresco experiences, home is where it all happens. And we couldn’t be happier to be on this journey with you.