Milan 2015

Tumbling wisteria on the streets of Milan

Tumbling wisteria on the streets of Milan

Last week I was in Milan for the annual furniture fair Salone del Mobile which is the big international product launch event in the design calendar. The fair is in its 54th year and is centred on the giant furniture and lighting show at the Fiera di Milano convention centre, but over the years it has sprawled into town and there are installations and events across shops, galleries and historic palazzos. These days it is as much about socialising as the latest chair.

Dissenting voices question the point of design weeks as there seem to be more and more taking place each year and whether the media's insta-reporting via social media only reinforces the superficial image of the industry. For me it was a fantastic opportunity to make contact with companies, and the people who represent them, who I usually only encounter through my computer screen. The digital revolution is well underway, but you still can't beat face to face.

Any round up of Milan excludes as much as it includes so this is very much how I saw it. 

The exuberance and playfulness of putting swings inside a palazzo completely took me by surprise. What was it for? To promote quartz surfaces, just visible on the floor, from a company called Caesarstone. The installation was conceived by Patrick Malouin. If I had to choose only one image to sum up the week it would be this. 

The exuberance and playfulness of putting swings inside a palazzo completely took me by surprise. What was it for? To promote quartz surfaces, just visible on the floor, from a company called Caesarstone. The installation was conceived by Patrick Malouin. If I had to choose only one image to sum up the week it would be this. 

The MINDCRAFT15 exhibition of Danish craft and design curated by design duo GemFratesi was absolutely beautiful and hidden away in a historic courtyard in the Brera district. It was a tranquil and contemplative spot and I could have spent all day just sitting here. 

The MINDCRAFT15 exhibition of Danish craft and design curated by design duo GemFratesi was absolutely beautiful and hidden away in a historic courtyard in the Brera district. It was a tranquil and contemplative spot and I could have spent all day just sitting here. 

No photos were allowed inside Palazzo Crespi, a private home in the centre of Milan. Airbnb, in conjunction with Fabrica, somehow managed to persuade the Crespi family to open it up to visitors as part of their exploration into the notion of welcome. As you can imagine it was stunning inside with centuries old artworks, furniture and ceiling frescoes. I'm afraid the Fabrica installation which included someone screen printing tote bags rather paled in comparison to the extraordinary interior. 

No photos were allowed inside Palazzo Crespi, a private home in the centre of Milan. Airbnb, in conjunction with Fabrica, somehow managed to persuade the Crespi family to open it up to visitors as part of their exploration into the notion of welcome. As you can imagine it was stunning inside with centuries old artworks, furniture and ceiling frescoes. I'm afraid the Fabrica installation which included someone screen printing tote bags rather paled in comparison to the extraordinary interior. 

In the light-filled 17th century courtyard of Palazzo Litta, in the 5Vie district, there were USB charging stations supplied by Punkt next to the deckchairs in a neat juxtaposition of the very old and the very new. I learnt that if you put your phone into airplane mode it charges faster.  

In the light-filled 17th century courtyard of Palazzo Litta, in the 5Vie district, there were USB charging stations supplied by Punkt next to the deckchairs in a neat juxtaposition of the very old and the very new. I learnt that if you put your phone into airplane mode it charges faster.  

At the Punkt stand they were showing an alarm clock that is just an alarm clock. Radical. Well, it is when it's not your phone beside your bed with its distractingly easy access to emails, social media, the internet. In an era of multi-functional devices Punkt want to make life simpler: one device, one function. It had a nice weighty feel to it too. They were handing out copies of The Glass Cage by Nicholas Carr which is an eye-opening look at how we've become slaves to automation. 

At the Punkt stand they were showing an alarm clock that is just an alarm clock. Radical. Well, it is when it's not your phone beside your bed with its distractingly easy access to emails, social media, the internet. In an era of multi-functional devices Punkt want to make life simpler: one device, one function. It had a nice weighty feel to it too. They were handing out copies of The Glass Cage by Nicholas Carr which is an eye-opening look at how we've become slaves to automation. 

I took this photo inside Palazzo Litta where there was an exhibition called 'Materials: A Matter of Perception' organised by DAMN Magazine and Mosca Partners. To my shame I have to confess that I took the picture above without actually noting down the name of the designer and was possibly thinking more in terms of instagramability.

I took this photo inside Palazzo Litta where there was an exhibition called 'Materials: A Matter of Perception' organised by DAMN Magazine and Mosca Partners. To my shame I have to confess that I took the picture above without actually noting down the name of the designer and was possibly thinking more in terms of instagramability.

Here's another picture from inside Palazzo Litta with no designer's credit, but it is a fabulous interior. My insta-thumb was twitching I couldn't help myself. 

Here's another picture from inside Palazzo Litta with no designer's credit, but it is a fabulous interior. My insta-thumb was twitching I couldn't help myself. 

In the Brera district British architect Nigel Coates had got together with the owners of a castle in Tuscany called Castello di Potentino to create a collection called Paracastello. The idea being to reinstate the traditional role of the castle as the hub of activity it once was for the surrounding area. They've worked with local craftsmen and local materials to design a range of furniture for this 21st century castle. It's not remotely edgy, but it's easy to grasp and I think has something positive to say about provenance, longevity and all round good vibes. They took over the very cool offices of a company called H+.

In the Brera district British architect Nigel Coates had got together with the owners of a castle in Tuscany called Castello di Potentino to create a collection called Paracastello. The idea being to reinstate the traditional role of the castle as the hub of activity it once was for the surrounding area. They've worked with local craftsmen and local materials to design a range of furniture for this 21st century castle. It's not remotely edgy, but it's easy to grasp and I think has something positive to say about provenance, longevity and all round good vibes. They took over the very cool offices of a company called H+.

Check out their courtyard. With a curvy piece of furniture from Paracastello to the right, by Jono Nussbaum.

Check out their courtyard. With a curvy piece of furniture from Paracastello to the right, by Jono Nussbaum.

Over at the Fiera in the giant convention centre I couldn't resist the adorable mini-me Panton chairs at the Vitra stand. 

Over at the Fiera in the giant convention centre I couldn't resist the adorable mini-me Panton chairs at the Vitra stand. 

Office furniture gets a makeover in a softer, pastel colour palette as seen on the Aava Chairs by Antti Kotilainen at Arper. There's definitely something going on regarding the blurring of boundaries between the office and the home. 

Office furniture gets a makeover in a softer, pastel colour palette as seen on the Aava Chairs by Antti Kotilainen at Arper. There's definitely something going on regarding the blurring of boundaries between the office and the home. 

The Matrizia sofa by Ron Arad for Moroso, inspired by a mattress he saw on the streets of New York, is the kind of divisive object that will either make you smile or want to throw something. 

The Matrizia sofa by Ron Arad for Moroso, inspired by a mattress he saw on the streets of New York, is the kind of divisive object that will either make you smile or want to throw something. 

Black, white and red Melange Rugs by Sybilla which are handcrafted in Pakistan stood out on the Nanimarquina stand. 

Black, white and red Melange Rugs by Sybilla which are handcrafted in Pakistan stood out on the Nanimarquina stand. 

Back in the Brera district British designer Lee Broom created an old fashioned department store in what was one of the most ambitious presentations of the week. His lights and furniture were displayed to dramatic effect against a backdrop painted entirely in a powdery grey.

Back in the Brera district British designer Lee Broom created an old fashioned department store in what was one of the most ambitious presentations of the week. His lights and furniture were displayed to dramatic effect against a backdrop painted entirely in a powdery grey.

Lee Broom's Drunken Chair and Table gave more than a nod to the 1980s.

Lee Broom's Drunken Chair and Table gave more than a nod to the 1980s.

La Triennale, Milan's design museum in Sempoine Park, is hosting a fantastic exhibition which spills out in the gardens called "Arts and Food: Rituals from 1851" and is a beautifully curated antidote to all the newness on display. It's on until November as part of the Expo Milano. 

La Triennale, Milan's design museum in Sempoine Park, is hosting a fantastic exhibition which spills out in the gardens called "Arts and Food: Rituals from 1851" and is a beautifully curated antidote to all the newness on display. It's on until November as part of the Expo Milano. 

Woven baskets on display at La Triennale as part of the Constancy & Change in Korean Traditional Crafts presentation. I loved their exhibition at the London Design Festival last year when they showed zen-like mediation bowl bells.

Woven baskets on display at La Triennale as part of the Constancy & Change in Korean Traditional Crafts presentation. I loved their exhibition at the London Design Festival last year when they showed zen-like mediation bowl bells.

Brera is one of the nicest districts to wander around. 

Brera is one of the nicest districts to wander around. 

The streets were buzzing in the warm evenings. Arrivederci! Until next year.

The streets were buzzing in the warm evenings. Arrivederci! Until next year.