A Week in Milan with Rose Onans | Feature ArticleMilan, Italy
In April The Local Project’s Editor Rose Onans and photographer Dave Kulezsa travelled to Milan for Salone del Mobile. As the world’s biggest design fair, it was an exceptional opportunity to explore the latest in international and Australian design, meet with designers and discover the installations, exhibitions and the exciting atmosphere in the city.
Arriving at Malpensa airport on an unseasonably warm spring day and taking in the breathtaking view of the lake as we drove into Como felt like a perfect way to start one of the best weeks of the year. We stayed in Como as Milan is full to the brim during Design Week, and it gave us the chance to explore another famously beautiful part of the region. With picturesque views from the hotel and a beautiful morning walk along the lake to catch the train into the city, we were grateful each day that we had such a scenic spot to stay.
The main event of our week was, of course, Salone del Mobile which takes place at the FieraMilano exhibition centre. At approximately 230,000 square metres of space filled with design from furniture to kitchens, bathrooms and furnishing accessories, it felt like both a design-lover’s paradise and worst nightmare. Such an array of the world’s best design all in the one location is an overwhelmingly exciting opportunity, yet it is so vast that it would be humanly impossible to cover all of it, or take in every detail. Ultimately, while the individual stands and pieces on display were incredible, what we took away from our visit was an overall sense of colour, texture and form.
Colour, in particular, made the biggest impression – from what are often ambiguously described as ‘jewel tones’, to rich primary colours and ubiquitous Millennial pink, colour was everywhere. Juxtaposing rich and dark tones with soft pastels gave a layered quality to the colour palettes. Pattern (with a few obvious exceptions) was absent or understated, with textured upholstery and smooth timbers used to add tactile and visual variation instead. Often, the architecture of the stands themselves was just as interesting as the displays they housed. Capturing trends in both exterior and interior architecture, opaque glass walls, silk screens, graphic tiling bordering on art-deco, and monolithic black cladding were some of the most effective materials and styles.
Fisher & Paykel, one of The Local Project’s partners, were exhibiting for the first time at EuroCucina, the kitchen design section of Salone del Mobile. As their first year, we were particularly excited to spend some time at their stand and see the reception of the predominantly European visitors to a local Antipodean brand. As kitchens increasingly blur the line between furniture, interiors and architecture, it was also a fascinating insight into the cutting edge of kitchen and product design. Integration is of course a key way in which kitchens are visually becoming one with the living space. We also noticed the distinction breaking down through the attention to detail in the design of the products – flush cooktops, trim kits that conscientiously create continuity of line and materials that are sympathetic to the level of finish in architecturally designed spaces meant the it was clear appliances do not necessarily have to be integrated to be an important part of kitchen and interior design.
Almost as exciting as the fair itself are the thousands of events, exhibitions, installations and parties that take over the city during Design Week. Once again, it is impossible to attend even most of the things one would like to in a short week. However, simply the atmosphere created by such a buzz of activity and the common love of design that had brought so many people to the Milan was enough to make simply being in the city an exciting experience.
It was particularly inspiring to see Australian designers represented at Local Milan, the exhibition curated by Local Design and showcasing work by 25 Australian designers. From lighting to cabinetry, upholstery, sculpture, and carpet, the exhibition was a microcosm of the breadth, innovation and talent in the Australian design industry today. The success of this exhibition was also a great excuse to celebrate, and the Local Milan cocktail party brought hundreds of Australians in the design industry together on the other side of the world.
Toward the end of the week, Dave and I spent the day with Carole Whiting, of Carole Whiting Interiors & Design for our ‘A Day in Milan with Carole Whiting‘ article. Carole has been visiting Milan for years, and she took us to her favourite spots in the city. Each location had the running thread of design connecting them, but Carole’s knowledge of the city meant we also got to experience hidden gems like Rosanna Orlandi’s collection of contemporary design and the stunning gardens of Villa Necchi Campiglio. Most of the installations and exhibitions are displayed in buildings dating from the 17th century or earlier, creating not only an interesting juxtaposition between old and contemporary design but also the opportunity to experience architecture older than anything in Australia. Wandering the streets with Carole, popping in and out of buildings and gardens was a different way to experience the world of Milanese design compared to Salone del Mobile, but an equally rewarding one.
It was the kind of week that once over feels almost like a dream. Encountering the sheer scale, variety and quality of design from all over the world in such a concentrated period of time was an experience that will continue to be inspiring and thought-provoking for the year to come while we wait impatiently for Salone del Mobile 2019!