One of our highlights of Salone del Mobile 2018 was spending a perfect spring day in Milan with Carole Whiting of Carole Whiting Interiors.
From strolling the romantic gardens of Villa Necchi Campiglio to discovering the latest in kitchen design at EuroCucina and admiring the lavish interiors of the Palazzo Serbelloni, all the locations Carole chose were intriguing from a design perspective and gave us the chance to experience the inspiring breadth and variety of art and design in Milan.
Carole has been visiting Milan since 1995, when she worked in television advertising. A career change saw her complete a Masters of Design, which led to being invited as a guest creative director at Lintas in Accra, Ghana and the beginning of her eponymous design practice two years ago. Awarded a place in the first Dulux Dialogue Study Tour in 2016 also gave Carole the chance to travel to Stockholm and London to meet with some of the world’s best designers. It is perhaps this strong education and love for design, combined with her extensive travel that made Carole’s selection of locations so inspiring.
We began the day bright and early with espresso in a small cafe on the street just down from the Gubi exhibition at Palazzo Serbelloni. During Salone del Mobile the streets are buzzing with activity, so quick coffee stops along the way are a chance to take in the atmosphere as well as an important respite during a whirlwind day exploring the city.
Built in the 18th century, the Palazzo is a breathtaking example of Milanese architecture with frescoed ceilings and gilt detailing – the fact it once accommodated Napoleone Bonaparte and Joséphine de Beauharnais is perhaps indicative of its splendour. Arriving early meant we had the chance to take in the Neoclassical interiors, wonderful modernist and contemporary furniture, and opulent floral displays without the crowds. Curated across 10 rooms in the palace, the displays’ colour palettes subtly reflected the palette of the interior, and included iconic designs by the likes of Greta Grossman, as well as new designs launching this year.
Not only was our visit a chance to see the pieces in a spectacular setting, but we were also lucky enough to meet owner and CEO Jacob Gubi for a tour of the exhibition. ‘Meeting Jacob Gubi was a genuine bonus and it gave me a whole new perspective on the Gubi range seeing it in the calm serene tones I gravitate towards’, says Carole. ‘The place itself was gobsmacking and the way the exhibition was curated was perfection – the experience has left a real mark on me’.
Still inspired by what we had seen, we had only to wander a short distance around the corner to the gardens of Villa Necchi Campiglio, which also happens to be the filming location for one of Carole’s favourite films ‘I Am Love’. On such a warm day, the grounds were a shady haven and we enjoyed the chance to relax by the pool, with the poppy garden in full bloom a glorious display of colour. Built in the 1930s, the villa itself is a spectacular piece of architecture from the period, although in the 1950s the owners decided the original furniture was too modern, replacing it with more traditional antiques. Our visit was a moment to reflect and imagine what life was like in the 30s in Italy, and bask in the atmosphere of the film.
This year was Carole’s second time at Salone del Mobile; last year she discovered Rosanna Orlandi, falling in love with the design gallery and cafe gardens. Rosanna Orlandi curates the eclectic collection of design, furniture-as-art, installations and visual art hidden in behind a colourful array of apartments on a quiet street. We stopped in the cafe surrounded by hanging greenery and bright flowers for lunch, before rambling through the narrow rooms and galleries filled with contemporary pieces, many by up-and-coming designers.
After lunch, it was time to head out to the Fiera Milano in Rho where the Salone del Mobile exhibition is held, with just time to stop for a quick peek at the COS installation ‘Open Sky’. Salone del Mobile is almost as famous for its art and design installations as it is for the fair itself, with major brands, designers and artists collaborating each year on installations that attract thousands of visitors. ‘Open Sky’ is a mirrored sculpture by American artist Phillip K Smith III that reflects the sky and elevations of the 16th century Palazzo Isimbardi, cleverly bringing the centuries-old building into the futuristic structure, just as the sculpture sits within the building’s courtyard.
Heading into Salone del Mobile, Carole was excited to visit the Fisher & Paykel stand at EuroCucina, as 2018 marks the first time the New Zealand brand has exhibited. Carole frequently works with Fisher & Paykel on her projects, and she was looking forward to seeing some of their new products in the flesh – especially the Integrated Column Refrigerators and Freezers. Offering new levels of customisation with seamless integration and a wide range of sizes, these products are an interior designer’s dream. ‘The exhibition at Salone was really sophisticated and Fisher & Paykel totally nailed it!’ Carole says. ‘They looked ready to take on the world in the fabulous pavilion manned by the senior team, who were looking super crisp all in black.’
As well as enjoying catching up with the team, experiencing the stand and seeing the new products, The Social Kitchen was a hit during our visit. An elegant hand-carved floating timber cabinet combined with rough-hewn stone was serving a selection of New Zealand flavours, which combined with dramatic video panoramas of the New Zealand landscape truly bought a sense of the region to EuroCucina. ‘The Social Kitchen was a wonderful representation of New Zealand produce’, says Carole. ‘I especially loved the Riesling sherbet and the marshmallows steeped in Manuka honey and toasted to serve.’ Celebrating the success of local Antipodean design seemed a fitting end to our day with Carole, who then headed off for dinner at a restaurant overlooking the landmark Duomo Cathedral in central Milan.