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The Secrets of Salone del Mobile — 6 Things You Need to Know From the Design Mecca

When a Historic City Becomes an Exhibition Wonderland

BY Steven Hempel // 04.23.19

Each year in April, a fantastical event takes place in Milan. Salone del Mobile, launched in 1961 as a showcase for Italian furniture, has grown over the years into the largest exhibition of furniture, design installations, and objects in the world.

Each year, for one week, the city becomes a unique exhibition unto itself. Piazzas become installations. Centuries-old villas house incredible collections of contemporary furniture. And those who love and live for design converge on the city by the tens of thousands.

The convention center that houses much of Salone is one of the largest of its kind in the world. Attempting to view just the works exhibited here would take weeks to properly see. However, what makes Salone really shine is how the exhibitions interact with the city itself. It seems as if every corner, every piazza, every public space houses some sort of design-related exhibition. For six days, Milan is the center of the design universe.

Here, six outstanding collections unveiled at 2019 Salone.

Hermès Celebrates Raw Material

The Hermès home collection for 2019-2020, titled Raw Material, consists of a series of objects where inspiration comes from nature itself. A not unfamiliar theme, this collection shines in its simplicity.

Rather than taming nature, Raw Material allows each vessel, each object to tell its story by letting the humble materials — clay, paper, leather, oak, and bamboo — speak for themselves. The collection is about balance and, by extension, life. Making the ordinary special and celebrating the details that elevate an object to greatness are often overlooked in production.

Standout work includes the Halo and Hécate lamps, designed by London duo Barber & Osgerby, who pair Limoges porcelain shades with heavy black granite bases.

Also of note is Gianpaolo Pagni’s Hippomobile, a textile design that hearkens to ancient time, showcasing the horse — a figure that is  prominent throughout history for both its importance as well as its grace and beauty.

Finally, we see Tomás Alonso’s Coulisse table lamp, in which Japanese paper has been framed by a lightweight bamboo structure, giving it the feel of a delicate Cubist-inspired work of art.

Edward Luke Hall’s Decorative Ditty of Dinnerware

Imagine a Brideshead Revisited version of Oxford University, filled with palm trees and frolicking Vitruvian Men who fell off a flight of fancy on their way to Modernism Week in Palm Springs. That’s the world of London-based design darling Luke Edward Hall.

When you hear Hall’s name, it’s hard to resist the mental image of the Technicolor Greek key so signature of his work. In fact, this ancient symbol of eternal flow is the perfect moniker for Hall, whose influence in the design world extends as infinitely as his sense for the historical — his client list includes Drake’s, Berry Bros. & Rudd, and Le Sirenuse hotel in Positano.

Hall’s maximalist aesthetic is a paragon of Greco-Roman expression, his British heritage, and new forms for bygone glamor. In a rendering style that combines Matisse’s economy of line with Hockney’s lottery of color, Hall’s design and illustrations have landed on furniture, ceramics, fabrics, and even slippers for the ever preppy Stubbs & Wootton — but not by accident.

Educated formally at Central St. Martins in men’s fashion design and later under the aegis of interior designer Ben Pentreath, Hall braids the disciplines of fashion, design, architecture and art with a deliberation born from his love for the Bloomsbury, an early-20th-century intellectual aristocracy of English writers, intellectuals, philosophers and artists. With Warhol’s sense of visual currency, Luke has used social media to create a métier where the world and its histories are his oyster.

The latest pearl from the oyster bed of Hall’s candied office is a collection for Manifattura Richard Ginori, porcelain masters who have dominated tabletop fashion since 1735. Inspired by the designer’s love for Greco-Roman mythology, the Il Viaggio di Nettuno collection is a decorative ditty of seafaring deities that rewrites the codes of antiquity with liberated color and Ginori’s fine craftsmanship.

Neptune and other mythological gods, their mantles billowing in the ocean winds, adorn an extensive suite of decorative plates, placeholders, teacups, teapots, oval trays and mugs. Coral, shells, and Richard Ginori’s signature gold rim decorate almost all of the pieces, adding pattern-filled borders to the seemingly boundless whimsy of chariots pulled by seahorses or Arion, who plays a golden harp astride a dolphin.

The Mediceo vase, with handles that recall a mermaid’s tail or the trinity of shells that form an innovative candlestick that can be used as a vase, debuted with the entire Il Viaggio di Nettuno collection at Salone del Mobile di Milan 2019.

Pack your bags for Luke Edward Hall’s self-described “escape from the hackneyed white cliché of minimalism.” We await the U.S. launch of this enchanting ensemble for the heart of the table, slated for September. Colby Goetschius

Dimore Studio

Salone 2019 saw the launch of three important projects for Milan-based Dimore Studio. The practice, founded by Italian-born Emiliano Salci and American Britt Moran in 2003, is active in a wide range of residential, retail, hospitality, and bespoke projects and exhibitions.

The firm is certainly not lacking when it comes to a point of view. Salci recently told Elle Decor that he has a passion for work from “another era” and is drawn to create interiors that are part 1960s, part contemporary.

Dior Maison  X Dimore Studio

For the collaboration of Dior Maison and Dimore Studio for Salone 2019, Dimore was asked to create 14 objects inspired by the French fashion house. The exhibition, installed at the exquisitely beautiful Casa Degli Atellani, features vases, trays, a candelabra, tableware, frames, and an umbrella stand and is crafted from rich materials inspired by the Cubist and Surrealist schools of thought that were so inspiring for Dior.

The settings were created as a play on illusion, with a graphic black backdrop etched in white chalk — stark and beautiful, a mix of glamour and elegance befitting the exclusivity of the project. The collection will be available to order for one year.

Dimore Studio Interstellar

The first collection for Dimore Studio’s new unified home furnishings label, Interstellar, is Dimoremilano, and is described by designers Salci and Moran as both “robust and dry with well-defined lines.”

Always dramatic, they exhibited in the former Cinema Arti, which was given a rock-star makeover with theatrical curtains, leopard carpet, a steel-mesh cage illuminated with neon tubes, pulsing music, and flashing lights.

Anything but subtle, the objects are in dark tones with aluminum, brushed and polished steel, bronze, and laminated finishes. Among the highlights are the embellished lacquered top dining table, Tavolo 128, with a star-shaped chrome insert and mirrored-glass mosaic detail on the legs.

Finishing the dining set are two re-editions of Paradisoterrestre chairs, the Margarita and Sacco Alato, designed by Surrealist artist Roberto Sebastián Matta and his daughter, Alisée Matta.

Finally, we should note the striking Letto 134 bed, a red lacquered metal structure with brass detail and metal-mesh headboard and footboard.

The striking metallic Letto 134 bed.

Dimore Gallery Visioni

For the Visioni exhibition, Dimore Gallery reproduced seven pieces of furniture by artist designer Gabriella Crespi and installed them among piles of sand. Crespi, an influential Milan-based designer who passed away in 2017, was always a favorite of Dimore. When the opportunity arose for an exhibition, Dimore approached Crespi’s daughter, Elisabetta, with the idea of showing Crespi’s most iconic works.

The furniture is exhibited throughout the former home of Dimore founders Salci and Moran, which they’ve made into a gallery space. The seven reissued pieces, originally designed in the 1970s, include a mushroom-shaped lamp, geometric wall sconce, and a number of tables made from brass bronze and lacquer.

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