December 27 2017

Salone del Mobile 2017: Words by Layla Jabbar

by Layla Jabber

Coffee cups half full, loads of scattered business cards, heavy bags and even heavier eyelids … Salone del Mobile is not all glitter. Yet, each year, we wait in anticipation, getting all worked up about the journey. Why is it that just the good memories remain? And why do we always wish we had at least a few more hours left to spare?

Salone del Mobile is, essentially, a curious human encounter. In terms of size, the exhibition is colossal, but, in fact, there is something very private about the interaction with people, ideas, dreams and well-hidden fears hailing from all corners of the world. Behind the exquisite furniture and spectacular stands, one can find concrete names, sharing their current preoccupations through the language of imagery. Even the biggest and most highly regarded companies communicate with us through people, with whom, in the course of the year, we maintain and nurture relationships, make plans, resolve conflicts, and either find a way forward or part.  

Part of our work at SKLADA is to analyse the bigger picture. Because of this, besides inspiration, at the exhibition we also try to identify specific solutions for our clients. Back from Salone, we have to answer the question ‘So, what’s new?’ daily. Having only been back for a couple of hours, we sat down with a client to work on the interior of her new home. No sooner had we began than she asked for specific impressions about colours this year. 

The palette used by architects and designers this year reminded me of les Fauves, the early twentieth century artists. The visual elements, although carefully planned, are often surprising and have strong individual presence. This was the case at Cassina, Dimore, Se, cc tapis, the Visit by Studiopepe and many others. Complementary colours are mixed up – for example, different shades of blue and orange, or red and green, - there is felt contrast, and furniture loses its traditional neutral and cosy tones. Compositions are expressive instants of intense emotion. The all-too-familiar contemporary concept of a calm, neutral and enduring home has been avoided as if on purpose, with chromaticity becoming the key factor in interior design.  

In one video, Paola Antonelli, Senior Curator at MOMA’s Department of Architecture and Design, refers to designers as elastic minds, a definition I find really appealing. Every choice makes sense, and design is not decoration, but a means of expression. Poetic and unexpected, Paul Cocksedge invites us to take a look underground, in the basement of an Italian palazzo of the 17th century: steep stairways, untreated concrete, barricade tapes, scraping sounds and splashing water. The British designer created EXCAVATION: Evicted as a reaction to the news of his eviction from his London studio because of investment plans to develop it into new luxury apartments.  

London is an example of a modern city experiencing problems as a result of the growing property market and major foreign investment. Rising prices push many people and businesses into peripheral areas. Such developments have a direct impact on artists, who traditionally occupy old studios and industrial spaces. The creative world is invariably sensitive to the surrounding environment and responds to the latest socio-political and cultural issues in fascinating ways. Refusing to give in to self-pity, Paul Cocksedge chose to speak firmly, backed by New York’s Friedman Benda, the influential gallery of contemporary design, and philanthropist Beatrice Trussardi of the acclaimed fashion family.   

 “A quirky, attention-grabbing luminaire” – not a day goes by at SKLADA without trying to find it, that exact accessory for each home. For me, there are two types: first, there are the practical, measured in lumens, watts, temperature etc., and then there are the special, whose light and shadows fill up space and the imagination. This year in Milan, I was touched by Kazimir, the USA-made, Russia-inspired brainchild of Brooklyn-based studio Ladies & Gentlemen.

Lars Muller Publishers bring out excellent books on visual arts, design and architecture. Trusting the trademark, I somewhat quickly grabbed Are We Human? and moved on. The authors’ choice to place the individual at the centre recalls some familiar concepts of the human position in architecture and design, at the same time discussing the way we experience and adapt to the development of objects, processes and technologies. The book turned out to be a thought-provoking small read on the topic of the intimate personal interaction with objects and the environment, which I, ironically enough, happened to pick up at the largest forum in the industry.

We tend to surround ourselves with our things – bags, books, clothes, cars, iPads, furniture … The home, their abode, is not just a structure with stone-cold walls, but a continuum of our bodies, and of the feeling of who awe are and what we wish for in life. Maybe a little more time, more freedom or order, more tenderness and respect from others … But how do we, fierce buyers as we are, “furnish” ourselves?    

Salone del Mobile was an inspiration, a splendid one-week delight we traditionally treat ourselves to. But why do we always ask for a couple of extra hours? It is because we, people, love a story, and, at the end of the day, objects and spaces tell stories to and about their people.