Gallery: Invention at Milan furniture show


Milan - Collaboration drove invention during Milan’s annual International Furniture Show and collateral design week events, yielding the promise of homes without cellphone chargers, and with more ergonomic seating, table settings fit for Italy’s most demanding chefs and sculptures that double as furniture.

The sprawling show is the largest in the world, capitalising on Italian excellence in furniture design and craftsmanship. The week-long happening, which spills out into Milan venues with numerous side events, is also increasingly the launching pad for high-level collaborations among the fashion, architecture, technological and design worlds.

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The installation, Scale Infinite, shown at the Milan Design Fair. Picture: Luca Bruno/APDutch design factory Mal showed off gun-shaped pillows and a range of pop-up furniture, called Soulmate, for festivals. Picture: Luca Bruno/APChairs designed by Ambroise Maggiar hang on a wall at the Tog exhibition. Picture: Antonio Calanni/APDu Pont Corian Powermat creations are displayed at the Milan Design Fair. Picture: Antonio Calanni/APThis Thursday, April 10, 2014 file photo shows the Pierre Cardin lamp displayed at the Milan Design Fair, in Milan, Italy. Cardin, a pioneer in ready-to-wear fashion, also was one of the first fashion designers to branch out into furniture. Now his nephew, Rodrigo Basilicati, is spearheading a new collection of Cardin's so called "Utilitarian Sculptures."  The sprawling Milan Furniture Show, which closes Sunday, April 13, 2014, is the largest and most prestigious in the world, capitalizing on Italian excellence in furniture design and craftsmanship. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni, file)

“The market is big and growing for those who have a strong brand,” says presiding chairman of the international furniture show Kartell CEO Claudio Luti. He notes that visitors from 160 countries were on hand to see new products from about 2 400 furniture makers at the Rho convention centre near Milan.

“It is a great opportunity and a great recognition of the quality of innovation.”



For design aficionados, there is nothing more galling than finding out that a competitive neighbour also bought that coveted Philippe Starck chair. Now, thanks to a concept launched on the sidelines of the furniture show, buyers can customise their own designer furnishings.

Seven designers, including Starck, Sebastian Bergne, Sam Hecht and Kim Colin, have designed “naked” furnishings – chairs, tables, sofas – for an inaugural collection of a new brand concept dubbed Tog, short for “together”.

Consumers can choose from colours and combinations offered by the designers. But Tog co-ordinator and designer Nicola Rapetti says the concept also establishes a network of so-called customisers who offer additions of their own. For example, one Dutch “customiser” offers knit covers for chairs, and the possibilities for collaborations within the Tog community, as it grows, is endless. Starck envisions that eventually 3-D printing will expand the concept even further.

Starck calls Tog “a philosophy, a political idea”, because it brings mass production to design, which will bring down prices.

“It’s a high-tech miracle. You have a guy somewhere who will make a beautiful object – just for you.”

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Knoll continues its long tradition of collaborating with architects dating from Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona chair. This year, it has tapped London-based David Adjaye, who says he was apprehensive until “I understood that it would be an opportunity to express my position in terms of materials, silhouettes and forms”.

Adjaye designed two chairs intended as complementary forms – one the skeleton and one the skin.

Washington Skeleton is a solid sculpture, a curved intersection of criss-crossing lines, made of cast iron, and either painted or copper-plated.

Washington Skin is made from nylon that gives for a light backward bounce.

“My starting point was the idea of a seated person, and the form of the chair echoes this.

“The pattern is then a drawing of the forces required to brace this shape and make it a chair. It is like an exoskeleton.” – Sapa-AP



Pierre Cardin, a pioneer in ready-to-wear fashion, also was one of the first fashion designers to branch out into furniture. Now his nephew, Rodrigo Basilicati, is spearheading a new collection of Cardin’s so-called Utilitarian Sculptures.

A high-back curved S-shaped chair with ever the slightest spring is part of the collection. It is made out of flexible birch, plied into curves and covered with lacquered paint. Each piece takes two to four months to produce in Cardin’s native Veneto (the designer moved to France at age 2) and will be made by order in limited quantities of as few as eight.

Cardin, now 91, was on hand for the unveiling of the creations at the Milan fairgrounds, wearing a double-breasted suit jacket accented with a green handkerchief. He promptly went about reorganising the stand, banishing refreshments, overseeing the transfer to the corner of a heavy sculpted floor lamp in the shape of a giant plant and repositioning a light to better accentuate a bureau.

“If I do something, I do it well, or I don’t do it.”



At the end of a long day, user and cellphone are out of juice. In the dream house of the near future, there’s no more fumbling for phone chargers. Just plunk down your device on a surface with a built-in wireless charging station.

Powermat wireless recharging technology is being incorporated into Corian surfaces, the DuPont creation that can be moulded into virtually any shape and purpose, making it ideal for kitchen countertops, bathroom surfaces and tabletops – any of which now can become a charging station. The energy transfer is through magnetic induction, not electricity, meaning “there is no chance of sparkage”, said Scott Eisenstein, a Powermat vice president.

DuPont envisions the broadest initial application in public spaces, say, restaurants, airports or train stations where mobile device charging can be monetised.

But DuPont also sees a market niche for the technology as a luxury feature in private homes.

“DuPont Corian is so far ahead of the curve in recognising that wireless power charging needs to be in places where you find yourself every day.”

Until the wireless technology becomes standard in cellphones, Powermat has bridge technologies in the form of charging phone cases or a charging ring that plugs into the device.

Each needs to be placed on a specified spot on the surface, where the energy transfer can be made.

Colleen Barry, Sapa-AP

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