The international furniture exhibition Salone del Mobile is an annual, not-to-be-missed showcase of world-class design.
It took place at the end of April in Milan, Italy, where Studio Como design director Laura Folgoni and consultant Will Funk were busy meeting and reconnecting with manufacturers, attending previews, and diligently making notes for those of us back at home. “This year, the goal was to visit new companies and evaluate if their products are suitable for our market,” says Laura. “Education leads to appreciation, and we always come back with a renewed spark and love for what we do.”
The biggest trend Laura and Will saw emerging was a focus on comfort, “to the point that furniture almost loses shape to accommodate the human body,” says Laura. “We saw layers of fabric and leather, big pillows, rounded shapes. Everything to make the design softer, more inviting, calmer. There was an embrace of casual aesthetics, even grunge,” she says, noting that when softness wasn’t front-and-center, there was a focus on simplicity with “many monolithic pieces in smooth marbles—especially travertine—or chunky woods.”
Will noticed “a focus on 70s-era design, with soft, cloud-like sofas and seating in hues of blue and gold.” He was especially impressed by the new offerings from Baxter, Van Rossum, Vibia, Bocci, and Riva 1920. “Baxter presented strong designs with vintage touches and proportions, bold colors, and tactile finishes,” he explains. “Vibia had really beautiful lighting with matte finishes, and Riva 1920 was launching veneer dining tables that are stunning and come at a fraction of the price of their solid wood tables. They also presented a new collection with Claudio Bellini that includes pieces that will look great in almost any home. And Van Rossum had a dining chair that might’ve been my favorite piece of the entire fair.”
Riva 1920Kauri Stump
Van RossumTenere Sofa
Laura says that a stand-out for her was an armchair by Draga & Aurel, historical partners of Baxter. “They’ve designed one of the most comfortable chairs currently on the market,” she says, “with a messy pillow-like quality and layers of fabrics slung around the arms and back—looking like drapery that was accidentally placed on furniture.”
Something that the design team always appreciates about their visits to Salone is the experiential element of the various manufacturers’ stands. Because furniture lives in physical environments, it’s necessary to see it function and express itself in space. “Without a doubt, the Baxter stands were the most exciting, interesting, and innovative this year,” says Laura. “They introduced several new pieces by Studiopepe and Christophe Delcourt that I am sure will be very successful. We were really pleased with the new collection.”
She was also taken by the Flexform stand—which she says “never misses a chance to be classy and inviting. The comfort of their seating is top of the line, their pieces are timeless, and the atmosphere of their space was light. Indoor and outdoor come together in their stands with trees everywhere—you feel comforted by the vicinity of the vegetation. The contrast between what is humanmade and natural mingles so well with Flexform.”
Before the fair officially started, Laura and Will were given a special preview of the Minotti 2023 collection and were able to explore the pieces with a sense of ease and calm, Laura explains. “Customer responses are hard to predict, but I think their new Torii collection will get a lot of engagement back home,” says Will.
“We also had the most amazing experience in the Collection Particuliere Atelier in the city,” Laura shares. “The founder and main designer, Christophe Delcourt, welcomed us and gave us a tour of his designs. I have to say that it was the highlight of my trip.” They also visited and were impressed with Bocci’s new corporate space, Paola Lenti’s experiential showroom—which will feature a spa, hotel, and restaurant once complete—and Poltrona Frau’s collection displayed in the Palazzo Gallarati Scotti, “a building in full Italian Baroque Style,” Laura notes, “and the perfect setting for the classic and timeless Frau line.”
“I feel that the design industry is a world by itself, and it needs to be understood in its entirety,” says Laura of the necessity for Studio Como design consultants to make the trip to Salone. “Consultants should be exposed to the place where everyone gets inspired, where the creatives are. They should see the huge effort these companies put into the show, understand the process they go through to create these stands, and get to know the people they correspond with throughout the year. This is a very human industry. A design consultant can change public perception of a brand, create friendships with manufacturers and clients, and start much larger design discussions.”
Will agrees: “It can be a challenge to represent so many lines if we haven’t had a chance to try the products ourselves, as clients rely on us for advice on comfort and scale. Salone is like nothing else. It’s overwhelming, exhilarating. Getting to step away from the day-to-day of work and spend a week immersed in the best design gives me a newfound excitement for what we do. Milan is quickly becoming my favorite place to visit.”
“Even just walking around expands your horizons,” Laura adds of her home city. “Being in Milano grows you professionally.”