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Those were two of the main trends at Salone del Mobile this year, where some pieces were as flexible as origami shapes and others as fragile-looking as paper dolls. A host of other designs were fashioned from recyclable and sustainable materials. There were paper lamps courtesy of three Swedish companies — Sodra, a forestry group; Claesson Koivisto Rune, an architectural practice, and the lamp maker Wastberg — and a paper overnight bag commissioned by Wallpaper magazine and created by the Munich-based designers Saskia and Stefan Diez. The bag was made from Tyvek, a type of synthetic paper that is waterproof, tearproof and recyclable.
Other objects appeared insubstantial, although their structures were robust. Sides Core, the Japanese design and architecture firm, turned out chairs with steel frames that looked as fine as pencil sketches; German firm Formentwicklung showed tables made of a mix of cardboard boxes and plywood, and designers Lucas E. Hinnerud, Jens Boldt and Daniel Enoksson crafted fragile-looking aluminum bookcases, tables and sideboards. The designers said they were inspired by simple and quickly cut-out paper models used at the beginning of the design process.
Plicio, another German-owned brand, showed off foldable chairs made from layers of wood and rubber, their mechanics modeled on that of a ladybug’s wings. The chairs, which measure six millimeters thick when flat, can be folded into two different shapes. Meanwhile, the Finnish company Punkalive unveiled benches, tables, stools and chairs made from laminated veneer lumber.
Federico Marchetti, founder of e-tailer Yoox, said the attention to sustainability is high on the priority list for most producers. “There are more and more products created with recycled materials,” said Marchetti, pointing to Italian furniture firm Magis, which worked with recycled plastic bottles to find ecological alternatives to plastic.
Sustainability is also a must for Alasdhair Willis, owner of British design and manufacturing company Established & Sons, in town for his firm’s event and to celebrate the opening of his wife Stella McCartney’s first boutique here. Similar to McCartney, Willis strives to work with eco-friendly materials. “You can’t be a citizen of the world without being aware of the environment. We are not perfect but we do as much as we can,” said Willis, citing sustainable wooden boxes by Scholten & Baijings, originally used by fishermen and illustrated with their narratives, and on display at Milan’s La Pelota space.
Here, a glimpse at some of the other standout products and firms at this year’s Salone.
Yii was created by the Taiwanese Craft Research Institute to open a dialogue between Taiwanese designers and craftsmen. They created a series of objects that fuse Taiwanese workmanship and tradition with contemporary design. Here, three bamboo trunks have been split at the top and woven, with small bamboo strips, into a seat. In another design, cocoon-like shapes — made by intertwining bamboo strips — are used to make a sofa.
The Ten Sofa by Michael Sodeau, produced by the British company Modus, is angular and boxy — with soft edges. Fashioned from birch plywood and stuffed with feather cushions, its sharp edges contrasted with luxurious cushions covered in Harris tweed fabrics and leather. The company said its 2010 collection is aimed at exploring the use of wood and traditional methods of manufacture.
Sigrid Stromgren grew up in the Lapland region of northern Sweden, where peace and quiet was an everyday luxury. She’s tried to recreate the silent joy of her childhood in her furniture company, which she aptly named Quiet Design. This Eskimo cabinet has built-in acoustic panels that open and close with a whisper and absorb sounds in the room. But it is not her only piece of furniture that does double duty. Her Grand Central table opens and closes like an accordion, and functions both as a cocktail table and a smaller side table. It was an example of the many multitasking pieces of furniture on show at the fair.
Fernando and Humberto Campana created a host of furniture for the Italian high-end furniture manufacturer Edra. Their theme this year was Barbarians, and the Campana brothers — who made their debut for Edra this year — didn’t hold back. They turned out the Cabana container, which looks exactly like Cousin Itt from the Addams Family and functions as a storage. It’s covered in a cascade of fire-proof raffia. Another highlight was the Campana Brothers Cotto long cocktail table, covered in textured chunks of treated terra cotta. Edra said it wanted to put a contemporary spin on natural materials and colors.
Vitra, the Swiss furniture manufacturer, might call on cutting-edge architects including Herzog & de Meuron, Zaha Hadid and Frank Gehry to design buildings for their headquarters in Switzerland and Germany, but when it comes to furniture design, the company is all about the classics. Take the latest Suita sofa, designed by Antonio Citterio, which has mix-and-match elements, soft cushions and adaptability to compact spaces.
Trust the firm’s chief executive officer Claudio Luti to keep pushing the envelope. Kartell’s first-ever bedside table is a colorful cube called Small Ghost Buster and designed by Philippe Starck, obviously declined in many colors including violet, smoky gray, yellow and red.