Milan Design Week: the must-see district by district
Discover the epicentre of design in five days
In Milan—Italy’s economic heartland—,design is much more than an industry. It is a way of life. This is illustrated by the host of big names, such as the ‘La Rinascente’ department store chain, and a string of museums who are also taking part in the famous Salone del Mobile. A short stay during the fair is a great way to get to know the capital of Lombardy, decked out at its very best. During the event, most of the city’s streets are turned into showcases and the heart of the city is irrigated by creativity. Welcome to the Fuorisalone: the fringe event of the Furniture Fair.
Are you inspired by the kitchen designer Arclinea and the luxurious Minotti sofas? Design Week, a Mecca for interior designers, is the perfect opportunity to draw the blueprint for the future look and feel of your dining room or living room. The Milanese showrooms and flagship stores stay open to the public outside normal opening hours or by invitation to private viewings, and are the places where Italians, along with all the visitors from abroad, gather for several days to take a privileged look at the new products on display. The aperitivi that are organised provide a laid-back opportunity for professionals and design enthusiasts alike to compare notes.
Strolling through prestigious sites
The leading design houses have their headquarters in the famous Brera Design District and its buildings near Via Solferino. Zanotta, for instance, is located in an old building not far from Corso Como. In 2021, new stores are set to open their doors, such as Ethimo, a renowned specialist in garden and terrace furniture. The city’s many historic palaces and mansions in and around Corso Venezia are also prime locations and well worth a peek around.
The famous Fashion Triangle, around via Montenapoleone, also willingly joins in with the celebrations. Every year, the main international luxury houses unveil their special collections. These are created in collaboration with famous designers, interior architects and even artists. This year Dior is working with Pierre Charpin, Dimore Studio, India Mahdavi and Pierre Yovanovitch, India Mahdavi, among others. These designers are invited to showcase their creations in the elegant Palazzo Citterio.
Spotting Italian style
In the shadow of the Duomo di Milano, B&B Italia and the creations of its artistic director Piero Lissoni await you. Here, the opening of a D Studio—a concept store that brings together the references of all the Design Holding brands, including Azucena, Maxalto, Arclinea, Flos and Louis Poulsen—marks a milestone for this group.
Next door at Molteni, the talented Vincent Van Duysen is overseeing the collections, including the Gio Ponti reissues. Cassina is also close by. In the autumn of 2021, Vico Magistretti, one of the pillars of the Italian company’s catalogue, is even being exhibited at the Milan Triennale. The design museum is devoting a major retrospective to this emblematic architect and designer of the second half of the 20th century.
Further south of Milan’s famous cathedral, MDF Italia, with its elegant bookcases and architectural tables (such as Jean Nouvel’s NVL), is a must-see in its original context. Acerbis International has been acquired by MDF Italia and continues to celebrate its new life this year. Acerbis is reissuing several of its designs from the 1970s. Tacchini is following suit with a reproduction of the very first chair by the Venice-born architect Tobia Scarpa (Pigreco, designed in 1959), proving once again that the style of the sixties and seventies is timeless.
And the art of collectible design
Collectible design galleries are at the forefront of design. Nilufar is an illustrious example. Whether it is presenting the furniture of the Italian-Brazilian modernist architect Lina Bo Bardi or other up-and-coming designers, its exhibitions are some of the must-sees of design week. They offer the opportunity to step into unparalleled worlds. This year, French artist Sophie Dries has been invited to exhibit her sculptural suspensions while the American Lindsey Adelman, a regular, is exhibiting at Alcova, one of the many industrial buildings that have been fitted out to host other exhibitions organised in parallel with the official Milan show.
The Cinque Vie district (5vie) has become more discreet over the years. But there are also some nice surprises awaiting you and several of the most influential personalities and entrepreneurs can be found here. The Italian manufacturer LaPalma has even created a coworking space there, aptly named Riviera.
Salone del Mobile 2021: a life-size design guide
The history of the Salone del Mobile
The committee of Italian entrepreneurs Cosmit inaugurated the first version of the Furniture Fair in 1961, at the Fiera Milano exhibition centre. In 2015, its activities were transferred to a new building in the town of Rho, just outside Milan and easily accessible by metro. The architecture is spectacular, designed by Massimiliano Fuksas, and includes several gigantic pavilions. The Salone is conceived as an exhaustive trail that allows buyers and interior designers to explore the best of today’s design. The complementary fairs Euroluce (for lighting) and Eurocuccina (for kitchens) also take place in this institution every two years.
A new selection reflecting the evolution of the sector
Visiting the Salone Internazionale del Mobile usually means spending long days strolling through the aisles of international productions from the world of design. The latest offerings of family-run companies and multinationals from all over the world. 2021 changes all that. At the supersalone, the exhibitors are mainly Italian, due to the reduced space that has been allocated by the organisation, in the wake of the economic consequences of the spread of the coronavirus and the public health measures taken by several countries.
If you missed the Porro stores in Via Durini, or those of De Padova, Flexform and Living Divani in Corso Monforte, don’t worry, as you can find them here. Other key players in the Italian furniture industry have also signed up for the event, as usual, such as the Venetian Pottoco and the Tuscan Edra. The American Knoll is also present for this edition. This leader will soon operate under the name MillerKnoll following its merger with Herman Miller, which specialises in modern office tables and chairs.
Accessories complementing your interior decoration are also on show. Spanish company nanimarquina is present, while cc-tapis is celebrating its tenth anniversary in its Milanese address in the city centre. This highly original rug-maker is known for its product that is woven like a work of art, with an eco-responsible dimension.
A ticket to redefine the world of the home
In a normal year, around 400,000 visitors usually congregate in Milan to attend the fair. Traditionally, it is held in spring, in April. Its symbolic resumption, for the time being in September, and in a new format, aims today to herald a new era for the contemporary design business. Under the guiding hand of its main curator, Stefano Boeri, the fair is moving towards reasonable and sustainable development. This architect, who plays with nature and urbanity in his work, has become a real star with his plant-covered tower: the Bosco Verticale, which stands near Milan’s Porta Garibaldi train station.
One of the presentations taking place in relation with the fair is that organised in partnership with ADI, the Italian Association for Industrial Design, which awards the legendary Compasso d’Oro prize every year. Lectures by big names in the field, such as the architect Bjarke Ingels (BIG), are scheduled.
The traditional stands have been replaced by a global and immersive scenography. It highlights the products released over the last 18 months as well as the furniture icons that continue to stand the test of time, fashion and usage. Thanks to the launch of the digital platform salonemilano.it, some of these pieces can be purchased directly online. A portion of the profits will be donated to a charitable cause. Contemporary, high-end and never-seen-before classics are brought together to pave the way for a better future.