8 Design Trends From 2021's Iconic New Supersalone
Salone del Mobile is back! We discuss the fair's new look and the biggest design trends showcased in Milan this year
The event brought new products and innovative ideas to the Milan city centre, finally infusing the city with the pre-pandemic design energy that has been missing for so long. This year was also set up differently to facilitate visitor flow and minimise infection, and to ensure fairness: instead of booths, every exhibitor was given a standard space on set pieces designed to help traffic flow. The colourful event was curated by architect Stefano Boeri and Giorgio Donà with the help of an international team of co-designers, including Andrea Caputo, Maria Cristina Didero, Anniina Koivu, Lukas Wegwerth and Marco Ferrari and Elisa Pasqual of Studio Folder.
The eight biggest trends we spotted at the fair are truly part of the zeitgeist, providing colourful and practical ways to make the most of our homes for both work and relaxation.
1. Sustainable event, sustainable products
A focus on sustainability was evident in both the set-up of the fair itself and in the exhibited products, many of which had sustainable features. Some were made with a higher percentage of recyclable materials, or involved innovative supply chains aimed at reducing energy and resource use.
“All the materials and components of the installation conceived by Andrea Caputo – long parallel sets designed for the specific goods categories – and by Stefano Boeri Interiors – the communal areas: food courts, arenas, lounges – have been achieved using a reduced quantity of chipboard panels … made from 100 per cent recycled wood, which will then be channelled back into the production cycle with a view to circularity, saving 553,500 kilograms of CO2 from being emitted into the atmosphere. Everything has been designed to be dismantled and subsequently reused,” reads a press release from the event.
The products exhibited at the fair also incorporated sustainability in various ways. Particular attention was paid to recyclable, recycled and low-impact materials. Other projects addressed product and material life cycles, to save on the consumption of resources overall.
We saw this across product ranges and categories: from photovoltaic pergolas and finishes to kitchens and bathrooms made of recyclable materials and eco-certified furniture.
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“When I was asked to think about what, as an architect, is the best way to live, I immediately thought about life on a boat,” says Micheletti. “To live well today, we need to be inspired by what life would be like on a boat, meaning consuming less, using water only when essential, keeping spaces tidy and living in harmony with the natural cycle of the day.”
Sustainability was also top-of-mind for industry bodies. “We must focus on accompanying and supporting our companies as they convert to full sustainability,” says Claudio Feltrin, president of Federlegno, the Italian federation of the wood, cork, furniture and lighting industries. “The outcome of our work on this is a sustainability manifesto, which we will present during the United Nations conference on climate change [COP26] scheduled to take place in Glasgow in November 2021.”
Related to sustainability is the theme of biophilia, that is, integrating nature into our home surroundings.
A specific example is the new version of the USM Haller system (pictured), which integrates plants and watering equipment into the modules. “Adding plants to a room significantly improves our wellbeing by helping to reduce stress and increase productivity,” says USM in its press release.
Biophilia was also integrated into the fair itself and the city of Milan through the Forestami project: 200 trees were placed around the venue and will be donated by the event to Forestami, a project to incorporate green infrastructure into metropolitan areas around Milan. After the fair, the trees will be planted in the Parco Nord Milano.
“Planting trees, multiplying their numbers along streets, squares and courtyards and on the roofs and facades of our houses is in fact the most effective, economical and engaging way to slow global warming, reduce energy consumption and filter fine dust from the air we breathe, improving people’s wellbeing,” say the Salone del Mobile organisers in their press materials.
Supersalone was also the perfect place to get to know the colour trends for the coming year. Although certain colours, including white and earth tones, have become a staple in recent years, many furnishings at the event were distinctly colourful.
Primary colours were placed side-by-side or used on a single piece of furniture, and juxtapositions of bold, even contrasting tones were used to create lively environments and make an impact.
One example is the 265 Chromatica lamp by Flos (pictured), which combines yellow, blue and red in an updated palette for the classic lamp. We also saw this trend on wallpapers, such as those offered by Cristina Celestino in a combination of mustard, green and purple (see next image).
4. A desire for lightness
We also saw a distinct geometry trending among furniture at the fair, with thin and airy structures that appear almost weightless.
Lights with super-slim arms, bookcases with almost invisible structures and armchairs resting on tapered legs with thin seats ensure the home does not have a heavy feel.
Many chairs, including both new models and updated versions of classic designs, kept with this theme.
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5. Dividers for multi-functional spaces
We also saw products that were clearly the result of and responses to the big changes that have swept over the home in the past 18 months of the pandemic.
The need for separate spaces has led us to search for ways to divide rooms. The open-plan layout is experiencing a moment of decline: instead of having a large room to share, sometimes it is better to have multiple separate spaces, where each member of the family can create their own protected microcosm.
Hence the arrival of moveable walls, flexible buffers and large sliding glass doors that allow light into a room but divide it into smaller areas.
Doors and systems for walk-in wardrobes saw expanded functionality: the door has become larger so as to resemble a wall, and some wardrobes now come equipped with a workstation.
6. Everything is orderly
It’s easier to relax at home if everything is in order and you don’t see piles of objects with every glance. For this reason, as well as to integrate many functions in a limited space, we saw several ideas for furnishings that make entire rooms and spaces disappear from view.
Close sliding doors and the kitchen is no longer visible, leaving a seemingly separate living area. Pull a curtain and a clever working area disappears. Shut doors and the core of the kitchen with its appliances becomes an elegant and compact piece of joinery integrated into the living room furnishings.
7. I need a desk!
As many people have started working from home more often, or for the first time, over the past 18 months, there is a need for desks that can fit into living rooms or bedrooms.
Designers responded. New furniture for the bedroom is designed to transform from a computer table into an elegant dressing table (pictured). Some versions are more office-like, with acoustic protection, drawer units and shelves.
The range of desks for the home, particularly for children, has undoubtedly expanded.
These new desks also fit into the style trends mentioned above: they are light, thin and colourful.
8. Technology for organisation (and relaxation)
Technology is a growing trend, aiming to make daily life easier and help people relax. In the bathroom these include the Starpool Wellness Coach (pictured), which includes guided meditations and mindfulness practices. Others offer chromotherapy (colour therapy) or infusers that deliver salts directly into the hot tub.
In the kitchen, appliances are becoming increasingly programmable, to make life easier but also to lower energy consumption.
Technology hardware can now be hidden within the structure of the home, to only come alive when needed, controlled by your smartphone.
Fairs change over time
The Supersalone trade fair was radically different from all the previous editions of the Milan show. Most strikingly, instead of individual booths for each brand, the fair was made up of a landscape of moveable walls distributed over large corridors to ensure smooth circulation of visitors.
Reducing the spread of infection was the main impetus for this change, but it helped keep things fair too: with each exhibitor given a standard-sized unit, it meant that they had to find a way to present their work through a process of subtraction and synthesis. Instead of relying on huge, expensive booths that drew the eye, big brands had to come up with ideas to stand out from the crowd and engage visitors.
In their installation Flight D.154.5, by Ron Gilad, for example, Molteni & C and Dada recreated an aeroplane interior with armchairs as the seats. Knoll, on the other hand, focused on colour to attract attention, as did Gebrüder Thonet Vienna, which hung variations of their chairs vertically.
“We broke the mould so that we would not be stuck in a situation that could have impoverished the system and compromised the [event’s position of] leadership [within the industry],” says Maria Porro, the new president of the Salone del Mobile Milano.
“It was not easy, but choosing a new path and seizing the opportunity to provide new visions for brands and products is a sign of the strength of our [Italian] design. By combining cultural traditions, creativity, the innovative capacity of the industry and the variety of offerings from different regions, we can look to the future with confidence.”
Which of these eight design directions are you most excited about?