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Dispatch from Milan: Designers Show Their Softer Sides

From sunny colors to plush forms, cheerful comfort prevails at the Salone del Mobile.

By Josephine Minutillo
April 9, 2014
Photo © Architectural Record
Vitra’s new colors for the Aluminum Chair by Charles & Ray Eames.

It is fitting that the Salone del Mobile this year takes place during a warm, sunny week in Milan, at the start of Spring. Cheerful designs and pastels are not just on display in storefront windows throughout the city in anticipation of the Easter holiday, but can be seen in full force at the booths of leading furniture manufacturers at the fairgrounds, which opened its doors on Tuesday.

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Gone are the slim profiles and sleek forms of yesteryear. Designers now seem to think we all need to relax in comfort. And who can blame them? Patricia Urquiola even named her new sofa for Moroso (love me) Tender. Its soft colors, rounded wood legs, and billowy cushions invite slumber. Part of Giorgia Zanellato and Daniele Bortotto’s Serenissima collection, also for Moroso, the Doge chaise features silk upholstery as soft and light as fine drapery, and was exhibited with layers of cushions, pillows, and throws.

Zanotta’s striking new sofa Undercover, by Swedish designer Anna von Schewen, features an opening in the plush, goose feather backrest's cover that reveals another layer of fabric in contrasting color. Poltrona Frau, known for impeccably crafted leather furniture, loosened up a bit as well, presenting a decorative take on the Massimosistema sofas and armchairs that combine leather and fabrics including soft velvets.

Konstantin Grcicthe most industrial of industrial designers working with high-end furniture lineshas not felt at ease designing upholstered pieces in the past. But in his first piece for Artek, he combines textured fabric with the curving birch wood for which the Finnish company is known, in a task chair designed with people working from home in mind.

Makers of early 20th-century classics also recognize that recent trends are dictating that less is definitely less these days. Knoll has introduced an updated version of Mies van der Rohe’s iconic Barcelona chair with a fuller cushion and softer leathers. Nigel Coates designed the generously proportioned Lehnstuhl for Thonet, a bigger, lower, loungier version of the classic café chair.

Other classic designs were updated in softer colors. Vitra presented a range of cheerful hues for the Eameses’ 1958 Aluminum Chairs. Zanotta has covered its 1968 Saccoonce referred to simply as a bean bag but now apparently called an anatomical armchairin a houndstooth design in pale pinks, blues, yellows, and grays. ClassiCon brightened up a relatively recent design, Grcic’s Diana side tables from 2002.

More introductions from the Salone del Mobile will be featured in the June issue of Architectural Record.

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