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RECORD Goes To The Milan Furniture Fair

Notes from Rita F. Catinella Products Editor

Gaetano Pesce's Moscow Room at GrandHotelSalone

Ricardo Legorreta in his Berlin room for the GrandHotelSalone

Pavilion 9 at the show


Photos: Rita F. Catinella

En route to Milan
8:30 p.m.
This is the first time I will be attending the incomparable Milan Furniture Fair (a.k.a. Salone Internazionale del Mobile), held this year in Milan from April 10-15. The show covers a total area of 462,000 square meters, and hosts 1,900 exhibitors, including 240 from countries outside of Italy. This year the show has two major side shows, including the kitchen show Eurocucina and the office furnishings show Eimu.2002 Comfort & Technology. I chatted with a few veteran publicists and editors at the gate before departure and tried to get some pre-show hints. Speaking some Italian already puts me ahead of the veterans, but I expect most people will speak English anyway.

6:00 p.m.
After a nap, I head out to attend some of the Salone's opening night events. I put on a skirt and took a 45 minute, 30 Euro (pronounced here as eh-oo-row) taxi ride across town to the big Cappellini event. At first I’m under the delusion I would bump into someone I knew. I soon realize I'd be lucky to even get inside when I discovered a mass of about a hundred people waiting outside the roped-off entrance. They even had large Italian bouncers! Once inside, I spot designer Karim Rashid, and feel comforted to see a familiar face.

I decide to try to find the other parties being held in the neighborhood. I find the party for Alessi's new line of bathroom furnishings. The product is displayed underwater in tanks in the basement, visible through glass floors above. Tiny fish swim around the bidets, toilets, and tubs in the line. Across the street, I accidentally walk into a party for Dutch designer Marcel Wanders' new collection for Mandarina Duck. This warehouse is filled with conical glass sculptures and the new wrinkled bags that he has designed for the accessory firm. The wrinkles were inspired by the impression that you get on your face from a pillow after a good night’s sleep. I found the Dornbracht party off a field from Via Solari.

9:00 a.m.
Got up this morning and headed out to opening day at the Fair. Arrived by subway alongside hundreds of other fairgoers. Searched out the press room and discovered that about 3000 journalists attend the show. I began my search for the hot new products of the year at the Satellite show in Pavilion 9. Almost immediately, I spotted former RECORD cover model and AIA gold medalist Ricardo Legorreta in the Berlin hotel room he designed as part of the GrandHotelSalone exhibit. This exhibit features the vision of hotel rooms for 10 different cities from ten international architects including Matteo Thun, Ron Arad, Vico Magistretti, Gaetano Pesce, Toyo Ito, Richard Meier, Arata Isozaki, Zaha Hadid, and Jean Nouvel. Curated by Adam Tihany and furnished by some of Italy's foremost manufacturers, the space functioned like a real hotel, including a front desk, lounges, and a gift shop. I headed off to view the exhibits in Pavilion 9, which were very creative, but mostly prototypes not currently distributed in the U.S.

I quickly moved through some horrible halls filled with Italian "classic furniture" (read: gold and lacquer) until I got to the good stuff in the three levels of Pavilion 20—including booths for Kartell, Poliform, Montis, and Rexite.

2:00 p.m.
I met some folks at the Poliform booth to go on a tour of the factory and showrooms offsite. There I viewed the factory and saw a piece of a kitchen counter going through the production line. I then joined the Poliform crew at a cool restaurant off Corso Como that doesn't have a sign outside (I think it was called Casablanca or something), and requires patrons to enter through the security exit. You know you're in a hip place with that combination.


9:30 a.m.
Another rainy day in Milan. I learned that the weather is never this bad for the fairó it's always sunny and summer-like. Headed out for an early appointment at Kartell, where I viewed their latest offerings and "works in progress." I then headed over to EuroCucina where I saw endless kitchen counters, frosted glass doors, and aluminum-fronted doors. Hiding the appliances behind doors laminated with glossy acrylic or beautiful wood veneer like wenge is a big thing in Italy. Refrigerators, dishwashers, etc. are almost never visible.

10:30 a.m.
Got up this morning and headed over to the famous gothic Duomo in the center of Milan. I took an audio tour, and then went across the street—which was roped off for a foot race taking place that day—to see the Duomo's museum. I then set off on my personal walking tour of Milan, stopping at several furniture showrooms affiliated with the show, including Driade and Nulifar. The latter was showing some bizarre resin furniture designed by Gaetano Pesce. I headed over to the Castello Sforezca and had to run down the street from a pouring thunderstorm that quickly sprung up while I was inside the museum. I walked down Via Monte-Napoleane, and did some shopping at the Galleria.

7:00 p.m.
Headed back to the hotel to pack, because I'm leaving early tomorrow for the airport. It's been cold and rainy and a tough show to cover, but I'm glad I came. Maybe next year I'll be giving advice to other first-timers. Here's a preview if you are considering going next year: wear comfortable shoes, bring an umbrella, make sure you don't put all your contact numbers in your Palm Pilot, and if youíre staying near the Central Station, don't bother bringing an alarm clock. The 5:57 a.m. train will do just fine for a wake up call. Ciao Milano!

A roundup of the best products at the Milan Furniture Fair will appear in an upcoming issue of RECORD. Stay tuned.