The Sights of i Saloni

The world’s preeminent furniture fair explores the future blending of our work and home lives.

Every other year the huge Milan furniture fair, i Saloni, gets even bigger with the addition of SaloneUfficio, comprised of several halls of workspace and contract furniture, and Euroluce, the international lighting exhibition.

The result is a massive, sprawling show that stands as a challenge for even the fittest of attendees—this year’s Saloni counted more than 2.2 million square feet of exhibition area and more than 2,000 exhibitors—but its unique vantage point on global design more than makes up for the size.

Interiors & Sources spent several days touring the fair to bring you the following highlights. With so much to see we had to be a bit selective. Our advice: start planning now to visit the next major commercial exhibition, Orgatec, in Cologne, Germany in the fall of 2014, and i Saloni again in April 2015. In the meantime, here’s a look at what was trending across the pond.

project: office for living
Renowned French architect Jean Nouvel, whose long list of global honors includes the 2008 Pritzker Prize, was asked by the Milan fair’s organizer, Cosmit, to re-imagine our work environments. The result, “Project: Office for Living,” was an experiential wonderland in the middle of Hall 24, inspired by his vision that our working world should incorporate mobility, conviviality, pleasure and fun.

“In 30 or 40 years’ time, we will be stunned to see just how unlivable most of today’s offices really were,” says Nouvel. “Grotesque clones, standardization, totalitarianism, never the merest hint of being pleasurable to inhabit.”

Pleasure in office living drove a quest for new materials and new technologies for creating comfortable, effective, user-friendly and ecologically-aware environments. “We need to inhabit our offices the way we inhabit our homes and cities, because we spend just as much time in the workplace as we do in our own homes, and everyone has a right to small pleasures—light regulation, location of elements, views, the right of expression through furniture and objects,” Nouvel adds.

The project featured several original scenarios that illustrated how outdated the traditional office already is:

  • A classic apartment transformed into an ultra-modern working environment, bringing the “nesting/cocooning” home trend into the office
  • A structured office made free-form with sliding walls, folding doors, careful lighting, moveable blinds and wall-mounted accessories
  • A warehouse setting that encourages non-methodical interaction between creative and technical workers and includes domestic-feeling loft spaces
  • Heterogeneity—a virtual cityscape of diverse, mobile, modular and stackable flat surfaces and shelving for piling and perching

seating: nature-inspired
Architect Franco Driusso, inspired by the natural connections of DNA and the leaves of trees, created the Kaleido contract seating modules for Kastel.

Driusso, of Driusso Associati Architects, created four interchangeable units for corner or linear solutions in mono- or bi-colored upholstery. The long elements can be joined at 120-degree angles, creating an angular continuity between the various seating units. Back to back, the design makes a dramatic three-spoked arrangement. A center module offsets the angled modules for a linear configuration.

“This is a free system of organic forms with very exact angles,” says Driusso. “This is why I chose a very warm material, felt, to offset the hard lines. I suppose it’s a little like traditional Scandinavian design.”

next-generation surfaces
Attendees may have also been surprised to discover that their love-hate relationship with laminates may have been resolved with the debut of two new surfacing products. Italy’s Officity debuted a new thermally fused laminate (TFL) material that stunned even materials experts with its silky warmth and textural realism. Durable enough for work surfaces, TFL is also economical enough for an integrated wall paneling system.

Perception play: Another TFL surface mixes a printed herringbone textile design with a woodgrain texture on this changing room locker from Gruppo P&G. Divorcing the visual from the texture creates surprising and unique effects on what might otherwise be a less-than-riveting fixture.

leaves in italian leather
The SICIS collection’s 2013 stand featured digitally printed leather seating designed by Alida Cappellini and Giovanni Licheri, who took their inspiration from the leaves of bamboo, birch, magnolia and oak trees.

i don’t want to hear you now
As working and public spaces become more fluid, oases of silence are becoming increasingly popular. Caimi Brevetti’s acoustic panels brighten spaces as they dampen acoustics.

Cocoons of silence: Noise isolation spaces are becoming frequent sights in workplaces, hotel lobbies and airport lounges, as the world around us grows louder. The Boss Design Group’s newest entry is both stylish and compact.

euroluce: bright ideas for lighting
Finally, this year’s edition of the Euroluce featured a wide range of imaginative, innovative designs, all made possible through new lighting technologies. In short, low-energy, low-heat LED lighting has liberated form from function.

This striking accent lighting, seen at the Catellani & Smith stand, featured a length of split flexible ducting with flowing water for a surreal effect.


Kenn Busch is a writer and photographer specializing in global materials coverage and education for architects and interior designers. He is based in Madison, Wis.