The Milan furniture fair, or Salone del Mobile.Milano, is one of the most essential events in the entire design industry. While the fairgrounds are dedicated to presenting new product launches, the city’s many palaces, galleries, showrooms, and courtyards are always bustling with inspiring exhibitions – and guests lined up to get in! Here are the Finnish Design Shop team’s favorites from the design week.
The Still Life exhibition, curated by designer Gabriel Tan, was shown in the home of a Milanese couple in the Porta Venezia district of the city. The intimate exhibition featured lighting, textiles and furniture from Secto Design, Sera Helsinki, Ariake, and others. The exhibition was like an oasis of calm amidst all the busy and even exhausting hustle and bustle of the fair, and we loved the fact that both new and classic furniture were brought into a real Milanese home – a true flash of inspiration!
The Still Life exhibition was designed by a supremely distinguished team, among them Norm Architects, Philippe Malouin, Staffan Holm, and Claesson Koivisto Rune. And best of all was the very natural inclusion of the Finnish designers Laura Seppänen, Anna Pirkola and Peeta Peltola, who designed the beautiful carpets for Sera Helsinki. The dark-hued and atmospheric Still Life was one of the highlights of Milan in 2023.
Fiskars x Camper
A completely different atmosphere was created by Camper and Fiskars, who joined creative forces for the exhibition. Camper is a traditional Mallorcan shoe company that has attracted well-deserved hype under the creative leadership of the Finn Achilles Ion Gabriel. Fiskars, founded in Finland in 1649, needs no introduction in its home country. The surprising collaboration between the two brands celebrates values important to both of them, and the freedom to create.
Camper’s new shoes have been given a black finish in addition to the familiar Fiskars orange, and are designed for “avid gardeners and intrepid explorers alike” – a true all-rounder, then. The shoes come with Fiskars turning scissors, which also do double duty as a key fob.
The collaboration was launched at Camper’s Milan showroom, where an installation by Madrid-based artist Filip Custic was on display.
Marimekko took part in the design week with an exhibition showcasing their upcoming capsule collection created with Sabine Finkenauer. The German-born and Barcelona-based artist has created exclusive geometric, abstract patterns for the brand that are iterated on a range of Marimekko’s home products. The hand-drawn patterns are charmingly "imperfect", emphasizing and celebrating Finkenauer's unique handprint.
Our team fell in love with the Galleria il Milione installation, which took the visitor through Finkenauer’s creative process from the first sketches to the final products. For the exhibition itself, Marimekko partnered with the Finnish company Durat, known for its vivid composite material made of recycled plastic granules. The space featured, for example, a long and winding Durat table, with a delightful contrast of a casual table setting followed by strict lines of Oiva tableware.
We also liked how the pine wood of the Vaarnii furniture stood out from the overall color scheme, as well as how Finkenauer’s fabrics looked when they swayed in the wind outside of the gallery. Ah, you can’t beat Milan in spring!
Muuto once again relied on the power of color and texture – and the result was a joy! The H+O Apartment gallery in Brera, Milan featured a selection of Muuto products, whose colors, materials and textures created a delightful dialogue with the classic and modern surfaces of the space. The exhibition was created by Muuto and Josephine Akvama Hoffmeyer and Elisa Ossino of the design studio H+O.
The Danish brand GUBI’s exhibition was definitely one of the most impressive, not least due to the fact that it was held at the iconic Bagni Misteriosi, ‘the mysterious baths’. Built in the 1930s and beautifully restored, the open-air swimming pool actually hosted several exhibitions: indoors, the TEN installation celebrated the decade-long triumph of the Beetle chair and offered a sneak peek of lighting launches from Gianfranco Frattini and Paavo Tynell, while the open-air space was dedicated to GUBI’s outdoor concept Under the Sun.
Our team was particularly in awe by the outdoor area with its magnificent swimming pools lined with table sets and seating. The Pacha Outdoor lounge chairs, Tropique dining sets and other GUBI beauties really came to their own in such a lavish location!
In Milan, Artek participated in an exhibition by Japanese architect Daisuke Motogi, in which a hundred of Alvar Aalto 60 and E60 stools were “hacked” and transformed into something else, with parts added or removed. The Hackability of the Stool exhibition has previously been shown in Japan and China, and from Milan it will travel to Vitra Campus as part of the Art Basel event. This exhibition was fun, creative, and brought a smile to our faces!
We still remember the Norwegian Presence exhibitions in Milan from years past, where Norwegian designers showcased their skills – and sure enough, we were convinced again this year. The focus this time round was on the circular economy and the community of designers.
One of our favorite items was the C2S armchair by Stine Aas and Siv Støldal, which combines three handmade wool blankets with a metal frame. The name C2S, apparently, comes from the rating used to assess the quality of wool – and this is the lowest. The pigmented wool from the Norwegian Spælsau breed of sheep used in the chair is not much in commercial demand, but is now getting a whole new lease of life in the design world. The exhibition architecture and styling was the work of Kråkvik & D’Orazio.
The Habitarematerials exhibition in Milan was part of the larger Alcova exhibition curated by Joseph Grima and Valentina Ciuff. Habitarematerials Milano consisted of exhibition architecture, model pieces from Finnish material suppliers, and unique items of furniture made of materials from companies.
NEMO Architects has designed an experiential material library based on the democratization of design. The idea is to let visitors jump around, mix colors and materials, and create something new – and that’s just what happened in Milan.
“Bringing Habitare materials to Milan is part of Habitare’s internationalization, which we have been advancing systematically in small steps since 2016. Habitarematerials is a highly participatory exhibition concept, and is thus a new way of being present in Milan. We are particularly pleased to showcase Finnish material suppliers that operate responsibly,” says Habitare creative director Laura Sarvilinna.
The exhibition featured 14 Finnish companies, among them Cover Story, Durat, Johanna Gullichsen, Pihlgren ja Ritola, Sera Helsinki, and VM Carpet.
On show for the first time in Milan, designer Joanna Laajisto’s new Centenniale table for Nikari got our team sighing with delight. We do have to admit that we might be a tiny bit biased – Laajisto has also designed the amazing interiors of our office in Turku.
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After we got the sighing out of our system, we heard that Laajisto really wanted to focus on the material and celebrating its essence for this design. The wood used to make the table is over 100 years old and therefore bound to have cracks, knots, color variations, and other marks often regarded as defects. According to Laajisto and Nikari, though, we should instead cherish and embrace these features as they are what give the material its character. And we couldn’t agree more!
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Text: Mikko Vaija and Emmi Ratilainen