INTERIORS+DESIGN for architects
MILAN 2013: AN ARCHITECT'S PERSPECTIVE

Barrie Legg, Creative Director, Johnson Naylor shares his time in Milan 2013 and envies a dog's comfortable mode of transport...

Arriving at Gate Oest with expectations and preconceptions of what we may find, and desperation for the first San Pellegrino, seeing the volume of people attracted to the fair immediately makes one instantly aware of the significance to our industry.

Making an effort, already carrying the inevitable free shoulder bag, after meeting up with my wonderful guide from SCP, we all start following a path, up the aisles and back, believing we have it 'cracked', and we will not miss anything.

How wrong can we be.

Conversations in the evenings and on return to London, at the airport, on the same flight, everyone can take away their own Fiera.

What sticks in the mind?

There was a cautious optimism, some more orthodox companies expressing their known and often wonderful products, in fresh materials, on-trend colour palettes or accessorised to the hilt. Nice browns seemed to be a recurring theme.

Other manufacturers allowing 'the designer names' to express themselves within the manufacturing context, with blind faith and enjoying the unresolved, almost prototype quality of product, even sometimes having the process on show.

I am sad to see the creep of closed-off stands, reminding me of the Pitti Uomo fashion fairs of old. Too precious and actually making anyone who specifies, inclined to ignore them.

Some stands were deliciously seductive, and helped to support the product and the brands wonderfully. Vitra being mobbed as usual, Knoll beautifully simple in execution - large white sheers, and jewellery-like hanging laser cut signage.

This year was the year of Euroluce and in innovation, this seemed an exciting show. Some fittings were sculpturally stunning - using materials and technology to finely detail joints and movement, shape and form in incredibly elegant ways (Wastberg).

Others were concerned with light and it's inherent qualities, and meant there was a huge joy in going from bay to bay, stand to stand, soaking in the new qualities of sculpting space with light.

Particularly enjoyable were the soft forms of the Vibia Cosmos display.

Note the colour palette referred to earlier.

Off-fair, many manufacturers were able to relax and fill unusual spaces, galleries, courtyards etc, and mix it up a bit. Mixed quality of products too though.

I hope everyone was lucky to see the Domus archive, and it's very special setting.

And although quite a small display, Droog once again, as always, turned ideas and preconceptions inside-out. The beautiful re-configuring of the colour palette used in Chinese vases - stunning, almost lathe-turned shaped vases in soft blended colours.

And the re-interpretation of parts of the collection of the Rijksmuseum was a joy. Definitely a trip to the new gallery is top of the list.

So a simple list of memories;

Vibieffe 235 - great relaxed sofas in raw edged suede - definitely for public spaces, pieces that can be put together to create a soft landscape, less corporate.

Cassina Infinito 835 - the wonderfully expensive classic shelving 835 by Franco Albini . Difficult to imagine how it could be any other height - and is only offered that way. On the same stand the large light by Le Corbusier for Cassina, Lampe de Marseille.

Bover Barcelona .. Amphora 02 .- large floor standing very low tech lights - especially in black. Great to see that re-defining of a very low-tech material.

Santa and Cole - wall sconces reminiscent of the Charlotte Perriand ones in black and red. a great fitting.

Vibia Puck - hanging groups of discs in soft colours and even softer light like soft floating planets. Wonderful.

Flos - Michael Anastassiades. Finely balanced and beautifully engineered.

Lasvit.. Jan Plechac and Henry Wielgus - Neverending Glory. A great idea and such beautiful product in glass.

Roll and Hill. A special chandelier - off fair but so worthy of note. See Spazio Rossana Orlandi.

Oh, and an interesting re-edition from the 70's by Walter Knoll of a leather chair - the Haussmann 310.

PS. Did anyone spot the terrier in a shopping trolley? - I would have loved that ride.

Johnson Naylor is a design practice based in Clerkenwell, London. The practice was founded in 1989 and works internationally providing interior architecture, furniture and lighting design to a wide range of clients.

The practice creates enduring, intelligent interiors; responding to our time. Expressive design that evokes emotion and gives a strong identity and greater value to the design.

Johnson Naylor are currently working on a wide range of projects including: Large scale residential developments, boutique apartments and private homes, marketing suites and retail design.