Salone del Mobile 2024 (AKA Salone del Check-in).

With 35 years of experience attending the Salone del Mobile in Milan, I feel confident in sharing my short perspective on this year’s Milan furniture fair.

The curtains have closed on another edition of the Salone, leaving me to reflect on the highlights and disappointments of the renowned furniture fair. As the dust settles, a sentiment seems to echo among visitors I’ve spoken to: a lack of innovation and originality among most of the industry’s major players.

In a sea of big brands, the landscape was cluttered with familiar products and recycled designs, leading to a sense of confusion rather than inspiration. The outdoor category, in particular, took center stage, with nearly every exhibitor showcasing their al fresco offerings. However, amidst the abundance of outdoor furniture, there was a distinct absence of groundbreaking design.

Rope, a nice recurring trend in recent years, made its presence felt once again, but -with few exceptions- failed to offer anything truly remarkable in terms of design innovation. Even companies, known for their innovative approach, jumped on the rope bandwagon with little to differentiate their offerings from the competition.

The long, knotty, world of the outdoors.

The dearth of originality seemed to prompt a nostalgic revival of designs from the 60s and 70s, complete with vibrant pop colors reminiscent of that era. This retro aesthetic extended beyond furniture, influencing even fashion brands who showcased rounded and curvilinear models in line with the pop trend.

Pop colors and retro look

Once again, Italian brands erected imposing barriers and huge walls, making the atmosphere at the Salone del Mobile darker than ever before and difficult to navigate.

…just another brick in the wall!

A significant issue with navigating the fair has arisen from the requirement of many companies to scan a barcode for access to their stands (yes! …long, annoying, nonsense check-ins!). This procedure entails enduring long queues, followed by waiting for a confirmation email before gaining access, resulting in congestion and delays throughout the exhibition corridors. Do companies truly comprehend the investment of time and money made by professionals, some traveling more than 20 hours from distant locations like Arizona (me), Japan, Australia, etc… to attend the fair? It’s not merely the cost of airline tickets, but also expenses for accommodations and meals in the most expensive city in Italy. Subjecting attendees to extensive waiting periods just to view some furniture is indeed shocking! In light of this, it’s worth noting that attendees must also register and pay to access the fair.

Fuori Salone? …no thank you!

I couldn’t help but notice a certain lackluster atmosphere, and frankly, I found the Fuori Salone events to be disappointingly underwhelming.As attendees depart the Salone del Mobile, they are left pondering the future direction of design and whether the industry’s biggest players will rise to the challenge of innovation or continue to rely on recycled concepts and trends of yesteryear. Only time will tell if the next edition will offer a more compelling vision of the future of furniture design.

Antonio Larosa

www.LarosaDesign.com

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Sustainability with style!

Happy to announce that the outdoor furniture selected for the main courtyard located on Albuquerque’s College of New Mexico campus consists mainly of the Garda and Loop collections.
The Garda modular seating system and the Loop collection were designed by Antonio Larosa for Florida-based Benchmark Contract Furniture.
Both collections, designed exclusively for public spaces, have structures made of solid aluminum that is powder-coated to specification. Seats for the modular Garda benches for the Albuquerque project were specified using composite wood-look slats.

 

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Committed to improving design education.

In the past 15 years, Antonio Larosa -as logical progression in his prolific career- decided to invest in new design talents by teaching and directing design programs at prestigeous American universities. Antonio’s teaching philosophy emphasized collaboration and hands-on projects, aimed at preparing students for the demands of professional design practice. He played a pivotal role in organizing study trips to North America and Italy, facilitating visits to design studios, galleries, museums, and factories, thereby broadening students’ exposure to the real-world design landscape.

As a professor and chairman, Mr. Larosa revolutionized furniture design education in North America by bridging the gap between academia and industry, enhancing curricular offerings, and fostering meaningful connections between students and the design profession. While he transitioned from academia in 2011, Antonio continues to contribute as a judge for design competitions and a guest lecturer on various design topics.

Renowned for his visionary approach, Antonio has spearheaded numerous innovative design initiatives in the United States, including the Furniture Revolution Gallery at NeoCon and the Furniture Design Summit—the inaugural conference dedicated solely to furniture design, which united manufacturers, designers, and students in a collaborative forum.

 

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The Rationalist GT Bench

Created for public spaces, the GT bench design was inspired by the Palazzo Terragni located Lissone, Italy. The building (pictured below) was designed in 1938 by the master of Rationalist architecture, Giuseppe Terragni.  The clean design of the bench, the selection of materials and finishes are blending together exceptionally. At first glance the bench even looks like a miniature Palazzo Terragni.  Larosa named the bench GT in honor of the rationalist architect and the city of Lissone but this product is also a masterpiece of sustainability as well. The simple armrest/handle is a universal design detail added to facilitate the use of the bench for the elderly or disabled …a useful aid to sit down and get up from the seat and -at the same time- allows two elderly people to sit next to each other (something that would not be possible in a traditional bench with arms located at both ends). Structure made of solid aluminum, seat made of composite wood slats or man-made stone. Antonio Larosa designed the GT bench from recycled materials and to be completely recyclable! …but seriously, who wants to convert into reusable material such a beauty? Buy GT and keep it forever!

 

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Another Tiny Design Tale.

In the year 2000, I found myself seated in Philip Johnson’s small, minimalistic personal office at the Seagram Building in New York, the very masterpiece he collaborated on with Mies Van De Rohe. Engaged in a conversation about furniture design over chilled Frappuccinos, I ventured to ask him, “Why not design furniture for some Italian companies?”. Johnson, wearing a surprised smile, responded, “I don’t know why you’re asking me.”
“Well, considering your status as the godfather of modern American architecture, I believe you could excel in designing furniture.” I said.
Still smiling, he replied, “Look, I’m not that great at designing furniture, but if you’re truly seeking an architect to design some furniture, don’t ask me. You should ask the architects I admire the most. I believe he would be the right person to design some very interesting furniture.” Taken aback by the response, I asked, “Who’s this person?” He answered, “Well, his name is Frank Gehry. I love his work, so you should talk to him.” I couldn’t help but laugh, exclaiming, “Wait a minute! I’m discussing furniture design with the most important architect on the planet, and you’re suggesting I talk to Gehry? Ha!” Johnson’s humility left a lasting impression, commemorated by a beautiful book about his life and work that he graciously signed for me …a cherished memento to this day.

Antonio Larosa