Milan Furniture Fair 2012

With Milan fair over for another year, I thought I would post a little photo diary of my three day trip.

Week before the Fair

I did my usual checks to make sure that my hotel and flights were all booked and OK, and realised that I had booked both for a day too early, after a £60 change of flight charge I was back on track to fly out on Wednesday the 18th April.

With a 4.30am alarm call, the drive to Gatwick at that ungodly hour was uneventful and the airport was unusually efficient with very little queuing. I was lucky to the get one of the 3 front row seats with the extra leg room (I’m 6″5`), and for those who know me well, it will come as no surprise that I was asleep before some people had even boarded!!!

As we taxied on the runway, I was rudely awakened by a commotion at the back of the plane, someone had stood up or something, took very little notice and went happily back to sleep.

After a nice nap that lasted almost all the way to Milan, I awoke slightly better rested. On the bus from the plane to the terminal the Captain joined us, and he was duly interrogated about the person that had caused the commotion, and why he had to be restrained and handcuffed to the seat, with police waiting for him on the runway.  He gave very little away, except that this was the 6th time they had trying to deport him back to Italy, and the disturbance was his way of trying to be removed from the flight again.

Day 1

The Fair

For those who have never been or heard of Fuori Saloni (Milan Furniture Fair), it’s in the new Milan Fair Rho Pero and it`s one of the largest shows world-wide with 8 large pavilions for indoor exhibitions and 60,000m for outdoor exhibitions space. The Milan Fair is one of the most important in the international trade fair sectors, full of the best (and some of the worst) design products you will find anywhere. Here are my picks of the good, the bad and the downright ugly…

The Good



TAO design



45 Kilo

Dots design studio


Lights made with used coffee beans


Herb garden made with an old bed frame and plastic bottles



The Bad

…and The Ugly

Day 2

With the fair done, it`s now the time for the satellite shows dotted around Milan city. With 367 organised exhibitions from front rooms, to large warehouses not to mention all the other unofficial Street sides shows. The hippest area traditionally being Tortona.

Following another day walking for 12 hours: here’s the best of what I found.

Valcucine & DeMode

Full circle designed kitchen, made with mostly recycled materials. Once it has finished it’s life as a kitchen, Valcucine will collect it and recycle it, free of charge

Austrian Design



The best thing at Milan, an almost invisible electrical door… it’s amazing when you see detail working so well…

Molteni & C



Day 3

Woke up to painful calf muscles, following 2 solid days of pounding the fair and streets of Milan. Another good breakfast and back to Tortona to see the rest of what I missed the night before. It’s unfortunate that the area has lost its edge. The big companies have moved in and are trying to piggy back on the coolness of the previous years. But this is the best of what I found there.


spoil your pets


Glass which are a heaters or that change from clear to sandblasted. Neat.

With a new area having started in the north of Milan, I worked my way up to Via Ventura; this new frontier was full of the best that Milan can offer, and the coolest young designers around.


Wendy Maarten

EKBB Magazine – May 2012 Edition

We have an 8 page spread in Essential Kitchen, Bedroom, Bathroom magazine (May 2012) for a project we completed in North London. I have attached a few of the images of you to have a look at, hope you like them.





Street Furniture

In this time of doom and gloom, it’s nice to see that the (some) councils still understand that good design will rejuvenate a public space. This rejuvenation will in turn attract the customers back into the high street and regenerate a dead or dying town centre.

Here are some of the best examples of street furniture out there

‘Streeeeeet’ shopping trolley

Eindhoven-based designers Vincent Wittenberg and Guy Königstein have developed a series of
alternative street furniture for urban spaces. For their project entitled ‘streeeeeet’, the duo observed the habits of residents’ and there use of private chairs in public spaces. Although the arcades in front of the shops might be publicly used within the street, the area officially belongs
to the shops. Every morning the shop keepers place a chair in front of their stores and use it throughout the day.
Wittenberg and Königstein have proposed to the local council to replace existing public benches with an option that consists of individual seats. Working on a system similar to that of paying to use a shopping trolley at the supermarket, here, the bench itself is a docking station. Using a five shekel coin, one can release a seat and place it in a different spot. The deposit is returned when one brings the seat back.

Bed, sweat & fears…

Now we all know the importance of good nutrition and exercise but what about rest? Sleep has been found to be extremely important to well being. Historically, it was thought to be a passive state, however it is now known to be a dynamic process and that our brains are active during sleep. It affects our physical and mental health, and is essential for the normal functioning of all the systems of our body, including the immune system. The effect of sleep on the immune system affects one’s ability to fight disease and endure sickness. So how do we get a good night’s sleep and how do we choose the right bed? Bed design has moved way past box divans and sprung mattresses, but is it all just aesthetic design or is there function to modern creations?

Well the Lomme ‘Egg’ bed above combines light & massage therapy with a “special system which blocks harmful electromagnetic waves and radiation”. All very Space Age, and indeed will cost about as much as you’d spend getting into space (OK, about half Mr Branson). But what are the principles of sleep that matter, and can we apply them to a more earthly budget?

Firstly, you will notice that like this ‘People’ bed and wall panelling system from Pianca above, the majority are suspended from the floor on legs. This, traditionalists are very much against as it is seen as garishly modern or a dust trap. Well, the science here is pretty straightforward, and it is all about the human element. A component of dust is dead skin cells, but it isn’t the main ingredient nor is it the reason why there should be room below the bed frame. Yes it is there for air circulation, which will aid in dust removal, but it is principally to allow humidity to be drawn through the bed. Did you know that the average person losses around a pint of water per night? Some is due to respiration but mostly through perspiration (or more correctly transpiration). But in order to circulate, it needs to pass through the mattress first:

Now the Top Point 400 from Hülsta is a great example of how mattress technology should work. It has a combination of ‘memory foam’ and pocket sprung micro springs that allow for “moisture dispersion with vertical air channels and segmented surface”. Another unpleasant truth is that if this air flow isn’t maintained, then mould could build up inside the mattress. The coloured spring covers also signify multiple zones for body and spine support. But here is where we should really point out that a good mattress isn’t the only support you should have. In fact, even an ‘all-singing-all-dancing’ mattress won’t give your precious back the support it needs. For this, a good slatted base that allows circulation & provides support is required.

Hülsta impress again with their Level Flex base frame, with an attention to detail that is staggering. Each slat is made up of a composite of woods that are designed to remain stable, and then these are adjustable in the back and shoulder area to allow for maximum support where it is needed. The sharp eyed of you will note that this is a single frame, and the even keener will know that they only offer singles. Well, despite romantic notions to the contrary, people actually do not fall asleep in each others arms. In fact the widely employed ‘spooning’ involves one of you developing a dead arm, leading to the inevitable ‘roll away & sleep’. And when the ‘spooning’ affection moves onto something else- pick a side; your back will thank you for it! Happy hunting and Seamour says sweet dreams…

Fit for purpose

Fit for purpose; a phrase we bandy about quite often, generally to dismiss a beautiful object that is definitely a GNDN (Goes Nowhere Does Nothing). Looks great but is factually useless. But what about a beautiful object that is for the purpose of getting fit?

Occasionally, research into any given interiors project crosses over other fields of knowledge; nutrition, for example, in the designing of kitchens. Establishing dietary habits and advising on appliances to suit the client’s needs. Steam cooking retains more nutrients in the food, can thaw frozen foods, and may be preferable to a combination microwave option that pretty much nukes any nutrients altogether. We all know the importance of nutrition in our daily lives, and integration of this knowledge into kitchen design is becoming the norm. But the foremost in our minds, when associating with any process to achieve a healthier lifestyle is surely exercise. But in our world of considered design objects that reflect our personal tastes and aspirations, how do the modern home gyms shape up to our ever more discerning palette? Technogym serve up a great answer in the Kinesis Personal Fitness Equipment:

The Feng Shui minded will note the mirrors ability to draw in Chi energy, and I have to say that the system is pretty awesome. But you wouldn’t expect anything less from Antonio Citterio.

I like the wall bar option as well, giving added dimensions to stretching and mobility exercises. For those with the space, this system is pretty unbeatable. Talking about wall bars, this piece by Lucie Koldova combines form and function with simplicity:

Surprisingly, the trusty exercise bike features quite low in the design stakes. There are a few offerings out there, but none quite like this piece by Lamiflex; the Ciclotte stationary bicycle designed by Luca Scheippati (available at Skitsch- on show at Brompton Road during London Design Week). Full Marks Here:

But what if your space is somewhat more confined? Without the large apparatus, the ability to work on the large muscle groups, like pectoralis major (pecs or chest muscles) for example will inevitably require some form of bench. The average weights bench is more like a teenagers skateboard, adorned in lurid day-glow lettering and about as Zen as Duke Nukem at a Buddhist festival. So what is the answer for the more modest home gym bunny? Well this little kiddy, the Fitness Cube from Doymos is a good start:

It converts into a bench quicker than you can say ‘squat thrusts’, and you can attach handles to the cables poking out each side to give you 30 exercises with 8 resistance levels. And if the masculine black doesn’t grab you, the other choices may be of interest (faux zebra print anyone?). However, resistance machines with cables can be too constrictive in their rage of motion, and many personal trainers would argue that all you need for strength and power training modules in your exercise regime are free weights. With a set of dumbbells and a straight barbell you can isolate any muscle with ease, so to speak. And where to store all these items? Well, Gabriel Prero thinks in his Otto-Bench by Life Fitness:

As design objects go, the Doymos & Life Fitness offerings still come up a bit short. Especially when you compare them to this set of free weights in the form of the XO Philipe Starck dumbbells:

Let’s face it, you wouldn’t mind leaving those lying around the house. But for practicality of use, I love this set of interchangeable dumbbells that are compact enough to stow away easily, the Bowflex SelectTech adjustable dumbells:

Realistically though, most of us sport sore backs, aren’t interested in gaining muscle mass and suffer from a lack of time; symptomatic of the modern work ethic. In fact 70-85% of us will suffer some form of back pain at some point in our lives. The good news is this; that big resistance machine may not be necessary. The bad news is; you’ll be needing a gym ball and let’s face it, that exercise ball is often hospital blue, squeaky plastic and design ugly; you’d rather let the air out of it and re-pump it up than have it hang around the room like a bad smell. The focus of training for most of us should be on core strength and stability exercises, which help overcome the generic non-specific back pain that inflicts the vast majority. This is where the trusty gym ball comes into its own, and of course the odd well designed chair.

A prime example of which: the Saga by Bruno Mathsson. ‘The mechanism allows a range of movement thus reducing damaging compression on lumbar discs and thereby pain often caused by working in sedentary positions. The sculptured backrest is in firm contact with the lumbar region keeping the spine positioned in its natural S-shape and puts the user in an upright position.’ When it comes to backs, the motto should read; “Work hard; train hard”. Only by developing the core muscles that support the back will the sedentary nature of the issue be helped along.

Efua Baker (, one of the best personal trainers around notes: “The best way to address the challenge of maintaining a programme over time is to integrate exercise into your daily life”. Personal trainers can help design programmes that are effective and use simple tools that can sit comfortably in our designed home. And Efua has come up with the ideal answer to keep that exercise ball fit for purpose; make it a little bit sexy:

Great sofas, hotels & elephants

What makes a great sofa? Well, they say beauty is in the eye of the beholder and when it comes to sofas, there are definitely the good, the bad and the downright ugly. When choosing a sofa, where do you start- comfort, design aesthetic, function, shape, budget, size, or material? As we’re in the virtual world, we’ll assume budget is no object…

Let’s start with comfort as this is the most important prerequisite of a sofa (unless it’s designed to be uncomfortable, but we’ll talk about that later). Whether you’re looking for cutting edge or traditional, if it’s not good to sit on, it’s just not fit for purpose. End of story. Whether the cushions are made from feathers, foam or a combination of both; the sofa’s ergonomic design is paramount. Not too hard nor too soft, not too deep nor too shallow. Comfort, however, depends on what task you are undertaking. Ultimately, sofas have to multi-task as they aren’t just for relaxing in; they’re for reading books, enjoying fine conversation or munching carrot sticks & hummus whilst watching Grand Designs on the Thought Vacuum. This is where the geekier the sofa, the sexier it is. So, the good:

Stunning looks, three seating positions, various shapes & sizes, a great pedigree and colourways in the latest materials: the Reversi from Molteni & C. Pound for pound one of the best contenders out there; released after they nabbed the head sofa guru from B&B Italia, the quality in production is outstanding. Also good, for sheer quirkiness:

This little number above was the Zona Tortuna attention stealer from the Milan Furniture Fair earlier this year. It’s the Bobo (I’m quite sure not the pigeon English meaning) by a company called Zuiver, and is designed by Michael Kruijne. This is definitely not a GNDN (Goes Nowhere Does Nothing) piece of kit. It has multiple positions of varying degrees of comfort, and for the 6’4” something Morph Boys and the lovely petite lady on the stand, very satisfying to varying heights. This is definitely one to watch.

Now the bad boys; sofas designed to be uncomfortable but look great. Have you ever sat in a hotel lobby on the sofa with big over size cushions and gone ‘Ahhhh’? But after 5 minutes you start to move and squirm as they become unsupportive, engulfing you in sea of cushions?  Alternatively they throw in a log, with a fabric as high up the Martindale scale (see later) as possible pulled over it or perhaps a bed of nails and call it ‘ethnic inspired’. These sofas have been designed to make people move on, as the last thing a hotel wants are people making their lobbies look untidy and not spending money in the bar. The Sanderson Hotel in London demonstrates this beautifully, lobbing in some great pieces right next the Long Bar that you just want to look at and then shimmy over to spend an inordinate amount of money on some unpronounceable cocktail. Full marks!

Those two Kalos Apta chairs by B&B Italia’s Maxalto in the foreground aren’t so much chairs as they are ski slopes; an amazing balance between sitting down and someone pulling the chair out from under you. Don’t mention the rocks or Mae West’s lips… but they’re all beautiful, who cares…especially after a few Vespallinithingymawotsits?

Well, the function part really falls into one area outside adjustable seating positions: The Sofa Bed. Invariably not a comfortable bed or a comfortable sofa, it is one of those occasions when the combination of two objects has not worked; unlike a camera phone, a combination microwave or Matt Lucas & David Walliams. They all manage to offer something more useful than a chocolate fire guard, whereas the whipping boy of the sofa world doesn’t. Or does it?

The aptly named Bond sofa from Swan Italia certainly looks the part, but although often more shaken than stirred, I have not yet tried it myself for comfort.

The pinnacle of sofa design aesthetic has to be the Corner group. If you have the space, it’s a great option, but make sure that the scale of any sofa works for your room. There is nothing worse than an elephant in the room. In any good layout, the space left unfilled can be as important as the furniture that does. And when it comes to the Daddy of all sofas, few can shape up as well as this often copied piece:

Yes, yes, top marks you keen eyed design bunnies; it’s the Charles sofa from B&B Italia, looking resplendent in white leather. Speaking of which neatly brings me on to the subject of materials…

Of course leather is the top choice for durability and style, and there are some great faux leather products on the market that don’t involve slaughtering Ermintrude. Suede-like Alcantara is a fantastically durable man made fabric that may outlast the cockroaches after nuclear fallout, is also available in a myriad of colours for the brave of art and scores highly in the Martindale Test.  Most fabrics undergo the Martindale Test to check their durability and suitability for various uses, i.e., curtains, domestic furniture, and contract furniture. The test is also known as the Rub Test and it tests for abrasion (hence a bad day in the office is always blamed on someone called Martin Dale). The test gives a score in 1000′s of rubs. Domestic fabrics often have a rating of around 20,000 rubs. Generally, the higher the figure, the more suitable the fabric is for heavy usage. However, most companies Scotch Guard their fabrics or offer the service at extra cost. If so, take it; red wine rolls off it like water off a duck’s back. But if you are disillusioned with the choice on hand, have no fear COF is here. Customers Own Fabric is standard operating procedure with most companies these days, so you can tart off to Chelsea Harbour or head down the Kings Road with Interior Designer or client in tow, and pester the hell out of the charming minions from the great fabric houses.

What not to buy

Of course this is entirely subjective, as we move into the downright ugly territory. ‘Designer’ sofas from DFS, Land of Leather, and the like; now just because they call it a designer sofa, does not mean it’s been designed well. Not to mention that everything man has created has been designed by somebody at some point. There is a fine balance between form and function, and personally, I’m quite attached to my heels. Having a solid wooden skirting that protrudes beyond the padding below the seat, is a recipe for disaster of Hellenic proportions. Anyway, sound the trumpets and look out; the elephants are coming:

Written by Luke Williams and Dyfed Price of Morph Interior; follow @Interiorporn and @MorphInterior for more of the same…