We've covered the current trend for wobbly, mottled design at Milan. But the dominant aesthetic is still decidedly minimal: Stripped down and super clean, a perfect fit for that cavernous, $10 million downtown loft. These designs can blur together into a jumble of primary colors, but designers have tackled minimalism in distinct ways. Here's a roundup of the design strategies at hand.
Naoto Fukasawa, one of the design minds behind Muji, remains the acknowledged master of the barely-there. This week in Milan, he unveiled three new lights for Panasonic Electric Works. They might look familiar at first glance, but still bear Fukasawa's tell-tale (and fanatical) attention to detail--notice the strikingly smooth joinery between the electric cord and lamp bell:
In two works for Magis, Pierre Paulin took a similar tack, stripping away anything inessential. For a bookcase, that meant elimanating one side from each of the storage cubes; for a chair, he reduced a familiar Art Deco chair design, to a shadow of its former self:
I personally can't help but laugh at this witty piece by Matthew Hilton for SCP, which manages to evoke your grandfather's La-Z-Boy in a totally minimal vernacular:
More Japanese design. Here, Nendo's cabinets for Quodes are utterly plain but perky at the same time:
But there are two other, slightly different takes on minimalism worth noting. The first you might call Minimalism+, which embellishes just a couple details, to great effect. The other I'd call elemental design--laying bare the workings and assembly of a piece, to make it seem somehow more functional.
Here's a few examples of Minimalism+. Stefan Diez's Houdini chair for e15 is made of oak, and seems utterly simple, until you realize the complexity of joining all those offset panels of wood:
The Nuance chair by Luca Nichetto is both totally simple and extremely bold. The individual bands that form the chair are colored in a grade, like a tiny chunk of rainbow:
Jin Kuramoto's pendant lamps serve a double function as vases, creating an interesting echo when the two pieces are paired with each other, while making the colors into a big, bright signature:
Arne Quinze's bookshelves are made of parts that individually are fairly bland. The only tweak is that they're thrown together in a seemingly haphazard way:
Peter Marigold is pulling a similar trick here, in shelves for SCP. The finish is intentionally bland, so that it quiets down a rollicking shape:
The Satellite cabinets by BarberOsgerby have just enough tweaks in the lines and legs to stand apart from similar designs:
Last up is the trend I mentioned before, elemental design, which lays bare how the furniture works or was put together. Check out these tables by Konstantin Grcic for SCP, which wear their functional parts like a badge of honor:
Marina Bautier's modular seating looks extremely...modular. And purely functional, with a bolted on lamp on the side:
The Nomad Table by Jorre van Ast is nearly unadorned--except for the threading at the top of legs, where they join with this table top. The threading doesn't screw in all the way--like a real screw would--so that table always tells you that the owner had to put it together herself:
Read more coverage of Milan 2009.