The Milan Furniture Fair  is still two weeks off, but editors and bloggers (many of whom will be staying home this year) are already studying advance photos of new works for telltale signs. In this year of uncertainty, nobody knows which way the wind will blow.
The fair, which is the most influential design event by a wide margin, is a five-day marathon of exhibitions, installations and parties--all of which compete for make-or-break buzz. This year it will be hard to upstage Love Design, an exhibition of sex toys and other objects "that question the very meaning of the word 'love,' the beginning and the end of what binds us together and tears us apart." The 20 works are drawn from a book  of the same name published this month by Daab Press , a German publisher known for a mix of design and erotica.
Why is sex stepping up alongside sofas and sconces at this year's fair? For one thing, sex toys have become a big business, and Milan is all about business. They may also be seen as an antidote to the downbeat mood which will no doubt oppress both the sprawling fairgrounds and the modest exhibitions tucked in the back of courtyards. As the coverage gets under way in the weeks ahead it's likely some reports will spin Love Design as a sign that the design community is searching for a human touch after years of modernist austerity. Below is a sampling of what will be shown.
Powered by Arik Levy , an Israeli-born product designer, is a wood jar with an extractable vibrator.
Alexa Lixfeld , a former fashion model based in Hamburg, created a cutlery collection called Metamorphose in which the spoons are half-formed female figures and the forks are male.
Matali Crasset , one of the more inventive young French product designers, made a sex toy called 8ème Ciel (or 8th Heaven) with eight metal balls that move freely inside a silicon massage pad.
This bedside lamp by Matteo Cibic  is part of a series of household furnishings that double as pleasure devices. In this case, the lamp changes color when a silicone sex toy is removed from its base.
Vessel One by Adam Farlie  is a bed that records intimacies, conversations and incidental stirrings and replays them at random intervals as “audio-memories.”
Traces of an Imaginary Affair by Björn Franke  is a set of nine tools which can be used to create bite marks, scratches and other signs of an imaginary affair. Why would anyone need such a thing, you might ask? Franke says he designed the tools after hearing about people who faked affairs to provoke jealous attention from their partners.
Waveform by Sakurako Shimizu  is a collection of necklaces and rings laser cut in the shape of digital sound waves representing the voice of French actress Jeanne Moreau reading a love poem called “Cet Amour” by Jacques Prévert.
Belly Button by Romain Gnidzaz  and Marie Lambertis is tableware with a midriff touch.