Milan Report: Furniture Gets the Whirlies

Are the straight lines of modernism giving way to the rickety and wobbly?

First, a history lesson: 500 years ago the harmony and high grandeur of Renaissance painting and architecture yielded to a new style characterized by distorted forms, awkward balances and lurid theatrics. Scholars called it Mannerism.

Fireplace by Snode Vormgevers

A new kind of Mannerism will attend the Milan Furniture Fair when it opens next week. As modernism begins to loosen its grip designers (particularly the Dutch contingent) are showing a warped and contorted version of its clean surfaces and straight lines, like this fireplace by Snode Vormgevers.

sculpt by maartan baas

The New Mannerism, as we’ll call it, was hinted at last year when Maarten Baasshowed his Sculpt series (above), with its wavy, wobbly lines. Julie Lasky, former editor of I.D. magazine, said its stumpy profile reminded her of Bedrock, home of the Flintstones. Wilma!

clay by maarten baas

Baas’ earlier collection, called Clay, was modeled by hand over a steel frame to assure that each piece was quirky and unique, as if in reaction against modernism’s mass production. “The less the thought,” he said, “the more the joy.”

What It Is, It Isn't

Design trends often turn up and then vanish, like trial balloons that never pan out. But the New Mannerism looks like it’s gaining momentum, with a healthy representation at this year’s fair, including this cockeyed dresser called, “What It Is, It Isn’t,” by Nathan Wierink and Tineke Beunders of Ontwerpduo.

slow white

Is the New Mannerism a cousin of the green movement? Bo Reudler, another Dutch designer, seems to think so. In designing his Slow White collection (above), he says, he walked in a forest, communing with the surroundings and breathing in the scent of wood. As he gathered branches for fabricating his work, he tried to capture some of nature’s randomness and complexity. “We’ve lost our connection with nature and our surroundings. This century will be about renewing this connection.”

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