Milan Report: Fresh From Slovenia, Nika Zupanc, a New Design Star

Will Nika Zupanc emerge as the furniture fair’s breakout name?

Day three of the Milan Furniture Fair is when fatigue sets in. After a few days at the fairgrounds and nights at Bar Basso, bloggers start tossing press kits to lighten their tote bags, and all those bent metal tables and faceted chairs begin to blur.

Nina Zupanc

Now is when visitors gravitate to new work that matters most. With the pooled intelligence of Twitter, the cool hunters are zeroing in on buzzy introductions from the Bourrellac Brothers, Tom Dixon and Maarten Baas.

Lolita Lamp

Crashing the boy’s club this year is Nika Zupanc, a young Slovenian product designer who softened the cutting edge last year with her Lolita Lamps (above) and looks like this year’s breakout star. She’s showing her distinctive style with Moroso and Moooi, two of the most prestigious brands, and at her own off-site installation entitled “I Will Buy Flowers Myself: Objects Gone Indescrete.”

tapisserie and phonique

Like the work itself, the title is at once girly and unsettling. Zupanc undercuts the high-end minimalism that still rules Milan with objects of female home life subverted by a touch of Goth. You might think of her as Martha Stewart crossed with “Eyes Wide Shut.”

tailored chair

Feeling, as opposed to thinking, is a dominent theme of this year’s show. Zupanc is spot on with a style she calls “emotional ergonomics.” It isn’t enough for an object to fulfill its function, has to hint at a story. It has to seduce you.


Visitors enter her installation through the front door of a monolithic dollhouse sweetened with white polka dots and puffs of faux chimney smoke.


Cocooned by curtains inside the dollhouse are a handful of domestic objects, including these cradles. The Milan show has produced a number of prominent female designers in recent years, most notably Hella Jongerius and Patricia Urquiola. Their success notwithstanding, Zupanc contends that the design field has largely ignored women and their experience in the home, in all its complexity. That’s the void she’s trying to fill.

Mrs. Dalloway

Zupanc designed this mini hot plate for Gorenje, a Slovenian appliance maker. She deliberately styled it after a fashion accessory, and named it Mrs. Dalloway, a reference to a Virginia Woolf novel about a woman’s party preparations. Like the rest of her work, it is functional and mysterious.