Launch Slideshow

Best in Show

It was back to basics at this year's Milan Furniture Fair, with a bumper crop of hardworking wooden chairs. But other trends, such as perforated and woven metal and creased and folded surfaces, added texture to the show.

Best in Show

It was back to basics at this year's Milan Furniture Fair, with a bumper crop of hardworking wooden chairs. But other trends, such as perforated and woven metal and creased and folded surfaces, added texture to the show.

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    PHOTO-PARSANI

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    Product: Pregnant chair Manufacturer: Moooi Website: moooi.com This prototype wooden chair by Australian designer Trent Jansen hides another, smaller version underneath the seat, which can be removed and replaced with ease.

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    Picture 1846

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    Product: Asymptote's Ivo table Manufacturer: Meta Website: madebymeta.com Asymptote's topographical table combines a steel-alloy base and slumped glass top.

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    Product: Asymptote's Ivo table Manufacturer: Meta Website: madebymeta.com Asymptote's topographical table combines a steel-alloy base and slumped glass top.

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    Product: Starck Shower Collection Manufacturer: Axor Website: axor-design.com Philippe Starck designed his latest bathroom collection for Axor (a division of Hansgrohe) using 12-centimeter-square metal plates.

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    product Starck Shower Collection manufacturer Axor website axor-design.com Philippe Starck designed his latest bathroom collection for Axor (a division of Hansgrohe) using 12-centimeter-square metal plates.

Noticeably fewer Americans attended this year's Milan Furniture Fair: Blame the plummeting dollar and sluggish Western economy for keeping them away. But with the luxury sector going strong and building still booming in the Middle East and Asia, there were a slew of product introductions, particularly from high-end manufacturers like Poggenpohl, which, as part of the biennial Eurocucina section, unveiled the P'7340 kitchen it created with the elite Porsche Design Group. Big names were also present in force. Axor, for instance, debuted bathroom collections by Philippe Starck, Antonio Citterio, and Jean-Marie Massaud.

If, at first glance, everything at the fair was business as usual, there was also a strong back-to-basics vein. This was visible in a resurgence of unpretentious, hard-working materials and straightforward forms, including a plethora of wooden chairs. Additionally, perforated and woven metal were featured in a variety of product types, from Tord Boontje's Rain series of tubular outdoor furniture to Heath Nash's Anemone hanging pendant lamp. And keeping the event from seeming too puritan, there was much sensual exploration of skins - upholstery with folds, crevices, and layers that serve as both structure and enclosure.

ARCHETYPAL SEATING
In the 20th century, chairs underwent a sea change, thanks to materials like plastic and technologies like injection molding. This year, designers returned to the archetype: the simple wooden chair. Take 29-year-old Dutch designer Wouter Scheublin's Frame chair for Established & Sons, its angular lines reminiscent of seats by his countryman Gerrit Rietveld. Artek dug into its archives to revive the Hallway Chair 403, a stackable birch model designed by Alvar Aalto in 1931-32. And Patricia Urquiola unveiled her Log Collection for Artelano, an airy yet substantial set of wooden furniture. Jasper Morrison created a hybrid that fused past and present: His Basel chair for Vitra boasted a beech frame with a seat and back made of super-thin, batch-dyed plastic. The most unusual off ering was the prototype Pregnant chair from Moooi, which features a smaller chair nestled beneath its seat.

WEAVES AND PERFORATIONS
Steel and aluminum are popular structural materials, prized for their strength, beauty, and durability. This fair, furniture manufacturers punched holes in the metal's surface or daisy-chained thin strands of it to lessen items' visual bulk and add a decorative edge. Small perforations were also prevalent: Porro's stackable Spindle seat, which Piero Lissoni fashioned from sections of chromiumplated wire; Moroso's Net chair, by Polish designer Tomek Rygalik, is fashioned to resemble chain mail. Elsewhere, a striking texture of beveled holes dotted James Irvine's Open System for Alias, while Emu's Ivy Collection of pregalvanized, painted-steel sofas, tables, and a chair was so porous that the pieces looked like they could float on air.

EXCEPTIONAL SKINS
Architecture's obsession with textured surfaces has been migrating to soft goods for some time, with 3-D textures appearing on products like Anna Kyyro Quinn's felt wall panels. Furniture proved the trend's next frontier, with exhibitors disrupting . at surfaces with creases, folds, and layered fabrics. The wrinkled and bunched upholstery on Cappellini's Sharpei chair was inspired by the dog of the same name, while the corrugated effect of the leather on Peter Traag's Sponge armchair for Edra is generated by the cooling of polyurethane foam injected directly into the upholstery. Asymptote's Ivo table for Meta moves the trend to metal, with captivating topography.

ARCHETYPAL SEATING
In the 20th century, chairs underwent a sea change, thanks to materials like plastic and technologies like injection molding. This year, designers returned to the archetype: the simple wooden chair. Take 29-year-old Dutch designer Wouter Scheublin's Frame chair for Established & Sons, its angular lines reminiscent of seats by his countryman Gerrit Rietveld. Artek dug into its archives to revive the Hallway Chair 403, a stackable birch model designed by Alvar Aalto in 1931-32. And Patricia Urquiola unveiled her Log Collection for Artelano, an airy yet substantial set of wooden furniture. Jasper Morrison created a hybrid that fused past and present: His Basel chair for Vitra boasted a beech frame with a seat and back made of super-thin, batch-dyed plastic. The most unusual off ering was the prototype Pregnant chair from Moooi, which features a smaller chair nestled beneath its seat.

Julie Taraska's work has appeared in over two dozen publications, including Metropolis, British GQ, and Icon.