Launch Slideshow

Postcards from Milan: The Immersion Method

Postcards from Milan: The Immersion Method

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Day three of the Salone meant a return trip to the Rho fairgrounds northwest of the city. (Note to future fair-goers: The suburban train line from Milan's Stazione Centrale is much, much faster than the subway. And the conduttori never come along to collect the fare.) 

Everyone here has their own approach. The Fiera Milano encompasses nearly 4 million—repeat: 4 million—square feet of exhibition space, so there's no right way to make one's way through the shed-like pavilions. An editor of a European shelter magazine was seen toting around a vast scroll-like spreadsheet, a color-coded calendar with all of the events, openings, and meetings she felt compelled to attend. Another attendee, an interior designer, came all the way from Miami to go to just three booths. "FLOS, Vitra, and Knoll," he said. "That's all you need." 

Our preferred approach is the 'Immersive Method': Dive in and see what happens. Yesterday we began with SaloneSatellite, the young designers' annex. Highlights there included Tania da Cruz's enchanting brown booth, with lamps and walls covered in a blocky, ruggedly textured cork. (Marcel Proust, whose Paris apartment was lined in the stuff, would have approved.) Design group Hillsideout also made a strong impression, their antique-looking chairs, desks and bookcases made from recycled furniture found around their hometown of Bologna that the duo tricks out with patterned glass and concealed lighting elements. 

And yet, for all the beguilingly contemporary Pallucco ceiling pendants and Moroso Dumbo chairs, it should be said that not all of Salone is about cutting-edge contemporary design. Apparently it caters to other tastes as well. Walking into one of the lower-numbered padiglione, a section we'd never visited before, we made a remarkable, slightly shocking discovery: The not-very-heavily-trafficked pavilion was occupied by—how to put this—the kind of thing that very wealthy arms dealers from the Caucasus might put in their city homes. Anyone for a 3-foot-tall porcelain ballet-dancer figurine?