Milan furniture fair 2011: Let the insanity begin


The Milan furniture fair, a design frenzy that dwarfs this city’s famed fashion week in size, doesn’t officially open until Tuesday. But already the wine, the pretensions and the genuinely good ideas are flowing freely, as in the best of years.

The first media previews were held at showrooms and special installations today, giving furniture designers and manufacturers an early chance to present just-finished prototypes and to tout new collections for 2011.

It’s fitting that the day started with what has to be the world’s largest Google Maps marker: a giant pointed dot and mirrored letters set outside La Triennale di Milano, Milan’s design museum. In the days to come, we plan to put you in Milan — to show you the best work exhibited at the fairgrounds, the world’s largest exhibition space, soon to be visited by more than 100,000 people. We also will take you to the premieres, the installations and the sometimes-ludicrous stunts staged in the city’s various design districts. (No word on the price of a Mini Cooper chandelier.)


Audacity bordering on insanity is part of the fun here, but it seems fitting to end the first Milan post with a piece of furniture that I actually could imagine in a lot of homes. The Koi chair from London-based Innermost was one of the pleasant surprises at Design Junction, a showcase of mostly British firms in the Zona Tortona neighborhood.

Koi is something of a beautiful illusion: What at first looks to be stainless steel turns out to be thick wrought iron — dozens of arcs welded by hand in a fish-scale pattern. The result manages to feel hefty and substantial yet look remarkably light, almost effervescent. It’s at once industrial and artisanal, tough yet elegant, simple yet complex.

Innermost-Jarrod-Lim-cushioThe chair’s designer is Jarrod Lim, who worked for two years in Patricia Urquiola’s studio before starting out on his own. He said the inspiration for Koi was the humble wrought-iron gate design that was so ubiquitous in Singapore, where he now lives. Those hand-crafted iron pieces are being supplanted by machine-made aluminum gates, Lim said, so his intent is to revive the material, the design and the craft by translating the fish-scale pattern into outdoor furniture, finished with a teak seat and optional cushion. I’m hooked.

Stay tuned for more posts all week. You also can follow me in Milan via Twitter: @cnakano.

– Craig Nakano

Photo credit: Craig Nakano / Los Angeles Times


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