I had the pleasure recently of visiting Salone del Mobile in Milan as a guest of DFS. It was my first trip to the renowned furniture fair, which received almost half a million visitors over six days, from 188 different countries. I have wanted to visit Salone for years, but I never had the chance so when DFS invited me I was over the moon. I’d heard from lots of people that the fair was enormous and really quite overwhelming so being able to attend for the first time with people who had been there and done it before, was a very comforting thought.
The DFS design team visits the show every year, in order to gain insight on design trends and to help inspire and inform their upcoming product designs. They asked if I would like to join them so that they could show me around Salone and explain how they take inspiration from high end furniture and democratise these designs in order to bring great design to the masses at an affordable price.
As you know from the many, many interviews that I have featured here on the blog (I just checked and there are 51 interviews, can you believe that?) finding out more about the story behind the products, the inspiration of the designer, and the design process is something that really interests me. So being able to attend the fair and hear directly from the designers was really appealing. I love interrogating designers!
So I packed my hand luggage and my comfiest shoes and headed off for a day of trend spotting at Salone del Mobile in Milan. I had the pleasure of meeting the DFS team for dinner where I was able to learn a little bit more about DFS. I have to admit I didn’t know a great deal about how the company operates before my trip. I knew that they have factories in the UK (in Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire) and that their furniture is handmade to order. And I also knew that DFS is the biggest sofa manufacturer in the UK. But I didn’t know that it also operates in the Netherlands and Spain and employs more than 3,600 people throughout its operations.
During the meal I was able to learn more about the relationship DFS has with its partner brands, such as French Connection and Joules. I learnt more about the buying process and I had a good look through the latest DFS lookbook, which I have to say is worlds away from their (rather uninspiring) website and stores.
The next morning we were met at Salone by the design team and we were split into groups for our tour. Myself and Lucy, from Lucy Loves Ya were sent off with Rob and Ash who took us to explore halls 5-7. I was like a child in a sweet store. There were beautiful things everywhere. Luckily though Rob and Ash had already had a look around the previous day so they were able to show us the highlights and point out some of the trends that they had spotted. And it’s those trends that I want to share with you today.
(You’ll have to excuse the bad photography. I’m not that great with a camera anyway let alone inside a poorly lit exhibition space).
One thing that really stood out to us was the fact that there was a distinct lack of printed pattern to be seen. In fact, where pattern was used it was woven rather than printed and was achieved more through texture which was probably the most prevalent trend that we spotted. We definitely saw a more organic form of decoration that was achieved by mixing up different materials within one piece of furniture. Textured wools and open weaves were layered with soft leather, suede (so much suede…suede was everywhere!!), velvet and wood.
The defining materials of the show were, without doubt, suede, nubuck, leather, velvet, open weave and long pile fabrics.
2. Defining Details
What was really nice to see was the amount of craftsmanship that went into the pieces on display. This strong emphasis on upholstery craftsmanship was evident through the exposed top stitching and prominent seams that we saw. Many sofas also featured flange detailing (where a thin fold of fabric is sewn into a seam), Turkish corners, pleating, quilting and weaving.
3. Organic Shapes and Defining Form
When it came to shape, we identified that curved and more organic shapes were a major trend at the show. We noticed a lot of curved L-shapes, as well as both relaxed and formal sofas and chairs that had a distinctly cocooning feel to them. We spotted a fair few boxy pieces of furniture but these often had a much softer form, many of them also having really wide, inflated arms. We also saw a fair few hexagonal shaped sofas and footstools. It’s interesting to see that hexagons have now trickled down into furniture design as well. I wasn’t expecting to see that.
4. New Neutrals
I must say, I really enjoyed seeing the selection of colours that were on display at Salone. I didn’t really know what to expect. Trends seem to move so very fast at the high end of the spectrum so I wasn’t sure if we would be seeing lots of ultra violet purple and caliente red as per the colour of the year announcements for 2018 or whether the industry would have already moved on to the next big colour trends. But I also wasn’t sure if we’d still be seeing pieces in colours from previous colour of the year announcements. But I can confirm that we pretty much saw all of that and more.
The greens and blues that have been popular in recent years were still going strong. We saw natural shades of soft blue and green palettes, with powder blue, sage green and light turquoise providing calming backdrops alongside a mix of blue-grey and green-grey neutrals.
However, these shades were also paired with lighter neutrals of stone, mink and off-white for a calming selection of colours. But we also saw many pieces that were accented by higher saturation hues of cherry, wine and brick red, burnt orange and palettes of yellow. These earthy tones really reminded me of a spice market as I was walking around. I really enjoyed seeing these neutral, natural colour palettes and it made me excited to see what direction this will take in our homes. I can imagine these tones working really well with the Global Nomad trend I wrote about a few weeks ago.
I would never have noticed this trend had Ash and Rob not pointed it out to me as we walked around, but apparently metal feet featured on many of the sofas at Salone. Bold ski legs in dark metal were often mixed with soft fabrics, shapes and colours for a contemporary contrast look. There were also pieces that included powder-coated steel legs and plinths in colours from pastel through to vibrant blues, which gave those pieces a much more playful appeal.
Where metal legs or feet didn’t feature, the trend was for sofas to go straight to the floor, with a boxy silhouette.
GET THE LOOK
Normally, when you go trend spotting at these big international fairs, the trends that you come away with may already be apparent at the very high end of the spectrum, but they may take a year ot two to filter down to the high street. So I was expecting the DFS designers to tell us that there would be a lengthy wait before we could see something similar being put out by DFS for their customers. I was surprised to learn that there are already a few models in the range that have preempted some of these trends.
The new DFS French Connection Hoxton range blends a mixture of organic textures with wood, leather and linen. It also features the pillow upholstery we saw by way of large oversized bed pillow cushioning, which creates a more slouchy, informal seating experience. The Hoxton range also clearly shows the trend for upholstery craftsmanship. The small leather details that hold the cushions onto the frame are a really nice touch here.
The leather sofa seen here with the Hoxton is the Hackney, which is also from the French Connection range. If you look closely you can see the ski-style metal legs.
The Melody sofa from DFS (below) also meets the criteria for the trend towards upholstery craftsmanship. This particular sofa features the on-trend flange detailing combined with mixed fabric textures.
The other pieces seen below are also already available from DFS and show some of the trends that we spotted. The DFS Play footstool, is seen here in mustard velvet with the copper legs. The Etienne 3 seater sofa seen here in duck egg features the ogranic curved shapes that we identified and is in that muted blue-green tone that we saw.
Above you can see Viera 3-seater leather sofa in Bordeaux. This has the boxy shape, the wide arms and the higher saturation colour palette that we saw. And finally the Sophia patterned accent swivel chair in the same muted natural shade of bluey green with the pattern coming from the texture and featuring the metal legs.
So there is no need to wait if you want to get in on the latest trends that were spotted in Milan. DFS already has your back! However, I’m really excited to see what the designers come up with based on the inspiration that they took away from the show. I’m hoping to be able to follow along on that journey as well so stay tuned and hopefully I’ll have more to report soon.
I’d really like to take this opportunity to thank DFS for inviting me to Milan and sponsoring my trip by paying for my travel and accommodation for the night.