Crowds returned to Milan Furniture Fair after 2-year hiatus

MILAN (AP) — Italy’s furniture and design industry embraced the Milan Furniture Fair after a two-year pandemic delay with unapologetic, over-the-top statement pieces, multi-purpose furnishings adapted to small spaces, and sustainable creations by young designers pushing the industry toward a greener path.

After a surprising pandemic redecorating boom, the industry is looking to an uncertain future. There are raw materials shortages, higher transport costs and general economic uncertainty generated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Sales of Italian furnishings surged to 16 billion euros (about $16.7 billion) in 2021, a 16% increase over 2019 and 25% more than 2020.

Despite the murky outlook, the world’s premiere furniture and design fair, known in Italian as Salone del Mobile, kept the focus on innovation as it recorded a rebound in attendance during six days of previews that closed Sunday.

“Attendance was above expectations,” reaching some 400,000 at both Salone and collateral events that spill out into the city, said Alessia Cappello, Milan’s top economic development official. Two-thirds were from overseas.

Eye-catching novelties included an oversize gild-framed NFT; benches that convert to workstations or shaded beds for the homeless; and an elegant, dignified walker whose purpose was disguised by its sculpted shape.

“It was fantastic to be back at Salone del Mobile,” said Alana Stevens, president of the U.S. furniture maker Knoll. “Much more than a fair, rather a gathering of an incredible global community of those passionate about design. The intersection of designers, artists and the business of design was inspiring.”

German fashion designer Philipp Plein unveiled his inaugural furniture collection in collaboration with the Dutch brand Eichholtz, which has furnished many of Plein’s own homes in Europe and the United States.

Plein’s entry into home design closes a circle for the designer, whose first enterprise was designing dog beds. Fittingly, the new collection includes a leather dog bed on a golden frame for a well-appointed pooch.

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