Howard Sullivan: 5 Design Trends Taking Root In 2013

Howard Sullivan: 5 Design Trends Taking Root In 2013

The principle at YourStudio shares what's hot coming out of Milan Design Week.

Howard Sullivan, YourStudio
  • 12 may 2013

YourStudio is a London-based interior design agency who work with clients worldwide to create thoughtful and inspiring brand and workspace interiors. They’ve identified 5 trends at Milan Design Week in Italy, this past April 9-14th. Read on below to see their take on what’s hot in the design world.

Fat Shapes

With a propensity for button-backed and retro-style furniture and upholstery (mainly harking back to the 50s and 60s era (Mad Men!) having taken hold over the past 5 years or so, behold, there is a revolution in design forms which is a stark contrast to the polite silhouettes we’re used to.


Many designers this year embraced the notion of creating forms that verged on the ugly and over-inflated, but this is a definite anti-design statement against the ‘tasteful’ mid-Century modern style that has now, unfortunately, become a predictable cliché. The Eames chair has, to its detriment, become a stock feature of many estate agents’ glossy marketing pamphlets for white-on-white penthouse interior design schemes.


The work on this page however, shows there’s a move towards a new voluminous style of furniture and form which was very present in Milan this year. This almost ugly style is very evocative of the work of art-led 70s and 80s led designers from Gaetano Pesce to Memphis. This ‘awkward’ style, where combinations of materials, form and detailing deliberately jar is definitely part of a very new and rising design trend. From ‘Un-design’ in fashion, be prepared for ‘Un-design in furniture- it will definitely be a big thing.


Casual Upholstery

Slouchy upholstery was all the rage in the 70s and 80s with the famous Togo sofa by Michel Ducaroy which is still in production by Ligne Roset today. This year’s Milan Furniture Fair showed we’re set to see many of these relaxed, floppy sofa forms making a comeback. Atelier Oi’s suites for Moroso cleverly bind what looks like an oversized blanket over a generously padded seat with prettily- coloured looped steel. The remaining valance of fabric flops onto the floor around the base, creating a pretty and welcomely uncomfortable trim.


Edra’s On the Rocks airy-looking sofas designed by Francesco Binfaré, form soft, boulder-like shapes, upholstered in airy-looking fur-textured fabrics. Edra’s Standard Sofas in pale sky blue and white chenille formed a cloudscape of sofas in the middle of their stand at iSalone which felt soft, squidgy and inviting.


This family of pieces feel like an evolution away from the ubiquitous slabby corner sofa suites that many of us have become familiar with in our homes and these definitely provide something aesthetically new and nicely not-quite-tasteful in a tasteful way, to replace them with.


Natural Shades

There will always be a space for natural, neutral materials and the expression of craftsmanship. What was interesting about this year’s Milan Design Week was the use of quite unusual natural and natural-looking materials, from the use of loofah sponge for seat padding by St. Martin’s graduate Fernando Laposse to the combination of neon twine wrapped around raw, untreated wood for Patricia Urquiola’s Mathilda chair for Moroso.


Quite an unusual take on the properties of wood was designer Jennie Peiz’s use of it for Kraud to create standard and pedestal lamps with a 2″ thick hand- made lathe-turned wooden shade. These took the concept of light source to another level, where the light from these magnificent objects was just cast in an alluring halo from small circular openings at the top and in the bottom of the ‘shades.’ Japanese design studio Nendo perfectly crafted bentwood to create simple yet elegant carver chairs and curved mirror frames for their Splinter range exhibited at Spazio Pontaccio.


Neapolitan Colors

Pastels are making a come-back! Yes, it’s true. It was really clear from Milan this year that the ice-cream coloured pastels we associate with the ‘80s are the definite new palette of materials to be on our top list of contenders for interior and material finishes this year. In a commitment to this trend,Vitra recoloured their classic Hang it Up coathangers by Charles and Ray Eames in pastel shades to match each of the colourways of their room settings for the fair.


The best title of them all which summarised this trend and the happinness behind it was Werner Aisslinger’s Bikini Landscape, a collection of furnishings, upholstered seating, curtains and a table in a medley of Neapolitan colours for Moroso.



Following on from green planted walls in stores like Anthropologie in London’s Regent Street, it was clear at this year’s Milan that planting is a big thing. When you walk around the industrial halls at iSalone, full of stands from different furniture companies, it’s amazing how good it makes you feel to be surrounded by foliage. As the awareness for the importance of wellbeing at work for members of staff increases, I think Milan showed just how important a place greenery should take amongst interior environments.


From hanging giant macramé planters to stacks and stacks of plans put together in mini-jungles, I think we are going to see more and more emphasis on green space within our work and shopping spaces.


With the modern urbanite relying more and more on pot planting for balconies and terraces rather than having the luxury of their own garden, I think Milan showed how to do this kind of planting in style.


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