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MILAN — Across Milan, from the big, raw show spaces of leafy Lambrate, with their peeling paint and concrete floors, to the sprawling Fiera, where brands large and small show their latest wares, designers were in a playful mood.

This story first appeared in the April 19, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

They mixed the hard with the soft, stitching brightly colored yarn onto rustic wooden chairs at Moroso, and encouraged fair goers to play with magnetic wallpaper at Vij5, or bits of fabric upholstery for benches at Tuyo Design Studio.

“We like playful things, we like our furniture to be a game, and for people to have a close relationship with the object,” said Maria Margarita Garcia Munzer, co-founder of Tuyo. “We want you to do your own thing.”

This year, too, there was a riot of modernist children’s furniture: The German firm Richard Lampert created a desk with a chalkboard top, while designers at the Italian company Magis whipped up modular bunk beds and miniature office cubicles for tiny design lovers.

Here, a selection of some of the standouts of Milan Design Week.

SEBASTIAN BRAJKOVIC: The Amsterdam-based designer said he’s fascinated by the relationship between time and motion. His Lathe VIII design is meant to show what a chair looks like in the split second it’s turned from one position to another. He calls this a “metaphysical explanation of movement.” His silver aluminum Lathe Table is inspired by the same idea. It has a grooved top — like a record — that looks as if it’s spinning.

LAURENS VAN WIERINGEN: Dutch designer Laurens van Wieringen said there is no one theme that sums up his work. “I start with a blank sheet every time, and I just give life to my own weird ideas,” he said. His wooden Buffet Cabinet was inspired by a 1968 Lancia automobile and his Fruit Boom was a treelike frame for apples, pears, oranges and lemons. “A friend’s child honestly thought that fruit originated from the supermarket,” he said. “My aim here is to put fruit back on the living room table.”

LALA LAB: Japanese lighting and furniture designer Yuki Iida has set out to meld the ancient and modern with a series of log-shaped torches that can be used alone or piled on top of each another, bonfire-style. These Fire and Torch lights run on batteries or electricity, and emit a subtle glow. “The electric lamp was invented 130 years ago, but people have been using fire for more than 500,000 years,” he said. “People still love fire as lighting, which is why I wanted to combine them.”

VIJ5: The one annoying thing about wallpaper is that it sticks — and you have to live with it. The Dutch design label Vij5, which works primarily with recycled materials, has a solution in the form of magnetic wallpaper. They glued old wallpaper to strips of magnetic foil, which can then stick to walls that have been treated with a special paint. Commitment-phobes can create a patchwork design of their liking — and alter is just as easily. The company also offered a wool Puzzle Carpet, which can be assembled and reassembled to suit a variety of spaces.

JARROD LIM DESIGN: There is something quiet, contemplative — and whimsical — about this Singapore-based designer’s furniture. His Idle Chair, a rocking chair made of polished wood and covered in pea-green fabric, would fit well at home with Hansel and Gretel, as would his Butler Table, which has three spindlelike legs. “I take a humanistic, emotional approach to design: My priority is always how a product makes you feel, instead of how it looks,” said Lim. “And I wanted these pieces in particular to be very homely, cozy and comfortable.”

LIVING DIVANI: The presentation this year was a study in anthropomorphism: Junya Ishigami’s lightweight white steel chairs with their irregular proportions look as if they have been drawn with a child’s hand. Ishigami said he created the chairs — tall, short and medium-size — to suit a person’s many moods. “It’s also fun to decide which is your favorite chair. Like a family sitting around a table, so the chairs are arranged around the table,” he said.

ANNE KIEFFER: Practicality is of utmost importance to the Luxembourg-based designer Anne Kieffer, whose wooden cabinets have pleated, colored fabric closures at the front. “They’re easy to wash, and you can change the colors if you get tired of them,” said the designer. “I think the fabric gives them a more personal, cozy touch.”

TUYO DESIGN STUDIO: Wooden benches that can look different from one moment to the next are among the latest designs at Norway’s Tuyo. The benches come with colored, rectangular fabric covers of various sizes that can be mixed or matched.


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