Milan 2018: ‘You could hardly walk down the aisles…’

Exhibitors and visitors at last week’s Salone del Mobile have reported packed halls and a surge in attendance from UK architects and designers.

Held from April 17-22, the Milan interiors exhibition enjoyed a 17% increase in attendance this year compared with 2016, which was the last time it included the biennial kitchen and bathroom elements.

Organisers said a total of 434,509 people attended the event, hailing from 188 countries.

“This year’s show was without doubt the busiest I have ever attended,” London-based kitchen designer Neil Lerner told kbbreview. “You could hardly walk down the aisles – it was so packed. Perhaps it was because it was the first day and the doors had just opened, but the turnout was unprecedented. I will think twice about going there on the first day in two years’ time. Overall, it was a very impressive show, despite the overcrowding and well worth the trip.”

Malo Tasle, a director at UK distributor In House, said he’d been attending the show for over 20 years and the British presence was “higher than ever before”.

“It’s been great on that level,” he said. “I think the British have realised they need to move with the times and the trends. They have to make sure they keep up with all the novelties, and they come here because it’s an international show and it’s the show to come to.

“We’ve now decided to release our new Next 125 collection exclusively in Milan, because it’s aiming at the premium market and Eurocucina is a premium show. So, from now on, it won’t be launched in Germany at the Kitchen Mile event in September, it will always be in Milan.”

Owain Harrison, country manager with Belgian appliance brand Novy, agreed that the show had “a good vibe and a lot of British visitors”.

“It’s been consistent,” he said. “A lot of British architects and interior designers have made the trip, which I haven’t experienced before. Maybe that’s because of the absence of an international architects or design show, so Eurocucina works for them. Or maybe it’s because Salone makes the week of the exhibition a ‘design week’.

Harrison revealed Novy was planning a stand twice the size for 2020.

“We’ll change to more of a lifestyle approach,” he said. “There are a lot of visitors now who want to get the vibe and find out about the brand. There used to be product tours, but there’s much less of that now. People are looking more for design cues and for what’s going to hit the catwalk in the UK in the next couple of years.”

Commenting on new themes at the show, Ipswich-based kitchen and bathroom designer Sandy Armitage said: “Smart connectivity and energy efficiency was certainly the big trend with the appliance manufacturers – notably Candy and Grundig intriguing us with their oven cams and touch screen display doors. In particular, Grundig’s Gourmet Chef equipped with precise technology, superb 3D handle and classic side opening.

“The subtlety of Miele’s grey glass ovens was a visual joy,” she added, “and in kitchen furniture, Bauformat’s matt tactile textures were splendid and L’Ottocento brought subtle colours and the cushion door back with panache.”

However, Novy’s Harrison said that while there was “so much connectivity”, it was “only Samsung who are shouting very loudly”.

“Not everyone’s shouting as loudly as I thought they might do,” he said. “Connectivity is on nearly every stand, but it doesn’t appear to be the main story. Other things have taken precedence. Electrolux are launching the pull-out fridge, which is a really clever concept, and materials and use of materials seem just as important.”

Added Lerner: “The overall impression I had of the show was that the colours were all very dark – mostly dark lacquers and a lot of black. This definitely reflects the way kitchens are moving here too as I predicted earlier this year that the dark woods would be on trend this year.

“At Häcker, we saw a really great new porcelain finish for doors that will be an excellent addition to the collection, as it complements the latest trends in worktop styles.

“We introduced Poliform last year to the business, so this is the first year we visited them in Milan. Poliform had two massive stands: one for the trade and another for the public. They launched some superb new wall systems that will be very popular and we were inspired to make some more changes to the showroom in Finchley Road as a result.”

Meanwhile, on the bathroom side of the show, Paul Kinsella, senior project engineer with Merlyn, said: “The mood was very positive with good energy around the stands. I’d say the show is on a par with Cersaie in Bologna.

“There were no major innovations and less IOT [internet of things] than before and more of a focus on wellness with the highlight for me being the ZeroBody Dry Floating Experience from Starpool.

“The industrial look has become more popular with vanities, faucets and shower enclosures, particularly in black. Brushed stainless steel was also very popular.

“My favourite stand was Hansgrohe’s where there was real innovation and a big emphasis on the customisation of materials and finishes.”

James Morrison, regional sales manager with Victoria and Albert, said: “It’s been very good. I like the show because everybody from all over the world comes here. The good thing about this show is it’s more design-led, being Italian. I call it a sexy show. So I find it’s more high-quality. It’s getting busier and busier and people from the UK are wanting to see this kind of set-up now.”

Jens-Jörg Majchrzak, global project sales director with Dornbracht, said the show had been “extremely successful”.

“We really planned to focus on the architect and designer community and this event is definitely number one in the world for them. This is why the stand is more about presenting topics and issues. Feedback tells us we have done exactly the right thing. The feedback has been phenomenal from the A&D community. We’ve had more than 2,000 new leads, all interested in being contacted by Dornbracht.”

Majchrzak added that he had welcomed “very many architects and designers from the UK”, but said this was at “more or less the same level” as previous years. “But what amazes me,” he said, “is to see them coming from all over the world – many from Asia, South America, the Middle East. It’s really fantastic.”

However, Majchrzak admitted Dornbracht was “expecting a negative effect” from Brexit. “How big, we can’t tell,” he said. “It is with more than deep regret that we see the UK leaving. I hope the UK will find a way to say, yes, we’re leaving but trying to remain as close as possible to Europe. Otherwise, the effects will be negative for your country. I very much hope your government and administration is smart enough to find a good way to stay as part of the family.”

  • For the full show review see the June issue of kbbreview
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