Shipping to
United States
Words by Mr Nick Compton

Milan's Salone del Mobile is the world's biggest design fair. And despite austerity measures and a wobbly euro, it continues to get bigger and bouncier every year. It can seem as if every major and minor design manufacturer, and indeed design student, is in attendance, as well as a number of car brands and other interested parties. The local fashion houses increasingly want a piece of the action too, either commissioning new furniture designs - as was the case with Hermès and this year Marni, among others - or giving store space over to new designs.

The design A list - Ms Patricia Urquiola, Mr Konstantin Grcic, the collective Nendo and a dozen others - had designs produced by different manufacturers dotted around the city. Seeing it all is impossible and identifying trends is tricky.

There is, though, a definite emphasis on natural materials and of course sustainable production. The craftsman and the maker are very much the heroes of the hour and most of the big names want to talk about the making as much as the design. The design world's relationship with "luxury" is complex and a little fraught but there are definitely high-end materials aplenty, especially marble. There are crowd pleasers - Ms Urquiola never disappoints - and more conceptual experiments, with Nendo and Mr Ron Gilad as interested in the spaces design occupies, and how space contains it, as producing functional objects or tools for living.

There were recognisable stools and sofas, shelving systems, cookers cleverer than you, and of course chairs. Some of them even looked quite comfy.