Milan trends for the workplace

27 April 2018. Features.

Salone del Mobile – otherwise known as Milan Design Week – celebrated its 57th year in 2018 and features everything from digital, graphics and print to interiors and products. We went along to examine the trends and innovations with implications for workplace design. Here are our top five concepts from Milan.



As people’s working patterns are changing, the workplaces are responding, and so is the furniture inside – becoming flexible, modular and future-proofed. Launched at Hem’s Brera Atelier, the Swedish brand’s Kumo Sofa by Anderssen & Voll can be configured as anything from a single armchair to an infinitely long sofa, enabling it to grow with your business. Kusheda Mensah hopes to make us all more sociable with Mutual – her collection of abstract interlocking furniture modules, which she says represent ‘the mutuality, connection and closeness shared between humans, as well as the human form itself.’ And Daniel Schofield has given the trestle table a facelift fit for the boardroom – trestle legs fit into a cork-covered lock, upon which rests a glass table-top of any length you choose. 



Ever since Susan Cain wrote Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking in 2013, there has been a growing understanding of the need for private spaces within open-plan offices that were largely designed for extroverts. While MINI Living’s ‘Built By All’ installation was designed as an urban living concept for our increasingly crowded cities, its ideas resonate with workplace design too. A disused warehouse was converted into a series of shared spaces with personal live-work ‘pods’ dotted within, each one designed for a different personality type – replace ‘personality type’ with ‘working style’ and you’ve got a cutting-edge workspace concept.



Design Academy Eindhoven dedicated its entire show to the fifth sense at the 2016 edition of Milan Design Week after creative director Thomas Widdershoven said, ‘tactility has become a political statement, a social statement, a human statement’. The sense of touch, a growing priority across the design industry since then, has finally reached the office. Zona Tortona’s Norwegian Presence included a collaboration between commercial seating brand Flokk and woollen mill Gudbrandsdalens Uldvarefabrik (GU). Established in 1887, GU’s woven textiles are ‘simple, soft’ and durable’ providing a tactile finish for Flokk’s extensive range of office furniture and a simple way to bring the touchy-feely into work. 



The biggest trend right across Milan was the notion of using waste as a raw material. Futures agency FranklinTill collaborated with experimental design collective Dutch Invertuals to present a thought-provoking exhibition exploring the material potential of what we discard. ‘We have entered the Anthropocene era – a new geological age where human making has realigned the processes of nature, forever blurring the boundaries between the natural and the man-made,’ said Caroline Till. The work was largely conceptual, but the idea has far reaching implications from products such as Kasthall’s Harvest rug made from waste yarn to reconsidering your own workplace waste – could you use the blank side of discarded print-outs as note paper or replace your paper cups with Kaffeeform’s mugs made from recycled coffee grounds?



The most talked about trend in office design was also in evidence at Milan Design Week, in fact Wallpaper*Handmade set designers the brief of creating objects inspired by ‘Wellness + Wonder’. Responses included everything from a stainless-steel case for your emergency chocolate bar to a three-dimensional rug to encourage lounging. Another wellbeing-inspired installation with perhaps more practical applications was ‘Breath/ng’ a collaboration between 3D design software company Dassault Systèmes and architect Kengo Kuma. The sculpture used existing pollution neutralising materials to inspire architects to rethink their potential within commercial spaces – the fabric can be used inside and out and even printed on, improving air quality for workers in our increasingly polluted cities. 


Next year sees Workplace 3.0 at Salone del Mobile, so there will be an even bigger focus on commercial spaces. ‘Conceived as an irreplaceable think tank for understanding upcoming necessary changes to workspaces, it is a starting point for stimulating forward-looking ideas capable of catering to a changing market and changing needs,’ says a statement. We’re looking forward to seeing how these five trends develop over the coming year and what else is in store for us in workplace design in 2019.

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