Interiors: How Milan's Salone del Mobile influences homegrown design and trickles down to the high street

Laura Ivill
Topaz lime combination sofa, £1598. Topaz armchair, £998.

Just as clothes come off the catwalks one season and into our wardrobes the next, so do the interiors in our homes. Trends have become more defined, more accessible, more joyful, even, in recent years. And such is the power of Instagram that it has changed the way designers think. Now trends are Instagrammable, high design has never been more instant.

The vast interiors fair in Milan, Salone del Mobile, each April, is the springboard that launches a thousand sofas, chairs, beds, light fittings, side tables, you name it – not only in the purpose-built aircraft-hanger-size show pavilions, but in all the fringe venues and pop-ups that draw creatives from across the world.

The result? What we see in the shops and in all those little catalogues that breed like rabbits in the post really are manifestations of where good design is at. If we have seen a proliferation of tray side-tables with marble tops and squared-off brass legs, you can bet it was Milan that set that particular hare running.

Read more: A potted history of iconic British heritage brand Wedgwood

“Our customers may not visit trade events like Salone, but they are building Pinterest boards and following high-end brands and designers on Instagram, so they are increasingly aware of upcoming trends,” says DFS creative director Alison Hill. “We see images of our customers’ homes that they share with us on social media every day, so we know how important style, colour and fashion is for them.”

Almost half of DFS sofas are made in the UK and the creative team works alongside the carpenters and upholsterers to get new ranges off the drawing board as soon as they return from the shows. But quick also means quality, as it’s British craftsmanship at work.

Next month, the collaboration Open Home by Doshi Levien for John Lewis is launching and it wouldn’t have happened if the brand hadn’t spotted the Columbia Road-based duo at Milan four years ago.

“Traditionally, there has been a huge gap between the world of design and what is actually available to people,” says Jonathan Levien. “We wanted to close that gap.” We spoke to two high street brands, DFS and John Lewis, about how their products have been influenced by what they’ve seen in Milan.

Alison Hill
Creative director at DFS

Presents: The Topaz sofa, 2017

Topaz lime combination sofa, £1598

“The Topaz shape was influenced by a trend we saw in Milan last year of not upholstering to the ground to create a feeling of space. We were overwhelmed by the prolific use of nature and the range of fresh greens on show, as well as how much marble was featured, both on hard accessory pieces, but also on fabric to create an opulent look. Once we had perfected the form, we digitally reproduced a marble pattern onto a beautifully soft and tactile velvet for cushions and a patterned armchair. Our UK design team work hand-in-hand with our skilled development upholstery team in England, who quickly bring a 3D model like this to life, giving us our unique speed to market.”

Buying tip: “Consider the physical footprint in your room. You can use sheets of newspaper to create the size of your sofa and place them on the floor for a reality check.”

Pip Prinsloo
Home design manager at John Lewis

Presents: Open Home by Doshi Levien for John Lewis, 2017

Doshi Levien for John Lewis Pondok sofa, £2499

“My team and I first saw Doshi Levien exhibiting in Milan four years ago, and we were immediately blown away by their brave use of colour and pattern and their progressive approach to furniture design. It was clear that this ethos would translate well to the British high street.”

Buying tip: “It’s always worth investing in good design that will stand the test of time. Rather than buy online, it’s always best to visit the shop and touch and feel the piece before deciding whether to buy it.”

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