16/05/2024 • 10 min read

Milan in Review: 7 Trends from 2024 You’ll See All Year

Stunning designs, subtle gems, and enduring trends.

by Alex Przybyla

At Milan Design Week 2024, the stunning, the surprising, and the spectacular awaited around every corner. After all, Milano is the ‘home of design’, as the MDW ads all over the city proudly declared. 

But the grand nature of the event can actually be a little misleading. Amid the bustle, gems quietly glittered. The best surprises emerged on the small scale – in knots of yarn, tresses of cane, delicate patterns etched in flowing panes of glass. 

Celebrations of the human touch – with all its poetry and imperfection – abounded. Objects, materials, colours, and displays were all oriented toward human stories. The human drama is ageless – and because great design echoes the human story, we looked for trends that were fresh takes on the timeless. 

As we look back on Milan 2024, there are seven trends we can’t stop thinking about. Each trend listed below carries a poetic depth, a substance far deeper than its surfaces. Each trend is far more than a superficial flash-in-the-pan that flares up and disappears. 

Here are the Milan trends we expect to see for the rest of this year – and for many more years to come.

Wonderland by Mingyu Xu, courtesty of Dolce&Gabbana’s Gen D

1. Memphian Memory

The Memphis movement in the 80s enshrined rebellion – rebellion against accepted forms, rebellion against industry norms, rebellion against the staid limitations of the ‘possible’. Named for a Bob Dylan song that was playing during one of the group’s early meetings, the Memphis movement and Bob Dylan had much in common, from a refusal to accept ‘this is how it is, deal with it’ to a joyous, headfirst plunge into the unconventional. 

At its best, Memphis – and designs that consciously or unconsciously pay homage to the movement – is a celebration of exuberance, of abundance, of humanity, of joy. Such an attitude won’t ever really fade, so it may be no surprise that we saw Memphian memories in abundance during Milan Design Week 2024 – making this joyful, human-centred ethos the ideal first trend to kick off our list. 

The Gomma Armchair, displayed in the Zanotta showroom

2. 60s Interiors

Optimism abounded in Milan. If Memphian Memories recalled a design spirit that bloomed in the 80s, we also found many exhibitions, displays and products that echoed the more optimistic leanings of the 60s and 70s. Bright colours used serene neutrals as a base from which to thrive, like colourful flowers in a sturdy terracotta flowerpot. 

When we asked Luca Fuso, CEO of Cassina and Zanotta, which design era he’d love to go back to, he answered ‘the 70s’, describing it as ‘the most creative period of the 20th century’. That creative spirit returned with a smile in Milan – brightness bloomed, optimism boomed, and the playful atmosphere of the past was infectious. Expect more of this exuberance!


Photo taken at the Dimore Gallery by Liz Teh

3. Cane Made Soft

Cane sidled into the spotlight in Milan. But this was cane with a twist, a material expression flowing out of the exuberant 60s interiors trend we described above. This wasn’t cane or rattan as generally encountered – calming, serene reminders of a gentle, natural rawness. Instead, we encountered cane that was soft, plush, and welcoming. 

In piece after piece, cane and rattan were thoughtfully combined with tempering elements. This softening was often accomplished with paint, sometimes in neutrals and sometimes in bold, bright colours (including a royal blue we’ll look at below). Some pieces combined cane with thick, inviting, softly textured cushions to give cane furniture a plump cosy feel. 

The natural warmth of cane was masterfully combined with soft, gentle human touches. Expect to see more cane and rattan, especially as softened accent pieces. 

Wax, Stone, Light by Linde Freya Tangelder in the Cassina space

4. Endurance of the Handmade

Milan celebrated the human touch. Handmade pieces were prevalent. The Cappellini space was filled with fantastical floral designs made of yarn. Bottega Veneta collaborated with Cassina to create scorched wooden crates in honour of Le Corbusier. 

Milan is always a showcase for stunning glasswork, and this year was no exception; the artisanship on display was truly spectacular. Linde Freya Tangelder’s Wax, Stone, Light – ‘made of Murano glass blown inside cast-iron moulds by skilled artisans’ – was a particular highlight at the Cassina space. The lamp’s surfaces are uneven – evoking at once both the motion of handworked wax and the timelessness of a wizened cliff face. 

The celebration of the human touch – amid growing distaste for the uniform mass-production so rampant in hyperconsumeristic cultures – will only grow more prevalent in the years to come. 

Google – Making Sense of Color. Image by Liz Teh

5. Paul Klee Blue

One particularly powerful colour we encountered this year was a royal blue reminiscent of Paul Klee. This Paul Klee blue was vibrant, poetic, and playful in turns, emerging in little accents, in bold statement pieces, and in sweeping backgrounds setting the tone for large spaces. This blue has a longlasting appeal – making this a ‘trend’ colour that fits the understanding of trends as ‘fresh takes on the timeless’. 

We were pleasantly surprised by the emotional range of this blue. It imbued large spaces with a comforting yet energetic welcome; furniture pieces with a bold, optimistic enthusiasm; and smaller design objects with a quirky, childlike humour. (It was also a common choice for men’s cotton and linen jackets, bringing the same wry, playful wit to apparel that it lent to interiors and objects.) 

Balancing the impact of a colour with such a vast range of possibilities takes skill – and when it works, the impact is undeniable. (Along similar lines, the orange Kohler used in their sweeping installation balanced confident experience with youthful energy.) This polyvalent blue will bring multilayered emotion to interiors and objects in the years to come. 

Photo taken at the Dimore Gallery by Liz Teh

6. Malleable Mirrors

Metal was a scene-stealing protagonist in Milan. We saw metal used in surprising ways, often coming across as soft, gentle, and even malleable. Like the cane trend above, the harsher side of metal was mellowed. Just like last Milan Design Week, we still saw reflective metals used – but even the mirrored objects were often clouded or fogged, making them feel more subtle and less austere. 

This transformation of the sharp and the hard into the smooth and soft seems to perennially fascinate designers; it appears there is some fundamental truth embedded within that softening process that continues to draw creative minds. ‘The subtle wisdom of life,’ Lao Zi wrote, is that ‘the soft and weak overcomes the hard and strong.’ This certainly has seemed to be the case the last few years in Milan, as even harsh elements are transformed by thoughtful designers into pieces infused with gentle welcome. 

Lasvit – Re/Creation. Image courtesy of Lasvit

7. Materials Are the Protagonists

Our Milan trends have included cane, handmade materials, and metal – so this final trend comes as no surprise: materials were the protagonists in Milan. Whether the objects or furniture were composed of glass, stone, yarn, brick, cane, fabric, or wood, many designs sought to push the material to the forefront – the parts often shone over the sum. 

Especially in terms of sustainability, 2024 expanded the boundaries of the possible. ECAL explored ‘shape memory materials’ with sponge-like qualities. Elham M. Ahili’s floral project for Cappellini utilised recovered waste yarn – yet another example of the artistic and industrial potential of recaptured textiles and yarns that may otherwise be discarded. 

Giulio Cappellini’s classic quote – that he looks for ‘longsellers, not bestsellers’ – is relevant for materials as well. Products composed simply and thoughtfully from ‘longlasting’, low-impact materials – with more innovative solutions appearing every week! – are something we’ll be welcoming for a long, long time. 

Check out our Milan Design Week page for daily updates posted during the event. Don’t forget to download the Milan Design Week 2024 Trend Report, where we delve more deeply into the themes above and take a closer look at splendid Haworth Group displays in Milan.

Download the Milan Design Week 2024 Trend Report

The stunning, the surprising, the spectacular. Milan 2024 was full of fresh takes on the timeless – from stunning glasswork to a celebration of the human touch. Click below to download our 2024 Trend Report.


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