• 4 min read

7 Design Trends from Salone del Mobile

Discover the trends we found at the world’s largest furniture trade fair in Milan

by Haworth, Inc.

The rhythm of Salone del Mobile resembles that of a dandelion. A dandelion flower produces hundreds of seeds at a time. These seeds are taken up by the wind and carried away to distant fields. Wherever they land, a small number of these seeds will take root, sprout, and thrive.

Salone gathers the most vibrant flowers of the design world in Milan every year. These flowers arrive in the form of creative people, bold artwork, charming products, daring brands, storied fashion houses, and ideas. More than anything else, Salone is a platform for the latest design ideas to be shared. Some of these ideas will be taken up by the artists and designers in attendance and carried to faraway fields—perhaps even in time for next year’s Salone del Mobile.

“Salone really is the design show around the world,” said Paul Nemschoff, Haworth’s Vice President of Global Strategy and Marketing. The 2023 edition of Salone gathered upwards of 300,000 people, 2,000 brands, and 500 young designers. Ideas were shared with guests from 181 countries, ensuring that the seeds shared at this year’s fair will travel to fields far and wide. The exceptional attendance testifies to Salone’s vaunted place among design fairs; few events can compare with the exuberant celebration of design that roars through the streets of Milan every year.

Read on to find 7 trends our team saw at Salone—and get ready to see these seeds begin sprouting all over the world!

1. Reflective Metallics

Metallic surface materials and glossy, reflective treatments lent a futuristic feeling to some displays and a humble element to others; it felt like an echo of science fiction in some areas and a celebration of industrial construction materials elsewhere. There’s a fascinating transformation that happens to an object when its surface is made reflective; we’re curious to see how workplaces will incorporate this trend.

2. Liquid Fantasy

People have always been drawn to water. The seemingly endless sea, steady rushing rivers, and gently flowing streams have inspired countless artists over the ages. This Salone, we saw this old love emerge in the form of intimate, evocative exhibits that invited fair guests to escape the hustle and immerse themselves in the moment. Workplaces are steadily increasing the amount of biophilia incorporated into the space; Terrapin Bright Green includes “the presence of water” as one of its 14 patterns of biophilia. We expect to see more water features—and materials, furniture, and light evocative of water—in interiors in the coming years.

“I think this week must be a week of connection, a week of innovation, a week of commerce—a week of everything, obviously. But I think it must be a week of culture—where all our cultures cross over, with different things we can give to others.”

Patricia Urquiola
Architect & Designer

3. Magical Glass and Italian Handicrafts

We saw many examples of stunning glasswork, much of it made by local Italian artisans. We were particularly enchanted by Haworth DesignLab artist Bradley L Bowers’ piece for Dolce&Gabbana; it encased delicate greenery and fresh flowers in traditionally crafted Venetian glasswork. By celebrating local craft, workspaces can give people moments to aesthetically engage with their communities and histories. This “global celebration of the local” is a great way to increase community engagement and create a connection to place.

4. Materials in Flux

Some of the spaces we walked into at Salone just made us feel happy. One of our favorite trends from this year’s fair was the application of whimsical surface treatments to otherwise simple bases. This is a trend we’re looking forward to seeing more—we need more spaces of simple, straightforward joy! Our team noticed that some displays, such as Patricia Urquiola’s piece for Mutina, captured a snapshot of raw materials in the very moment they were transformed by a simple surface treatment.

5. A Celebration of Past and Present

Many of the exciting displays at Salone were deeply rooted in the past; designers and engineers drew on our rich human inheritance to innovate in the present. Cassina’s Echoes, 50 Years of I Maestri celebrated past masters of design, producing archival works using modern materials and processes that sought to bring the products triumphantly into the present while respecting the “original soul” of each design.

Formafantasma shared an exciting natural replacement for industrial foam padding made partly of surplus sheep wool; their innovation was inspired by ancient mattress production techniques.

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6. The Art of Light

“Colour is believed to be the most important visual experience to human beings,” states an article in the Malaysian Journal of Medical Sciences. At Salone, we saw several instances of light being used as the medium to bring unexpected color to spaces. Soft, warm pinks brought energy and dynamism to one display. Elsewhere, intense cool blues created an immersive, reflective atmosphere (recalling trend #2). If executed thoughtfully, colored lighting can increase the emotional impact of a space.  

7. Tactile Textiles

We saw soft, blankety fabrics everywhere we looked at Salone. The trend toward softness was ubiquitous—and, in our opinion, very welcome. “Generally speaking, we can say that people today want to live and to work in a more soft atmosphere,” said Giulio Cappellini. While meeting with our team, Giulio debuted a charming upholstered doll, the result of a soon-to-be-launched program that collaborates with designers currently in prison, giving them a second possibility to work.

What’s Next in Design?

Renowned architect and designer Patricia Urquiola joined us for Haworth Connect to share insights from her studio’s partnership with Haworth’s DesignLab.


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