Ahead of the triumphant return of Salone del Mobile, the much-anticipated design fair in Milan (7–12 June), we caught up with the UK-based talent that will be causing a stir and bring you an exclusive, advance peek at the pieces they plan to unveil. From Lee Broom (above) to Tom Dixon, Bethan Grey and more, it’s a star-studded preview…
To mark his return to Milan after four years (as well as his brand’s 15th anniversary), the British furniture, lighting and interior designer will be presenting his largest European installation to date. He will be showcasing ‘Divine Inspiration’, a collection of six new lighting pieces.
The series includes ‘Vesper’ (pictured above with Broom), a geometric, extruded aluminium lighting sculpture suspended by cables that seeks to find a balance between interconnecting tubes and its illuminated adjoining spheres. This, and the other lights in the collection, are a result of Broom’s deep dive into brutalist architecture, modernism and his exploration of the monumental form and scale associated with places of worship.
‘Milan Design Week is essentially the holy grail for designers, so I am happy to be back and exhibiting in person,’ he says. ‘I always wanted to create products, interiors and installations that truly inspired me on a personal level, and so working in different materials and styles has always been important, along with an ability to adapt and move with the times.’ leebroom.com
Bethan Laura Wood
Multidisciplinary designer Bethan Laura Wood’s relationship with Italian rug producer CC-Tapis has been an enduring one, enabling her to explore pattern, texture and, of course, colour. For her return to Milan this year, however, the look is bravely different.
In her second full series for the brand, Bethan has created the ‘Euphorbia’ collection, a triptych and large single rug, hand-knotted in Himalayan wood, based around a collection of her own ink-on-paper drawings of the Euphorbia sipolisii f crestata succulents she tended to in her east-London home during the pandemic’s numerous lockdowns.
‘I wanted to make something that was very different to the look and feel of my first carpets, which were highly textured and colourful,’ she explains. ‘For me, lots of colour and pattern is very meditative, but for some people it isn’t. I was interested to see how I could make something that has the same complexity of my previous carpets but through a more minimal aesthetic.’
CC-Tapis has captured the subtlety and movement found in hand- drawn lines by using a technique of cutting back the yarn to soften the design’s lines. ‘I’d also been looking at the drawings of Aubrey Beardsley and Jean Cocteau, so the more you look at the carpets, the more you’ll find little nods to them,’ adds Wood. bethanlaurawood.com
‘The female form has always been a great source of inspiration in art, photography and design,’ explains Slovenian-born, London-based designer Bohinc, ‘but often with an unrealistic eye or as a response to society’s perception of how the female body should look.’
And so, she is launching her ‘Peachy’ collection, which comprises the ‘Big Girl’ and ‘Derriere’ armchairs, a miniature, prototype version of which she is photographed with here, as well the ‘Peachy’ pouf. All promote full-on roundness and soft upholstered surfaces.
As Bohinc says: ‘It’s a pure and unabashed celebration of every curvy, voluptuous and fleshy detail.’ For Bohinc, who began her career as a jewellery designer, her furniture, lighting and accessories are often the results of her exploration of opposing sculptural forms: curves and circles contrasting with straight lines and geometric angles, which are then fabricated in a blended materials palette of smooth marbles, metal and textural fabrics such as bouclé wool.
‘My studio is based in London,’ she says, ‘and we always try to collaborate with local artisans when possible, including an upholstery workshop from the north of the capital. This made the process of creating the “Peachy” collection much more efficient and sustainable.’ bohincstudio.com
British designer Tom Dixon’s 20-year milestone of his luxury design brand, and the 60th anniversary of Salone del Mobile this year, will be marked with ‘Twenty’, an exhibition of both greatest hits and new products, which he’s installing across two locations in Milan.
‘The “Wingback” chair has grown into a chaise longue with a table for working, playing and eating,’ Dixon explains. ‘We have new shapes in cork – my current material obsession – including mirrors and a floor candelabra, side tables and an easy chair. We also have huge aluminium lamps with fat curves destined to refract and reflect light, as well as retro-fit dichroic filters for the “Melt” lamp that turn an already expressive lighting object into a psychedelic dreamscape.’
Dixon says that his brand’s anniversary presents an opportunity to evaluate what has been accomplished thus far. ‘It’s been a chance to ponder, probe and upgrade the objects that have made us successful for the past few years,’ he muses, ‘as well as exploring my latest obsessions.’ Always keen to evolve and mutate, the Tom Dixon brand offers not only furniture, lighting and accessories, but also an interior-design practice, as well as the hugely successful Coal Office restaurant in London and The Manzoni in Milan (sure to be a hotspot during the fair). tomdixon.net
The previous winner of three ELLE Decoration British Design Awards, Welsh-born designer Bethan Gray’s focus has, for years, been about partnering with artisans to tell cultural stories of craftsmanship. Most recently, it’s the culture of Oman that she’s been inspired by, particularly the billowing sales of dhow boats, which she’s evolved into a dynamic hand-drawn pattern full of movement.
As part of her installation in Milan this year, to be shown at the Rossana Orlandi Gallery, Bethan’s ‘Inky Dhow’ collection expands on the rug she designed for CC-Tapis (released late last year) with furniture, textiles, ceramics and handblown glass. All of the pieces result from her own experiments with calligraphy during lockdown.
‘During the pandemic, I was able to expand my horizons and completely immerse myself in my work, exploring this art form for the first time. From this, the new collection was conceived,’ she explains. ‘It’s bright and bold, showcasing my existing “Dhow” world in a new and creative way, encompassing my love of art, culture, travel and design.’ bethangray.com
Israeli-born, London-based design duo Raw Edges, founded in 2007 by Yael Mer (above left) and Shay Alkalay, have designed for brands including Vitra, Kvradrat, Moroso and Established & Sons, but it’s their longstanding relationship with Louis Vuitton that has been particularly fruitful.
Having presented the ‘Concertina’ chair in 2015, followed by the modular ‘Doll’ chairs in 2019 as part of the brand’s ‘Objets Nomades’ collections, they’ve now created the ‘Cosmic Table’ for this year’s installation.
‘We often play around in the studio,’ explains Alkalay. ‘Yael has a mathematical interest in how you turn flat sheets of paper into 3D shapes. She came up with this fold, which was fascinating, and became our starting point for the design.’ It’s typical of the way Raw Edges works as a practice: begin with a principle, then impose a function on it. ‘It’s so simple and beautiful,’ continues Alkalay.
‘To keep the sculptural lightness and beauty as a full-scale table, it was crafted in carbon fibre so that it could be incredibly strong without compromising how thin it could be.’ Leather was applied to the surface, and a weighty, cast-glass top added. ‘We were keen for there to be that contrast in the lightness of the base and the heaviness of the glass. We’re also working on another version in Cor-ten steel, which will be beautifully rusty looking,’ he teases. raw-edges.com