At Milan Design Week, a Smorgasbord of Tables and Table Toppers

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By Margaretd. Regina

This article is part of our Design special report previewing Milan Design Week.


At Alcova, an annual Milan Design Week exhibition that celebrates the unconventional, an aptly named San Francisco studio named Surfacedesign is showing tables and other furniture pieces made from boulders. There is no end to the movable feast of materials that can be turned into tables, just as there is no end to the things you can put on them. The seemingly infinite options are further amplified by an urge to give new life to old, overlooked or discarded stuff.

Surfacedesign in San Francisco creates landscape architecture for homes, parks and wineries. According to Roderick Wyllie, a founding partner, the company is inspired by historic Italian gardens like the grotto-punctuated Villa Lante in central Italy and the Etruscan Pyramid of Bomarzo, an ancient rock altar in a forest.

This affinity is one reason Surfacedesign is introducing its new outdoor furniture at the Villa Bagatti Valsecchi, a glamorous residence in Varedo, north of Milan, that has taken many aesthetic turns since it emerged in the 17th century.

“The pieces nestle within the historic garden like follies to be discovered and enjoyed by people strolling through the grounds,” Mr. Wyllie said.

The collection, which incorporates rocks and is called New Geologies, is part of Alcova, an annual show that this year is held at not one but two time-machine properties. The 80 exhibitors will be distributed between Villa Bagatti Valescchi and the nearby Italian modernist Villa Borsani, which dates from the 1940s.

Damaso Mayer, who led the design of New Geologies, collected boulders from fields and river beds and determined where the surfaces should be notched to make connections with the brushed aluminum bases. “The monolithic pieces appear to float above the ground,” Mr. Wyllie said.

The objects were finished by Sacco Natural Stone, a company in northern Italy. The collection includes two tables, a bench, a pedestal, two pots and a water basin.

New Geologies opened on Monday and can be seen through Sunday at Alcova, Villa Bagatti Valsecchi, Via Vittorio Emanuele II, 48; sdisf.com. — MELISSA FELDMAN

When Frederik De Wachter and Alberto Artesani, founders of DWA Design Studio in Milan, toured the factory of one of their clients, the Italian furniture company Pedrali, they were struck by the plastic residue that was left puddled on the floor. They began to experiment with this substance — a byproduct of the injection-molding process.

“We thought it was interesting to change the perception of the recycled material from industrial to artisanal,” Mr. De Wachter said.

Once hardened, the residue was cut, turned, modeled and sanded by a woodworker in Milan. A dozen one-of-a-kind vessels, called Unico, were the result. They are being displayed in DWA’s office (a former chocolate factory) as a feature of Caffè Populaire, the third annual exhibition the firm is hosting during Design Week, along with the Montreal lighting company Lambert & Fils, whose new products also will be on view.

A separate part of Caffè Populaire will involve actual food: It is a pop-up culinary experience in the garden that includes delectables from the Los Angeles food art studio Ananas Ananas and glassware created by the New York City-based designer Sophie Lou Jacobsen.

The exhibition runs Monday through Thursday and is open from 3 to 8 p.m. at Via Giulio e Corrado Venini 85; dw-a.it. — MELISSA FELDMAN


When it comes to the environment, the Norwegian designer Lars Beller Fjetland said he and his peers often wondered: “Are we part of the solution or are we part of the problem?” When he discovered that Hydro, the Norwegian renewable energy company, had developed a method for recycling aluminum entirely from post-consumer scrap, he felt as if, finally, “we have a solution.”

For Milan Design Week, Mr. Beller Fjetland worked with Hydro on an exhibition to highlight the design possibilities of the recycled material, called CIRCAL 100R. He asked seven designers, including Inga Sempé, Max Lamb, Andreas Engesvik, Shane Schneck, Rachel Griffin, John Tree and Philippe Malouin, each to create a home décor item using only the aluminum.

The pieces include lamps, vases, seating and shelving. Many challenge the notion of extruded aluminum as a rigid industrial product, showcasing its ability to be molded and cut into something that looks handmade. Ms. Sempé’s Grotte lamp features naturalistic, cavernlike ridges, and Mr. Schneck’s sinuous Nave vessels are reminiscent of an Alvar Aalto Savoy vase. But even with organic details, each item in the exhibition can be easily mass-produced.

“To be invited into this kind of project where you can be part of the solution,” Mr. Beller Fjetland said, “it’s just very liberating and fun. It just feels good.”

The exhibition is open Tuesday through Sunday at Spazio Maiocchi, Via Achille Maiocchi 7; hydro.com/en. — LAUREN MESSMAN

Articolo Studios, an Australian lighting design firm with offices in Melbourne and New York City, is introducing a capsule collection of small-scale furniture pieces called Articolo Home. The company’s founder and creative director, Nicci Kavals, recalled searching for compact pieces for her own home and finding it difficult. She always imagined “living within the world or aesthetic of Articolo,” she said, which is layered, textured, quiet and timeless.

The collection is installed in a gallery with vaulted concrete ceilings in the Brera district in Milan. The Melbourne architectural firm Studio Goss, the company’s longtime collaborator, designed the display on two levels. As visitors descend from the main floor to the lower level, “the furniture collections reveal themselves, evoking a sense of intrigue and surprise,” Ms. Kavals said. Individual pieces are grouped strategically on plinths so “not everything is revealed at once.”

Items include Slip, a cylindrical table with a sliced, offset top section exposing a bronze disk in the gap created by the cantilever. “I decided to squash it ever so slightly so that it wasn’t a round nor an oval, but more it challenged your eye and made you look twice,” Ms. Kavals said about the form. The table is available in both a wenge veneer and earth-tone leathers, materials that, like bronze, were selected because they develop a patina over time.

Slip is joined by Flare, a side table composed of two stacked octagonal shapes; Cuff, a low, cylindrical coffee table with a companion side table that has an optional tray top; and Fin, a pair of wood-veneered cylinders linked by vertical fins.

“I intentionally design products that are complex and not easy to manufacture yet sophisticated and enduring,” Ms. Kavals said. The collection is on view Monday through Sunday at Via Solferino 44; articolostudios.com. — STEPHEN TREFFINGER


Florentine porcelain purveyor Ginori 1735 has reimagined a collection of tabletop items based on one of the company’s most beloved patterns. Called Colonna — Italian for column — the original minimalist, stacking dishes were created by the sculptor and designer Giovanni Gariboldi (1908-71), and a limited re-edition came out earlier this year. Now, a new interpretation, named Diva, is on display this week at the Ginori 1735 Milan boutique.

In 1954, when it debuted, Colonna won the first Compasso d’Oro prize, among industrial design’s highest honors. Mr. Gariboldi eventually became the creative leader of the company then known as Richard Ginori, succeeding the renowned designer Gio Ponti in that role.

The new Diva collection encompasses 23 variations of plates, platters, bowls, tureens, cups and saucers. Mr. Gariboldi’s geometries are recapitulated in four candy-color pastels: yellow, pink, baby blue and green, all trimmed in gold.

“In the spirit of Gariboldi, who favored modern, precise forms with luxurious touches, the collection is modern, playful and radical,” said Nick Nemechek, the company’s American-born head of brand and product.

On view Wednesday through Sunday at Ginori 1735, Piazza San Marco 3; ginori1735.com. — MELISSA FELDMAN

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