Futuristic materials, high-tech furniture and functional design on show in Milan

AFP Relax News
Panasonic's Photosynthesis, at the Salone Internazionale del Mobile

The annual Salone Internazionale del Mobile is the most accurate event in the calendar when it comes to predicting how our living rooms will look in the future, and this year looks no different.

But far from plain tables, chairs and lamps, the products on offer at Milan's annual furniture fair nowadays would often look more at home at a technology or science show, as computers and high-tech production continue their creep into every aspect of our lives.

The time when furniture was loving crafted from wood, for instance, is long gone, with this year's show heralding the arrival of cloud-based 3D printers, capable of constructing objects on demand from designs conceived using an iPad app.

One exhibition in Milan from 3D cloud printing Sculpteo highlights the fruits of collaboration with a group of nine designers, with the firm describing its exhibition as 'Design 2.0'.

"New collaborations with designers at Milan Design Week demonstrates how this technology is no longer a technology just for geeks, but a new way to produce bespoke objects," says Clément Moreau, co-founder and CEO of Sculpteo on the firm's blog.

"Design and technology work very much in conjunction with one another and the era of mass customization is now very much becoming a reality.”

But Sculpteo and other manufacturers aren't the only ones leveraging technology to improve our living environments -- in the future, no matter where you're sitting, standing, lounging or eating, it seems some circuit boards won't be far away.

Panasonic, for instance, is demonstrating an electronic 'photosynthesis' cycle using solar power designed by Akihisa Hirata, while Samsung is showing kitchen tabletops capable of displaying recipes so that tech-savvy chefs don't have to juggle mixing bowls and a cookbook.

Among the technology and a few futuristic designs from the world's automakers though, this year's Salone reflects the austerity of Italy and the wider world.

With fair organizer Marco Romanelli telling AFP that attention is increasingly on materials and reinterpreting products to make them more functional, there are plenty of inspired ideas that don't cost the earth in every sense of the phrase.

Dutch firm Studio Mango, for instance, has created an 'unfurling lamp' small enough to be inserted into a letter box to reduce costs, while American designer Stephan Burks will debut Dala, a collection of woven outdoor furniture for Dedon which uses a combination of recycled food packaging and recyclable polyethylene.

At the Most exhibition, Tom Dixon has creatively used ceramic in his new lighting collection, adding another outlet for the versatile material, while mainstream brand Alessi will be showcasing a new functionality-led cutlery range.

The Salone Internazionale del Mobile runs through April 22 in Milan, Italy.