Market Research in Magnificent Milan

Multifamily designers at HPA Design Group are savvy market forecasters. “When we present to a multifamily client in real time, we know it’s not going to be installed and built for 18 to 24 months. So that forecasting piece is very important for us to hit the nail on the head for our clients,” notes Chelsea Dora-Shibley, Vice President of Interior Design, HPA Design Group.

No one has a crystal ball, but the massive Milan Furniture Fair—aka Salone del Mobile—is widely recognized as a must by international forecasters. Dora-Shibley was on the scene in Italy in April to capture all the trends emerging during Milan Design Week.

She spent her first day exploring the Brera Design District where courtyards, palaces and fabulous apartments of select Milan residents were transformed into exhibits.

“It was just phenomenal how the apartments were modeled—so vibrant compared to the neutral palettes we see stateside,” she says. The main colors that were utilized in Brera as well as throughout Salone were yellow, mint and orange. Installations featured very heavily saturated colors. “There were monochromatic rooms as well with all walls, upholstery and furniture in the same color scheme or tone. That gives us motivation and inspiration to push it up a notch over here especially knowing that we typically follow European design trends.”

The next two days Dora-Shibley headed to the trade show which is comprised of eight pavilions. She logged a staggering 22 miles on her Apple watch while observing a number of trends consistently at multiple venues. She reports that channeling tufting was out in full force on furniture upholstery and on wall panels. Many exhibitors featured upholstery wrapped case goods—and others incorporated caning into light fixtures, furniture and accessories. Terrazzo was also big. It’s being incorporated into tabletops and used as an inspiration in a variety of applications where intricate designs have an essence of terrazzo.

Everywhere she went she encountered palm trees on light fixtures, wall coverings and pillows. Bird patterns and bird accessories were frequently on display as well. At the two venues within the Fair dedicated to lighting, many exhibitors displayed variations of the LED circle/ring lighting as well as a unique arched form. And those who are passionate about velvet will be happy to know that this trend shows no signs of slowing down. “Velvet was basically the only fabric that was used everywhere,” observes Dora-Shibley. “It was beautiful.”

Attending international shows such as Salone provides important clues about what’s next and which trends will endure. Dora-Shibley says, “It validates our design intent—and helps our clients succeed.”