Steely mono-material metal furniture takes centre stage at Milan design week

Mono-material metal furniture was one of the most prominent trends at Milan design week, where both emerging and established designers created striking pieces from aluminium and stainless steel. Here, we round up eight of the best.

This year’s edition of Milan design week showcased not just interesting individual installations and projects, but also gave an insight into wider trends within the industry.

Mono-material pieces – designed using just one type of material – were seen everywhere this year, with mono-material metal furniture especially popular.

Designers used aluminium and stainless steel to create sculptural lights, playful storage furniture and practical seating.

Below, we’ve rounded up eight of the most innovative and fun mono-material metal pieces from the annual design festival:

Mono-material lamp by Kotaro UsugamiMono-material lamp by Kotaro Usugami
Photo by Ryoukan Abe

Moment table lamp by Kotaro Usugami

The Salone Satellite showcase of designers under the age of 35 had numerous fun metal designs on display, with Japanese designer Kotaro Usugami providing some of the most eye-catching examples.

His stand showcased four mono-material metal pieces – three lights and a stool – all with different surface finishes that create a variety of impressions, despite all being made from stainless steel and aluminium.

“This project is called Ordinary Material / Extraordinary Pieces, and it aims to shed new light on ordinary materials using industrial products such as aluminium and stainless steel,” Usugami told Dezeen via translator Yuto Ogihara.

Usugami’s background as a watch designer made him interested in working with stainless steel.

“Stainless steel is a highly durable material, and that’s connected with the theme of sustainability,” Usugami said. “It’s also not difficult to manage; it’s easy to produce. The finishes are all created by Japanese artisans.”

Metal chair by Kiki GotiMetal chair by Kiki Goti

Chair by Kiki Goti

The historical modernist Villa Borsani in Varedo, north of Milan, provided the backdrop for some of the most interesting products at Milan design week as part of the nomadic Alcova showcase.

Among them was designer Kiki Goti’s sculptural chair made entirely out of aluminium, which contrasts a sharp angular back with a curved, rounded seat.

“What I love about aluminium is the concept of it being the softest of the metals; it has a kind of contradiction in itself,” Goti, who created the piece for Vetralia Collectible, told Dezeen.

“My work works with a lot of contrast and I like the inherent duality that exists in aluminium,” she added. “I find it pretty poetic, this kind of soft metal. It’s stiff, it’s soft; it’s matt and shiny, it has a little bit of roughness and a bit of luxury. “

Metal pieces by Dirk DuifMetal pieces by Dirk Duif

Cabinet and watering can by Dirk Duif

At Spazio Rossana Orlandi, a number of emerging designers were showcasing their works in the design gallery’s labyrinthine spaces.

Dutch designer Dirk Duif’s oversized cabinet and watering can, both made from stainless steel, could be found on the lower-ground floor.

Working with a single material is preferable because it makes it easier to recycle the furniture at the end of its life, the designer said.

“If it ever needs to be recycled, it’s just one thing,” Duif told Dezeen. “Metal is a very nice material to work with because you can make every shape that you want with it, and it’s very durable and strong.”

Tube table by Tim TevenTube table by Tim Teven
Photo by Pierre Castignola

Tube collection by Tim Teven

Also at Rossana Orlandi, Dutch designer Tim Teven who comes from a family of blacksmiths used a hydraulic press machine to create the shapes of his furniture pieces.

“I’m always fascinated by the deformation of material, and I mostly use metal and aluminium,” he told Dezeen.

By “deforming” his pieces, Teven aims to create useable, functional details, as seen in the steel-tube furniture he showed at Rossana Orlandi, where the metal is bent to form armrests and table legs.

“It’s all about knowing what the material does when you process it in that way,” Teven said. “You find out tricks to influence how the material bends and how you can do this assembly from it.”

Metal table by Thomas SerruysMetal table by Thomas Serruys

SPC Chair by Thomas Serruys

Belgian designer Thomas Serruys showed his SPC furniture as part of the Baranzate Ateliers exhibition in Milan. Made from hot-dipped galvanized steel, his outdoor furniture has a simple, sculptural shape.

“We love to work in metal, that’s the core material we use in our atelier,” Serruys told Dezeen. “We love to work with this material and finish because the pieces become very resistant and can remain outside year in, year out.”

“Also, the galvanised finish patinates lovely over time. In our opinion, the chair only gets more beautiful over time and use.”

Hako Cabinet by 56 HoursHako Cabinet by 56 Hours

Hako Cabinet by 56 Hours

Among the pieces presented by Rotterdam design studio 56 Hours at Salone Satellite was the Hako Cabinet, which marked the studio’s first time working with aluminium.

Its clever design features clothes hanger-shaped cutouts that ended up forming the hangers themselves.

“We didn’t use any finishing on it, so it’s very easy to repair or recycle if necessary in the future,” 56 Hours co-founder Viki Nagy told Dezeen. “And it’s a really durable material.”

The studio aims to make conscious decisions on materials, co-founder Mate Olah added, saying they always question the source of the material used.

“It’s our responsibility to go a bit further and collect this information,” he added.

Aluminium Stedelijk Chair by Sabine MarcelisAluminium Stedelijk Chair by Sabine Marcelis

Stedelijk Chair by Sabine Marcelis

Created by designer Sabine Marcelis for the contemporary Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, the Stedelijk Chair was produced by furniture brand BD Barcelona in aluminium – a material chosen by Marcelis because of its recyclability.

Shown as part of the Capsule Plaza showcase at Spazio Maiocchi, it’s the first-ever chair from Marcelis, who says she wanted to use just one material to create a timeless design.

“I feel that stripping a design down to the essentials and working with a single material creates a simplicity that allows the design to be implemented in many different settings throughout different eras hopefully,” Marcelis told Dezeen.

“The challenge was to create something with a strong identity yet complimentary to the surroundings it will inhabit,” she added. “The chair needed to be functional, of course, comfortable, stackable, lightweight, responsibly produced, durable and recyclable – aluminium proved to be the perfect material to meet these demands.”

Format Formwork seriesFormat Formwork series
Photo by Ben Dreith

Aluminium Formwork by Niceworkshop

An exhibition of steel pieces created by South Korean design studio Niceworkshop for recycling brand Format was one of the most interesting things on show as part of the Capsule Plaza exhibition at 10 Corso Como.

The studio creates furniture from salvaged metal formwork used to pour concrete in the construction of skyscrapers as well as from more conventional recycled aluminium. The resulting mono-material pieces were bolted together for an industrial feel.

“My family has been making formwork in Korea for more than 50 years,” Format co-founder Phillip Lee told Dezeen. “And instead of throwing it away, I thought we should recreate it into something else.”

Milan design week took place from 15 to 21 April 2024. See Dezeen Events Guide for an up-to-date list of architecture and design events taking place around the world.

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