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  • Writer's pictureJames Treble

It's Milano Time

ATTENTION ALL DESIGN LOVERS! It’s that time of year again: Milano Design Week is back! With more excitement than New Years Eve, Designers, Decorators and Retailers are on the edge with expectations, to show off their latest creations, and of course check out everyone else’s! One of my very favourite work/travel destinations, Milano’s Salone Del Mobile [Furniture Fair] attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors every year since 1961, when it was launched. This exciting celebration of design has grown very large and to international acclaim and expands nowadays into the city itself with almost every district sporting Interior Design events and Furniture displays. The success of Milano Design Week is undeniable, and with so many events overlapping on the calendar, the major issue you have to solve every year is: What Not To Miss?

Well, if you’re on your way to Milano this year, and feeling a bit overwhelmed by it all, here are my tips, to help you stay organised, ensure you see the most you can and importantly, remain calm and relaxed so you can enjoy the city as well as all that is on show.

James Treble in Milano

All images in this page by James Treble in Milano

The fair is open Tuesday to Sunday, and the most important thing is to arrive there early in the morning, grab a map (if you haven’t already from the many kiosks in the city), highlight the sections that are pertinent to your business and focus your attention there first up, when your energy is high, as trust me those calf muscles will be tired in a few days!

Visiting the fair is an important way to understand the latest looks & Directions in design, materials and technical achievements within the design and furniture industry. It allows you the chance to discover other products and brands to possibly include in your business, in addition to visiting those stands of products you are familiar with already. It's connections' time: make the most of it, and keep your camera ready, as some stands are so full of people, you’ll have to nudge in front of people to get your pic and grab a brochure or business card. Don’t worry, everybody else will be doing it to you too! Apart from the big, well-known names, you’ll also find the Emerging Designers section inspiring too; so much talent, and definitely worth a visit.

Alternating every second year, the Salone also offers one specific highlight in addition to all the furniture and decor items on show. One year is Eurocucina & Eurobagno, (being Kitchens and Bathrooms) showing the latest trends in design appliances and bathroom ware, this was on last year. 2019 however, is the year for Workplace [office furniture] and Euroluce [lighting], where the latest creative concepts and ideas in these areas will be launched to the world.

Around Milan itself there is also so much to see that by simply walking around the city streets you are sure to bump into well-known brands as well as exciting new ones. Despite finding Design on display everywhere, and I mean everywhere, there are certain areas you should not miss:

BRERA DISTRICT is quite high end and very central, being just a short walk from the amazing Duomo and its beautiful square. Walking along the streets you’ll find access to apartments in heritage buildings where design and contemporary art blend with each other; so keep an eye out for the familiar banners showing the Milano Design Week logo out front! There are of course many of the important and established stores like the unmissable Boffi (I love Boffi), Agape, Salvatori...

5VIE [literally meaning five streets] is also quite central with a conglomerate of design exhibitions and site-specific installations, so be prepared to be excited and inspired.

Nothing is ordinary about VIA DANDINI and its glamorous showrooms except for the fact that these are interior design stores you’ll find open all year-round: this is Milano's own design district, so visit these beautiful showrooms and take note of the effort and ingenuity of their amazing displays.

A short trip by Metro will take you to TORTONA DISTRICT where many large warehouses will overwhelm you with Design on a theatrical scale. Here too you should grab a guide and walk the streets open-mindedly, as once again art and design merge in exciting displays of Beauty.

James in the Metro to the Fair

How many days should you allow for this trip? I’d suggest no less than two days at the main Salone and one/two days walking around the city, (I could easily spend 4 days in Brera District alone!)

How do I do it? Well, I’m always up at dawn (so easy when you're fresh from an international flight), I have a latte and croissant in one the local cafés near where we stay, and off I go, trying to beat the commuters' crowd on the public transport. Be ready to squish in on the train! I am at the Salone early, (where you can grab another coffee) and I am in as soon as the doors open at 9,30, walking through one pavilion at the time - there are about 15 VERY large pavilions. These have travelators between them, some of them are two storeys, so your first visit will be overwhelming! To avoid lengthy queues, I also suggest grabbing lunch around 11.30, as the restaurants and cafes become very crowded. Unless I have fixed appointments with any of my suppliers or contacts here, I leave the fair in the early to mid-afternoon to get back into town and visit showrooms and displays in the city. Half an hour break for a snack allows me to rest a little and admire the stream of international visitors walking by. The evening is always busy with openings, launches and presentations, some exclusive to invited guests, others open to the public, and to go between these I use the underground, as cabs do get stuck in traffic. Around 11pm I'm back to my room and as I struggle to keep my eyes open I choose a few images to sum up my day on a Social Media post ... share and then ... zzzzz zz

Next day: Walk… Photograph… Look… Touch… Eat... Drink... Repeat!!

On your flight back home, you will be as exhausted as you are excited, but finally find time to catch up with your sleep. Back at home however, you will have to go through the zillions of photos you’ve taken, so you can make sense of it all; that will take some time but it’s worth doing ASAP or it'll never happen!! I find very useful to also write down a little recap [this becomes a blog article and the base for some of my talks and workshops throughout the year] as trying to express it in words always helps to put your impressions and ideas in order.

Sadly, this year I won't be traveling to Milano for the fair (but will be back in 2020) as an exciting trip to Palm Springs with a little side trip to LA, San Fran and Disney Land with the kids, has taken precedence on the calendar. But stay tuned! as I will report on some amazing Mid Century Modern architecture and its influence on Australian Design very soon!

All images in this page by James Treble

Quick Tips:

  • Fly light to Milano, as you will need luggage space for brochures and the quality clothing, shoes and the likes you should NOT resist purchasing

  • As tempting as it is, don't collect too many brochures and booklets, because their weight will affect the luggage allowance on your way back. Take photos instead, press releases if you can, and web addresses for online catalogues

  • As traffic is thick, travel around town by Metro: a daily ticket inclusive of Salone is about 6 Euros.

  • To help keep your photos in order, take a photo of the stand/store just before you enter it; this way every shot taken after will be easily identifiable with a brand

  • To mingle with the Italians don't have milk-coffees after 11am, but short-blacks; never eat dinner before 8pm and wear great shoes but comfy! NO stilettos girls, you’ll regret it!

  • Arrive one day early and enjoy an early coffee in Galleria, ensure you visit the Duomo, (this is far easier early in the morning) grab some shopping in the Fashion District, then sunset spritz and dinner along the Navigli. I love this area of Milan with restaurants and bars lining either side of a long canal; it’s well worth a visit trust me!

Milano Design Week


Every year many Australians exhibit their works during Milano Design Week. Make sure you look for their work in the local guides: they'll make you proud with both their creative talent and quality of products. To get you started find more info at LocalDesign (please say hello to my friend and creative Emma Elizabeth), SP01, and more...

Other useful links:

James Treble is an ambassador for Planet Ark and firmly believes in sensible purchasing, recycling and creative re-purposing. James has 3 decades of accumulated experience in the Building Industry, Real Estate and Interior Design and regularly shares his knowledge and experience in adding value to homes through clever design & styling. Watch his free videos on YouTube, and follow him on Facebook and Instagram for more free information.


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