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Milan 2015: Craft Collaborations at Wallpaper* Handmade
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Wallpaper* Handmade is always a highlight of Milan Design Week, and this year it was bigger and better than ever, leaving behind its former location of interior design studio Leclettico and taking over an entire arcade. Pictured above is the 2:4 Chair and Puzzle Rug by UAE-based designer Khalid Shafar, as part of Middle East Revealed, a section of the show focused on highlighting work by key designers based in the Middle East.

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In the same part of the show, I spotted the Braided Chair and Ottoman by Emirati artist and designer Latifa Saeed.

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Upstairs I loved the Oru table lamp, by Aljoud Lootah. Part of a wider collection of geometric furniture and objects that aim to explore form and function, the lamp’s dramatic angles appear to almost be folded, like origami, hence the name.

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Back in the main section of the exhibition, entitled “Eat me! Drink me! Tell me that you love me!” to coincide with the Milan Expo, the Arc picnic bench was a collbaration between Os & Oos, Hi-Macs and Bone Solid. “Naturally formed stone is not malleable or pourable so only through the removal of material one can create forms. The use of Hi-Macs material allows the same properties of stone because it is just that, but when ground with a binding medium it makes it possible when warmed to bend and being able to do things natural stone cannot,” said the designers. “In the Arc bench and stools, two common radiuses are the basic element, the interchangeable parts lead to the different designs. An arc is a self-supporting element and therefore is inherently stable, the Arc bench and stools make good use of this trait which allows for the simple and slender shapes.”

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I loved the Bed Table by Muller Van Severen featuring Alma’s bespoke camel hide. A freelancer’s dream executed in Muller Van Severen’s inimitable style.

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This Dining Table is by Amsterdam-based Italian design duo Formafantasma (Andrea Trimarchi and Simone Farresin) and is made of Caesarstone’s raw concrete, white concrete and veined black quartz. “We tried to highlight the technical and expressive possibilities of the material, combining different colors and using panels in a structural manner,” said the designers. I loved the oxidized brass joint holding it all together.

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The Desert Islands Dessert set was four sets of three glass bowls by 6a Architects and Lobmeyer inspired by four imaginary islands, from Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Thomas More’s Utopia, William Golding’s Lord of the Flies and Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe.

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Vanessa Mitrani’s sculptural glassware set comprises four tumblers, four highballs and four martini glasses, all set onto bronze bases. They are paired with Mark Albrecht’s dream bar, inspired by the standing bars of 1950s and 1960s New York.

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Pouic the Jolie Jolly dining chair by Thierry Dreyfus and Yota Design is designed to be a “happy and comfortable chair.” It is made of ash upholstered in Kvadrat fabric.

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The Rotunda Serotina by Kolman Boye Architects, the American Hardwood Export Council, Benchmark and T’a Milano was modeled on an old-fashioned pick and mix sweet shop. Snacks from the center were served on the American cherry wood platters stacked around its edges, which visitors could take home with them at the end of the evening.

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The Cheese Platter by Matteo Fogale and Letitia de Allegri in collaboration with Ceccotti Collezioni, which is made from glass, wood and leather, was inspired by the forms of the cheese it is designed to serve.

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And finally, the Flat Pack Greenhouse by Jonas Wagell and Kettal is designed to help even those living in small spaces to grow their own plants.

Katie Treggiden is a purpose-driven journalist, author and, podcaster championing a circular approach to design – because Planet Earth needs better stories. She is also the founder and director of Making Design Circular, a program and membership community for designer-makers who want to join the circular economy. With 20 years' experience in the creative industries, she regularly contributes to publications such as The Guardian, Crafts Magazine and Monocle24 – as well as being Editor at Large for Design Milk. She is currently exploring the question ‘can craft save the world?’ through an emerging body of work that includes her fifth book, Wasted: When Trash Becomes Treasure (Ludion, 2020), and a podcast, Circular with Katie Treggiden.