MDW24 salonesatelite scaled

When Salone comes to town 

Between April 16th and 21st, Milan was at a 200% occupancy rate. Yeah… you read that right, there was double the amount of people normally residing in the city during this time period. This can easily be attributed to Salone Del Mobile and the Milan Design Week, a globally renowned trade show and associated events which happen every April. 

This year, I’ve had the chance to tag along with Natalia and her peers as they were working at the main event, had a chance to explore the vast exhibition halls filled with the next generation of Smart (Home) Tech and Design trends, as well as attend some super fun installations all around the city. (It was bananas 🍌, pun very much intended). If you ever get the chance to visit, both the city and the main event at Fiera Milano (general admission is Saturday and Sunday), I can wholeheartedly recommend it, even if you’re not in the interior design/architecture space. Let’s dive in!

Salone del Mobile 

The centrepiece of this entire institution is the weeklong trade show/exhibition happening at Milan’s very own Fiera Milano. The grounds are huge, and this event takes up all of the pavilions of the venue, and is by far the biggest event happening. Here’s some stats from the 2024 edition.

Natalia and her peers were doing a project around Salone Satellite, the “younger” offspring of the main event, whereby young designers and newcomers (until the age of 35) get a chance to exhibit and showcase their work. In 2024, it celebrated it’s 25th anniversary with a packed schedule full of interesting talks, alumni round tables as well as a ping pong tournament on a glass table. It was fun to spend some time with Natalia and watch her in her natural environment as creative director, as well as meeting a ton of really inspiring young people from all around the world. 

Salone Satelite is however, only a fraction of the entire Salone Del Mobile event. It takes up roughly 1 of the 24 available halls. The remainder of which, just days earlier were completely empty spaces. In the 7 or so days before the doors open, these halls are transformed in a way which blew my mind – complete living rooms, bathrooms with working showers and huge kitchens are created. It nearly feels as if you’re walking through a miniature city where each house has an open door. 

Companies quite literally compete with each other to outdo themselves when it comes to the extravaganza with which they present at Salone. From full restaurants featured in some stands, to bars or multi-floor designs or multi-shower installations with running water, art installations or even a Sink Tap which can make you an espresso. It’s wild to see what the “next generation” of high tech gadgets is for both the homes of the ultra wealthy, as well as the hotels they will be staying at around the world. 

One stand/pavilion which especially stood out was Samsung, and their focus on the interconnected home and AI, from your fridge to the wash machine, the latter of which I’m still trying to figure out what voice control is used for. It felt like waking onto the set of back to the future. 

The sheer amount of people attending is also something to wonder at. The walkways and pathways are filled with people from all over the world and you can hear languages from Swahili to Spanish all by just walking for a few meters. Of the entire event, my favorite part must have been the book store, with their entire collection of Taschen books and rare gems hand selected by the staff. Luckily I walked out without buying anything, but my Amazon wish list definitely grew. 

Fuorisalone (Milano Design Week)

During the weekend, we became tourists in our own city. We packed our backpacks, filled our water bottles and headed out to explore the various installations and galleries set up by some of the most unique brands out there – a color exploration space by Google, a pop-art house by Chiquita and interactive installations by Grohe amongst others. 

Pro Tips for Milano Design Week (Fuori Salone) 

  • Wear comfortable shoes and sun protection ( you’ll be standing in line a lot)
  • Get there early, as lines form very quickly and tend to be very long 
  • Don’t take the info about closing times from the website seriously, lots of exhibits close their lines 2-3 hours before the official time to allow everyone to enter.
  • Take lots of photos, it’ll be a blast to remember everything.
  • Take a Tote Bag with you, as you’ll be showered with flyers, business cards, samples and the like. The bag will make exploring much easier. 
  • Try to see many of the districts. ( each district, e.g: Isola, Brerra, Affori etc) have their own installations, murals and events to see. 
  • Anything which doesn’t require a ticket or is free – get ready to wait in line for long periods of time

Now, to some of my favourite installations and memories from the design week:

Chiquita Pop Art – The Banana House 

I’m not the biggest fan of Bananas, but I am a fan of  Chiquita. From the time they released Spotify playlist stickers on the bananas, to this Pop Art Pop up. It was everything you could wish for it to be, yellow to the max, their positive and upbeat brand voice jokes, and of course a giant ball pit where you could fish out small Anti-Stress bananas. Now, I won’t question how sanitary public ball pits are, but it’s always a treat to see them used in marketing installations. Official Website.

Disney + Secret Pop Ups (Peek Inside)

These were super cool pop-ups where you could “peek” into the world of your favorite shows. These small shops were sprinkled all across Tortona Design District, and there was a small looking hole through which you could see the recreated set of some of Disney’s (and Hulu’s) biggest shows. Definitely less interactive than other exhibits, but still an interesting concept and execution. 

IKEA’s First 

When you move out for the “first” time, IKEA is usually the place to go. For a second year at Design Week, they really leaned into the concept of firsts, from the first move, first kiss, first neighbourhood to the first party and all the other “firsts” have. While the actual exhibit (labirinth exploring different firsts shown like IKEA Sample Rooms) and their food were incredibly underwhelming, the scene for the artists, covered in rooms and Colors was a pleasure to look at. I don’t have photos of it, but they also made the “coolest night club” by having a bunch of mattresses you could relax on. It was interesting to see their take on Design Week, the concepts were really fun and nice, but as said above, the execution was a bit underwhelming. They did have great bags though! Official Website.

The Super Design Show (my number #1)

The Superdesign Show, one of the biggest exhibits in the Tortona Design District, was an immersive mix of international designs, companies large and small and countries showcasing their best works. This one felt like a journey into another dimension, moving between the unveiling of a new car (Lexus) in their AI powered generative art experience, to the  Geberit’s Aqua themed 360* projection. I never wondered what it must be like to be flushed down, yet now I wonder no more. It’s surreal. In the thematic and country sections, one could find anything from a robotic arm creating 3D printed furniture, to “bug shaped” lights as well as tons, and I mean tons, of renewable and recycled materials. We spent more time with Natalia than I care to admit exploring the different materials presented, squishing sponges and foam or gliding our hands through recovered plastic pellets. It was a feast for the senses, and satiating in a way that’s difficult to describe. Official Website.

Design Space AlUla (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia)

This was one of the most “transformative” spaces, as the moment you crossed into courtyard, it felt like you were taken to the Kingdom. From professionally dressed waiters in ironed shirts offering you dates and Arabic Coffee, to the faint music playing in the background and the usage of distinct Middle Eastern scents. Once you walked into the main installation and sat down on the communal “couch” lights, sounds and smells transported you into the desert, from the scorching orange sun of the day, to the cool and dark blues of the night. It was wonderful and felt like we left Italy without really leaving. This also brought back memories from the KSA pavilion at Expo 2020 in Dubai. I don’t know where 2025 will take us, but I’m starting to have an ever stronger growing feeling Riyadh may be in the cards. Official Website.

Cool links to read (the ones we didn’t make it to)

Hong Chul Wonderland

Google’s Making Sense of Color

Grohe Spa

Kia’s Opposites United

Love from Milan,


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