Milano Design Week

Salone del Mobile and Fuorisalone 2022


Furnishing your home at the 1981 Salone del Mobile

Let’s go back in time, to the 20th edition of the Salone, with an article published in Domus 480, where the adventure of people furnishing a new apartment in those years is told.

M.S. had the job of refurnishing his house. The first complete set of furniture since he’d set up house in Via Nazionale with his new wife twenty-five years previously. Choice hadn’t been a problem on that occasion: the 19-century living-room suite came to him through the family, the “contemporary” kitchen was the latest fashion, and the modern spindly-legged armchair was a present from an architect friend. The rest came from a big store specializing in antique style furniture. 

Domus 620 September 1981
Domus 620 September 1981

Now the situation was completely different: advanced technology had moved into the furniture field; industrial design had been applied to furniture production and led to a “good design” explosion in Italy. 

Domus 620 September 1981
Domus 620 September 1981

M.S., an electronics engineer, was not particularly well informed, so he bought the specialized magazines and special furniture issues of others and set to work carefully collecting data. Faced with all this furniture, he experienced a vague feeling of confusion. He was, after all, used to solving far more complex problems than this. 

Domus 620 September 1981
Domus 620 September 1981

What he needed was a logical way of cataloguing all this. The first move was easy: a subdivision and grouping into types. Then he tried to identify emergent categories. The one with the most examples contained furniture that was basically functional, easily placed in modern houses, useful, serious, simple and reassuring. Then he identified another category: more technological, resembling work and office furniture.

Domus 620 September 1981
Domus 620 September 1981

M.S. they liked them, surely he would have chosen more than one. So he identified another category of more strictly technological furniture, similar to work tools, both for the essentiality of the shape but above all for the material used. In this context he chose a multipurpose metal shelving, which reminded him of the aseptic environment in which he worked. He therefore found a limited series of furniture that recaptured past styles, such as a black leather sofa with white liberty decorations.

Domus 620 September 1981
Domus 620 September 1981

A third and smaller category contained furniture that reused stylistic elements from the past, for example a small settle in black hide with white art nouveau decorations. He finally put to one side a few non-classifiable pieces: slightly absurd and occasionally violent, they combined both technological innovations and a poetic approach. Here is the real “modern” furniture, thought M.S. 

Domus 620 September 1981
Domus 620 September 1981

M.S., unable to find any connecting element among it all, decided to start from the beginning again and try to place the collected material in a series of imaginary rooms, ignoring differences of style, form and function.

Domus 620 September 1981
Domus 620 September 1981

The result was unexpected and exciting. M.S. felt slightly stunned but satisfied. His idea, however, was not the result of chance: it was the consequence of contemplating a special kind of furniture: infinite, embracing every furnishing typology, furniture designed by artists and designers, decorative and technological, multifunctional, historic and modern.

Domus 620 September 1981
Domus 620 September 1981

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