Without doubt, design has always studied nature, its strength and its infinite range of shapes and colours. It has always been a source of inspiration, providing exciting ideas and enriching designers’ creativity. This is as true now as ever, albeit with different approaches and results. While in the 70s nature entered our homes in a playful, unconventional way, with ironic and sometimes irreverent objects, today natural elements form an integral part of most designs, so as to remain in contact with nature inside the home.
Milan's Salone del Mobile has always been an excellent showcase for this trend; somewhere to find styles and solutions to decorate the home in a contemporary key. Over the years, "natural" design has always found its way to the Milan Furniture Fair: pop accessories inspired by nature's ultra-bright colours; environmentally friendly furniture made of natural and recycled wood or of cardboard and cork; upholstery with natural "living" elements; walls and floors covered with real gardens; indoor greenhouses to grow your own light detox lunch; and indoor elements transformed into highly original outdoor furniture.
In 1971, the colourful pop setting of Milan's Salone del Mobile saw the launch of a lounge chair fashioned in the shape of towering blades of grass, an item that was to make design history. With its long green stems that bend to your shape when you sink in and lie down, Pratone by Giorgio Ceretti, Pietro Derossi and Riccardo Rosso, is an extraordinary chaise longue designed to recreate a portion of the garden or an entire green field in the living rooms of the bourgeoisie. Created as a symbol of the anti-design cultural revolution, Pratone, in fact, soon became a cult icon of design. Still today, it is sought after by many design enthusiasts. For this reason, in 2016, Gufram – the design house that created Pratone – introduced a new, Nordic limited edition of the chair . Pure white replaces bright green, allowing a snowy meadow to captivate the home.
The same irreverent mood features in Cactus, a decorative coat rack designed in 1972 by Guido Drocco and Franco Mello to bring the outdoor indoors in a more exotic key. Gritty and provocative, Cactus breaks away from form and function, and from the dictates of natural colour and "good taste", bringing creativity and humour into the home. The first edition was a very deep emerald green, but, since then, it has often been reinterpreted in line with the colour and style in vogue at that time, including a lime green variant that fades into orange, as if burnt by the scorching desert sun. This year sees the début of Psychedelic Cactus, available in a limited edition of just 169, which sees Gufram's coat rack painted exclusively by hand, cactus after cactus and featuring the unmistakable colourful styling of the designer, Paul Smith.
In today's increasingly technological world, design anticipates the widespread desire to return to a more genuine lifestyle in contact with Mother Nature. This has lead to the use of "living" materials, such as wood, to generate a sense of well-being that derives from establishing a renewed balance with nature and a voluntary and conscious return to our origins. Following this trend, in 2011, Toyo Ito introduced the Ripples bench designed for Horm: an instant sell-out, and winner of the Compasso d'Oro. Poetically evocative, and as beautiful as a sculpture, it breaks away from the concept of industrial product to enter the field of art. The bench is made of a laminated composite of five different solid woods: walnut on the surface, followed by mahogany, cherry, oak and ash. The layers are finished to produce an elegant polychromatic effect that evokes the rippling of waves. The artist's creative flair results in a natural, sustainable product that gives space to functionality and personality.
The desire to experiment new ways of bringing nature into the home is making designers and companies increasingly bold. Just think, for example, of the masonite boards developed by Folkform, a Swedish duo that in 2006 began using fresh flowers and butterflies to create wood fibre coatings; craftsmanship and the revival of plant imagery at the service of purity and simplicity.
Live Screen by Danielle Trofe Design is a modular vertical garden that uses hydroponic technology to bring gardening into the home and office. What better way to reapproach the elements and the primordial cycles of life? This irrigation system makes for a healthier home or office environment, as the plants grown purify the air, and the possibility of growing herbs, fruits and vegetables brings benefits in terms of energy savings and quality of life.
While it is true that the interior looks to the outside world, it is also true that the outside world looks to the interior. Pure fantasy? Not for Nucleo, the artistic duo, consisting of Andrea Sanna and Piergiorigo Robino, who designed Terra, an armchair that grows in the garden and transforms with the seasons, just like lawn or a tree. Terra is a living product; it is nature in the guise of furniture. It consists of a system of cardboard panels that interlock with one another to create the frame of the armchair. This is then filled with earth and planted with grass, granting the comfort and relaxation of a sophisticated armchair. Talk about Green Power!