Inspiration and design insights... inside my travel diary to Milan 2024!

A trip to the capital of design – Milan – is always bound to ignite the senses, and mine to Milan Design Week and Salone de Mobile did not disappoint. 

Arriving in the city early on Saturday morning we ventured straight out for coffee and croissants at the infamous Marchesi, lined with its green silk walls and arches, followed by a long meander, taking in the sites of the beautiful Galleria and impressive Duomo, along the cobbled streets of the Quadrilatero d’Oro area, to see the stunning Ralph Lauren installation with its striped façade topped with giant 3D poppies. 

We finished the day in the Brera design district with an obligatory Aperol spritz aperitivo (when in Rome, right?!), rounding out a fabulous first day, and feeling very happy to be back in Milan.

Travel diary to Milan
Milan restaurant
Travel diary to Milan
Travel diary to Milan
Travel diary to Milan

With Design week not officially kicking off until Monday, we had a leisurely Sunday visiting the beautiful Villa Necchi.  Built in the 1930’s for a wealthy Milanese family, the home was well ahead of its time and is seen as an icon of modern design.  With intricate geometric patterns used throughout – from floors, to ceilings, to doors, to furniture – it is a mecca for design-lovers.  More inspiration was found in the villa’s beautiful poppy-filled gardens, the neighbouring streets and the nearby boutiques. 

We wrapped the day with the wonderful Fanuli family hosting Australian customers at a fabulous little bar in the city. And with none of us expecting the 29 degree spring day, we soon spilled out into laneway with our Aperols for a fun evening.

Day 3 saw us heading out on a suburban train line to the outskirts of Milan to see Alcova.  The Alcova installation is known for its unique locations (last year it was held at a decommissioned abattoir!) and this year at two beautiful and historically significant villas.  The first, Villa Bagatti, a historic home built by one of the area’s wealthy land-owners in the late 1600’s provided a unique opportunity to merge history and innovation, with designers from around the world displaying their latest products to the back drop of the rambling old villa.  The juxtaposition of the historic spaces with modern design installations was incredible, and without doubt the highlight of Milan Design Week for me.

Travel diary to Milan

We headed out to explore Salone de Mobile, the world’s largest design and furniture fair, on the Tuesday.  The scale of Salone is overwhelming, with more than 20 giant ‘halls’ full of exhibitions and with this year’s event featuring EuroCucina kitchen and bathroom design, there promised to be a lot to see.  

Salone highlights included Riva with its beautiful, solid timber kitchens and furniture, and Flexform with its stunning soft furnishings and exquisite detailing, with leather wrapped chair frames, piped trims and beautiful luxurious textiles.  

Travel diary to Milan

The kitchen ‘halls’ featured a variety of metallic finishes, coloured appliances and lots of new technology, including in-bench induction systems and Alexa-operated fridge doors to name a few.

The sheer scale of Salone and mass of people crowded into artificially lit spaces soon became too much for us though, so after ticking off a few key exhibitions, we headed back into the fresh air and the streets of Milan to visit some pop-up exhibitions and design events, including:

  • Stumbling across an installation by Danish designer Verner Panton was like entering the set of an Austin Powers’ movie with its vibrant purple, orange and magenta scheme.  
  • Having a fan-girl moment and attending a talk by design icon Patricia Urquiola
  • Zaha Hadid street installation
  • An obligatory trip to 10 Corso Como, known for being the first concept store, for aperitivo and dinner.
Travel diary to Milan

Back to Salone the next day to check out more exhibitions and gather insights into the future direction of bathrooms design.  Wellbeing, customisation and technology all featured strongly, with colourful tapware and basins, curvy bathroom ‘furniture’, printed basin finishes and mood-enhancing showers all capturing our attention. 

Travel diary to Milan

Whilst the ‘official’ events provided endless design inspiration it was the incidental (and often accidental!) finds that excited us most.  One missed train, led to change of plans, which led to a fabulous restaurant find that became an absolute highlight of the trip.  Stumbling upon Gloria Osteria we were immediately taken with its glamourous and decadent pastel purple and yellow design.  We were in awe with the double height windows, coloured Murano glass chandeliers, tasselled banquette seating, and striped marble floors, and after some seriously persuasive talking, the Maitre-D relented and gave us an ‘impossible to get table’ on the promise we would be out within the hour, making it a fabulously unexpected spot for lunch … and one of the highlights of our trip.

Travel diary to Milan
Travel diary to Milan
Travel diary to Milan
Travel diary to Milan

Other exhibitions we attended included Scandinavian brand Muuto, which once again took over a Milanese apartment transforming it with colour, texture and light into a fabulous exhibition and showroom space for the week.

Travel diary to Milan
Travel diary to Milan

A visit to Missoni and Moooi events showcased a surprisingly muted, but still beautiful, colour palette.

Travel diary to Milan
Travel diary to Milan

Whilst Cassina showcased a decidedly Japanese influence, stunning glossy tables in rich tones, and beautiful neutral, textured soft furnishings (note, it looks like boucle is sticking around for a while!)

Other showroom highlights were the stunning Edra showroom in the incredible Palazzo Durini, another incredible juxtaposition of historical architecture with modern furniture.

Travel diary to Milan
Travel diary to Milan

And the beautiful botanical and butterfly installation at Gessi tapware.

Needless to say, it was a huge week and I hope you enjoyed peaking inside my travel diary to Milan.  And with nearly 20,000 steps each day, frequent  espresso macchiatos, a few negroni sbagliatos and plenty of delicious pasta to keep us going, we soaked up an endless supply of design inspiration!

If I was to pick some of the design elements we saw repeatedly, and that I think are likely to influence design directions here in our part of the world, I’d say keep an eye out for:

  • Chrome making a resurgence
  • High gloss finishes
  • Lots of colour, but generally in more muted, dirty tones
  • Ceramic and hand crafted elements
  • Japanese aesthetics and design
Travel diary to Milan
Travel diary to Milan
Travel diary to Milan

Till next time Milan! Thanks for the inspiration and fabulous memories.

Anna x