Spaces within spaces, domestic spaces transformed into comfortable workplaces, open spaces transformed into private, quiet corners – the pandemic has accelerated the move towards flexible office and home spaces that was already happening. And the designers of offices and home-offices haven’t been caught off guard. This could plainly be seen in the latest products and trends on show at Milan’s Supersalone and Fuorisalone 2021. The event also presented a snapshot of the ongoing shift towards increasingly sustainable and green approaches taken by businesses. It can’t be said, though, that anyone is willing to give up social interaction and a coffee break with friends.
The office of the imagination is now a reality. Some years ago, office and home furniture company Estel set itself the task of transforming workspaces into something unexpected. It’s since redoubled its efforts, successfully merging the world of the home and office. As good as preempting the most pressing needs created by the shift to remote working, the Vicenza-based firm has intensified the dialogue between
multifunctional spaces, which are interconnected and easily accessible from within the same open space “microcosm,” while still ensuring privacy and silence.
Working with international architects and clients, Estel has added to the Italian Smart Office concept, co-designing workplaces in which work, executive, coffice, and breakout areas exist side by side. Even fully glazed cubicles surrounded by open space can still retain their own personality and remain acoustically isolated through the use of innovative sound-absorbing systems and air sanitization devices. But there’s another important factor that has determined the path of the company in recent years, namely, workplace accessibility. Reflecting the principles of Design for All, Estel has developed products that can be used by everyone, regardless of physical ability, by increasing the size of access points and removing barriers.
The remote working boom has led Estel to rethink the traditional vision of the office as the only place suitable for office work. It’s therefore been focusing on solutions that can seamlessly integrate into people’s homes. This new vision has been founded on the key principles of attractive designs, ergonomics, and balance, with the company’s new mission centering on the slogan Italian Smart Office #Everywhere. Alongside products for the office and hybrid solutions for both (San Marino sofas, Olive chairs, Fix Vela bookcases, S.Andrea operating system), many of the new products that Estel brought with it to Supersalone and Fuorisalone 2021 were intended for the home.
The latest addition to its range of desks suitable for any room in the house is Squid. Created by designer Francesco Favaretto, this desk has wide rounded edges, twin aluminum trestle legs (with a matt lacquered, bronze, brass, or pewter finish), and a leather or eco-leather shield. This detachable shield doubles as both a visual partition and a sound-absorbing screen. Designed by Arnaldo Gamba, Bloom is a desk with a distinctive plectrum shape,combined with a pouf-style seat with a slender backrest. Three thin metal legs, reinforced by horizontal profiles, support its wood, leather, or eco-leather desktop, with a hidden compartment that can be accessorized in different ways, including with a makeup mirror. The top is surrounded on both sides by a curving shield with an eco-leather, wood, or lacquered finish. The Mobile Desk and Caddy desks both have wheels so they can be moved to the most convenient spot and a storage compartment with doors (larger in the first and smaller in the second). Mobile Desk can easily be adapted for work or meetings, but also for lunch or dinner, while Caddy is equipped with a USB socket.
A fusion of accessories and worktops, chairs, sofas, and natural elements orbiting around a single center of gravity: the needs, desires, and activities of people in their office space. Offices are an integral part of the outside world. This is one of the reasons we bring plants inside as a source of life and to improve air quality. This is reflected in other objects, too, when they have botanical themes or use recycled materials. Both are featured in the new collection from Cuf Milano. The next generation of the iconic Fusion, designed by John Bennett and Sakura Adachi, Fusion Greenretains the playful, original personality of its forebear but adds sustainable materials from circular sources, thanks to collaboration between the firm and start-ups Vitesy and Krill Design, coordinated by architect Matteo Silverio.
Worktops are linoleum, a product derived from natural substances, such as linseed oil, hemp oil, and wood flour, while small plastic components, such as end caps and feet, are bioplastics. The desks can be partitioned off either with classic fabric screens or with planters made from a bioplastic sourced from coffee grounds. The planters incorporate a special technology that uses the natural qualities of the plants to sanitize the air, with the pertinent data collected and transmitted via an app. It’s the start-up Krill Design that transforms coffee grounds into a biopolymer and produces the planters with a 3D printer. In other words, the job description for a drink that’s commonplace in any workplace has been changed to something unexpected and functional.
Suitable for any situation, Fantoni’s new Meet Up collection combines design tradition, responses to new workplace needs, and sustainability. On the one hand, the firm set out to preserve that sense of community and connection typical of work environments – open plan spaces in particular – and, on the other, to meet the new demands of social distancing, safety, and low environmental impact. Using these factors as its springboard, the company, established in Gemona in 1882, has focused on flexible spaces, open spaces with multifunctional areas, and on increasingly functional furniture – such as meeting tables and drawer units – inspired by the comfort of the home.
Building on the concept of hybridizing spaces so that they’re increasingly able to perform a range of functions and not just administrative work, the firm started with it iconic large fixed and height-adjustable tables. Made with sustainable, recyclable materials, the worktops are decorated with marble veining in two different shades, Calacatta and Noir. The metal base of the height-adjustable models incorporates the adjustment mechanism, which can either be electric or a counterweight system, which is even more sustainable and highly adjustable. The electric mechanism is housed in an opening compartment with essential lines. Similar essential lines can also be found on the chest of drawers with its raised edges, pure volumes, and handle-free design – everything designed for a no-frills look.
Also reflecting the company’s commitment to sustainability, the worktops of the Meet Up collection are made using chipboard produced by Fantoni entirely from recycled wood.
The idea is like a matryoshka but with spaces instead of dolls. The new office and home office collections unveiled at Supersalone by the company, set up in the province of Brescia 58 years ago, are all about flexibility and dynamism to create spaces that can be customized and reshaped as needed, but without losing their unique features. Small worlds, one inside the other – meeting rooms that transform into individual workstations or private, quiet niches, panels and partitions that safely separate without detracting from the comfortable atmosphere or losing warmth. And the same applies to the products for transforming a corner of your home into an office, with all its comforts and space-saving, functional ideas.
The Buddyhub collection, designed by Busetti, Garuti, and Redaelli, includes a number of new office chairs that allow you to setup meeting zones thanks to the sound-absorbing screen that surrounds the back- and armrests.Available in both armchair and sofa versions, they can be placed opposite each other or joined by another panel with a central table to create small cubicles for informal meetings or breaks.
Collaboration with the Jorge Pensi Design Studio led to the creation of the Temps Low Back desk chair and the Ypsilon Connect freestanding sound-absorbing partition. Available with or without wheels, the acoustic partition is versatile and adaptable to various situations, while also providing the option of fitting magnetic boards, shelves, and even monitors. Sound-absorbing panels are also a feature of the Arki-Table Adjustable Desk range, transforming individual workstations into ones suitable for shared spaces. The sound-absorbing panel, which can easily be removed for maintenance, has a perforated plywood core covered in fabric, while the desktop is laminated in shades of white, black, and gray. Also for the office, Boxie is a modular, color-coded set of storage containers designed by Claudio Dondoli and Marco Pocci.
The Toa Folding Screen sound-absorbing partition can be joined to the Toa Desk, designed by Robin Rizzini, so that every family member can create their own work or study space in the home. The structure is metal covered with a fabric that can be removed using the zipper on one side. It’s also collapsible and light, so it can easily be moved around the home.
Odo Fioravanti designed the Babila XL armchair with a molded polypropylene shell and a large seat. One version is produced exclusively from recycled materials, making it one of Pedrali’s first products made entirely in zero-impact polypropylene.
Follow Me is the new multitasking, space-saving and height-adjustable table designed for an intuitive, simple and dynamic sit-stand use. Equipped with Mara innovative patented "no-gravity" system, it does not require electricity or gas pumps and allows a free positioning within a room. Conceived as a travel trolley, thanks to the functional handle, the tilting top and the practical castors it can be moved and used in any environment. Once folded, it can also be stored in small rooms taking up very little space. Stackable, compact and sturdy, this product features a dynamic design to perfectly meet the changing requirements of the work. Follow Me is suitable to create agile and smart workspaces also in small domestic environments, it is ideal to furnish offices, meeting and coworking places as well as large training and educational contexts.
Whether you want to work in an armchair, on the sofa, in bed or on the terrace; standing or secluded in a quiet corner at home, Follow Me follows you everywhere and encourages its own use. It makes us feel inspired and productive, offering an alternative to static and sedentary lifestyles by stimulating flexibility, performance and creativity. Available in two versions, small and large, and with a wide palette of colours and finishes, this is how Mara respond to the increasingly demands of design in the modern work environments.
Colors are an excellent medium for expressing emotions. With this idea in mind – combined with the kind of aesthetic experimentation seen in the fashion world – Luxy has introduced chromatic variations into the office. According to this company, which specializes in the design and manufacture of chairs for office and community settings, “Color is the new way to express creativity,” the firm unveiling six new shades available for all its existing and new collections.
Crono, designed by Favaretto & Partners, is a series of adaptable desks with functionality, soft lines, and a clean design built into its DNA. The laser-cut metal top, available in six shades, can be adapted to three different configurations, all of them with electrical connections and compartments for books, pens, or whatever.
Also designed by Favaretto & Partners, the Italia chair combines convenience and beauty. It’s now available in an extra-soft version. The lines are simple, designed around the movements of the body, but the colors add a splash of modernity and a distinctive uniqueness.
The firm also unveiled its overhauled collections for breakout areas, which now feature new colors and lower environmental impact. Epoca, designed by Stefano Getzel, and Aire Jr, the work of R&D Luxy, have been given a touch of the avant-garde to bring them more in step with the environment. There’s also now a 100% recycled plastic version, available in every color the firm offers.
Finally, the Switch by R&D Luxy desk chair has been revisited to better cater to the needs of concentration, productivity, comfort, and reliability. The dimensions comply with the latest European ergonomic standards, while the materials are highly breathable and hardwearing.
Photos are courtesy of Estel, Cuf Milano, Fantoni, Pedrali, Mara, Luxy