Elena Salmistraro’s oeuvre can be defined in simple terms—geometric, lively, fantastical and animated to the point of serving not only as brilliant backdrops for activities of all sorts but also as a source of inspiration for more creativity. Although the Italian designer’s creations are composed of colours, features and elements that are emblematic of contemporary design trends, it is in the placement of these entities, and the imaginative melding of art with design objects that Salmistraro’s designs stand out.
The product designer and artist, based in Milan, Italy, presented an array of graphically rich sculptures, tables, rugs, installations and more at the recently concluded Milan Design Week 2023. STIR enlists her various experiments, in forms, colours and patterns, presented at the design event.
‘Pop Karl’ for Karl Lagerfeld x Bosa
Karl Lagerfeld x Bosa is a collection of two exclusive sculptures—Pop Karl and Rock Karl—that serve as a tribute to the 20th-century German fashion designer Karl Otto Lagerfeld. Serving as a precursor to the much bigger thematic tribute announced for the 2023 edition of the Met Gala, these humbly sized limited-edition handmade sculptures, made out of ceramic and covered in 24-carat gold and platinum paints, are reinterpretations of the designer’s signature style. The two bespoke pieces, designed by Elena Salmistraro and Nika Zupanc—in collaboration with Bosa, a Venice-based ceramics workshop, and the House of Karl Lagerfeld, a brand that shares the vision and design aesthetic of the late fashion designer—were presented as part of Salone del Mobile 2023. While Salmistraro’s Pop Karl is a playful and witty representation of the designer, Zupanc’s Rock Karl is toned down and subtle, coloured in monochromatic hues. Salmistraro’s Pop Karl is imbued with pop colours that help create a vivid and textured sculpture, evocative of both Lagerfeld’s irony and wit, and Elena’s characteristic use of contrasting yet harmonious colours.
‘Grumetto’ for Busnelli
Grumetto is a collection of modular sofas designed by Salmistraro for the Meda-based brand Busnelli. Inspired by the dynamic spirit of rocks, the Grumetto collection aims to explore new aesthetic territories defined by sinuous lines. Although the pieces in the collection are congruently shaped, each of the twelve colour and type variations in the collection carries an individual charm to them. The soft features of these sofas promise a comfortable space for repose. Features such as the protruding base, the curved backrest and the armrests culminating into table stands come together to build a useful and versatile seating arrangement.
‘Crisalide’ and ‘Dune’ for Dnd
Salmistraro’s Crisalide and Dune door handles were displayed as part of a larger showcase by Italian handle manufacturer Dnd at the 61st edition of Salone del Mobile. The stand for the exhibit, designed by Dnd’s art director, Giulio Iacchetti, was themed on the idea and potential of making the right choices. Visitors had the freedom to choose their own door, the material and colour for the door, as well as the accessories that are affixed on doors. While Salmistraro’s Crisalide handle is defined by the designer’s emblematic patterns and colours, Dune is subtler, defined by soft lines that seem to have been generated by the movement of the wind. Both the handles are made using porcelain. In imprinting colourful patterns and a corrugated texture onto their surfaces, the handles also serve as examples of the modernisation of porcelain.
‘Molan’ for Duson Gallery Seoul
Product designer Salmistraro’s Molan coffee table was displayed at Triennale Milano, as part of the exhibition Mother-of-Pearl Tables by South Korea-based Duson Gallery. Other works displayed as part of the exhibition include those by Alessandro Mendini, Marcel Wanders, Marco Zanuso Jr, Stefano Giovannoni and Younghee Cha. The exhibition had the intention of promoting Korean crafts at an international event and displayed the culmination of the age-old South Korean tradition of mother-of-pearl and contemporary design aesthetics. Salmistraro’s Molan employs not only this archaic technique and tradition but also takes cues from the shapes of the typical Korean hat, the Gat. Further, the addition of patterns and motifs from Korean culture and design helps designate the table design as a piece of art that serves as a sample, an example of the potential of Korean aesthetics, even in contemporary times.
‘Torre Velasca QR Code: Quick Re-Evolution Code’ for INTERNI Design Re-Evolution
Torre Velasca QR Code: Quick Re-Evolution Code was the first digital installation to be showcased during Fuorisalone. Created by the Milan-based designer Elena Salmistraro as part of the exhibition event, INTERNI Design Re-Evolution, the installation was accessible to visitors via a QR code that was stuck on 80 different points in the city during the design fair. Salmistraro’s artwork presents a hyper-realistic interpretation of the Velasca Tower or Torre Velasca in Milan, Italy. The colourful yarns drawn on and from the building represent the ongoing regeneration of the tower, which is being undertaken by the real estate company Hines.
Regarding the project, Mario Abbadessa, senior managing director and country head of Hines in Italy, shares, "In line with our goal of giving back to the city a new destination to be experienced as a space for sharing and social exchange, we found in Elena Salmistraro's project the key messages that are driving our sustainable regeneration project: accessibility and connection. Through this installation, in fact, Torre Velasca virtually reconnects to its territory and makes itself visible at 360°, waiting to be able to experience it in its new dimension at the beginning of 2024."
‘Campanule’ for Lanerossi
Italian textile brand Lanerossi’s single-brand store at Via Mercato in the Brera Design District in Milan became the stage for the unveiling of the brand’s collaboration with Salmistraro. During the Milanese design fair, Salmistraro’s Campanule collection—comprising decorative cushions and blankets—were arranged to deliver an immersive experience at the store. Her designs, characterised by springtime flowers and geometric shapes and patterns, are colourful and bear the potential of enlivening up the spaces in which they are placed. The usage of pure virgin wool to knit these pieces ensures proper thermal insulation, absorption of humidity and thermoregulation.
‘Daruma’ and ‘Ennio’ for Leblon Delienne
Leblon Delienne is a sculpture workshop that builds and creates sculptures, figurines, furniture and toys that reference characters and scenarios from pop culture. A collaboration of the workshop with Salmistraro gave birth to two figurines by the Italian artist and designer—Daruma and Ennio. Daruma is the reinterpretation of the traditional Japanese doll that goes by the same name. Shaped in its original visage, the Daruma pieces by Salmistraro are covered in colour combinations evocative of the designer’s signature style. Ennio, on the other hand, is a character originally conceived by Salmistraro. Measuring 80 centimetres in height, the subtly hued character is an animated version of Elena’s colourful designs.
‘Dal Classico’ for Lithea
For Lithea, a Sicily-based brand that is pivoted on the creation of furniture, ornamental objects, and architectural elements out of stone, using lithic technology, four designers came together to build an array of products that were displayed at Salone del Mobile.Milano. Among the collaborators are Astrid Luglio, Elena Salmistraro, Mario Scairato and Martinelli Venezia Studio. The designers reinterpreted the many elements found in the Mediterranean, and presented them as artworks and usable objects made out of precious marbles and stones. The final collection includes wall coverings, wash basins, tables, and consoles. Drawing brilliant cues from Classical culture, the balanced patterns and proportionate decorations writ on the decorative and utilitarian objects are abstractions evocative of the Mediterranean—from Greece to southern Europe.
‘Chhau’ for Scarlet Splendour
The Chhau cabinet, made out of plywood and nautical resin, is inspired by ethnochoreology, the study of ethnic dance, movement and culture. The cabinet, designed for Indian brand Scarlet Splendour, borrows references from the country’s classical dances, as well as the extravagant costumes adorned by the dancers. The bright colours allude to both the riot of colours found in an Indian dance scene, as well as the vibrant hues and tones evocative of Elena’s abstract creations.
‘Legami’ for Tai Ping
For Hong Kong-based interior design brand Tai Ping, Salmistraro crafted a collection of luxury rugs, namely
‘Taliso’ for Wonderglass
Italian glassmakers WonderGlass’s exhibition, Abrakadabra, showcased at Istituto dei Ciechi during Milan Design Week, platformed the works of several artists and designers, namely, Paul Cocksedge, Tom Dixon, Elisa Ossino, John Pawson, Elena Salmistraro, studiopluz, Bethan Laura Wood, and Dan Yeffet. It served as a tribute to glass and an exploration of the many ways in which it can be shaped and constituted to build functional and decorative objects. Salmistraro’s Taliso coffee table, also a part of the exhibit, was a kaleidoscopic furniture design that can double as a shelf. Its tiered stacking is inspired by architectural principles that allow the placement of imbalanced entities in a balanced composition. Made using cast-glass sheets of various shapes and hues, the resinous texture of the table is not typical of the aesthetics associated with glass.
STIR’s coverage of Milan Design Week 2023 showcases the best exhibitions, studios, designers, installations, brands, and special projects to look out for. Explore Euroluce 2023 and all the design districts—5Vie Art and Design, Brera Design District, Fuorisalone, Isola Design District, Tortona District, and Milano Design District—with us