This year has seen furniture designers addressing global topics and issues, from recycling to feminism. For our review of the year, design reporter Natashah Hitti picks out the top 10, including a vegan stool made from salt and chairs that encourage women to “manspread”.
IKEA has rolled out a number of eye-catching designs this year, from space-inspired micro-living products to a receipt rug designed by Virgil Abloh, but the most groundbreaking was its Delaktig bed created with Tom Dixon.
Described by Dixon as a “living platform”, the modular bed was released alongside a series of “authorised hacks” – add-on elements that allow users to customise the furniture, including lamps, tables and furry fabric covers.
This year saw Italian brand Gufram release a collection of discotheque-inspired carpets and furniture at Milan design week, featuring a variety of round-edged shapes and patterns that recall the 1970s era.
Called Disco Gufram, the collection includes upholstered seating inspired by the studio’s upholstered “disco seats” from the 1970s, a series of carpets with patterns that draw upon the geometry of dance floors, and a series of coffee tables and cabinets that feature melting disco balls.
Animal-free furniture has also been on the rise this year, with Israeli designer Erez Nevi Pana being among the first designers to push veganism on the design industry with his “guilt-free” furniture made using salt and soil.
Nevi Pana experimented with different plants and minerals to create the pieces for his Vegan Design exhibition, including using the sodium-heavy water of the Dead Sea to create salt-covered stools.
American artist and designer Misha Kahn unveiled a collection of jewelled tables and “animated” chairs at this year’s Nomad Monaco 2018.
The piece that stole the limelight was a large-scale stainless steel coffee table, called Back Bend Starfish Puts On All Her Jewels For Her Workout. It was adorned with jewel-like coloured glass forms, which Kahn said “feel like sapphires and rubies and gems that have gone limp and have become infectious”.
This series of flesh-coloured chairs, designed by Design Academy Eindhoven graduate Anna Aagaard Jensen, aim to reinvent “manspreading” for women.
Called A Basic Instinct, the designs are intended to challenge social norms and encourage women to claim more space with their bodies. Taking the form of different body-like shapes, the chairs encourage women to spread their legs to sit, and are not allowed to be used by men.
Prague-based studio 52hours aimed to tackle the stigma attached to breastfeeding in public this year, with a bench designed to offer a “small oasis of peace” to mothers tending to their babies.
Providing a middle ground between comfort and discretion for mothers wanting to breastfeeding in public, the long pink bench features a large seat with curved sections that wrap around the user to shield the bust area without shutting them off from their surroundings.
Many designers turned their efforts towards sustainability this year. These included Antwerp-based brand Ecobirdy, which used recycled old plastic toys to create a series of colourful furniture for kids.
The range includes a Kiwi bird-shaped storage container and a rhino-shaped lamp, designed to draw attention to the endangered species.
Newly established Spanish brand Nagami made its debut at Milan design week 2018 with four 3D-printed chairs, proving the technology is still going strong.
Named after the 1930s dystopian novel by Aldous Huxley, the Brave New World collection features two colour gradient chairs designed by Zaha Hadid Architects, which explore the natural growth processes that occur in marine biology.
Also incorporating recycled materials into her designs is London-based designer Charlotte Kidger, who makes use of the polyurethane foam dust left over from industrial processes by transforming it into colourful pieces of furniture.
Kidger’s Industrial Craft collection took the by-products of computer numerical control (CNC) fabrication, which would normally be send to landfill, and used them to make textured tables, stools and vessels.
Japanese design duo We+ created an unusual series of hairy-looking chairs and vases this year called Swarm, which are covered with thousands of tiny magnetic steel rods.
Controlled by magnetic force, the mass of steel wires interact with each other and can be shaped and styled by hand. When you sit on the chair, the wires morph to the shape of your body, making the spiky seat more comfortable than it looks.