Wallpaper* design editor Rosa Bertoli selects her top 10 furniture launches of 2023, from a year packed with design weeks, fairs and events. From brand launches to new collaborations, from the outdoors to the religious, we highlight the colourful, the clever and the classic. Scroll down for the year’s best furniture debuts (in no particular order).
Wallpaper’s top 10 furniture launches of 2023
01. Gabriel Tan’s modular furniture for Herman Miller is designed for interaction
The elegant, yet liveable aesthetic of the Singapore-born designer Gabriel Tan takes a new shape with a duet of furniture designs, created in partnership with Herman Miller. The ‘Luva’ modular sofa is named after the Portuguese word for ‘glove’, and the ‘Cyclade’ coffee tables is a series of three tables that pay homage to the supercontinent of Pangea, with island-like forms that come together or flow apart seamlessly. ‘When a design is successful, different people can read it in different ways,’ Tan says. ‘Depending on where you’re from, you can interpret and relate to these designs in a totally different way from somebody else across the world.’
02. Andu Masebo turns a red Alfa Romeo into furniture
As part of London Design Festival 2023 designer Andu Masebo presented the results of disassembling a 1998 Alfa Romeo 145 Cloverleaf – not ULEZ-compliant – turned into a series of furniture pieces. A nightlight, created using car engine parts that cast curious shadows, responds to the life story of the car’s first owner. ‘It was a lady who lost her husband while she had the car, but then went on to have an adventurous life, going to Mount Everest and Antarctica,’ Masebo says. ‘After her husband died, she felt his presence, telling her that she’s going to be OK.’ The designer chose a nightlight as a symbol of comforting presence in dark times. ‘I’m always making quite simple objects, that sometimes resonate with deep stories,’ he adds.
03. Vincent Van Duysen ‘inspired by modernism’ for Molteni & C’s outdoor furniture debut
Molteni & C made its outdoor furniture debut with two complementary collections by Vincent Van Duysen, celebrating our connection to nature and a refined approach to the home. Giulia Molteni, Molteni Group’s chief marketing officer, sees this as a natural progression for the brand. ‘Nature is an integral part of our life,’ she says. ‘It’s a connection that aims at rediscovering seasons, colours and the pleasure of the outdoors.’
The new offering encompasses two collections: Landmark, featuring sinuous seating based on an unrealised 1994 design by Luca Meda (who served as creative director for the company from 1968 until his death in 1998), and Timeout, an aluminium furniture range that expresses Van Duysen’s affinity with modernism. The outdoor catalogue also pays tribute to design masters, past and present, who have contributed to Molteni’s history, including Gio Ponti, Ron Gilad and Foster + Partners, whose ‘Arc’ table from 2010 has been reissued in a new outdoor edition as part of the launch.
04. Karl Lagerfeld Maison launches with furniture for book lovers
Karl Lagerfeld Maison, the fashion brand’s new interior branch, makes its debut during Milan Design Week 2023, with an inaugural collection created in collaboration with interior designer Matteo Nunziati. The launch comprises four collections, each named after Karl Lagerfeld’s favourite areas of Paris: ‘Saint Germain’ and ‘Saint Guillaume’ include living areas and bedroom furniture, ‘Quai Voltaire’ is dedicated to the kitchen, and ‘Rue de l’Université’ is a lighting collection.
The collections are directly inspired by Lagerfeld’s own approach to interiors. His passion for design was evident in every space he put together; his highly researched and refined interiors combined classic and historical design with contemporary pieces. ‘He was not a collector, he was more someone that was filling a house and his brain with an idea of style,’ says Caroline Lebar, the brand’s SVP of Image and Communications, who worked alongside Lagerfeld for nearly four decades. ‘What was special about Karl was that as soon as he was focusing on a period or style, he would become an expert.’
05. Knoll reissues two Florence Knoll furniture designs from 1954
In a true testament to good design, Knoll reissued two of Florence Knoll’s furniture designs, which have been out of production since 1968. ‘Model 31’, a lounge chair, and ‘Model 33’, a small sofa, were brought out of the archives in tribute to Florence Knoll’s legacy as a pioneering architect, interior designer, furniture designer and an all-round American design legend. Not only do these two designs speak to the revolutionary impact she had on modern interiors, they attest to her forward-thinking vision for having simple, efficient forms that are easily adaptable to any space – even almost 70 years later.
First released in 1954, ‘Model 31’ and ‘Model 33’ showcase Florence Knoll’s astute attention to detail and form. ‘These designs feel totally relevant today,’ says Jonathan Olivares, senior vice president of design at Knoll. ‘They are at home in the hospitality environments of our time, and they serve as geometric vehicles for textiles.’
06. Ozwald Boateng reimagines Poltrona Frau classics
Ozwald Boateng and Poltrona Frau unveiled ‘Culture and Craft’, a collaboration defined by the Savile Row designer’s interpretations of the Italian furniture company’s classics. A glimpse into a wider collection that will expand in the future, it include the ‘Chester’ sofa, a 1912 design conceived by the company’s founder and inspired by Edwardian Chesterfields, and the ‘Vanity Fair’ chair, from 1984, both adorned with distinctive patterns developed by the designer.
Boateng enriched the classic furniture designs by embossing his signature ‘Tribal’ print in Frau leather. A pattern referencing traditional Kente Cloth Motifs, it becomes both a subtle decoration and a powerful aesthetic exercise once placed on the designs. The collection merges Poltrona Frau’s longstanding expertise with handcrafting techniques and furniture construction with Boateng’s distinctive aesthetic and spirit. Subtle yet vivid in its execution, the pattern is declined in a vibrant series of shades that reflect the designer’s work, including red, yellow, purple, blue, green and black.
07. Flexform’s ‘Supermax’ sofa is a contemporary scene stealer
When Italian designer Antonio Citterio conceived the now-iconic ‘Max’ sofa for Flexform back in 1983, it was the first time he had incorporated organic forms into a more traditional structure. The sofa’s sculptural design is defined by a kidney bean-shaped seating platform resting on a tubular frame, with an off-centre cylindrical backrest. It acquired legendary status after Flexform released a series of images of a version with a striped backrest at the base of the spiral staircase at Milan’s Triennale. Photographed by Gabriele Basilico, under the art direction of Natalia Corbetta, the sofa appeared to be both in harmony and in contrast with the architecture.
Citterio and Flexform recently joined forces to revisit the idea of the ‘Max’, conceiving the ‘Supermax’ sofa as a contemporary interpretation of the original 1983 version. ‘It started with us planning an exhibition to showcase photographs of Flexform’s products,’ recalls Citterio. ‘Looking through the materials, we asked ourselves, why not launch “Max” again?’
08. The best new small sofas for compact living spaces
This selection of small sofas combines well-considered design approaches with the finest craftsmanship. They were conceived by leading furniture companies in collaboration with some of the best creatives working today, and offer an alternative to the full-scale seating arrangements, equally suitable for compact apartments in Japan or a narrow townhouse in London. Whether you’re looking to furnish a small space or to add an element of beauty and comfort to a spare room look no further: at under 185 cm long, these compact sofas will come to the rescue.
09. Guillaume Bardet’s furniture for the restoration of Notre-Dame de Paris
For the reopening of Notre-Dame de Paris, set for late 2024, French designer Guillaume Bardet created a series of liturgical objects and furniture. The Gothic cathedral was partly destroyed by a fire in April 2019, which resulted in the collapsing of its roof. The renovation has involved carefully restoring the remains, while reproducing its Gothic architectural details as well as recreating the spire that was added in the 19th century by architect Eugene Viollet-le-Duc. Bardet, part of Paris’ Galerie Kreo’s roster and whose work is defined by a sinuous minimalism, was chosen by the Archbishop of Paris during a long and rigorous process.
The designer has been tasked with creating an altar, lectern, cathedra with seats, tabernacle, and baptistery, which he developed in bronze and favouring simple forms that exude a graceful approach that is guided by timelessness.
10. Ikea 80th anniversary collection is a colourful treasure trove of great designs
Nytillverkad is Ikea’s 80th-anniversary collection: bold, bright, sustainable – and familiar. Those who have lived and grown up with Ikea may recognize some of it, because everything has been made before. It’s a back-catalogue collection in forward-facing materials and fresh new colours.
It makes perfect sense. Ikea launches around 2,500 products a year and is sitting on a treasure trove of great designs. But with so much rich history where to start? For Karin Gustavsson, creative leader of Nytillverkad, it wasn’t easy. ‘We had a big list to choose from,’ she says. ‘The only thing we knew for sure was that, after the pandemic, we wanted colour and pattern, which people like to mix and match.’