February 20, 2024


A walk through the last Salone del Mobile in Milan immediately showed that a current of black color worked as a common thread between the different producers who met in the Italian city at the beginning of June. From furniture to lamps, faucets, kitchens, upholstery or small objects, the color black, which had diluted its presence in recent years, is back and with great determination.

But do not be confused, black is not a single color, it is full of tones and shades, vibrancy, it depends on lighting and textures, it can be matte or shiny, it can be deep or it may lack intensity, no you have to be fooled by it, it has a surprisingly varied range.

Giulio Ridolfo, revered master color specialist —consultant to several companies in this regard and protagonist of the book Materializing Colour: Journeys with Giulio Ridolfo (Phaidon publishing house) — distinguishes between the blacks of the Mediterranean the black and the non-blackthat is, the saturated, tar-like blacks, which he prefers bright, and the other blacks, the non-black, tones that are almost black but admit a bit of another pigment, as in the case of aubergines or red wine. The latter can reach great intensity, but they are not as radical and explicit a declaration of principles as the former.

Black coffee thermos and mug from Italian design firm Alessi.
Black coffee thermos and mug from Italian design firm Alessi.design Michele De Lucchi

Black, as he rightly says, is perfect for delimiting a shape and in this sense, small objects with strong black silhouettes are now seen that are often highlighted with small details that give them movement. There are also numerous versions of the lamps, almost always metallic but also dark glass, which use black in its most matt version to underline the shape of the piece.

From left to right, the Bloom Table Light by Resident;  Oluce GO lamp designed by Giuseppe Ostuni, and TAKKU table lamp, by Artemide.
From left to right, the Bloom Table Light by Resident; Oluce GO lamp designed by Giuseppe Ostuni, and TAKKU table lamp, by Artemide.Tim Rundle

It is a gesture reminiscent of the eighties of the last century, in which matte black prevailed over colorful Memphis as the alternative that gave way to a design that spoke of technology, rigor and progress in the face of creativity without prejudices or limits of Ettore Sottsass and his movement. It was a moment back to unmitigated reasoning, to the teachings of the Bauhaus that the Memphis group questioned, a wake-up call that the use of the color black helped to reaffirm.

The times are not the same nor are the circumstances comparable, but the fact is that black-stained wood is back on the forefront and competes with black marble to accompany designs with clean and precise lines, where proportion is the key and the slightly rounded profiles lighten and lessen the rigidity of pieces with an indisputable physical presence.

Different furniture in dark tones from the firm Ariake.
Different furniture in dark tones from the firm Ariake.

Everything indicates that black has no intention of disappearing in decoration, even less in a general climate in which it is important for consumers to learn to buy, thinking very carefully about what they want to live with in the long term, avoiding ephemeral trends that are the product of an obsolete culture. of using and throwing away that should be on the way to disappearing.

Longevity above all else, the fact that a product can be inherited is the best symptom of its sustainability. The French designer Philippe Starck said it decades ago and it seems that this idea is beginning to permeate the serious and responsible industry. If black is a symptom of that process underway, all you have to do is applaud and nod, giving it a good or more than good look.

From left to right, Laviani lamp from the firm kartell;  a chair by Tangerine, and an electric skimmer by Alessi.
From left to right, Laviani lamp from the firm kartell; a chair by Tangerine, and an electric skimmer by Alessi.Michele De Lucchi

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