We’ve been back from our whirlwind trip to Europe for two weeks now. Time enough to take a step back and understand what is going on in the world of design (and Europe in general).

The Salone in Milan didn’t disappoint – how could it when manufacturers are putting their best foot forward (and spending the biggest chunk of their marketing dollars). But it was a much different fair, no doubt driven by Europe’s struggling economy, especially in the south.

Some of the big established names released fewer products, more conservative products or simply re-issued old favourites in new finishes and colours. But what was on show was actually quite relevant to our times. The experience was something like getting ready to see a Haute Couture fashion show but being presented with Ready To Wear. Ultimately, it’s more practical and useable… Here are a few more images:

While Magis didn’t add many new innovative chairs, its new sideboard, Theca by Ronan & Erwin Bouroullec was impressive. The sides are made from stamped aluminum, giving the piece an unusually light appearance.

Edra usually introduces several over-the-top pieces (like the Boa sofa) but this year their new Standard Sofa was one of the top picks of the week. It is super comfortable and its slouchy, adjustable back feels very fresh amidst the rows and rows of square or squarish sofas that dominate modern design. The sectional components can make a more traditional looking sofa or they can combine with multisided corner pieces to create something sculptural an unusual.  The cloud patterned fabric might be a bit over-the-top but it added that bit of Edra glamour for good effect.

B&B Italia, Vitra, Knoll, Muuto, Moooi, Classicon, Moroso were among the companies adopting the latest fashion colour palette (see our post from 8 January on 2013 design trends). The key to being on trend is a mixing of bold, saturated colours with soft pastels. Metals are moving beyond polished chrome and oiled bronze to brass and copper (see our post from 14 April 2013).

Muuto

Moooi – in Emerald Green

Vitra – pastels and copper

Aluminum Group & Standard chairs in gunmetal

LED chandelier from Moooi

Base table from Arco

Leg detail from Slim table from Arco