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Salone del Mobile: Dedon

The luxe furniture make took Milan Design Week by storm with three collaborations celebrating outdoor living and relaxed functionality

The projects presented by Dedon during the recent Milan Design Week focused on three main principles, practicality, functionality and freedom, and on one main aim; improving people’s lives. Fred Frety and Daniel Pouzet, long-time collaborators of Dedon partner Jean-Marie Massaud, radically reinvented the garden sofa transforming it into 'NestRest', a cocooning fig-shaped structure that offers a secret hiding place ideal for open-air conversations and meditations.

American furniture designer Richard Frinier designed the 'Tribeca' furniture range that, taking its name from the neighbourhood in Lower Manhattan, is characterised by dynamic curved or elliptic shapes and a urban elegance, while Toan Nguyen, the master of modular design, came up with 'Mu', a space-saving sofa combining in the same piece several seating options.

Fred Frety and Daniel Pouzet

Dazed Digital: What’s the concept behind the NestRest piece?
Fred Frety and Daniel Pouzet:
The idea to propose an alternative to the standard outdoor furniture typology, a new way to enjoy living outside, deeper in the nature.

DD: In which ways did nature inspire the NestRest?
Fred Frety and Daniel Pouzet:
The NestRest is a micro architecture, a huge hanging cabana. Many different references inspired the final design but nature and particularly bird’s nest architectures were the strongest inspiration. For us the NestRest is the perfect expression of the Dedon way of living outside, embracing the crucial values of today’s world: sharing precious moments and living in symbiosis with nature.

DD: Did you enjoy this edition of the Salone del Mobile and what kind of feedback did you get from the visitors?Fred Frety and Daniel Pouzet: This Salone was a great experience for us. The Dedon team achieved a very impressive display at their Via Savona showroom. But the greatest satisfaction has been to be able to interact with the visitors who enjoyed spending some time in the NestRests: they were just back to childhood and it was great!

DD: You’re long time collaborators of Jean-Marie Massaud: can you tell us more about the working process behind the latest project?
Fred Frety and Daniel Pouzet:
We’ve been collaborating for many years with Jean-Marie Massaud on both architecture and design projects. The NestRest is our first project together and we conceived it as a much more personal and experimental concept that we had the pleasure to share and develop with the Dedon team.

Richard Frinier

Dazed Digital: In which ways does the Tribeca mark a new stepping stone in your collaboration with Dedon?
Richard Frinier:
Over the years, we have been developing new and innovative ways to blend art, technology and emotion bringing people together. Tribeca is just an extension of this pursuit. One of the design elements that marks a change or stepping stone in our collaboration with Dedon is the composition of woven textures and smooth surfaces. Another and most interesting one is the form and framework itself: classic mid-century Scandinavian minimalism is translated into the 21st century with the technology of hydro-forming. The latter consists in a process that can transform an aluminium tube into a variety of complex shapes currently being used in the fabrication of automotive and performance bicycles. 

DD: Tribeca is based on the triangle and its transformations, what fascinates you about this geometrical figure?  Richard Frinier: Tribeca is a composition of angular shapes creating a dynamic overall form. Triangular forms appear sharp and defensive, yet, upon closer look and feel, the angles of Tribeca morph from round to oval and back to round, or transform an oval from one direction to another in just the length of the arm.

DD: You developed the Tribeca over two and a half years: did you find this project challenging?
Richard Frinier:
Over the past 30 years, I have designed and developed furniture in outdoor materials and manufacturing processes. Yet creating Tribeca’s profile and form was altogether quite unique. This was a clear example of an idea in search of a solution. Over the course of nearly three years, many frames were made from sheet aluminium formed by hand to find just the right scale, touch and comfort while staying true to the original design drawings. Once the form was perfected, we began transforming more than a dozen shapes into a production forming process used for making precision parts for performance bicycles and racing cars.

DD: How difficult is it to introduce innovative features in interior design and make sure people actually understand and appreciate them?
Richard Frinier:
My approach has been to design products that draw people in. They are approachable, and even emotional. This is what gets their attention. Pieces of furniture must also be comfortable. If you make it this far, you then begin to discover the built-in features of my designs, like rotating or reclining devices, clips that avoid sectionals from separating and concealed wheels that make moving a chaise a breeze.  

Toan Nguyen

Dazed Digital: Where does the name Mu come from?
Toan Nguyen:
Mu is derived from Zen philosophy and refers to the essential. I have declined this term to illustrate a quiet and essential design without any superfluous volumes, materials and decoration.

DD: What inspired the Mu structure, the necessity of saving space or a will to experiment further with modular structures that can improve our lives?
Toan Nguyen:
Definitely both. Most of the volume of Mu is dedicated to the cushions to get the maximum of comfort and the feeling when you sit in is generous and very lounge-y. At the same time, the dimensions are not huge and one of the first challenges was to develop a structure as small as possible, considering that it is made completely in aluminium and not in steel like most of the indoor sofas. The other challenge of Mu was to create a real modular sofa system able to fit in reduced spaces such as an apartment terrace as well as in huge public spaces, offering already in the first release 18 different elements ranging from the single seater to 4-seater and including footstool, beach chair and coffee tables. So the number of layout combinations is practically infinite.

DD: In which ways does the Mu structure combine the characteristics of indoor and outdoor pieces of furniture?
Toan Nguyen:
Very few people are living in a place where they can enjoy outdoor spaces all year long, so we were thinking about a completely versatile indoor/outdoor sofa system. It has always been strange to me that people who use at home very nice and comfortable sofas could be satisfied by an outdoor sofa with a basic shape and a rudimentary comfort. Mu has a very quiet design and in a first approach looks like the classical archetype of a sofa but if you have a better look, you can spot many sophisticated aspects.

As I said previously, it is characterised by an incredible modularity which is very unusual in outdoor systems, often limited to few and basic elements. The lightness of the structure and the feeling of the cushions upholstery, in terms of comfort, touch and details, are much closer to the indoor world even if we have used only materials specific for outdoor applications: from the polyethylene fibre to the aluminium, die-cast and profiles, and from the acrylic cushion fabric and sealed cushion cores to the tensioned Batyline fabric.

DD: Which is the main difference between creating a piece for yourself and working for a company?
Toan Nguyen:
In my approach, working for myself means working for a company. I usually start all my projects together with a client who becomes a partner during the development phase. It is always important for me at the beginning to understand the specificity of my clients and share their know-how to develop a “tailored” project. Mu would have been almost impossible to develop with another company, which has not the full control of the complete process from the fibre profiles in Germany to the production in the Cebu-based Dedon factory.