Design shows were back in full swing in 2022, with our editors jet-setting everywhere from Milan to Chicago on the lookout for emerging trends — and designers delivered with a hefty dose of inspiration. Many of this year’s top picks, like Nienkämper’s Rowan Collection, eschewed clean lines for more organic forms — and some of them, like Moroso’s Pebble Rubble series, drew directly from nature itself. Across product types, flexibility reigned supreme, with several of our favourites including UniFor’s graphic Principles collection and AndLight’s stackable Column Pendant embracing adaptable modular configurations.
Designers also showed a greater sensitivity to accessibility, developing products that allow spaces to be utilized and enjoyed by all. Below, we round up the best products of 2022: eye-catching furniture, lighting, accessories and more.
- Grand Angle Sofa by Marie-Christine Dorner for Ligne Roset
- Column Pendant by Lukas Peet for AndLight
- Piro Diffuser by IDEO and Moooi
- Principles by OMA for UniFor
- Pebble Rubble Seating by Front for Moroso
- Divine Inspiration Series by Lee Broom
- Louis Handle by HansonLA
- Rowan Collection by Yabu Pushelberg for Nienkämper
- Goldi Seating by Giancarlo Stefani for Division 12
- Wheeliy 2.0 by Quantum and Molten
With a flawless execution by interior architect Marie-Christine Dorner, the Grand Angle sofa from Ligne Roset takes comfort to an entirely new – and customizable – level. The generously deep seats are the first indication that this sofa has an inviting sink-in-and-stay appeal. But it’s the clever articulated backrest that really seals the deal. Employing a concealed inverted chain system, the Parisian designer developed a headrest that can be positioned upright as a cocooning vertical screen or folded down and paired with a lumbar cushion for a more supported seat.
Wrapped in a flexible foam, the backrest is then upholstered in a mesh fabric with a “sunburst pleat” that maintains its tailored folds no matter its arrangement. This carefully considered detail brought Dorner’s concept of a modular sofa with an adaptive seat depth to realization, and, coupled with her impeccably refined style, elevates the Grand Angle sofa to instant classic status.
Taking inspiration from doric columns, Vancouver designer Lukas Peet emphasizes the important role that lighting plays in structuring space. Composed of mould-blown glass cylinders, the Column pendants he recently launched with AndLight feature a fluted treatment that delivers a strong sense of order and rhythm. Moreover, the light’s modularity — different segments can be grouped into extended horizontal or vertical compositions — allows designers to arrange long spans that take full advantage of large rooms. Two different finishes are available: a translucent grey carbon style, and an opaque powdered ivory that more closely mimics stone.
The lighting made an especially strong first impression back in June during Milan Design Week. Debuting as part of this year’s Alcova exhibition held on the grounds of a former military hospital, a series of vertical and horizontal Column pendants helped to transform a corner of an abandoned building into the show’s Offcut Bar, a dynamic social hub with a bright, welcoming ambiance. In other words, the installation made for a perfect demonstration of Column’s ability to cast a fresh spotlight on the past, articulating old ideas in new ways.
One of the unexpected highlights of Milan Design Week was Moooi’s charming robot ballet. As visitors entered the first room of the Dutch manufacturer’s “A Life Extraordinary” exhibition, a collection of colourful steel pipes gradually sprang to life. A soothing musical score amped up and the tubular forms began twisting and turning in an elaborate — and completely enchanting — sequence. At several points in the choreography, the dancing mechanical performers pointed to the sky to emit a soft puff of scented mist that lingered in the air for just a second before the recital resumed.
A collaboration between Moooi and industrial design firm IDEO, Piro the “dancing scent diffuser” had all the personality and polish of the futuristic EVE robot that appeared in Pixar’s WALL-E. Indeed, rather than advertising its advanced technical specifications, the promising prototype instead won over show attendees by inspiring a strong emotional connection. Throughout their performance, the diffusers often seemed more like they were powered by magic than by complex computer processors. Sure enough, Moooi described its driving mission with Piro in a question: “How might we employ technology in service of beauty rather than efficiency?” Especially at a time when the metaverse feels like all buzz with no real bang (at least not yet…), the result was a refreshingly quiet technological revolution. Gentle music, a calming scent, and a captivating routine: by appealing to our basic senses, Moooi and IDEO made a compelling case for the robot revolution.
There’s a lot to admire about Principles, the multi-piece workplace solution designed by Rem Koolhaus and his team at OMA for UniFor (a Molteni Group brand). Comprised of more than 100 elements organized into five families (spines, tables, soft furniture, screens and sofas) and offered in four sizes (designated as S, M, L and XL in a wink to the firm’s iconic monograph), Principles successfully delivers on its guiding concept for flexible furniture that can be “used by anyone, at any time.”
From the straight and curved partitions, linear, sinuous and ring-shaped furniture (fully wired, of course) and two-tiered desks and tables to the high-tech sportswear-inspired fabrics, integrated soundproofing and select colourways, every detail has been expertly thought out and refined for maximum functionality. Considered by the international architecture firm and Italian manufacturer as “micro-architecture” for the interior, the modular system knows no limits and can be used to configure and furnish single-occupant privacy pods, semi-sheltered meeting nooks for small groups, expansive multi-person reading rooms and more. While the overall purpose of the series is fundamentally utilitarian, the individual elements are inviting – and almost quirky – thanks to their playfully rounded forms and bold colour options.
A truly robust system, Principles fosters open communication and interaction in the workspace through its carefully considered adaptability and approachability – basically, it reinvents the flexible office landscape.
A seating collection that seems to have been assembled by nature, Pebble Rubble is an homage to a meander through the woods, where earth forms and fallen logs provide places for rest and contemplation. In fact, Sofia Lagerkvist and Anna Lindgren of Swedish design studio Front based the series on the real thing: “We 3D scanned rocks we saw on our many forest walks,” they explain, “and composed these organic shapes together into furniture pieces.” The result is seating that feels authentically organic, and furniture as sensory experience.
The duo worked with Moroso, still Italy’s most bespoke of major design brands, to realize the collection, which is made with a polymer composite structure and polyurethane foam in multiple densities. Lagerkvist and Lindgren not only conceived the forms but also the upholstery – a knitted textile named Arda that achieves their goal of mimicking the weather-worn and moss-caressed surfaces of stones found in nature and in tones reminiscent of the outdoors.
Endlessly customizable to appeal to corporate and hospitality projects, the collection boasts 15 modules of seats and backrests to choose from, complemented by three foot stools. This is a series that combines art and pragmatism to the degree that Moroso is known for, and experimentation and whimsy that has made Front one of the most consistently surprising studios in the world of modern design.
To say that we’re fans of Lee Broom’s Divine Inspiration series would be an understatement. The Brutalist architecture–inspired collection blew our minds, and opened our hearts, when it was shown in Milan this past June in an experiential showcase was more of a spiritual journey than a design exhibition. Beginning with Hail, installed as a shower of light to evoke the Rapture, continuing on to a constellation of Vesper pendants suspended at various heights and an architectural arrangement of Pantheum tiles, the soulful pilgrimage culminated with the Requiem series.
These wonders, made by wrapping plaster-soaked textiles around and through orbs and halos, epitomized the ambition of the collection – and of its designer. Fifteen years into his career (and with a Rizzoli monograph to commemorate his brilliance thus far), Broom is one of the most romantic designers working today. His awe-inspiring works translate an ineffable sense of wonder into design that is both magical and practical. He reminds us that it’s okay to seek out, and be uplifted by, beauty in our both built and imagined worlds.
HansonLA wowed this year’s AZ Awards jury with its deceptively simple prototype to make interiors more accessible. Designed to fit seamlessly into contemporary spaces, the Louis Handle (named for Louis Braille) resembles conventional hardware from the outside, with an unobtrusive and curved form inspired by the pure geometry of the tactile writing language’s signature dots. But there is more to this product than meets the eye: The handle’s rear surface features a Braille description that indicates the contents of the drawer or door it is mounted on.
By reducing barriers to everyday tasks, the Louis Handle will act as a tactile guide to the interior, facilitating a level of convenience that many sighted people take for granted. For those who are blind or have limited vision, the concept is an invitation to experience space in new ways. Its versatile design lends itself to endless applications from residential spaces to workspaces and institutional buildings. While sighted people might not even notice that it is there, the Louis Handle will make a marked difference for those who use it. It’s proof that accessibility features don’t have to be an eyesore, rather, they can enhance lives through both their practicality and their beauty.
“We start with the chair,” says designer Glenn Pushelberg. “The chair is the most complicated part of designing anything… When you think about it, the shape, the form, the proportion, all of that. When you resolve those issues, then you can stretch to make a sofa. Then you start to think about the details around the chair, how do you make something complementary as a table? And how does it grow into a conference table? How do you keep extending those details?”
The questions are artfully answered in Nienkämper’s Rowan collection, comprising lounge seating — including a couch — as well as conference and occasional tables. But it starts, of course, with the chair, which brings a sculpted yet inviting ambiance to an office setting. The interplay of straight, concave and convex elements makes for a versatile and dynamic presence, deftly balancing softness and structure. As George Yabu — the other half of design duo Yabu Pushelberg — puts it, “it has a lot of personality, no matter which direction you’re approaching it from.”
Alongside the showpiece lounge chair, the couch translates the aesthetic into a piece that anchors any room. Meanwhile, the occasional tables draw on the same interplay of curves to create a functional and elegantly understated complement to the space. And the conference table? A fusion of function and form, the curved dual pedestal base opens up for seamless cable management, with integrated power, data and video connectivity. The curves, again, draw the eye and elevate the workspace — the Cascade Edge features two half-bullnose profiles that run opposite to each other, upwards along the length of the table and downwards on each end.
One chair, three ways. Inspired by the fairy tale Goldilocks and the Three Bears, each of these three chair styles feels just right — depending on the occasion. A mannered yet refreshing riff on the ubiquitous plywood chair, the café seat is a stylish (and stackable) everyday workhorse that’s built to last in high-use settings. Available in three frame options — thin, classic and chunky — a wide variety of colourways, and a range of plastic, oak and upholstered seat and back options, the versatile form is a canvas for expression.
From a bold monochrome look in moss green, Kenora mustard or light blue (to name a few) to a classic white oak seat and back option with sleek metal legs, Giancarlo Stefani’s design creates vivid variety from a timeless form. Stackable in seven on the floor and eight on a dolly (or five on the floor and seven on a dolly for the upholstered options), Goldi is also a space-saving presence.
For Division 12, the new collection is a characteristically sophisticated yet playful addition to a standout portfolio of bent metal designs. Founded in 2017, the Toronto-based brand is evolving into a leading Canadian manufacturer. Now a subsidiary of Keilhauer, the brand is — as of this year — also carbon neutral, reducing emissions at every step of the supply chain and product lifecycle.
Accessibility has long been an afterthought in urban design. But while addressing larger structural barriers is both time- and resource-intensive, there are already companies working to make it easier for those with disabilities to navigate the built environment. Wheeliy 2.0 is a case in point. Designed by Japanese startup Quantum in collaboration with medical equipment manufacturer Molten, the product builds on a previous iteration launched in 2019.
Their mission was simple: to develop a wheelchair for active users who require little support. Available with two modes, assist and cruise, Wheeliy’s electrical assistance only activates when necessary (such as on a steep hill), thoughtfully balancing independence and increased mobility. A “power cushion” adjusts air pressure to reduce hip pain and risk of bed sores, while a storage compartment at the rear and a smartphone stand attached to the frame keep important items within arm’s reach. Though these elements optimize the user’s experience, the design also enables those unfamiliar with wheelchairs to support as needed; yellow accents indicate where and how to lift the chair safely and fold it for easy transport or storage.
The S-shaped frame and three-spoked wheel have been recreated in lightweight magnesium and carbon fiber respectively, making the new version significantly easier to manipulate. Other upgraded details include armrests that function as brakes when pushed down and footrests that can be lifted with a single action. Available in four colourways, Wheeliy can also be customized to each user’s preferences. The result is a clear statement that designers don’t need to reinvent the wheel to make the world more accessible — sometimes, the smallest changes can have the greatest impact.
Our favourite designs include endlessly flexible seating systems, awe-inspiring lighting and products that centre social good.