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In the design diary no event compares to mighty Milan. With its city-wide exhibitions, parties and packed streets, the week-long Saloni are more festival than fair. At a press conference in London, Rosario Messina, president of Saloni’s organisers Cosmit, says he is optimistic about this year. Perhaps that’s because in Italy furniture sales grew 5 per cent in 2007, approaching €40bn, while exports increased 8.4 per cent to reach €13.7bn.

As usual, throngs of buyers will be out in force. Stefane Barbeau, co-founder of Boston design store Vessel, says craft will be key: “People want to know that what they’re buying has been made by an expert as opposed to a faceless factory.”

As designers and manufacturers get ready to meet the April 16 deadline, this is our round-up of what to watch out for.

The Italians

Poltrona Frau
Plenty of launches from one of Italy’s most successful furniture companies. We have first dibs on Cappellini’s low-lying bottle-shaped table made of baked clay by London practice BarberOsgerby. Japanese minimalism is in evidence with Nendo’s metal table (03), also for Cappellini, which we think is also perfect for outdoors. A cast-iron, fish-bone-style modular seat (02) is being launched by Alias. Designed by Riccardo Blumer and Mateo Borghi, it’s a clever take on public furnishing.

De Padova
Craft comes top of the list for De Padova. It is launching Rokumaru, an elegant wooden tree-shaped coat stand (01) designed by Japanese group, Nendo.

Boffi
Boffi is presenting two new kitchens, bathroom fittings and a wardrobe system, reveals Roberto Gavazzi, chief executive. Worldwide expansion continues with a newly opened 600 sq m London showroom. boffi.com

Northern promise

** Fritz Hansen**
The Danish manufacturer launches a limited-edition series of Arne Jacobsen’s Egg chair, to mark its 50th anniversary. Danish artist Tal R has covered 50 of the chairs with patchwork vintage fabrics. Hansen is also introducing a new sofa by Piero Lissoni. fritzhansen.com

** Artek** Re-editions continue to rule with Artek releasing the Bilberry A338 light, originally created by Finnish designer Alvar Aalto in the late 1950s for Maison Carré in France. artek.fi

** Kvadrat** Argentine-Swiss designer Alfredo Häberli has created three children’s fabrics, such as “Village” (05), based on doodles from his notebooks – two even glow in the dark. kvadrat.dk

The debutants

** Ryu Kosaka** As part of an exhibition focusing on Japanese bathing, architect Ryu Kosaka will show Hinoki (04), a rustic bathtub made of 50 pieces of 300-year-old hinoki wood. It’s also a good name for a fragrance.

** Scott Jarvie** Young Glaswegian designer Scott Jarvie is showing at SaloneSatellite for the first time. His experimental work with stainless steel has led to two industrial-looking chair prototypes.

** Mater** This year-old sustainable Danish furniture brand is unveiling its first limited-edition collection. US designer Todd Bracher has created an oversized marble candelabra – it will be auctioned and profits fed back into the factory.

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