Salone del Mobile Milano

Trend research: Enabling House.
Wellness living

The life of a designer is a life of fight, a fight against ugliness. Just as a doctor fights against disease. For us, visual disease is all around us, and what we try to do is to cure it somehow with design.

(Massimo Vignelli, graphic designer)

Design and furnishings may well represent an “aesthetic” cure but they are also a “physical” one, having a positive effect on those who interact with them. The idea that the home – the place in which each one of us spends a large part of our existence – plays an active part in supporting their activities, especially in the latter stages of life, thus becomes central, given the current ageing demographic of the planet’s population. 


In 2012 the Milan and Singapore-based designer duo Lanzavecchia + Wai produced a seminal piece of furniture, No Country for Old Men, conceived precisely for senior consumers, people who can no longer be described as “old” in the traditional sense of the word. The style eschews the medical and hospital canons that usually inform furnishings for the elderly, and is contemporary and recherché and therefore interesting and potentially also attractive to younger people who may, for example, be temporarily disabled.  


Together is a range of small, wheeled pieces of furniture with ergonomic handles, reminiscent of a stick or an umbrella, that aid domestic mobility and can be used as side tables, work surfaces with space for iPads or as receptacles/magazine holders. Assunta is a seat/small armchair that harnesses the user’s weight as a lever to facilitate getting up.

There are big and little strategies that interior architects and designers can work on to make furniture and furnishings into an extension of the body and, in some cases, substitute for it or become devices that improve user quality of life. Thus habitative spaces can become valid allies in carrying out everyday chores and achieving optimum psychophysical condition


Even the buildings we live in can make a useful contribution when required. The Alcabideche Social Complex is a retirement home for the third age, designed by Portuguese Guedes Cruz Architects, which singularly fails to give off any of those “end of life” or infirmity vibes. Conceived as a village made up of individual independent residences, the complex is inspired by the Mediterranean lifestyle and includes support facilities, green spaces, common terraces, swimming pools and a range of shared equipment that bolsters the concept of “active” ageing.

The homes are positioned so as to capture the sunlight, with flat translucent roofs that light up at night like lanterns. As well as its delicate and atmospheric impact on the general aesthetic and on the landscape, this feature is also extremely practical. In the event of an emergency or sudden illness, the occupants can switch the light emanating from the roof to red, immediately alerting the control centre and becoming instantly visible to the emergency services.

From this point of view, architecture and design acquire added “socialvalue by facilitating the smooth running of daily life, restoring dignity and self-respect just when people need it most.

This macro-trend breaks down into two concrete manifestations with the micro-trends Grey Power and enabling design