Dezeen Magazine

Irish studios collaborate on designs for Milan exhibition

Milan 2015: 20 studios from both sides of Ireland's north-south border were invited to collaborate on projects that aim to show the breadth of the island's creative industry – including one firm that hasn't shown in the Italian city in more than 60 years (+ slideshow).

Mourne Milano Rug by Mourne Textiles, and Frame Chair and Hang Table by Notion and Mourne Textiles
Mourne Milano Rug by Mourne Textiles, and Frame Chair and Hang Table by Notion and Mourne Textiles

Liminal – Irish Design at the Threshold was the opening exhibition of a year-long initiative to raise the profile of Irish design and create more jobs in the industry, led by the Design & Crafts Council of Ireland and the Irish government.

Frame Chair by Notion and Mourne Textiles
Frame Chair by Notion and Mourne Textiles

"The show is really about match-making," said Alex Milton, exhibition co-curator and director of the Irish Design 2015 programme.  "What we've tried to do is show what happens when these disciplines rub up against each other."

Milton said he was keen to dispel the association often drawn between Irish design and knitted jumpers and claddagh rings.

Hang Table by Notion and Mourne Textiles
Hang Table by Notion and Mourne Textiles

Among the works on show in the exhibition, which ran from 14-19 April in Milan's Tortona district, was a hand-woven rug by Gerd Hay-Edie that won a silver award at La Triennale di Milano international exhibition in 1951.

British designer Robin Day originally commissioned Hay-Edie, who founded Mourne Textiles in the 1940s, to create the Mourne Milano Rug for his furniture display at the design fair in 1951.

The History Chair by Cathal Loughnane and Peter Sheehan
The History Chair by Cathal Loughnane and Peter Sheehan

Now run by Hay-Edie's daughter and grandson, her Northern Ireland-based textile company paired up with Dublin design studio Notion to create a new range of ash furniture that is upholstered with the designer's re-editioned textiles.

The Cabinet of modern Irish life by Studio AAD and John McLaughlin Architects

Notion updated the shape and materials used in their Dowell Chair with a curving backrest and anodised aluminium legs to "let the old fabric tell the traditional story," while their Hammock Table features a woven shelf that hangs like a sling below its wooden top.

Ceramics by Derek Wilson

Chairs and stools designed for school children and office workers by Dublin studio Perch and produced by Wicklow furniture manufacturer Thomas Montgomery feature flexible structures to support body movement and were presented alongside a prototype for a modular seating system.

Ray by Perch and Labofa

The brightly-upholstered chairs can cluster together at an angle, allowing users to sit side-on with wide back and arm supports that are intended to be used as impromptu tables.

Lime Sun by Ceadogán Rugs and Andrew Ludick

Wicklow product designers Design Partners and Seed Lab Inc. devised a wireless remote for household appliances that fits in the palm of your hand.

Sensors in the base and top of the curved remote, which is called Silvair Control, detect hand gestures allowing users to adjust household appliances including lighting, music systems and heating. Plug adapters can be fitted to vintage or non-wireless devices to make them compatible with the remote.


The inclusion of international projects by Dublin studio Grafton Architects, including three giant models of its competition-winning designs for the University Campus UTEC in the Peruvian capital Lima, aims to show the reach of Irish design outside the island.


The giant models sit against a backdrop of large-scale images of the studio's faculty building for Milan's Luigi Bocconi University, and a series of small models by London- and Dublin-based design studio Graphic Relief.


Grafton was paired with Graphic Relief to create a series of sculptures that will be developed over the course of the year-long project into full-scale works, and put on show at the V&A during the London Design Festival in September.


Milan was the first stop of a touring circuit for the exhibition, which will also visit New York, Dublin and Eindhoven. Many of the designers have plans to develop elements of the work as they travel from location to location so that the show evolves over the course of the year.