Milan: Day Four – The Test Lab of Tom Dixon.

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Tom Dixon didn’t just set up a booth at Salone del Mobile; he built a Multiplex. Defined as “a pop-up viewing theatre, broadcasting centre, restaurant, shop and gallery.” Dixon created an interactive experience, which was a refreshing change after two days of seeing furniture on pedestals. “Furniture displays are always so static,” said Dixon as we relaxed in the “viewing theatre” part of his space. CONTINUED + MORE PHOTOS…


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Technology is also very important to this designer, who appears to treat it like any material, similar to how others use metal or wood. “Last year at this show people were typing into laptops and showing photos on tiny phones,” he said. “This year it is all about iPads and Blackberry Play Books, which have changed how furniture is experienced. We could not have been sitting next to each other having this conversation last year. We would have been at a table.” (I didn’t point out that I was writing in a notebook, so really any chair would do, but I get what Dixon is saying.) We can now experience email, photos and social media from anywhere. How we live and work has changed, but the furniture isn’t quite up to speed.  

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Dixon wouldn’t tell me what he’s working on (“it’s top secret”) but my guess is that it is a solution to better address the tech-driven way we live. And this space at Salone is one big experiment to help Dixon find the answer. Dixon opened a restaurant in London just so he could discover what’s missing in this environment. What he learned (and yes, he really works a shift there, preparing cold starters and desserts) led to his Peg Chair (above) and Roll Table. The Peg Chair is lightweight so waiters can move it to accommodate guests, and stackable so the cleaning crew can get it out of the way to wash the floor. The Roll Table has a wonderful base that was inspired by manhole covers (below), plus a built-in wheel.

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The reason for the manhole cover is that he has always liked them (there’s more to that story which I’ll share in a later post) and they have history. “They can be around a long time. People look at the label and see who this long-vanished casting company was.” The wheel, obviously, is to make the table easier to move. “To help those poor waitresses who set up a table for four and then a party of eight arrives.”

“Designers who sit behind computers are divorced from the realities of manufacturing, selling and using furniture,” said Dixon. The test-lab approach he employs also resulted in his Etch Collection (below), which is included in our assortment. At last year’s Salone del Mobile, these lamps and candleholders were being assembled on site to test the functionality of flat packing and do-it-yourself assembly.

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“I like to think of myself as an up-and-coming designer,” said Dixon. “I don’t want to be an expert.”
I predict we’ll see many more smart solutions coming from this designer.

  • gerald abramovitz

    Tom Dixon Showman.