In Design: Touring for Tabletops in Milan
Last week, in the midst of an all-too-short, all-too-ambitious itinerary amongst various points in northern Italy, I managed to spend one full day wandering around stylish Milan, checking out stores, scouting for interesting kitchen and tableware. Though my abbreviated stay made it impossible to visit all of the promising shops on my list during business hours (which are generally much shorter in Italy than here, owing to the one- to three-hour midday prandial break, and, often, earlier closing hours), I did manage to make it to a few noteworthy establishments.
Moroni Gomma: Eclectic Designs
Moroni Gomma is an eclectic, design-oriented department store with a collection focusing on relatively inexpensive items, many of them fashioned from plastic or rubber (“gomma”). Walking in, I found a whole display of what at first appeared to be colorful cakes accented with fresh strawberries, but turned out to be a collection of wash cloths packaged with plastic strawberry-shaped magnets. (Fun alternatives to cloth napkins for a tea, dessert or birthday party, methinks.)
Moving along toward the back of the store, I found an affordably priced line of servingware called Daily Aesthetics consisting of white porcelain renderings of common disposable containers, including an open milk carton (a pitcher), an egg carton (for fruit display, perhaps), and pop-top cans (salt and pepper shakers and storage canisters). (I later found this line elsewhere and discovered that it also includes clear glass likenesses of plastic water bottles and disposable ice cream cups and spoons, among other things. In the US, the line is largely available through The Conran Shop.) Here I also found a slick stainless steel kitchen stool with a seat consisting of an inverted stock pot, a toaster that casts cheerful messages onto the surface of bread, an oil and vinegar set that looks like a pair of inverted wine glasses, and a hot dog heating machine with a metal reamer for making a hotdog-accommodating hole inside a baguette or hero-type roll.
Taitù: Fine China
From there, I headed to Taitù, which has offered mix and match fine china, meant to be combined according to individual needs and tastes, for more than 30 years. Unfortunately, it was closed for lunch for another hour by the time I arrived, and I had too much left to see to wait for it to reopen. Through the window, however, I had a good view of what they had to offer—colorful, boldly patterned pieces of all shapes and sizes, with the current display leaning toward flowers and leaves.
Paola C.: Clean, Modern Tableware and Accessories
Paola C. is a small shop tucked into an unmarked courtyard, boasting a collection of clean modern tableware, table accessories and furniture, with the directive of fostering and showcasing the work of young designers. With the annual Milan furniture fair beginning the day after my visit, the place was in a bit of disarray with last minute preparations, preventing me from getting any particularly evocative overall shots of this elegant store, but I did manage to capture a chic table setup, which provides a good idea of the store’s general aesthetic (as well as this closer shot of a set of neat candle holders).
Abito Qui: Contemporary, Vintage, Mass Produced, and More
Another hidden shop situated off of a tucked away courtyard was Abito Qui. The name can be translated to "I live here," and the store is true to its name, imbued with an intimate residential feel. Making my way through its serene courtyard—decked out with a diminutive greenhouse, sculptures and a tea table—and then stepping inside through the divided light door, had it not been for the tiny store sign on the gate beside the courtyard, I would have been thoroughly convinced I was trespassing at this point. Inside, in meandering rooms spanning three different levels I found dining tables set—as if guests were to arrive at any moment—with coordinating china, flatware, linens and glassware of all styles. Antique credenzas, shelves and china cabinets filled with fine tableware and lovely objects were also arrayed around the store, delineating small, cozy niches throughout. Blending contemporary with vintage collections and mass produced with hand-made one-of-a-kind pieces, all in such a thoroughly unique context, this was hands down the favorite stop of my one-day ramble.
There were several other shops on my list that were closed when I arrived or that I just couldn’t fit in that day and, I’m quite certain, many that weren’t on my list that I’d find, given a little more time to wander. But based on the shops that I was able to visit and the appreciation that I developed during my brief stay for a local aperitif (the Negroni Sbagliato or "Mistaken Negroni," an elixir developed at Milan’s Bar Basso whereby the gin of the classic Negroni cocktail—equal parts red vermouth, Campari and gin—is replaced with spumanti), I reckon that I’ll just have to return to this city of style to finish what I started.
About the author: Amanda Clarke is a recovering restaurant pastry chef with a background in architecture. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, where she writes, tests, and develops recipes and works on freelance food-styling gigs between walkings and feedings of her two dogs and husband.
Address: Piazza Carlo Mirabello, 5, 20121 Milan, Italy (map)