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Milan — at its best during the Salone del Mobile!

Throngs of people from all around the world, they're everywhere — walking, biking, eating, drinking, eyes wide open trying to take it all in.

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I join the crowd, too, walking for hours, finding hidden courtyards, alleys and spaces that have opened up just for the week to host exhibits, temporary showrooms and special events, knowing that I couldn't possibly see everything. And not being able to see everything is part of what makes this week so fascinating.

Wherever I went and whatever I saw, it was all infused with an extraordinary energy — smiling people and a street party atmosphere. I ran into friends, suppliers, other people in the business and saw lots of familiar faces: "Where have you been? What did you see? Any tips? Great, ok, I'll check it out...see you around...thanks!"

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Of the many experiences that I had, the one that made the biggest impression was an art gallery, the Erastudio & Apartment Gallery that I hadn't known about before. The location is intriguing. It's on the third floor, up a narrow staircase, of an old house off a hidden courtyard in the Brera district.

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The space was remodeled by the owner, an architect and professor of industrial design, Patrizia Tenti, adhering to the principle "less is more". Bare walls revealing the original concrete, traces of the past, layer upon layer of faded colors that, together, form a uniform backdrop with a timeless quality. The walls of the upstairs galleries were refelcted in the floor that was covered with a mirror-finish steel.

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A terrace, complete with blooming wisteria, offers up a surprise in the form of a pair of vintage Lady armchairs by Zanuso, and they seem to be talking to each other. In another room, I come upon a jaw-dropping, never-produced prototype of a bedroom set by Ettore Sottass. The gallery specializes in prototypes, one-of-kind pieces, limited editions, artist proofs and special projects.
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Back inside the Salone itself, it was easy to see the great divide between companies that had the courage to take a risk and renew their business and those that seem paralyzed by the economic crisis. The payoff was clear to see. The stands of the more innovative risk takers were crowded, and those offering the same old products were nearly deserted.

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I also ran into people inside the show, not usual for people in the same industry, and met some people that I haven't seen in a while, "how's it going? I'm still standing, sure, but it hasn't been easy this year. You've got what it takes, it'll work out. How about we grab a bite together?"

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And so, I walk for what seems like miles from hall to hall, examining details, thinking to myself, collecting catalogs, wondering, wandering and wondering some more.

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And then when the weariness hits, it's time to take a little break.

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But not for too long, because there's lots more to see...

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