by Adrian-Liviu Dorofte

Mercedes-Benz Style presents furniture collection: World premiere in Milan

A dynamic design idiom expressing incredible ease and perfectly crafted luxury materials – Mercedes-Benz now bring their unmistakable styling and high standard of quality to the living room. In collaboration with the Formitalia Luxury Group, one of the leading Italian manufacturers of designer furniture, Mercedes-Benz has created a furniture collection under the Mercedes-Benz Style label. The collection will be presented at the "Salone Internazionale del Mobile", 17 - 22 April 2012 in Milan.

"Formitalia and Mercedes-Benz stand for top quality and exquisite workmanship which embodies luxury and passion. We are therefore extremely pleased to create the first Mercedes-Benz Style furniture collection together with Formitalia", says Gorden Wagener, Head of Design at Mercedes-Benz. "The various pieces of furniture reflect the progressive, dynamic design idiom of our current show cars and concept vehicles, offering an exclusive, emotional experience outside our vehicles as well". The interplay between dynamic proportions, naturally stretched forms and curved lines conveys an extraordinary harmony and modern ease. The furniture gives the impression of floating in space.

The furniture collection, which was developed in collaboration with designers from Formitalia, comprises one sofa, a chaise longue, a dining room table, various chairs, a sideboard, a shelf unit with integrated home theatre system, a chest of drawers and a bed. All the pieces are produced by Formitalia and will be sold worldwide via exclusive furniture stores, showrooms and interior design stores from October 2012. "We very much admire the superb design skills and high-quality materials of Mercedes-Benz and are delighted to be able to bring the typical Mercedes elegance and sense of well-being into the home", says Gianni Simone Overi, CEO of the Formitalia Luxury Group.

Progressive design with an unmistakable automotive identity

Each piece of seating furniture offers a dynamic yet timelessly elegant design with outstanding comfort. The wooden backrest shells are inspired by the innovative design idiom of the seat shells in the current research vehicles. The padding upholstered in leather or fabric and a distinctively styled aluminium frame provide a visually appealing contrast. The styling is further accentuated by an optional fabric cover featuring a natural pattern.

Precisely curved lines also generate emotional tension. As in the F 125, they delineate individual surface areas, visually subdividing the piece. The visual dynamic of the seating furniture is carried over in the design of the dining room table and sideboard. From the table's central aluminium beam, four legs extend like elegantly sculptured spokes. The table top is made of grey-shaded clear glass. The sideboard has a glass door with a surrounding bevel reminiscent of the air intake on a sports car. Thus the automotive identity of the styling is visible and emotionally present throughout the entire furniture collection. The collection bears a subtle Mercedes-Benz Style logo.

The furniture will be unveiled at the Milan Furniture Fair from 17 to 22 April 2012, in the showrooms of the Mercedes-Benz Center Milano, Via G. Daimler 1 at the corner of Via Gallarate 450, Milan.

About Mercedes-Benz Style

Like Mercedes-Benz, Mercedes-Benz Style stands for technology and engineering-driven innovations. Mercedes-Benz Style communicates innovation through well-considered intelligent design and styling. This is clearly evident in the purposeful, distinctive use of innovative materials, colour values, shapes and the use of light.

In addition to classic car styling, the designers at Mercedes-Benz have been developing designs for other products in co-operation with select partners since 2010. In 2011, the first product to be launched was
the EC145 Mercedes-Benz Style helicopter from Eurocopter, which has already been delivered to the first customers. The Mercedes designers styled the interior of the luxury helicopter for business and private travel. The Mercedes-Benz Style label includes products ranging from the transport industry and furniture and lifestyle products to industrial design.

Facts and Figures on design and materials:
The Mercedes-Benz Style furniture collection

Sofa Class (three-seater) MBS 001
Elegant and graceful lines, comfortable upholstery as well as lovingly created seam details and great workmanship: the "Class" leather sofa spreads a timeless and incomparable charm. An offset area in the backrest with rolling lines and artistic stitching accentuates the sofa's particular dynamism and elegance. The sofa is presented in two colour variants: in black aniline leather with metal legs in matt graphite black; the second in pearl grey leather at the front and night blue leather on the rear and underside, as well as light, brilliant aluminium legs.
Dimensions: 240 x 100 x H 70 cm

Dining table MBS 002
The four legs extend from the central aluminium beam like elegantly sculptured spokes. The optical lightness of this construction culminates in a grey-shaded transparent glass plate. The table is available in two frame variants: one in matt graphite black and another in a light satin finish.
Dimensions: 248 x 90 x H 73 cm

Chair MBS 003
The futuristic-looking chairs set new standards in terms of shape and material. Through the exciting interplay of convex and concave lines, a dynamic shape is created which gives the chairs a particular air of lightness. A seat shell made of laminated wood ensures for perfect, long-lasting seating comfort. Two chairs will be presented: one with a seating area covered in night blue leather which offers an optical contrast to the grey wooden shell, and another upholstered with black material on the seating area and pearl grey leather-covered wooden shell.
Dimensions: 58 x 57 x H 75 cm

Bed MBS 004
In the same way as with the chaise longue, the bed's sleek, elegant silhouette is also characterised by the three-dimensional form of the wooden frame. The pedestal in aluminium and the cover, either in material or leather, lend an optical contrast to the wood. The bed will be presented with a light grey wooden shell, light grey leather and contrasting stitching, which complement the grey-blue anodised aluminium frame.
Dimensions: 190 x 222 x H 81 cm

Sideboard MBS 005
A well-proportioned, futuristic-looking sideboard on an aluminium frame. The front has a glass door with a surrounding bevel reminiscent of the air intake on a sports car. The sideboard will be presented in two variants: one with a dark grey painted surface and light satin-finish aluminium legs, the second with Mercedes-Benz original paint in indium silver metallic and metal legs in matt graphite black.
Dimensions: 230 x 57 x H 72 cm

Chaise Longue MBS 006
The three dimensional formed wooden frame makes for an elegant and sleek silhouette, whilst at the same time, ensures the utmost level of lounge relaxation. The Aluminium pedestal and the cover, available in either material or leather, provide an optical contrast to the wood. The chaise longue combines opulence and lightness. There are two colour and material variants on show: the first has anthracite-coloured fabric with a natural pattern, natural-coloured wooden shell and metal legs in matt graphite black; the second variant offers a beige leather cover, black wooden shell and light satin-finish aluminium legs.
Dimensions: 171 x 80 x H 68 cm

Chest of Drawers MBS 007
The seemingly very light chest of drawers purposefully takes on the design idiom and design elements of the bed MBS 004 and supplements the product range for the bedroom. The chest of drawers will be presented in two variants: one with grey painted body and light grey leather-covered front, and the other with dark blue painted body and light grey open-pore wood front.
Dimensions: 230 x 57 x H 72 cm

Home theatre system MBS 008
The system, with its pronounced, mirrored screen, is elegantly integrated into a shelf unit. The painted rear panel supports three wing-shaped wooden shelves. In Milan, the shelf units in Mercedes-Benz original paint indium silver metallic will be combined with a dark grey painted rear panel.
Length: 461 cm

The Mercedes-Benz design philosophy: Design as a trademark

To create fascination and brand identity: that's the objective of the Mercedes-Benz design philosophy, oriented towards long-term effect rather than short-lived trends, it taps into a "gene pool" of brand-typical style elements in the sense of a living tradition. At the end of this process is the car as an individual space for living.

For Mercedes-Benz, design is literally a trademark. Because for over 100 years, design has characterised the image of the brand with the three-pointed star and has made visible typical Mercedes brand values such as fascination, responsibility and perfection. Insofar, design has important tasks on two counts – and Mercedes design has fulfilled them for many years now very successfully: the car's lines fascinate not only because of the product itself, they also serve as a mirror of the philosophy and profile of the Stuttgart-based automotive brand. In other words: design makes brand values visible – and sets its mark on them.

Design should also awaken passion, passion for the automobile and the wish to possess a model. "Love at first sight" has long been a slogan with a great reality content in the automotive trade. After arousing love at first sight, one of the main tasks of the designers is to create a lasting relationship and maintain the love affair over many years. The psychological arc goes from acquaint to recognise to brand awareness. It is not only a question of creating shapely, functional individual products, but of generating brand identity at the same time.

Identity and continuity

However, in order to build up and care adequately for such a successful brand image, long-term strategies and conceptual continuity are essential. New Mercedes models must indeed formally create a bridge to the future, but at the same time their lines may not abandon their origin. This guarantees that every new Mercedes-Benz possesses a clearly recognisable identity and shows its pedigree at the first glance. Although every model displays unmistakeable analogies with its predecessors, it shows a clear formal further development and heralds a new design era.

Given that a product life span of around 20 years is quite realistic for Mercedes automobiles, the designers must not indulge in passing fancies. The high market value which Mercedes-Benz passenger cars retain even after many years on the road is due not least to the fact that a previous model of Mercedes-Benz does not automatically "look" old. Even when new models come out in a model series, they don't detract from their predecessors, which continue to be desirable, in particular because of the enduring appeal of their design.

A Mercedes-Benz is always recognisable as a Mercedes-Benz. Meticulously and with great care, Mercedes-Benz designers ensure that certain style features, while being further developed, are retained in their basic form. Designers then speak of the brand's "gene pool". This is what they tap into, to care for and protect the style of the brand.

A good example of this is the typical Mercedes radiator grille – a feature which has identified and rendered unmistakable the motor car with the three-pointed star for over 100 years. Over this long span of time the radiator grille has been repeatedly developed further in a formal sense. Both in its basic proportions and in its details the designers try to interpret this identifying feature anew, creating a fresh, modern image.

This principle also applies for the sporty counterpart, the so-called SL radiator, which was directly derived from racing in the 1950s and has since become a symbol not only for Mercedes sports cars, but also for the refined sportiness which finds its expression in many model series. In the same manner as the saloon radiator, this element is also constantly being newly interpreted in the formal sense.

Through this detail work, form language and brand image retain their vitality, remain innovative and dynamic, but at the same time unmistakeable.

And yet an all-too-strict interpretation of the striving for formal continuity entails the risk of running into a stylistic dead-end alley, where there is no room for individuality. There is no such formal monotony at Mercedes-Benz; on the contrary: every model – whether it is a luxury saloon, a coupé, a roadster or a compact-class car – presents itself as an independent "personality". The common, well-known basic patterns of the form language are combined with new style elements that at first appear surprising, yet in conjunction with familiar elements condition, ever anew, the perception of the Stuttgart-based automotive brand.

Trends and reality

Recognising and shaping trends are important tasks of the auto designers. They live in the present, but their realm of action is the future. This calls for a very sensitive perception for changes in customers' life habits, for people's new attitudes towards their daily life and for those tendencies concerning form and colour made evident in other sectors such as the furniture industry or the electronics sector, for example. Or for impulses coming from other cultures; this is why Mercedes designers do not only work in Germany, but in Italy, Japan, China and the USA as well. The automaker has set up Advanced Design Studios at all these locations, to act as a sort of seismograph and pick up stylistic trends on site and analyse them to process them creatively. A key
issue here is the ability to intuitively grasp that which can attain formal timelessness, and to develop a sensitivity for important, sustainable tendencies in art, culture and society. 

However, having a vision for the future and being able to sense new trends is not enough. Because behind the manifold, diffuse wealth of future ideas on offer there lies the question of which of the currents does a brand like Mercedes-Benz want to allow itself to be influenced by. For Mercedes-Benz it has always been decisive to be, not fashionable, but modern.

That's why what is important is to distinguish between short-lived tendencies and long-term developments and thus identify customers' authentic expectations for the future. Mercedes designers therefore do not need trend counselling but rather a well-founded prognosis and concrete answers to the questions as to how people will live tomorrow, how they will consume and – in particular – how to enthral and inspire future customers. The challenge consists in reflecting about possible future developments and to think further – beyond the reality that bears the seal of trends and fashion.

Passion and practicality

This aspect is probably the most important and interesting of those that determine the work of automotive designers. It is all about people, or, more specifically, about customers and their personality. Because driving a car today means a lot more than reaching your destination in safety and comfort. Today, more than ever, the emphasis is on making the journey itself an experience that is enjoyable because one feels at ease in one's car, and because the car goes well with one's lifestyle – and because it is also possible to express style very well by means of the car. More than ever, the sensory perception of a product therefore plays an exceptional role.

Experience and enjoyment

Keeping the fascination for what is beautiful alive over the years is also one of the most important tasks of the interior designers. Its importance for design work is increasing. The interior of a car is conceived as a space for living, one where a lot of time is spent. That is why a pleasant environment is playing an increasingly important role in the motor car, too.

There is no doubt about it: customers have become both more demanding and more discerning over the years in this respect. They not only want a wide choice of possible appointments from which to pick precisely that which suits their individual taste and personality. They now also set greater store by the use of high-quality materials and precision workmanship. These of course help convey, whilst also making more tangible, values such as aesthetics, comfort and quality as part of the overall visual impression.

The objective of the interior designers at Mercedes-Benz can be summed up in a few words: one gets into the car, closes the doors and immediately feels at home.

Form and function

But for all their love and attention to detail: automotive designers are not packaging artists. It is by no means their task to simply pack new technologies or new vehicle concepts into a handsome form – they contribute decisively towards initiating new ideas and help them on their way to series production, The entire Mercedes-Benz strategic product initiative documents just how closely product strategy, design and technology work together at the Stuttgart-based automotive brand.

Mercedes designers are integrated right from the start in the concept phase and in the development process of new models. That also means: design work is team work; the design studio of a large-series manufacturer is not a dream factory. In a team both designers and engineers have to be ready to make compromises in order to find viable solutions that meet all the requirements. This poses harder challenges for automotive designers than for their colleagues in other industrial sectors. The motor car is one of the few industrial products from which the customer expects not only a handsome exterior, but also a perfectly-designed interior as well. In addition to this, the car is a product made up from different individual areas. Many of these details are quite as complex as entire devices produced in other industrial sectors.

Function and aesthetics, technology and art: what at first sight sounds contradictory has to blend into a harmonious overall concept in a modern car. The objective has been attained if design work and the engineering arts complement each other on a sophisticated level. Thus, practicality and good design are not natural enemies. Technological leadership is an integral part of the brand philosophy and it is the task of design to make this mission visible, while setting trends in its own way.

Visions and emotions

This is what show cars, concept and research vehicles
are also for. They are conceived and developed in order to impulse auto-visions, to test new vehicle concepts and technologies, to intensify the dialogue with customers and also to analyse the public's reaction to these auto-ideas. Mercedes-Benz also carries out such auto-studies in order to take a look at the future in respect of stylistic developments and to offer designers a possibility to develop and implement new form languages.

 But whether a unique research vehicle or series-produced – a motor vehicle is always perceived with one's senses. No-one can evade its emotional effect. Long before one has any idea about the relevant technical facts or innovations, through its mere appearance – that is, through its design – it awakens desires. It is the responsibility of the designers to awaken and keep alive these emotions. The goal of their work is to create automobiles in the field of tension between technology and design, that are characterised both by technical and emotional intelligence.

The designers' work is a success if customers buy cars not only for purely rational reasons but also with their heart – and mind.

The Advanced Design Studio in Como/Italy:
Tracking down new interior design trends

Integrated in the global Mercedes Design network, the designers at the Advanced Design Studio in Como find an inspiring environment for creative thoughts.

Always a good address: in the Villa Salazar near the shore of Lake Como, Italian fashion designer Gianni Versace used to produce bowties and neckties, before Mercedes-Benz opened the Advanced Design Studio here in February 1998. With its contemporary ceiling paintings, long corridors and different terracotta and wooden floors, the villa, built around 1750, is exceptionally inspiring for the around 20 designers who work here. This also holds true for the region itself: the famous triangle between the cities of Como, Milan and Turin is a centre of fashion and the furniture industry. Traditional crafts are highly valued there – an ideal environment for the Advanced Design Studio.

With its sister studios in Carlsbad (California), Tokyo, Beijing and Sindelfingen, the Advanced Design Studio in Como not only exchanges ideas, but also creative people. Gorden Wagener, Head of Design at Mercedes-Benz, is responsible for all the Studios. Apart from the approximately 440 designers who take care of the series production vehicles, at the five Advanced Design Studios over 60 designers work on the concepts that have enabled the brand with the three-pointed star to look up to a quarter of a century ahead into the future.

A variety of inspirations flow into the concepts for the vehicle interior design – because this is what the Advanced Design Studio in Como has specialised in. Designers can allow their thoughts free rein without immediately having to think of series production. The latter is, of course, the final goal of the ideas and reflections. With the so-called "appreciation model" the designers first implement their ideal conceptions and then look for a way to translate these ideas to series production. This allows for a more consistent and higher-quality result than what would be obtained by upgrading the vehicle interior subsequently.

The tasks of the creative professionals in Como are numerous. They carry out normal research, develop drafts and build models – and always look beyond the horizon in order to develop the automobile interior of the future. A certain fine disregard for old conventional rules is desirable in order to find fresh approaches.

"We don't chase after fashion phenomena", says Gorden Wagener, Head of Design at Mercedes-Benz, "we detect long-term trends which raise the value of our brand over the decades. Ideas which fulfil the highest requirements in terms of technology, performance, comfort and safety." A designer therefore has to "live in the future" and think two to three vehicle generations ahead of their time.

One of the first visible and tangible results produced by the Advanced Design Studios in Como was the interior of the Mercedes-Benz F 400 Carving research vehicle (Tokyo 2001). In 2002 the Vision GST, a forerunner of the Mercedes-Benz R-Class, followed in Detroit; 2003 saw the debut of the F 500 Mind research vehicle (Tokyo). In 2005 saw the public appearance in Washington of the Mercedes-Benz bionic car, and the F 600 HYGENIUS in Tokyo. The Mercedes-Benz F 700 research vehicle presented in 2007 featured an interior design based on cork and Alcantara®. In 2011 Mercedes-Benz presented the research cars F125! and F800 Style as well as the Concept A-CLASS; all three featured interior appointments from Como. Many unusual details of the Concept A-CLASS take their cue from the realm of aviation. Diverse components were restructured: the instrument panel and the centre console, for instance, consist only of a complex brushed aluminium structure. The result is a transparent, light, bionic forming.

Credits: Daimler AG

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