A game of solids and voids, an attentive study of materials and forms and a design approach which operates by subtraction until it achieves the perfect balance between simplicity and elegance. The Mi storage units designed by Neri & Hu for Poltrona Frau play around with light, shade and transparencies to conceal or reveal the objects they house.
Mi is a Chinese pinyin word with a dual meaning used to express both the action of “looking” but also the word “secret”, which inspired this project. In fact, in the Mi storage units, rather than being displayed in full view the objects are hidden by the oblong external shell. You can only discover them by peeking through a layer of tempered glass which closes the space left by the shelves, raised and separated from the body of the unit.
The external surface of the Mi storage units is upholstered in Saddle Extra leather, which is embellished with an original vertical striped canneté texture that gives the product a 3D effect. A thin but solid metal structure frames the body of the product and acts as a link with the raised top in Calacutta gold or Nero Marquinia marble.
The Mi collection consists of three elements: a tall 2-door Mi cabinet, a low 4-door Mi cabinet with book opening, and a Mi trolley on wheels.
The structure of the Mi storage units consists of a metal frame with burnished brushed steel finish which also acts as the base. The sides of the units consist of curved panels in poplar plywood while the bottoms and backs are made from birch plywood. To make them even lighter, the doors are made from honeycomb panels. The insides and bottom of the units are veneered in Canaletto walnut. The upper frame of the cabinet and the doors are made from solid Canaletto walnut. Both the two-door and the low four-door Mi cabinets contain shelves made of tempered glass with bronze finish while the top surface, also in tempered glass with bronze finish, offers a glimpse of the inside, like a display cabinet. The Mi High Cabinet has two doors which can be opened. Meanwhile, in the Mi Low Cabinet the 4 doors can be opened two by two like a book. Magnets maintain the doors securely shut. The structure has adjustable feet. The frame of the Mi trolley is fitted with 4 black plastic and steel swivel castors. In the upper part of the trolley the frame finishes with a tube in burnished brushed steel which follows the shape of the product and acts as a handle. One side of the grip is covered with Cuoio Saddle Extra leather matching the upholstery of the trolley, with hand stitching. The internal space is fitted with a tempered glass shelf which can be set at 3 different heights. The top is raised from the wooden body and can be made from Calacatta gold marble or Nero Marquinia marble. Both are available with a glossy finish to which a transparent polyester paint is applied to increase its surface resistance, or a semi-glossy finish for a more natural result.
The exterior of the Mi storage units is upholstered in Saddle Extra leather printed with a canneté texture. There are four possible colours: Carbone, Cammello, Polvere and Corda.
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Poltrona Frau is a furniture-maker founded in 1912 by Sardinian-born Renzo Frau in Turin, Italy, headquartered since the early 1960s in Tolentino, Italy and specializing in leather seating for interior and automotive applications. The company name combines the Italian word for armchair, "Poltrona" and "Frau, the last name of its founder.
Noted for their exhaustive quality standards, the company uses a 21-step leather tanning process where the full-grain leather is dyed through, so a surface scratch won’t reveal a lining underneath. 95% of the company's products are made by hand.
In 2004, Poltrona Frau acquired noted Italian furniture company Cappellini, and the Poltrona Frau Group now includes brands Poltrona Frau, Cappellini, Cassina, Alias, Nemo Lighting, Ceramica Flaminia and Fish Design