di Marcello Mento
(By Kate Carlisle) Milan, April 11 - Haute couture step aside, Giorgio Armani just can't resist dolling up houses. And now he's doing it with an environmentally friendly flair and Venetian grace. The new Armani Casa collection featured at Milan's Salone del Mobile annual furniture trade show 2013 is stunningly sustainable and uses unique, eco-friendly materials that the are the cornerstone of Zen gardens. Fiber from trimmed banana trees retrieved from crop cuttings and Tamo wood from Japanese ash trees, whose veins seem to recreate wind-blown sand or blankets of pebbles, are crafted into furniture with pure lines and simple shapes - all conceived and projected to be highly eco-sustainable. Mirroring his iconic fashion designs, Armani's home collections have, since their birth over 10 years ago, consistently offered minimalist, ultra-refined style that draws on timeless motifs, wrapped in an Italian aura. Armani is not only inspired by nature in his 2013 Casa line, he loops back to repropose his ever-present principle of functionality. Just as his fashion items are made to stand the test of time, so are his interiors, which are as livable as his clothes are wearable. Taking a sentimental journey of sorts, Armani's collection peeps backwards in time for elements that make up the latest line. Inspired by the old-fashioned travel trunk, the Gabriel wardrobe has an Art-Deco feel, upholstered interior and brown-leather trim reminiscent of vintage cases used for overseas voyages and cruise liner crossings. "My furniture is a jewel for all homes," Armani said when presenting his latest line. Another Armani debut at Salone 2013 is an elegant daybed spun off of the former Engadin model, covered in soft leather and precious fabrics by the Venetian textile dynasty Rubelli. The Armani-Rubelli collection features jacquard, damask and velvet by the fifth-generation fabrics family who also refurbished the grand Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, recreating its colossal stage curtain with 12,000 meters of cloth and upholstered Milan's historic La Scala Opera house. Silk, one of the most ancient and versatile of cloths, is central amongst the fabrics of the new collection, dipping into leitmotifs from the 20's and 30's for the creations that revisit evocative interpretations of early 20th-century graphics. Perhaps the common denominator in this collection that makes it stand out as 'made by Armani' is the fine balance between art and artisan. Home accessories and decoration from blown Murano glass give the feel of rediscovered keepsakes that add history and depth to life-filled furnishings.