The Ford design team that created auto show favorites like GT, F-150 and Mustang faces a very different challenge in Italy this week. The Milan Furniture Fair will include a Ford lounge showcasing non-automotive projects created specifically for the internationally renowned design show.

Ford’s not going into the furniture business. “We’re taking the concepts and philosophy behind the Ford GT’s interior design and applying it to other products,” Ford design chief Moray Callum said.

The projects promote the designers’ range of talents and set the table for applications of the GT design theme in future Ford vehicles.

The GT’s sweeping, organic shapes will influence future Ford interior designs. In Milan, the look will stand alongside work by some of the world’s leading non-automotive designers.

“It allows our designers to use Ford’s new unified design language for non-automotive projects,” Callum said. He invited all 350 members of Ford’s design staff around the world to contribute in January. About 130 turned in proposals. The ideas ranged from furniture to cutlery, a sandwich and a guitar, all inspired by the Ford GT exotic car.

“Enthusiasm is very high,” Callum said. “The work is extremely creative.”

The entries ranged from paper sketches to 3D computer files. Ford’s top designers picked 10 of the proposals and made physical models of them for the furniture show. They’ll be on exhibit in the Ford lounge at the convention center. The lounge will provide space for people to sit, relax and have a snack.

Ford won’t display any vehicles. It’s the only automaker with a stand at the show. Ford of Europe started showing its designers’ work at the fair a couple of years ago. This is the first time the global design staff participated.

In addition to stretching the GT design theme, the show gives Ford designers a rare chance to show their work in public. “The outside world only sees 15% to 20% of what our designers do,” because automakers create several alternative designs for every vehicle before choosing one to produce, Callum said.

“This shows the breadth of talent we have in our studios.”

Russell Sims, a 35-year-old digital sculptor who worked on the GT in Ford’s Dearborn studios, sketched a carbon-fiber racing sailboat based on the futuristic boats that compete in the America’s Cup and the boats he races out of Grosse Ile.

He was inspired by sailing, and by Michigan’s long history as a center of furniture design.

“It makes sense to show how the GT design language applies to other areas,” he said. His boat, which would be 20 feet long at full scale, features a view from above that borrows from the cross section of the GT’s dashboard. “It’s all about the waterline,” he said. “A longer waterline means a faster boat.”

The skipper would recline in the hull, held up by the deck, but protected from the wind and spray.

“It cradles you, like the GT,” Sims said.

He sketched the boat using Alias computer design software over lunch in 30 minutes the day he heard about the contest.

“It’s all functional,” Sims said. “The beauty is almost incidental.”

Contact Mark Phelan: mmphelan@freepress.com or 313-222-6731. Follow him on Twitter @mark_phelan.

Salone Internazionale del Mobile

When: April 14-19

Where: Fiera Milano convention center, Milan, Italy.

Website:salonemilano.it/en-us/