Nine Italian furniture designs for a beautiful life
Is there anything the Italians don’t design well?
The answer is obvious, and with good reason: Top Italian furniture brands have perfected that mystifying blend of classic and innovative. They also hold the idea of home in the highest regard, making it more than a place to crash in between marathon sessions at the office. Italian design culture forbids any object from entering the house unless it brings joy, passion, and sophistication into a space. Which means, there is no such thing as a “decent” option. Instead, luxury makers at the vanguard are relentless in their pursuit of beauty — whether it’s measured in stitches, kitchen amenities, or leather detailing. Here are nine design standouts making their mark.
Perhaps nothing says Italian contemporary design more characteristically than streamlined, low-slung sectional seating. Milanese architect Rodolfo Dordoni extends the art of lounging to the outdoors with his Florida seating collection for Minotti, blurring the lines between casual and formal, indoor and out. The coated metal structure resists corrosion, and the upholstery, available in four neutral hues with eco-leather piping, is easily removable. Multiple geometric shapes allow for creative configurations (an S-shaped sofa starts from US$28,587 ($A36,550)). Dordoni also designed the companion Caulfield coffee table (US$5,694 ($7,300)) weather-friendly metal and a Pietra del Cardoso brushed-stone top, which naturally resists the rigors of al fresco dining.
Tolentino-based Poltrona Frau has upholstered the interiors for Ferrari cars with its famously supple leather for years. In recognition of the automaker’s 70th anniversary, Ferrari’s head of design, Flavio Manzoni — who oversaw the design of the LaFerrari Aperta, GTC4Lusso, and 812 superfast models — teamed up with the company on the Cockpit chair. Featuring style and ergonomics common to competitive racing seats, the chair comes in high-back President and low-back Executive models. The swivel base mirrors the design and mechanical elements of the steering wheel, and a contrasting streak down the spine emulates racing stripes. Customization options are available, and prices range from US$10,000 ($A12,800)to US$11,000 ($A14,050).
Glas Italia’s theme at this year’s Milan furniture fair was illusion. To that end, the brand commissioned designers to utilise mirrored, coloured, and iridescent glass to create unusual optical effects. Nendo — the acclaimed Japanese design company led by chief designer Oki Sato — presented Layers (US$11,200 ($A14,300)), a free-standing bookcase with movable, overlapping panels of coloured glass suspended from a track. The panels can be configured in various ways to chromatic effect. The piece is available in two color schemes: one warm (in orange, red, and brown), the other cool (in blue, gray, and violet).
It could be argued that Italian couture and furniture design converge most beautifully at Armani/Casa. The new Edward chair was conceived on the water as a reinterpretation of a tub chair designed by Giorgio Armani for his yacht. A solid wood frame supports a rounded back an seat that can be upholstered in a variety of Armani/Casa fabrics for Rubelli or a selection of soft-touch leathers. Fabrics can also be removed for dry cleaning by releasing the seat and backrest from the frame. Prices range from US$4,035 ($A5,150) to US$5,602 ($A7,165).
The Lilo chaise (US$3,280 ($A4,200)) longue exemplifies the way Italy reimagines various global ideas, balancing form with comfort. Spanish designer Patricia Urquiola conceived the Lilo line for Moroso partly as an homage to Scandinavian design and modernist ideas of the 1950s. While the chaise portion of this piece carries that spirt, the strong, chunky base was influenced by Italian design great Achille Castiglioni. The result is an amalgam that’s old and new, but unquestionably Italian.
Indoor herb-and-lettuce gardens for kitchen islands have been around for a while, but uneven light, temperature fluctuations, smoke from cooking, and other factors make growing conditions a challenge. Boffi take the unknowns out the equation with its new Tomato+, which fits into most Boffi kitchens and enables one to grow vegetables year-round in a controlled environment. Specially developed software manages temperature, humidity, and LEDs that replicate the days’ light cycle. Thirty varieties of non-GMO, biodegradable, pesticide-and chemical-free seed pods can be ordered online or directly from a smartphone app. Price upon request.
The work of Rome-based architect Achille Salvagni testifies to his never-ending love affair with his native country. The sensuality of the 1940s and ‘50s furniture masters like Osvaldo Borsani and Gio Ponti, are a source of inspiration for the designer whose Garda sofa, named after one of the great lakes of northern Italy, pulls it all off with a contemporary twist. The piece is produced in a limited edition of six, boasting a luxuriously long 118-inch, lacquered wood structure with engraved, bronze-detailed feet. Priced at US$65,000 ($A83,200) and available through Maison Gerard, the piece is hard to miss.
Giorgetti S.p.A. was established in 1898 to cater, like many workshops in the Brianza region of Lombardy, to the sophisticated tastes of Milanese noble families. In the 1980s, Giorgetti began collaborating with architects on designs. One of the first was Massimo Scolari, who was the company’s creative director until 2001. His leather-surfaced Tenet desk (US$26,834 ($A34,300)) is made of maple veneer an available in either dove or slate gray. A sleek piece, the design is also available as a traditional writing table or with a chest of drawers that can be positioned to the right or left.
Anyone who has ever watched Fellini’s films knows that romantic passion is a recurring leitmotif of the Italian arts. Not surprisingly the bedroom is center stage for architect Chiara Mennini, whose Milan-based company Midsummer, has devoted most of its attention to outfitting this space. Her Cashmere bed showcases a coconut-fibre-padded, pleated-cashmere fram accented with a fiery silk stripe. Prices start at US$18,000 ($A23,000) and the piece is available through Imaestri.