Carlo Mollino – Furniture Italian Designer

Posted on 1st September 2011 in Italian Designers

Carlo Mollino lived his life in the same manner as he described it should be lived, “Everything is permissible as long as it is fantastic.” He was known for his architecture as well as his designs in modern furniture setting a world record for the highest price paid for a piece of furniture in 2005. The oak and glass table he designed for one of his interiors project, Cassa Orengo in Turin, 1949, sold for $3,824,000.

Living his entire life in Italy, he was born in 1905 in Turin, Piedmont. His interests were as varied as his abilities covering the range from race cars and the occult to design and architecture including an avid interest in photography particularly regarding women. Even though his life was short, he died in 1973, he left behind a colorful and exuberant portfolio of both built and unbuilt projects. Starting his architectural career in 1930, he worked in his father’s office from 1933 until 1948 winning the G. Pstono prize for designing a house in Fort dei Marmi.

He designed the Società Ippica Torinese building in Turin in collaboration with Vittorio Baudi di Selve between 1936 and 1939. His love of skiing motivated him to design several mountain homes as well as write a book about his skiing techniques inclusive of illustrations. Perhaps his most intriguing is Casa Mollino that he decorated as his private pyramid with the things he was to take with him to his afterlife. This was guided by his fascination with tomb of the Egyptian royal architect “kha”.

He continued to design many important buildings in Italy as well as interior projects designing furniture specific to the interiors projects that he was working on. In 1951, he designed a table that appears to have a floating glass top above a base that is organic and skeletal nature. It was typical for him to include some element of the figure or form of the human body. While understanding the tenets of neo-plasticism and rationalism that are integral to furniture design, he interpreted it in creative and unorthodox ways that allowed for both the designers and users manipulation.

The table in 1949, the “Arabesco table” was a precursor to his later designs using a free form glass as the table’s top along with an organic and undulating base secured in three seemingly precarious locations. The roll top desk designed the following year rests upon legs that appear to be ready to walk away at a moment’s notice. The chair and stool designed for the Lutario Dance Hall in 1959, is minimalist, quirky and defined simultaneously. Most of his furniture designs were produced by Apelli & Varesio Joinery in Turin.

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Osvaldo Borsani – Italian Furniture Designer

Posted on 24th August 2011 in Italian Designers

Italian Furniture Designer Osvaldo Borsani – Coming from a family history of furniture makers namely his father who produced furniture, he was born in 1911 in Varedo Milano with a twin brother, Fulgenzio. The two were to continue to collaborate to produce a series of modern furniture pieces that included E60 in 1946, suspended book-shelves using anodized aluminum with natural wood or laminated plywood shelves. As many modern furniture designers of his time, he also designed for ease of movement and flexibility of space. The S80 produced in 1949, was a minimalist folding chair consisting of a solid wood frame.

The T1 and the T2 in 1949, showcased his experimentation with new materials expressed in a simple execution. The smaller table had a chrome brass base finished in white lacquer with a glass top while the larger table, T2 had a black lacquered steel base with a black lacquered wood top.

Following the design principle of modern design, that form and function need to work together simultaneously, the production of the E22 in 1951 is a wooden wall storage system that can be placed on wall rails allowing for flexibility in configuration and customizing it the users particular needs and desires.

The L51 perhaps best typified the use of craftsmanship with useful design. Produced in 1951, this bed was made from molded plywood and lacquered metal with an intriguing night table mounted on a rotating arm. The “Jack Knife” produced the next year, with a remarkable similarity to today’s modern futon sofa, was designed to be a convertible modern sofa with a black enamel frame using with a fabric or leather cover over polyurethane foam.

As his designs progressed over the coming years, he maintained his attention to craftsman level detail and construction with an emphasis on modern furniture pieces that appeared to dissolve any noticeable construction or structural connections. He also designed maintaining the strictest of modern design with simple clean lines offering only what is necessary for the function as well as including the ability to be able to be easily disassembled or broken down.

In 1954 he opened Tecno, producer of modern furniture suitable for the home and the office. Here he designed and produced the D70, the “Butterfly” with a long seat and the classic chaise Lounge P40. The concept of the “Butterfly” chair was expanded in 1955, with comfort and versatility in mind in the L77 which is a jointed bed able to be raised or lowered on both the upper and lower half of the bed.

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Alberto Meda – Italian Furniture Designer

Italian Furniture Designer  Alberto Meda

During the emergence of the modernist style, modern furniture was designed by individuals with all kinds of backgrounds. With a centralist theme of combining form with function, Alberto Meda came from a background as a mechanical engineer. With a natural inclination towards the functional side of modern furniture design, he grasped and incorporated the naturalist, organic forms that were expressed through his contemporaries.

Born in Lenno, an Italian province of Como in 1945, after graduating from the Politecnico di Milano in 1969, he went on to be the manager in charge of furniture production and plastic laboratory equipment for Kartell. Exposed to the synthesis of technology and product design he became a freelance designer for several large well-known furniture and product companies such as Vitra, Philips and Alfa Romeo Auto.

In particular, Vitra commissioned him to design his first chair this included the “Meda” a sleek office chair that was designed with ultimate comfort with minimal structure . He has won numerous awards for his designs including the I.D. design review “Best of Category” with Vitra for the Meda chair as well as the INDEX award in 2007 for the Solar Bottle. INDEX is a Denmark based non-profit that promotes designs that contribute to the improvement of people’s lives worldwide. His design of the Solar Bottle allows for the treatment of microbiologically contaminated water by the absorption of UV rays that disinfect the water. Included is a handle that allows for transportation of the container as well as providing for the proper angled placement of the bottle to capture as much sun as possible.

His “Light light” chair, 1987, “Soft light” chair 1989, “Longframe” 1991 and the “On-Off; lamp 1988 are part of the permanent collection in the Museum of Modern Art in New York and are typical of his minimalist, functional designs. The “Longframe” is a fluid undulation of form combining the technologies of extrusion and die-casting. Working in aluminum both the frame and the seating mesh appear light and organic in form. The “On-Off” lamp is designed to be able to be turned off by moving the lamp from side to side rather than by a switch. It was designed to work with an LED light bulb.

His work with modern tables might best be seen in “Frametable” 2001. It is a folding table that is also designed to be able to hang from a wall like a painting featuring the unique “x” design. With an embossed aluminum alloy composite top supported by aluminum legs, it is as unique in use as in its folded state.







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Alessandro Mendini – Italian Furniture Designer

Italian Furniture Designer Alessandro Mendini

Born in Milan in 1931, Alessandro Mendini continues until today to be a colorful and prolific furniture designer embracing neo-modern and contemporary design. His reach includes the design of modern furniture, objects, interiors and installations. Working with Philips, Swarovski, Alessi, and Swatch he develops design and brand identities.

Trained as an architect at the Milan Polytechnic until 1959, he was part of the Nizzoli Associate Practice until 1970. In 1973 he was a founding member of the “Global Tools” group and in 1979, he joined the Studio Alchimia eventually co-founding the Domus Academy.

As versatile as his abilities with modern furniture design, he was also the editor in chief for several Italian design and architecture magazines; Casabella, Modo and Domus. Stating that he usually reads between 15-20 books simultaneously he is an author of several design books as well as providing critique and essays on design.

Deciding he would play with current modern furniture designs he began to play with works of other modern furniture designers adding his own unique and colorful reinterpretation. One of his better known modern furniture pieces is the “Proust” armchair. First produced by Cappellini in 1978, it a colorful explosion of shapes and exuberant forms based on the classic Italian armchair. With a hand carved and hand painted frame, the colors of the fabric match the colors on the frame. This same chair design was to be redone several times over exploring alternative coverings and materials.

His intriguing style also produced modern kitchenware with a wry and amusing outcome. The Anna G. Corkscrew designed in 1994 utilizes the functional connection of the corkscrew to become head, hair, face, neck shoulders arms and the main body of a woman. This popular item was followed by a pepper mill, cream and sugar set, box and champagne cap capitalizing on the same motif. Similarly amusing and yet completely functional is the Parrot Sommelier Corkscrew designed in 2005 that easily fits inside a pocket.

His work continues to be a part of modern furniture design exploring and pushing the limits of material, form and the application of colorful. In a recent exhibit, he displayed the “Bench” that he designed in collaboration with Pierre Charpin. Playing with bright colors and geometric forms, it is modern furniture at its best with an almost coffin like form with rounded corners and surfaces.





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Andrea Branzi – Italian Furniture Designer

Posted on 16th August 2011 in Furniture Designers, Italian Designers

Andrea Branzi, furniture designer and architect was born in Florence in 1938.  In his native city, he studied architecture and has become an influential theorist in the Italian design scene.  Collaborating with Paolo Deganello, Gilberto Corretti and Massimo Morozzi, he founded Archizoom Associati in 1966, a voice of the Italian radical design movement. The name was borrowed from a British firm of architects known as Archigram and the publication “Zoom”.

The group achieved international prominence through numerous projects and essays reflecting their ideas of radical architecture – the group’s effort for technology-based methods applied to urban design.  Archizoom created furniture in the “anti-design” style notably reflected in its introduction of the Superonda and Safari sofas (1968) and seating furniture, for Poltronova, combining modular flexibility with plastic and leopard-skin finishes and San Remo, the palm-frond lamp.  The group dedicated its efforts to continue to stimulate individual creativity.  The exhibit at the Centre for Electric Conspiracy, previewed closed, fragranced meditation areas featuring exotic objects from different cultures.  Keeping with this minimalist theme, a room presented at Italy:  The New Domestic Landscape, held at MOMA, New York in 1972, featured the voice of a girl describing light and colour in a beautiful house – leaving the listener to create his own imagery.  The group’s creative talent was evident in two Italian films focusing on dress as a theme, and was one of the last collaborations before disbanding in 1974.


His designs have encompassed the “Century” sofa, 1982, as well as ceramics for Memphis.  In the furniture design venue, “Animali Domestici” (Domestic Animals), 1985, his designed chairs with backs made from pieces of branches.  Shortly after, Branzi published a book with the same title, in which he gave voice to the thought that man create a new relationship with his environment – to be comfortable with furniture as a “domestic pet”.


Branzi has also collaborated with many Italian architecture magazines, notably ‘Domus’ and ‘Casabella’, and from 1983-1987, was editor of MODO.  ‘Domus Academy’, which he co-founded in 1983, was the first international post-graduate school of design.






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Antonio Citterio – Italian Architect, Furniture Designer

Posted on 15th August 2011 in Furniture Designers, Italian Designers

Italian Architect, Furniture Designer Antonio Citterio

To grasp Antonio Citterio’s design philosophy, is to understand him as a man first, before knowing him as a Milan Italian furniture designer and industrial designer.  He is a graduate of the Politecnico di Milano in Architecture.  Since 1972, his straight forward, no nonsense approach is reflected, and highly regarded,  in his work for many high profile manufacturers such as Ansorg, B&B Italia, Hackmann, Hansgrohe, Inda, Pozzi e Ginori, Kartell, Vitra and more.  Maxalto, A B&B Italia brand is designed entirely by Citterio.


He has designed interiors within Italy and abroad, applying a sophisticated attitude which has resulted in kaleidoscope of his work being represented throughout the international capitals of the world:  Esprit’s headquarters in Amsterdam, Antwerp and Milan, a Vitra industrial plant in Germany, for Antonio Fusco in Milan.  In the commercial space arena, he designed the Habitat store in London in 1996, and several other buildings throughout Europe and Japan.


Since founding Antonio Citterio and Partners in 1999, a multidisciplinary architecture and design studio, the offices have expanded to Hamburg.  By continuing to teach, his style remains fresh and accommodating of new ideas and concepts.  He has held teaching posts at Domus Academy in Milan, Universita La Sapienza in Rome and also at the Architecture Academy in Mendrisio.  Several of his designs have become permanent parts of the collections at MOMA and the Centre di Pompdou in Paris.


He is likely to be found designing anywhere:  a quiet place, an airplane, in one of his offices, but he has expressed many times that the most inspiring environment is among his colleagues, where an exchange of ideas (critical and complimentary) proves most beneficial.

Taking a look at one of his designs, the stand alone work station, “Vademecum” which he did for Vitra in 1998 – two key elements are evident:  one, the work station is not hindered in being attached to a structure or wall, and second, it can be mobile.  These components lend themselves to the ease of collaboration with your co-workers, providing an easy, natural venue to share ideas.


His best selling products are so because he designs for himself – and not according to marketing directives.  “If I won’t surround myself with these things, I don’t make them”.  Though he has designed hundreds of “pieces” he rather chooses to define them through longevity…the span of time that many companies have contracted him – “…27 years with B&B Italia, 15 years with Vitra and 15 years with Kartell”…achieving an understanding of the client’s needs – as he’s literally learned to speak their language.


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Harry Bertoia – Italian Furniture Designer

Posted on 3rd August 2011 in Furniture Designers, Italian Designers

Born in San Lorenzo, Italy in 1915, he showed promise as having exceptional design talent even as a child. He remained there until he was 15 when he left to move to Detroit with his father. At the age of 22, he won a scholarship to study at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. This academy was attracting many famous artists and designers during this time. Among them who befriended him was Charles and Ray Eames, Walter Gropius and Eliel Saarinen, director of the art community at the academy.

Asked by Saarinen to take over the department of metalworking, this is where he concentrated his design efforts on jewelry making. This time provided him with the beginnings of his future work in sculptural forms and his prolific execution of monoprints. With his increasing interest in sculptural forms, he left Michigan to collaborate with Charles Eames in California to work with molded plywood. Other modern furniture designers of this same time were also working with these same materials and methods as well.

While he successfully found a way for the Eames/Saarinen Cranbrook chair to be placed in production, with no credit provided to him for his accomplishment, he decided to move on and eventually settled in Pennsylvania. Here he began his work designing chairs for the Knoll furniture company. Appreciators of contemporary furniture, they provided him free rein to design as he pleased proving him full credit for his designs.

He did his work in a shop in Bally that still remains until today, maintained and used by his family.  Working with molded plywood is what he did while working with Charles Eames, here he went back to his day of metalworking and began exploring the use of welded wire as a both a design and structural support element. His brief time spent previously at the Point Loma New Atomics Laboratory exploring ergonomics and body dynamics helped inform his practical knowledge of designing modern furniture that was comfortable and well suited to the human form.

Airy and light, these wire chairs appear to be too delicate to hold the human body. They were extremely popular and the Knoll furniture company eventually bought the rights to his chairs outright.

Intrigued by the properties of the wire, later in his life he worked with his brother to create sonambient sculpture; tonal wire sculptures that produced musical sounds. Used as sculptural elements, particularly famous was the dandelion form where several were placed around the Fair Kodak building at the 1964 New York’s World Fair.






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Baroque furniture design influenced by the Roman Church

Baroque designBaroque design was an offshoot of the Roman Catholic influence in Italy in the 18th Century. Over the previous 200 years, more and more new churches began to be built across Italy, with over 300 in Rome by the mid 1700s. It was through the use of modern design and furniture accents, from gilded statues to ornately carved tables that the Roman church gained influence.

The larger a church building was, the more likely it was to have extensive carvings and rich gilded walls with lush fabrics adorning the pews. Paintings were large with ostentatious frames surrounding them. The more ornately designed a church was, the more popular it became.

This led to a trend of luxurious furnishings taking over the homes of the elite. Families who were connected to the church were the leaders of a trend that brought in a rich, Baroque setting for the home. Chairs were lined with rich, custom carvings, ebony, stone, jewels and more for additional flair. Homes became in competition with each other to see who could create a more elaborate home.

Early on, Pietro da Cortona was a student in what was known as High Baroque. Cortona, also known as Pietro Berrettini, was born in Cortona and quickly came to the attention of the papacy in Italy where he began working on major commissions of paintings inside the churches. He was only one of many early painters, sculpturers and designers who influenced the way Baroque designs influenced the rich and poor alike.

And it was the art that influenced the design of Baroque furniture in the 17th century. Cabinets, cupboards, bed posts and other wood furniture has large bulky twisted columns and rich carvings and mouldings in the interior design.  Baroque was an offshoot of a large Asian influence on design and the Oriental influence led to the deep ornamentation and design of modern Italian furniture.

These large, grand and overly ornate designs were popular for the nobles, and were influenced by the Renaissance Age and various intricate etchings and design techniques embellished furniture. Tables with gilded carved bases became popular. Even tables with slim lined legs had rich carvings or etchings shaping the way the furniture reflected its Baroque influence. Under Louis XIV, Baroque became extremely popular and was later phased out under Louis XVI when a less ornate style came into play as the peasants and the lower class became wearier of the ornate and rich influences in modern design. Functionality came back in the late 1800s as the Industrial Revolution began and design began to change again.

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Carlo Mollino – Italian Furniture Designer

Posted on 4th May 2011 in Furniture Designers, Italian Designers

A quissential free spirit, Carlo Mollino was  a great architect, furniture designer, photographer and all-around creative. Born in Turin, Piedmont, the top  Italian furniture designer was known for his fast lifestyle but exquisite architectural renderings and furniture designs.

Mollino created unique pieces, usually as a one-time project, but his elongated shapes and play with form have impacted design worldwide. Mollino did not mass-produce his designs, which have created a sensation of being one of the top furniture designers in the world, with price tags in the several millions on his furniture designs at famous auction houses like Christie’s.

Mollino first got his start in 1930 when he started as an architect designing a house and began winning prizes such as the G. Pistono for his modern architectural designs.

Unfortunately, his most significant piece of architecture, the Societa Ippica Torinese was ruined in 1960. Created by Mollino in 1938, the building for a riding school had the ability to hold 115 horses, an indoor riding  clubhouse and a building.

Mollino was well-known for listening to the beat of his own drummer, exploring adventurous retreats and living for the thrill of fast cars. During mid-century 1904s or so, the Italian furniture designer was being surrounded by current modern designers that were going after the sleek, chic designs in Italian furniture similar to the world-wide influence of minimalist design.

Mollino instead chose to continue to work with nature and its influences through the use of wood, animal horns, or even the curve of the human body to influence his modern furniture designs.

Key to his designs were the arches and elongated forms that took a functional piece of furniture such as a coffee table and converted it from function to art through the use of modern design techniques.

While Mollino had a heavy-hand in architecture, he truly flourished in furniture desgn.

Some of his top architectural projects include the Ippica, the House on the Agra plateau, the RAI Auditorium in Turin, the Casa del Sole, Cervinia and the Teatro Regio Torino, which is the prominent opera house and opera company in Turin, Italy.

While he had a strong presence in architecture, Mollino took time inbetween skiing and racing to create pieces for Zanotta in the 40s and 50s, cindluingtop designs of his Reale table in 1946, the ardea armchair, the 1950 Arabesque table,  in addition to tables in the Italian Design of the Center and other chairs constructed of wood materials.

The reason most of his products sell extremely high off the shelf these days is because most of his furniture designs were one-time creations for specific clients who requested the designs. Mollino’s designed were rarely mass manufactured.

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Marco Zanuso – Italian Furniture Designer

Posted on 11th April 2011 in Furniture Designers, Italian Designers

This modern chair is inspired by chairs created by Zanuso.

Furniture Designer: Marco Zanuso born in Milano, Italy in 1916 was known for his imagination and innovative use of materials and design both as an Italian architect and furniture designer. As one of the driving forces behind the Modern Design movement, he began his architectural training at the Politecnicio di Milano University opening his own office in 1945. Serving as editor, first at Domus from 1047-49 and then at Casabella from 1952-56, he was able to develop and promote these theoretical ideas. He was also one of the founding members of ADI in the 1950’s, serving as an index for designers.

Mixing practice with academics, he was a professor of architecture, design and town planning at the Politiecnico from the late 1940’s to the 1980’s.

During this time he became known for his ability to design incorporating new techniques and unconsidered materials such as plastic. Through his experiments he found acceptance for his design pieces as well as a receptive consumer market. The Low-Cost Furniture competition sponsored by MoMA in 1948, was the first to show his work in which he designed a metal frame chair that used a breakthrough method to join the fabric seat to the frame.

In 1949, he was commissioned by Arflex, a division of Pirelli to produce a chair incorporating foam rubber upholstery named the “Antropus” chair. This prototype was released in 1949 followed by the “Lady” chair. Winning first place at the Milan Triennale in 1951, he went on to design a child’s chair made out of non-reinforced plastic.

This he did with German designer Richard Sapper. Their partnership started in 1957 with the chair being produced in 1961. Impressed with their playful use of the plastic material and color, they were hired as consultants to Brionvega in 1959, to apply their aesthetic sensibilities to the production of electronics . They hoped that through their designs they could gain a competitive edge over Japan and Germany.

Creating a style known as “techno-functionalism” they designed radios and televisions . “Doney 14” was the first completely transistor television, round and compact in style followed by a harbinger of the future cell phone. Placing both the dial and the earpieces together, it is best expressed in the “Grillo” , a folding phone designed for Siemens in 1966.

In 1972, MoMA staged an exhibition entitled “The New Domestic Landscape” which is continued until today. It was to serve to showcase designers who created anti-rational, imaginative and innovative products based on the new world of man-made materials such as plastic. Marco Zanuso and his partner Richard Sapper designed a series of dwellings for this exhibit that were produced as stackable units. Unfolded, they became a living area complete with all of the facilities and many of the accessories needed for a small apartment. They were designed with the idea that they could easily be transported providing for immediate living quarters.

With an extensive list of his works created until his death in 2001, they can be viewed at the Museum of modern Art in New York, Triennale Milano, Triennale Tokyo, Vitra Museum Arflex Museum and the Kartell Museum.

His pieces designed for Arflex include the “Lady” chair (1951), the “Martingala” armchair (1952), the “Tripoltrona” sofa (1952), the “Sleep-o-matic” (1954) and the “Woodline” and “Fourline” armchairs (1964). The “Lady”, the “Tripoltrona” and the “Sleep-o-matic” are on display at the Medaglia d’Oro Triennale.

Pieces designed for Brionvega included The “Doney” television (1962), “Algol” television (1964), Redio TS 502 (1965) and the “Black” television (1969).

Additional work includes, the “Lambda” chair (1960) with Richard Sapper, a 1963 car for Alfa Romeo,  “K4999” a child’s chair (1964) for Kartell, the “Grillo” telephone (1966) for Siemens, the “Marcuso” table (1970) for Zanotta and the “Hastil” pen (1970) for Aurora.

Architectural works include the Olivetti buildings (1955) in Buenos Aires and San Paolo, the IBM building in Milano (1974) and the New theatre Piccolo teatro also in Milano in 1998.




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