They enter our homes, our offices and all human spaces leaving a sign in the life’s history of each person. Elegance, simplicity, irreverence, colour, minimal ... everything participates in the creation of an object that travels in memory.
Piero Gatti, Cesare Paolini and Franco Teodoro
In the 1960s and '70s there was great interest in ergonomics, and a desire to take the concept to its extremes by adapting objects to the needs of the body. This led to the creation of many different objects, and one remains a cornerstone of Italian design on the global stage.
The Sacco armchair is still a well-established presence, resisting changes in fashion or season. The hardest part of this project was finding a suitable filling, as they needed a material that would adapt gently and subtly to every movement of the body. Initially, they considered both air and water, but neither of these proved to be suitable, because air was too hard and water was too unstable. Then they hit upon the idea of polystyrene microspheres, which adapted perfectly to the human body. The coverings are in fabric and leather with a zip closure at the base to enable a change of filling.
In 2015 the Sacco range was extended, and now there are three versions: the traditional design, the Medium Sacco and the Small Sacco. These last two were designed for children and teenagers.
In 2019, Zanotta celebrated the 50th anniversary of its chair by producing a limited number in a "green" version, made from sustainable materials. The cover also featured a pattern designed by Pierre Charpin. The nylon thread used to make it came from recycled waste such as fishing nets, and old fabrics and plastics. The microspheres for the filling were produced from a bioplastic derived from sugar cane. This green version is not intended to be an end in itself, but part of a process of research to development with a focus on respect for the environment.
A declaration of love from the 50s, without being 50 years old!
This is the Smeg FAB refrigerator, which has become a style icon thanks to its pastel colors and perfect curves. An icon that represents architects, designers, photographers and all of those jobs that have a strong aesthetic component.
With its name that recalls internationality, Smeg is actually a 100% Italian company. Thanks to the collaboration with architects and designers, the FAB fridge has reached the pinnacle of success all over the world becoming an international icon.
In order to adapt to fashion and to a more essential and Nordic style, in recent years the FAB fridge has been colored with pastel shades that suit very well with minimal apartments and that wink at vintage. Between pink, blue, green and cream, the FAB fridge has also been "dressed" over the years with special editions: with a blackboard surface, with jeans or that pay homage to artists such as Mondrian.
One of the most particular special editions was the one resulting from the collaboration with Dolce & Gabbana: they created 100 pieces, each of them handmade by Italian artists.
In short, the FAB fridge is an icon that immediately became international and that combines art, aesthetics and functionality. It’s that kind of “Made in Italy” that we love so much.
Thomas Gerrit Rietveld
The Red and Blue Chair by Gerrit Thomas Rietveld is considered the manifesto of the De-Stijl aesthetic (also known as Neoplasticism). One of the most authentic expressions of this aesthetic is the rigorous structure, clearly visible in this chair consisting of vertical and horizontal lines. The idea is that the elements of the structure are obtained by overlapping the parts, rather than intermingling them.
It was originally beech-coloured and it acquired its current aesthetic six years later, thanks to the suggestion of one of the most influential painters of the time, Piet Mondrian.
Design and art have always interacted, and this chair is like a Mondrian painting, where the primary colours, red, blue and yellow identify the single parts and their specific functions, in contrast with the totally black structure.
More specifically, the structure is composed of 15 black lacquered beech wood slats, the yellow ends of which form a true linear grid (abscissa, ordinate and zenith). The slats house the two plywood planks, the red one of the backrest and the blue one of the seat, all assembled by overlapping. At sight, it does not appear to be comfortable, but its rigidity is intentional; it is enough comfortable to relax, reading or meditate, but not enough to sleep.
One of Rietveld’s wishes was to have his product manufactured in mass production. This happened only in 1973, after his death, when the Rietveld family sold the production and sales rights to Cassina and the mass production finally began.
by Normann Copenhagen
Some design icons had not an immediate success, and the Norm 69 Lamp is an example of that.
In 1969, when it was conceived, the lamp did not get the deserved prominence and remained "hidden in attics" until 2001, when a collaboration was born between Karkov and the then start-up Normann Copenhagen. In that moment, the Norm 69 received the right prestige and became a worldwide success.
Karkov took his inspiration from nature, mainly from petals and stems, to which the Norm 69 is inspired. The result is a lamp that strictly follows the traditional Nordic design but also encompass impressiveness, flexibility, and importance.
It can be assembled without glue and tools, and thanks to the material it is made of, that is fireproof polypropylene, it is able to withstand considerable temperature leaps.
In 2002, he won the Formland Design Award and in 2003 the Norm 69 was voted as Best Product during the International Furniture Fair (IMM) of Colonia. Today, it is available in more than 60 countries in the world and it is the youngest icon in the history of design.
Conceived by the genius of Vico Magistretti, who won the Compasso d'Oro also thanks to this design, the Eclisse lamp was born from an inspiration that struck him in an underground in Milan, after a meeting with the owner of Artemide, engineer Ernesto Gismondi.
During that meeting, someone had told him: "Engineer, you have to design a night light because everyone goes to bed!".
From that sentence Magistretti had a "literary" epiphany and started to think of the lamp used by the thieves in Victor Hugo's book "Les Miserables". It was actually on the basis of that lamp that he designed the Eclipse Lamp, which has become one of the most famous Italian design icons in the world.
Eclisse embodies both essentiality and simplicity. Just a few centimetres high, it is made up of only three overlapped and interlocked aluminium spheres; the first sphere is the base, the second sphere is the lampshade and the third sliding sphere acts as a modulator of light by selecting its gradation. Its perfect form and functioning are reminiscent of an eclipse when the moon slowly darkens the sun.
Despite its versatility, aluminium did however have a disadvantage, that is overheating.
Magistretti was amused by imagining how many people had made love with his lamp nearby or how many of them had burnt their fingers.
However, one thing is definitely true: this imperfection is far less significant than the creative, aesthetic, and functional idea upon which this lamp was conceived.
Some products have the full right to enter in the history of the design, as they have enriched our everyday life thanks to their great communicative and figurative power.
The 'Juicy Salif', or more commonly called the 'Starck's Juicer' is surely among the most daring and beloved design icons. Its conception was born during a holiday of the designer Philippe Starck with Alberto Alessi in Tuscany, at the very moment when he was asking for some lemon to season his fried fish and - all of a sudden - this wonderful object came up to his mind and he draw a sketch on a simple paper placemat.
It consists of a single piece of die-cast polished aluminium formed by a drop-shaped central body and three legs radially spaced by 120°. Its form recalling the shape of an alien spaceship, or a funny spider grants it an entry ticket to the Olympus of the contemporary design.
However, the small great innovation of the 'Juicy Salif' (compared to the traditional juicers) is the lack of the container to collect the liquid, which is directly replaced by the glass. Its function and shape make it a true sculpture that everyone would like to have in their own kitchen. Although it has been criticised by many persons for the lack of functionality, this object has been able to imbue itself with an unique and inimitable power of expression.
There are the usual disposable calendars and then there is a calendar that has made history in the world of design. If you own a Timor perpetual calendar by Enzo Mari, you own a design element that will last a lifetime. Its conception came in response to those years of strong Italian consumerism, becoming a "familiar" object to take care of through its daily updating.
It is made of plastic (white, black, or green), with a lightweight and economical material: the days and months are lithographed in black on white PVC slats which can rotate around a central support. It is said that Mari gave the object its shape having been inspired either by railways signals that he loved so much as a child, or by animals, his love of which manifested from the game "16 Animals", produced too, by Danese. In fact, its size, 15x6x9 cm, brings to mind the beak of a pelican (when closed), or the tail feathers of a peacock (when open).
In addition to the object itself, the font has also become a must-have; Helvetica for Mari is a direct and immediate font that the designer loved deeply, and which he used in a great deal of his graphic work, such as posters, agendas, tickets, etc.
Whenever we thought of a bookcase, we were used to think of it as a set of horizontal shelves until Ron Arad has arrived on the scene.
After his architectural studies, his mind conceived a new and precise vision for the creation of a bookcase: a new flexible and meandering design, which would have altered the usual bookcase concept so impressed in our minds for ever.
At first the bookcase was almost an experiment with its unusual name of "Bookworm", and completely made of a steel plate. In 1994, Kartell - the pioneer Company in the field of plastic furnishing accessories - showed its interest in this design.
This how the final "Bookworm" was born, made of a flexible extruded thermoplastic material offering a wide range of colours to customers, without compromising the strength, stability and functionality usually associated to steel.
The biggest innovation was however its use. In fact, each person can arrange it according to their wish, the available space, and their own possibilities... it is like creating a sculpture from scratch. The "Bookworm" is undoubtedly a design icon and can be found almost everywhere, homes, offices, shops, and locations around the world.
Is this the first foam rubber and polyurethane foam armchair in history? Yes, it is! It is the Poltrona Lady.
The Poltrona Lady was conceived by Marco Zanuso in 1949 for the then Arflex company, a brand created by Pirelli to design new seating systems in upholstered foam. Thanks to its easier reproduction technique, it was an immediate success.
A design icon with an immediate effect on the market, thanks to its cheerful style given by the contrast between a voluminous body and the slender legs that highlights its entire sinuous shape. As stated above, the industrial production process has been fundamental for its success because it allowed the creation of new prototypes with fresh appreciable patterns and outlines, with previously unthinkable industrial standards. The armchair is made up of four foam rubber elements which are subsequently assembled on the frame.
Today, the Cassina Company has inherited this marvel of design and enriched it by producing an exclusive series of fabrics designed by Raf Simons.
Marcello Nizzoli & Giuseppe Beccio
Olivetti's Lettera 22 is well known for being the first portable typewriter, accessible to everyone.
Marketed in 1950, it immediately became a cult object since it entered in the everyday life of teachers, employees, and artists. Thanks to its clear-cut and linear design, it created the perfect combination of aesthetic beauty and functionality.
The operating mechanism consisted of pressure levers with a QZERTY layout. The key of its success was the compact and pratical dimensions, 32.4 cm wide 29.8cm deep and only 8.3cm high, for a total of 4kg.
Its name has accompanied famous names of literature and journalism, such as Ernest Hemingway, Oriana Fallaci, Enzo Biagi, and Pier Paolo Pasolini, and it won the First Place in the competion among the 100 best design products made in the last 100 years in 1959. It is also exhibited in some of the most famous museums in the world, including the MOMA in New York.
Who can resist to the charm of Ultrafragola?
Created by the genius mind of Ettore Sottsass for the Poltronova Brand, the Ultrafragola mirror / lamp fills every space with beauty, thanks to its pink light and its two meters high shape.
The soft, rounded, and sinuous shapes correspond to the frame of the mirror. When it is turned off, the frame is grey but, as soon as it is turned on it becomes a portal towards a fantastic world, thanks to its particular colour. The frame is made of a thermo-perforated opal plastic material with a built-in neon light.
Sottsass's idea was to find the inspiration in one of the most famous fairy tales in the world, Alice in Wonderland by L. Carrol, and to honour all women in general......why?
Because the dreamlike shape of this mirror / lamp seems a real portal towards a world to be discovered, in which the mirror and the lamp blend to create this piece of iconic design. Furthermore, its soft and concise shape is a tribute to the delicate vanity of all women.
Anna Castelli Ferrieri
At present, the playful Kartell's Componibili are still among the Company's Best Sellers, worldwide famous and even part of the permanent collection of the Modern Museum of Art in New York and the Pompidou Centre in Paris.
The Componibili were designed by Anna Castelli Ferrieri, one of the first Italian women to graduate in Architecture; the modular elements reflect both a minimal and cheerful aesthetic and the modernity that was gaining ground in those years.
The modular elements are the expression of the tastes of the 60s, characterised by the economic boom and great, creative, and innovative ideas.
The design field, as well as the industrial sector, were inspired by the economic development and the "mass production" became a reference also for the aesthetic. In those years, plastic is the new state of art material, and it will be used to realise the Componibili. Flexibility, modularity, and lightness are the key words which emphasize the creative strength of these modular elements.
Thanks to their various colours, the great practicality, and the ability to perfectly adapt to every room at home, the Componibili achieved a great success immediately.
Charles & Ray Eames
At first, after its conception, this item was not highly appreciated, but it has become a success over the years. At present, it is one of the most copied and reproduced design objects in history.
In 1953, the Eames couple decided to design and manufacture this coat rack to teach children how to hang clothes in a playful and funny way. At the beginning, the spheres were made of beech wood and of different colours; over the years, their colours has undergone many variations to be adapted to the habits of each time.
Anyway, the most famous Hang It All is still the one made of coloured spheres reminiscent of "lollipops", placed as terminals of a set of metal tracks made of iron and steel which intersect each other with soft lines. The spheres were initially handcrafted using a lathe while now, they are produced through a numerical control process, thanks to the new technologies.
The distance between the spheres is always constant, thus allowing to place and adapt it to different rooms. The Eames couple have often used the combination of wood and metal in their designs, and this is why the Hang It All is one of their most iconic products.
by Martinelli Luce
A captivating and futuristic design evoking a cobra ready to attack...this is the soul of this iconic lamp designed by Elio Martinelli, and now produced by the Martinelli Luce Company in Lucca.
The Cobra Lamp combines dynamic and elegant lines with creativity and technical professionalism thanks to the use of polymers, a material that has always sparked interest in Italy. This great interest has led Giulio Natta to be awarded with the Nobel Prize in 1963 for his studies on plastic materials.
Why is this Lamp called Cobra?
Because of the great peculiarity of this lamp: its transformism. Its initial shape can be inscribed inside a simple sphere, but it can be changed with a single touch all of a sudden. Through the rotation of its upper part the lamp becomes "S" shaped recalling a leap of a cobra ready to attack.
It can be used both as light point in an environment and as functional element on a desk, in either forms, spherical or transformed.
The fusion of creativity, inspiration, technique, and geometry has created one of the most fascinating design icons in the history of Italian design.
The unique LC2 armchair, designed by Le Corbusier, can be certainly included in the panorama of iconic and eternal pieces of design.
Le Corbusier designed it by meticulously studying the positions of the human body in all forms, basically sketching a seating model able to universally embrace such positions, in which aesthetics and functionality harmoniously blend.
The LC2 model was first designed in 1928 along with Pierre Jeanneret and Charlotte Perriande and manufactured by the Company Thonet for the first time; later on, the second edition was launched by the Gallery Owner Heidi Weber of Zurigo in 1959. In 1964, the Italian Company Cassina acquired the rights of the LC1, LC2, LC3 and LC4 models.
In 2010, the LC collection was expanded with other wooden models designed by Le Corbusier only, without the intervention of the colleagues above.
Its structure is made up of high quality flat and tubular pieces of steel masterfully welded together that supports the whole structure; the coating is made of a protective chrome plating (introduced in 1950). The structure is finished by (leather or fabric) cushions whose separation fully expresses the logic of rationalism. A concentrate of elegance, quality, and creativity.
Over the course of his working life, Verner Panton produced many design icons, among which the famous curved chair "S" made of plastic. However, that was not the most striking piece of design he created. Verner always tried to blend the geometric shapes with the Scandinavian modernism, and the union of these two styles allowed to create an inimitable icon design, the Heart Cone Chair.
At first, the chair was designed for a Danish restaurant and its name simply was "Cone Chair", due to the geometric shape to which the chair was inspired. Later, as a result of a change to the original design, the chair was embellished with a heart-shaped silhouette which led to its new name: Heart Cone Chair.
The large protruding wings of the chair delicately hug you, giving an ergonomic and comfortable feeling. The swivel base, made of stainless steel, houses the semi-circular padded shell that extends upwards to form the seatback and to create this unmistakable dynamic and elegant shape. The fabric is available in many chromatic variations, although red still remains the main colour to further accentuate the delicate and unique heart-shape of this chair.
Pier Giacomo and Achille Castiglioni
The first word you can think of while watching a Snoopy Lamp is maybe "ironic".
Its lines deliberately recall the homonymous dog famous since the 1950s for the comics, and its shape is not an end in itself. When the Snoopy Lamp was conceived, became one of the most innovative lamps of the time as it introduced completely new lighting concepts, in which the technology was one of the main aspects.
The lamp is balanced by sober-looking materials, such as the Carrara marble of the base and the painted metal reflector. The technological innovation of that time was precisely in the marble base which houses both the switch and the transistor for the adjustment of the light intensity, controlled through a small rotary knob with a minimum dimension. Nowadays that system has been obviously replaced by a touch dimmer sensor.
The metal reflector stands on the marble base and creates an asymmetry determined by the inclination of the base that is oblique in relation to the top. The base has been the subject of a careful study to perfectly distribute its parts and grant the maximum possible stability.
To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Snoopy, one of the most iconic lamps in history, Flos has created a limited edition consisting of 1700 pieces. A special edition that brings back to light the original project, now kept at the Achille Castiglioni Foundation.
by Fritz Hansen
Designed for the Radisson Sas Hotel in Copenhagen, Arne had conceived it by reinterpreting the classic Bergère armchair in a modern key; a new idea of seating: a delicate and enveloping armchair, like a nest egg, from which the armchair's name derives. It was specifically designed for a hotel lobby as it offers you a relaxing, more informal, and comfortable corner, sheltered from the tactless eyes of hotel users thanks to the presence of the "ears" on the backrest.
A seat that acquires the features of a sculpture, where the egg represents the metaphor of life, in which religion and philosophy are in contrast. A backrest shell which welcomes and shelters you, a soft, welcoming, and protective upholstery, a delicate line inviting to relaxation.
Its fiberglass and polyurethane foam structure allows to recline the backrest and to cover it with a variety of leather and fabrics, so that the armchair can be positioned in any environment, from the most classic to the most eclectic. By means of his pencil, Jacobsen has eliminated edges and rigid shapes and has followed a path dominated by soft and sinuous curves, thus creating a well-being armchair, whose success is still timeless today.
When we mention the name of Fornasetti, we immediately think of something magic,
in which the fantastic and the surreal blend to create that kind of craftsmanship that finds its greatest support in art.
Piero Fornasetti has created a recognizable style, unique in the world, where decoration is the key to create functional and bold design icons; his tradition is now followed by his son Barnaba Fornasetti who manages the Company.
The turning point for Fornasetti arrived in the 1950s; after the establishment of his Atelier in 1952, he discovered the face of Lina Cavalieri in a magazine. Lina was a well-known 19th century opera singer. Fornasetti was so fascinated and enchanted by her beauty that conceived an entire series entitled "Theme and Variations" in her honour; the singer's face was depicted in over 350 different versions on everyday objects, but - above all - on plates made of porcelain.
Whether the image is characterised by glasses, flying insects, entrapped behind bars, the face of Lina Cavalieri is always recognizable thus becoming an important collection object.
Fornasetti was thus able to create small artworks thanks to a single face transfiguring it through art and metaphysical games, visions and details thanks to his design....so the Made in Italy became even more unique and bewitching.
Hans J. Wegner
by Carl Hansen & Søn
The view of a 3-leg chair might surprise you, but the beauty and functionality of the CH07 Chair created by the Danish designer Hans Wegner in 1963 makes people smile, exactly like the shape of the chair.
A light chair with soft lines in which elegance and organic shapes intertwine, thus making its style famous and everlasting, a real icon of design.
It is also called "smiling chair" or "shell chair", and despite its three legs it is absolutely stable, thanks to the great skills of Wegner in architecture and cabinet making. In the past, Wegner said: "a chair must be beautiful from all sides and angles", and this is undoubtedly visible in the design of this great iconic object.
The materials used for its construction are of the highest quality: the back and the seat are made of laminated wood in pressed shapes, while the front legs - with soft and light lines - are made from a single piece of laminated wood. The seat and the back are upholstered with fabric or leather, sometimes even characterised by chromatic plays.
When it was conceived, its shape and particularity was not appreciated and its production was interrupted in the seventies; in 1998, when the times were ripe, the production of the chair restarted and won numerous design awards.
Its beauty is still produced in its original version by Carl Hansen & Søn in Denmark.
Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni
If the Taccia Lamp is not regarded as the design icon par excellence, what another object could ever be considered as such?
The Taccia Lamp was born from the brilliant idea of the Castiglioni brothers, in 1962. Although its neoclassical design with support reminds a Greek column, it was actually inspired by the design of stove pipes, for their characteristic of heat dispersion.
As the brothers admitted, the lamp was initially imagined in a wrong way. At that time, driven by the enthusiasm for new synthetic materials they decided to use transparent plastic to produce it, but the heat of incandescent bulbs deformed this material, that became like a flat sheet. Hence the idea of changing the material and to use the glass.
The inimitable Taccia was then born. The base is made of "naturally" anodized extruded aluminium or black painted, outlined by protrusions to improve the heat diffusion of the bulb; the upper part of the lamp consists of a swivelling deep glass diffuser, on which a concave, white enamelled, aluminium disc is placed. The bulb is hidden inside the metal base thus resulting in a mild, non-blinding light thanks to the clearness of the glass of the bell.
Beyond the initial difficulties, the story has a happy ending: in fact, as Castiglioni said: "The Taccia Lamp is the Mercedes of lamps, a symbol of success”.
And success has arrived and continues over time.
Since its creation in 2010, the Nemo Armchair has become a worldwide recognised design icon. Its designer, Fabio Novembre, often attributes his works to the Greek culture, theatre, and statuary art.
This eclectic, enigmatic and in some ways disquieting armchair is not a simple seat, but a sculpture-armchair which combines and blends design, functionality, and contemporary art, almost with a theatrical feature. Everyone's attention and curiosity is captured by its impressive size, regardless of its position, in enclosed spaces of different types or in a garden.
The backrest recalls the features of a human face with classic features, an inexpressive mask with empty eyes, devoid of memory and expression, a face out of time. Its high and cosy backrest creates an embracing place to hide yourself. The polyethylene seat can be assembled on both a swivel and a fixed base and the colours range from white to red, from black to grey.
In 2020, to celebrate the tenth anniversary of its creation, the installation NEMO OMNI was presented during the event Milano Design City. To promote equality and inclusiveness, the armchair was proposed in five different Skin Tone colours; as the face also represents the beauty, it cannot be represented by a single colour.
A design icon capable to blend art, culture, community, expressions, and global messages of inclusiveness.
The Panton chair was designed by Verner Panton with the idea of creating an object that perfectly adhered to the body lines. It was conceived between 1959-1960 but put into production by Vitra only in 1967.
The stylish iconic Panton chair was made out in one single piece, and due to its as unusual as surprising shape it easily became one of the cult objects of the twentieth century. In 1971, it even became the cause of scandal for a piece of a British magazine, when Amanda Lear showed her body leaned against the chair in a sensual way.
Several years have gone by from the design to the production, as at that time it was exceedingly difficult, if not almost impossible, to realise its cantilevered shape by defying the gravity laws. Thanks to the innovative material it was made of (polyester combined with fibreglass and polyurethane) and the availability of various types of colours, the Panton chair immediately became an amazing item, perfect for any furnishing context.
There was, however, another problem to overcome, its high production cost; in fact, towards the end of the 70s the production of the Panton was stopped. It took ten years more to have it back on the market, thanks to a new material, the polyurethane foam which has a cheaper cost; since then, it has become a real pop icon.
In 2017, to celebrate the half century from its conception, two limited editions were produced: the Panton Chrome and the Panton Glow. Thanks to a metallisation process, the Panton Chrome acquires a mirror finish, while the Glow is realised through a tricky process where five layers of paint, containing phosphorescent pigments, are laid; the layers, absorbing the sunlight, give out a wonderful light blue glow in the dark.
The Bourgie Table Lamp is a timeless best seller that has entered in the Olympus of design thanks to its creator Ferruccio Laviani, who designed it for Kartell. Thanks to its ideational concept, this lamp brings different generations together.
Its name says it all!
The inspiration struck him while he was listening to the song "Bourgie, bourgie" by the Gladys Knight & The Pips, that teased the bourgeoisie in the 1970s; this is why he decided to design an object that undermined the idea of classic and formal in an ironic way.
So, he decided to choose the style of a seventeenth-century object as an example, and to turn it upside-down by using an innovative material, the polycarbonate which transformed the classic object into a pop icon. Its transparency and the contrast between shape and support give a contemporary look to the lamp, without affecting its traditional shape. The lamp is now produced in different colours, making it suitable for any environment.
Its two-dimensional base is characterised by curved and winding shapes, reminiscent of the Baroque style, which convey in the lampshade made with a pleated effect. Its attachment system allows to transform the lamp according to the occasions, thus becoming an office, desk, or a bedside lamp, even a floor one.
A timeless spectacular icon of cult design.
by De Padova
by Ligne Roset
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe
fabric version by Cappellini
plastic version for outdoors by Magis
by Knoll International
by B&B Italia
Achille e Pier Giacomo Castiglioni
Charles & Ray Eames