From everyday cutlery to the emblematic Pirelli skyscraper, the “father of modern Italian design” achieved an unparalleled scale of work throughout his career that spanned 13 countries and 120 companies. Always faithful to the concepts of industrial design, his most famous work is a reimagining of the “chiavarine” chairs - the iconic Cassina 1957 Superleggera! By creating a “chair-chair” that was reassuring in its normality and functionality (and so light at 1.7kg that it could be lifted with a single finger), Ponti essentially began a new design movement focused on the pragmatic needs of modern life. Of course there are other gorgeous chairs in his oeuvre - such as the Distex lounge chair, the Lotus lounge chair, and the rare Mariposa armchair - but none with quite the same implications for international design.
Albini began his career as a student of Ponti, combining traditional Italian craftsmanship with inexpensive materials. Driven by a minimalistic, modernist and highly aesthetic vision, he designed the “Margherita” and “Gala” woven cane chairs before moving onto the more bold and structural style that the “Fiorenza” and “Luisa” chairs embody. A personal favourite here at Convelio is his “Libreria Veliero” bookcase, one of his most experimental pieces that seeks an unstable equilibrium through the shape of a sailing boat. The books seem to float in space, making it a gorgeous decorative addition to any space.
A life and design in technicolour, Ettore Sottsass was not one for subtle creations. By founding the game-changing Memphis Group in Milan, he essentially shattered the creative limits that the industry had previously dictated with a powerful mix of pop art, art deco and postmodernism. His joyful and multicoloured creations include the Superbox cabinet, the Ultrafragola mirror, the Tahiti and Treetops lamps, Poupouf armchairs, and the iconic Carlton bookcase.
As another influential architect-designer hybrid in this list, Pesce distinguishes himself with a highly tuned political sensibility that translates into his design pieces. His most famous work is undoubtedly the Up chair and ottoman - also known in Italy as La Mamma, Big Mama, and La Donna - a shapely armchair with feminine curves and a prisoner’s ball chained to it to represent the repressed state of women in the world.
Giacomo e Achille Castiglioni
The Castiglioni brothers are the Italian power-duo of design. Their shared vision of clean, pragmatic creations gifted us with the Lierna chair (there are those that say that you cannot be a great designer unless you create a chair... by this point of the list it seems that this ironic saying may be true). The most iconic creation, however, is the 1962 Flos Arco overhead lamp - the first suspension lamp that did not hang from the ceiling and could be easily moved around the house! It has been enshrined into history, protected from plagiarism, and exhibited in the most important museums in the world.
There are many, many other designers that have influenced history - Gae Aulenti, Giotto Stoppino, Joe Colombo, Livio Castiglione, Afra and Tobia Scarpa, Mazza Sergio e Gramigna Giuliana, Paolo Rizzatto to name a few - and this list does not intend to be exhaustive. We hope that this article encourages you to bring the best of Italian design into your galleries, showrooms and personal spaces. Our team will be more than happy to ship timeless design pieces for you or your clients in the classic Convelio “quick, easy, and transparent” way!