To see what makes Italian chairs so special, one just has to look at each piece’s top-end quality, timeless design style and attention to detail – with handcrafted items being the standard. Fortunately, what started in Italy has become very popular across the globe, with Italian furniture design becoming increasingly cherished and renowned.
Built to last generations, an Italian chair is handmade using only the best quality materials, and manufactured in small quantities. This means that they will long outlast an ordinary, cheaper alternative, which is otherwise mass produced. By now, it should come as no surprise that buying an Italian chair will serve as a worthy investment – and lifelong companion.
Traditional vs. Modern Italian Furniture Design
What makes Italian design so unique, is that no matter how modern the designer’s approach is, they will always encompass traditional Italian influences.
This means that an Italian furniture piece will appear timeless and beautiful, no matter which era it came from. In fact, some of the best Italian pieces have come as a result of modern technology or style meeting traditional design.
Gio Ponti and the “Superleggera” Chair (1891 – 1979)
“Design creates culture. Culture shapes values. Values determine the future.” – Gio Ponti
Gio Ponti – also known as the ‘Father of Modern Italian Design’ – is a great example of a designer who took inspiration from traditional Italian design and created a modern day work of art.
In 1957 he drew structural inspiration from an Italian designer, Giuseppe Gaetano Descalzi, and his ‘Chiavari Chair’ created in 1807. He named his new creation the “Superleggera” or “Superlight Chair.”
Keeping with traditional design, it was engineered with the highest craftsmanship, skill and grace. What truly made his design unique was how lightweight, yet comfortable it was. Each leg was only 18mm wide. The total weight of the chair was so light that even a young boy could pick it up, using only his little finger.
Many aspects of the Superlight Chair’s design can still be found in chair design today – perhaps even more so than you may realise.
Carlo de Carli and his “Model 683” Chair and “Balestra” Armchair (1910 – 1999)
“A chair, an armchair or a table must be elements in which one can feel an individual presence…their design should respond to the thinking and the actions of the people who live in that environment.” – Carlo de Carli
Carlo de Carli was a modernist designer, who made most of his pieces during the Second World War and early seventies. In 1954, he was awarded the highest industrial design honour in Italy for his chair design, “Model 683.”
The Model 683 Chair was designed using a sheet of curved, ash plywood for both its seat and backrest. It’s elegant structure and pointed legs were stylishly bolted together, making it both impressive visually and in durability.
In 1957 Carli was awarded the Triennale Grand Prix for his “Balestra” or “Crossbow” Armchair. This was one of the most popular and famous armchairs ever created by Carli.
For this design he used a varnished steel structure which was painted black and held the seat and backrest independently. He used a red-brown fabric to upholster the armchair. It’s sleek structure had an organic, curved flow to it.
Later on, Carli was Ponti’s student and worked at the studio of Gio Ponti for a year. In 1962, it was eventually handed over to him.
Antonio Citterio and the “Thomas” Armchair (1950 – )
“I make things for myself. If I won’t surround myself with these things, I don’t make them.” – Antonion Citterio
Antonio Citterio was born in the north of Italy in 1950. In 1972, before even completing his architectural degree, he opened his first office at the early age of 22. In 1987 and 1995 he was awarded the highly respected Compasso d’Oro, the highest honour in Italian industrial design.
Since then, he has won many others and will no doubt win many more to come. Today, he is easily one of the biggest names in modern architecture and design. His designs over the years have become so sought after and adored that in 2002, he was inducted into Interior Design magazine’s “Hall of Fame.”
An exquisite example of one of his works is that of the “Thomas” Chair created in the year 2000. The Thomas Chair has an undeniably sturdy, teak wooden structure which supports an exceptional carrying capacity. It’s backrest curves in all the right places, to provide the perfect back support.
Yet again, Citterio showcases impeccable design meets practicality with the Thomas Chair. For the seat itself, Citterio chose 300mm thick dacron and foam batting, nestled inside removable fabric cushion covers.