Brass and metals with warm tones push cold steel aside; craftsmanship makes objects unique. Clear references to the bourgeois style that was intrinsic to the birth of Italian furniture design, now in pursuit of a new identity.
Or the rediscovery of our roots, with forceful decor, inspired by tradition, in dialogue with spaces and users. Italian masters like Franco Albini, Luigi Caccia Dominioni, Ignazio Gardella and Gio Ponti created furniture as an integral part of their works of architecture.
Those custom solutions were then produced in series, giving rise to the first Italian design companies: Azucena, Arflex, Cassina and Zanotta , to name just a few. Furnishings thus came from precise contexts and a new enlightened clientele, at times even involved in the same business initiatives. A design conceived for people and functions, not primarily for the industry.
This is the framework with which Claudio Lazzarini and Carl Pickering can identify, in their second collection for MSÉ, Marta Sala Éditions, run by the niece of Caccia Dominioni, heir to the know-how of the family firm Azucena.
“The MSÉ collection,” Lazzarini & Pickering explain, “is composed of furnishings and accessories Marta has freely selected from the archives of the items we have designed for our works of architecture over the years: for specific people, places and functions. This approach to design corresponds to the attitude of the Italian masters like Gardella, Caccia Dominioni and Ponti, who made furnishings by interpreting the context and the clientele.
This coincidence of attitude makes us feel close to them, and has led Marta to choose us for her new project. For example, our sofas have variable depth to offer maximum comfort for all. The seat is cut by a curve and the depth changes to generate a balance of forms and a new image. A sofa with a comfortable, composed, nonchalant way of sitting, as requested by Elisabeth, our client, with whom we discussed the project.
Marta decided to put it into production, and now the sofa is called Elisabeth. The names of the MSÉ pieces are those of the clients for whom they were first created. And behind every name there is a story.” Not just in the approach, but also in the making, the furnishings keep their distance from industry. “Our pieces were made as one-offs, by craftsmen, with traditional techniques and materials. MSÉ, with great skill, manages to conserve the same aura.”
Federico Peri is a young designer based in Milan, nominated for the German Design Award 2017. Galleria Nilufar recently hit the design market with a collection of his furnishings that interpret the style of the 1950s with a personal touch, especially in terms of typological definition. They are multifunctional, rational, timeless creations.
Living in a Chair, for example, is a cabinet with an incorporated chaise longue and materic contrasts that make it seem familiar and original at the same time. When asked what his references from the past are, Peri responds: “I feel close to a statement of Gruppo 7, namely: ‘there is no incompatibility between our past and our present. We do not want to break with tradition: it is the tradition that transforms itself, taking on new aspects.’
I observe the work of the great masters, from Franco Albini to Ico Parisi, Osvaldo Borsani to BBPR. And above all Carlo Scarpa for the research on details. I also look at the brands with which they worked, laying the groundwork for Italian design. I feel the need to get back to designing with authentic materials, as happened in those years: wood, metal, stone. Materials that marked the origins of Italian design and are gaining ground on the market today, though in a contemporary guise.”
As for the international trend towards things inspired by 1950s design, Peri asserts: “Designers who are ‘trendsetters’ have made a name on the international scene by looking to the past: re-presenting it as it was, or revising the style while conserving its reminders. Furthermore, the design galleries, though they address a niche market, have become a reference point for sector professionals, media and collectors, nurturing interest in these themes.”
Designer and architect Nikita Bettoni interprets metal, the material found in the production of De Castelli, through refined manual techniques and an aesthetic that references the early days of Italian furniture design.
The Details collection stands out for pure materials, but with warm tones, with slightly rounded and lightened yet still severe forms. “The collection,” Bettoni explains, “wants to be an explicit reference to products made in Italy with fine craftsmanship. A quality that thanks to its combination with modern techniques has reached very high levels.
Made in Italy means the ability to put traditional methods in touch with modern tools to achieve something unique, based on good design and lots of good taste.” Bettoni can also see a return to the Italian 1950s: “Both in terms of design and of lifestyle, we are going through a return to that period because it was full of ideas, hopes, desire for change.
Design was making its first experiments for a new social class as it emerged, with ‘bourgeois’ decor that was clearly different from the past but still a far cry from the industrial production of the decade to follow. The return to that period indicates nostalgia for the great expectations of the postwar period.”
Text by Valentina Croci