The glamour of Italian Design

Technical genius creating iconic and stylish cars, lamps, tools that have been the expression of an era and changed our imaginary for ever? Yes, we are talking of the Italian design heroes here!

700px-Ngv_design,_michele_de_lucchi,_first_chair,_1983Photo CC BY by Sailko
Italian design definition includes interior design, urban design, fashion design and architectural design alike. Italy is a worldwide trendsetter still nowadays in this fields and surely one of the leaders in design: Italian architects such as Achille Castiglioni, Pier Giacomo Castiglioni and Luigi Caccia claims that “Quite simply, we are the best” and that “We have more imagination, more culture, and are better mediators between the past and the future”.

Italy today still has a vast influence on urban design, industrial design and fashion design around the entire world. Italy’s iconic design features in the best museums and has established into the common brand “Made in Italy”. We want to celebrate its great history and mark left in the contemporary design understanding how they did it.

Italy has in fact produced some of the greatest furniture designers in the world, such as Gio Ponti and Ettore Sottsass. But the story goes back in time up to the 1900s when Italian interior design was already well-known, meaning to all class and sophistication.

In the early 1900s, facing with the artistic revolutions of the time, Italian furniture designers needed to create a fair balance between the classical elegance they mastered and the ex0plosion of modern creativity around, highlighting a change of sensitivity in the customers, too!.

At first, Italian design in the 1910s and 1920s was related strictly to the French art deco influence: introducing exotic materials and creating great pieces of furniture.

Italian (r)evolution

It is true that Italian art deco reached its best under Gio Ponti, who made sophisticated, elegant, stylish and creative works, with a great deal of modernity due to the exotic themes he captured inside its furniture. In 1926, a new style pushed through: the designers welcomed then the “Razionalismo”, or “Rationalism”. The most successful and famous of the Rationalists? they were a collective called the Gruppo 7, led by Luigi Figini, Gino Pollini and Giuseppe Terragni. The use of tubular steel achieved the goal of being more plain and simpler, and the Fascist adopted this style after 1934.

After World War II

However, after the tragedy of the war, it bursted out an innovative period in which Italy boasted a true avant-garde in interior design. With the end of Fascism, the rise of Socialist ideas and the 1946 RIMA exhibition, Italian ideas in interior decorating were clearly amazing.

The Italian boom spread consumerism and took the face of an economic miracle. Italy saw a huge growth in industrial factories and also in mass-production furniture. Yet, the 1960s and 1970s saw Italian interior design reach its pinnacle of stylishness, and by that point, with Pop and post-modern interiors, the phrases “Bel Design” and “Linea Italiana” entered the vocabulary of furniture design.[2] Ever since the late 1970s and early 1980s, some equipment began to be logoed by notable Italian fashion houses, such as Prada, Versace, Armani, Gucci and Moschino.[1] Examples of classic pieces of Italian furniture include Zanussi’s rigorous, creative and streamlined washing machines and fridges,[1] the “New Tone” sofas by Atrium,[1] and most famously the innovative post-modern bookcase, made by Ettore Sottsass for the Memphis Group in 1981, inspired by Bob Dylan’s song “Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again”. The bookcase became huge a cultural icon and design event of the 1980s.


Chairs & Armchairs

Proust Armchair

More than a chair, a true poetic manifesto to Mendini, who in 1978 draws a session of baroque form for Studio Alchimia, Milan, indeed very pointillist. He covered the chair completely with a colourful, handpainted dots which reproduced the Pointillist painting by Paul Signac. Impressionism, which attempted to recreate the atmospheric appearance of nature through painting, was close to Proust, and it is a clear reference to the French author and his time.

Mendini is a designer, journalist, and teacher tracing the cultural and fundamental issues in the field of design, often working closely with “sisters” disciplines such as art, architecture, philosophy and literature.


The anthropomorphic form of an armchair icon was the way Gaetano Pesce also told a personal idea about women: the chair in fact has an ottoman attached, a symbol of a certain imprisonment of the female subject.

Photo CC BY-SA by Sailko



Giuseppe Terragni, one of the fathers of Italian rationalism, is the author of this essential  perfect chair, thanks to the structure made from single profile tubular steel chrome covered by those padded parts.


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You can admire The Castiglione bothers works in museums in Israel, Germany, the USA, as well as the Milan Triennale. This chair has been designed by Achille Castiglioni in 1978 and now is at MoMa Museum in NY.


Photo CC BY-SA  by Andrea Pavanello



Laminated structure and glass top coffee table made for Memphis, , a movement of design which he was the godfather, in 1985 by Ettore Sottsass who after 30 years still retains its charm.





In movies, in magazines and in Italian homes, Arco is a constant presence in the lives of millions of people since 1962, the year of this lamp’s creation by Castiglioni for Flos: If you have, you are still required to meet.


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Its reputation precedes it as iconic: the lamp by Artemide, designed by Michele De Lucchi, not only famous for its design but also for its innovative suspension mechanism.


Photo CC-BY by Christian Aleksander



the lamp is coming as well from Artemide, designed by Ernesto Gismondi


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Olivetti Typewriter

Marcello Nizzoli created instead the legendary Olivetti typewriter that elevates art to the mix of metal gears, arms, buttons and levers that still make it unique.