30 July 2020

Around the world in 80 designs

Planning and travelling go hand-in-hand. Furthermore, the same spirit underpins both these two human activities: open, curious and bold. Thus there are few designers or brands that haven’t got at least one object inspired by a place, loved, lived-in or just imagined, in their portfolios. These are the furnishings that don’t just tell stories, they also carry suggestions and emotions, open up perspectives and trigger new adventures. At the start of a season that has always been devoted to exploration – near or far, urban or exotic, hot or cold – but perhaps more “restrained” this year, we are proposing an ideal journey around the world in 80 design pieces: to broaden our horizons and make our spaces more meaningful.


Starting our journey in Italy, iconic Venice has always held hosts of artists and creatives spellbound. The Parisian designer Philippe Starck has not remained immune to its enchantment, producing his Venice chair for Kartell as a tribute to the city, reinterpreting the mood of the classic historic Venetian café chairs. Nor has the Milanese designer Claudio Bellini, who has dedicated a console of the same name to it, produced by Riva1920, its solid Briccola wooden posts reminiscent of the old poles in the Lagoon. The Eternal City has often exerted the same pull, inspiring the design of the Roma table-sculpture by Gio Minelli and Marco Fossati for De Castelli, which channels the rounded, capacious form of the brasiers, its iridescent top reminiscent of the permanently glowing embers. Vito Nesta, in collaboration with CO.DE Contemporary Design by Jannelli&Volpi, has also drawn on the Roman Springtime for the Primavere collection by Grand Tour, captured at a precise time of year, hovering twixt dream and reality, and focusing on the amphora as a significant object. Bologna, too, home to the oldest university in the world, couldn’t help but inspire new forms, such as Achille and Piergiacomo Castiglioni’s Sanluca armchair – as in the famous photo that portrays it beneath the arcades, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site – initially produced by Gavina and, later, by Poltrona Frau.

A new favourite spot for the international jet set, Lake Como, is loved by stars, artists, politicians and intellectuals, all in search a new slow, expanded time to spend on its banks. Baxter has dedicated a bed to the city from which the lake takes its name, with a headboard that comes in poplar plywood or leather-covered spruce. The rather more glam Bellagio is behind the design for Gordon Guillaumier’s table of the same name for Minotti: a single curved wooden base resting on a bronze-coloured metal support – colours that cite those of the coastline on which the town is situated. Glamora’s Bellagio wallpaper echoes the surrounding countryside, with its fascinating, ever-changing soft, evanescent, fluid landscapes, its plants and flowers, its reflections and its refractions. SCIC has dedicated an entire kitchen concept to it, designed by the architects Anna and Enrico Cattaneo, boasting an embossed matelassé texture in a range of sophisticated shades.

Those who opt for a mountain holiday might gravitate towards Cortina, the beating heart of the Dolomites and a sophisticated and exclusive tourist destination, surrounded by splendid mountain peaks, famous not just for its beautiful landscape, but also for its excellent hospitality. Gordon Guillaumier has named his timelessly elegant, small armchair, which is extremely comfortable and boasts sophisticated detailing, again for Minotti, after the town.

Moving on down towards Tuscany, that enchanted land of cities of art and picturesque small villages, bucolic landscapes and rolling hills, Carrara has lent its name to the statuesque and minimalist luminator by Alfredo Häberli for Luceplan. Siena means harmony to Naoto Fukasawa; and so B&B Italia has christened the bed designed for the brand by the master after the city, channelling the sinuous hills around it alongside the traditional simplicity of the Japanese-inspired tatami. Gumdesign, gives shape to the tastes and colours of this area with Bolgheri, the new freestanding sink for Antonio Lupi, its colours rendering the green leaves and fruit of the olive trees, the reddish brown of the grapes and the wine, and the deep blue of the sea.

However, Italy is first and foremost the Mediterranean country vaunting 7,900 km of coastline from north to south, which plays its part in defining both territory and spirit. This sea has made the country famous throughout the world. With its waters, its resorts and its islands, it’s impossible not to be dazzled. Take for example Ignazio Gardella’s Arenzano, one of his most famous lamps, originally designed for Azucena, and now re-edited by Tato. Aldo Londi’s famous Rimini Blu collection was inspired by the city of the same name, each piece coated in a blue glaze comprised of an precise mixture of cobalt, emerald and aquamarine hues, channelling the sunlight dancing on the sea. Paola Navone has also come up trumps for Baxter, with a sophisticated deck chair with folding footrests, in specially treated, weather-resistant leather. Enzo Mari, was captivated by all the Italian islands, designing a whole series of objects dedicated to them for Danese: the Ventotene pen holder, the Giglio paperknife, the Lampedusa pencil holder and the Cicladi and Murano vases. Another island, another collection. CMP Design’s Panarea armchair and lounge chair for Pedrali are distinguished by their hand-woven backrests inspired by the Mediterranean coastline, and drawn from its colours. Last but not least is Capri, which inspired the mosaic Soli a Capri, produced by Bisazza in collaboration with Fornasetti, in which the face of Piero Fornasetti takes the form of a sun, its rays lighting up the background in the same blue tones as the sea around the island.


Needless to say, there’s a whole world waiting to be discovered on the other side of the border. Without leaving the Mediterranean altogether, nearby France has several enchanting resorts just a few kilometres from the border, such as the ancient fishing village of Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, the green heart of the Côte d’Azur, and the picturesque Mediaeval town of Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, which overlooks the sea between Menton and Monaco. Carlo Colombo has dedicated two upholstered sofas, Cap Ferrat and Cap Martin Sunset to them, for Cappellini. The former is contemporary yet timeless, while the latter is inspired by elegant vintage Fifties vintage. It’s hard to resist the lure of the French Riviera, as Marta Laudani and Marco Romanelli know all too well, borne out by their elegant yet unassuming Saint Tropez table for Laboratorio Pesaro, with its refreshing interplay of colours and the essential lines of the objects. Beyond the Côte d’Azure, Marseille, one of the oldest and largest French cities lies on the coast of Provence, which Dumas described as “the meeting place of the whole world, while Le Corbusier chose it as the site for his Unité d’Habitation, also known as the “Cité Radieuse” on account of its being exposed to the sun both to the East and to the West, and which was described as “strange” and “ugly” but has now been widely revalued. In fact, Le Corbusier designed the Lampe de Marseille especially for his own apartment in Marseille at the time – an adjustable lamp with two joints on the arm and a rotating wall fixing, now produced by Nemo. Then we get to Paris, a global centre for art, fashion, gastronomy, and hugely fascinating. Who can resist its charms? Clearly not the British duo Barber Osgerby who have come up with Paris for ClassiCon, an intriguing bookcase thanks to its versatility and simple composition, featuring horizontal boards connected by thin interlocking steel partitions, obviating the need for screws or permanent fixing systems. Once in Paris, why not visit the royal palace par excellence, Versailles, where Philippe Starck saw the sunrise that inspired the Bon Jour Versailles table lamp with diffused lighting, which he designed for Flos?

While France might seem the leading influencer in terms of product naming, as we would say these days, it is certainly not the only one. Its eternal rival, England, seems to be very dear to Rodolfo Dordoni, for instance, who has designed tables, upholstereds and chairs for Molteni&C, named after London’s most iconic areas: South Kensington (armchair), Camden (sofa), Chelsea (sofa, chair, armchair collection), Belgravia (table), Mayfair (small tables) and Gatwick (table). As he says himself: “Today an object goes beyond the collection concept, it defines an atmosphere, a style and an environment in which you feel comfortable.” Berlin too has had its fair share of prominent fans, such as Charles Rennie Mackintosh, who dedicated the table of the same name to it, now produced by Cassina, I Maestri collection. It is an extendable table in natural cherrywood, a perfect balance of classic and contemporary, which Mackintosh designed in 1950. Baxter’s portfolio contains another two European capitals: Budapest, the first sofa designed for the brand by Paola Navone, a sleek, modern design, and the more recent Bruxelles, a leather-covered chair with a tubular metal frame covered in natural sage, blue or anthracite-coloured leather. Pocci + Dondoli, for their part, have incorporated two capitals into a single, fusion project for Desalto: Riga + Lisbon, a comfy, light and stackable leather-covered chair. For the same brand, Caronni + Bonanomi have come up with the Helsinki bookcase, a real passe-partout, unfussy and practical, designed to characterise the living space, and fit for any sort of purpose. Then we go to Geneva with Citco Privé’s Ginevra table with its classic top offset by the totally white base featuring alternate solids and voids – a suggestive interplay of folds and curves that create complex and intriguing shapes reminiscent of the ripples on the city’s lake. Patricia Urquiola takes us back to her native Spain, reworking an iconic Basque object, the Kaiku, a multi-use wooden utensil formerly used to milk cows, as well as for heating up liquids with a hot stone. H2O Bilbao is a ceramic jug designed for Bosa, used in the city’s restaurants for serving tap water from the city aqueduct, one of the best waters in Spain, at a token price of € 1: the profits go towards building artesian wells in Ethiopia.

Europe has its own lovely islands too. Gordon Guillaumier has dedicated a collection of freestanding containers and chairs designed for Lema to the unspoilt and unexplored Faroes, an archipelago immersed in the North Atlantic, an extraordinary natural paradise with breath-taking landscapes, picturesque fishing villages and numerous species of birds and flocks of sheep. The objects can be personalised and arranged into different compositions, playing with leather-covered padded pieces, chests of drawers of various heights and interior display cases. At the opposite extreme, the Falklands are far off, in the South Atlantic, their terrain steep and the coasts dotted with promontories, hundreds of large and small islands, which while not geographically part of Europe, fly the British flag! They were the inspiration for Bruno Munari’s Falkland suspension lamp for Artemide, its spontaneous shape formed by the opposing forces of its components – the tension of a stretched tube of fabric and the weight of a number of metal rings.

Time for a break, to dream of other destinations on other continents because, as travellers, we are well aware that “borders” constitute a temptation that is hard to resist.

Top image: Panarea, Pedrali, CMP Design - art direction Studio FM ©Andrea Garuti

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