Italians Design It Better

by Danilo Brunetti

When it comes to high-end furniture design, Italy has the market cornered. Tiffany Parks investigates.

It’s no surprise that the country that gave us the Colosseum, the Sistine Chapel, and the Ferrari is also the world leader in furniture design. Centuries, nay millennia, of experience in engineering, art, architecture, and fashion have brought the country to the forefront of art-level furniture design. Design is not only what Italy does best; it’s what it does, quite possibly, better than any other country on the planet. The secret may lie in Italian design’s perfect balance between innovation and tradition, creativity and minimalism. Understated pieces, both elegant and functional, pack a hefty style punch without the need for clutter, gimmicks,
or kitsch. Hand-in-hand with superior design comes the flawless quality of the raw materials and the meticulous attention to detail that any object bearing the Made in Italy label—be it a Murano glass chandelier or an Armani suit—proudly possesses. So who are the industry leaders? Kartell is perhaps best known for its simple yet surprising chairs and stools, Antonio Lupi specializes in luxurious and elegant bathrooms, Paola Lenti focuses on sumptuous outdoor furniture, Zanotta expresses its creativity in the form of perfectly balanced sofas and couches, and DePadova’s iconic shelving systems have become a must-have in any design lover’s home. Artemide is the undisputed leader when it comes to Italian lighting design, and other important names in illumination include Fabbian, Foscarini, Mazzega1946, and Ailati Lights, all companies founded in the northeastern region of Veneto.

And that’s just the beginning. Brands like Flexform, Giorgetti, Poliform, Minotti, and B&B Italia offer solutions that can turn any room in your house into a temple to contemporary design. Perhaps most popular on the international market is the renowned Italian kitchen. Open shelving, vintage-style appliances, and shabby-chic trends so popular across the pond are eschewed in Italy for an ultra-modern and minimalistic approach. Streamlined cupboards and countertops meld seamlessly with their appliances to create a look that is clean, sophisticated, and thoroughly on-trend. The impeccable quality of the materials used and their long history in the sector have made Italian kitchens among the most sought-after in the world. The most prestigious names in Italian kitchen design include Dada, Aran, Berloni, Scavolini, Febal, Snaidero, Lube, Valcucine, and Modulnova. If you’d like to take home an Italian design object but don’t want to break the bank, opt for a small appliance or kitchen gadget.

There’s nothing more quintessentially Italian (and portable) than a classic Bialetti stovetop espresso maker. Place the iconic coffee pot on your stove and your kitchen will instantly look more Italian—the cheapest makeover imaginable. Alessi is another brand that has defined Italian style one utensil at a time. Most famous for their corkscrew shaped like a girl, Alessi boasts a list of designers that reads like a who’s who of creativity and innovation. Their original and functional products also make excellent conversation starters. If your tastes take a retro inclination, Smeg produces a line of small appliances, namely toasters electric kettles, juicers, blenders, and mixers, that perfectly encapsulate the 1950s style, in delicious colors that range from mint green and baby blue to bubblegum pink and cherry red.

Where to find it:

So you’ve decided to purchase a piece of Italian design of your very own—or maybe you’re planning to go all out and revamp your entire home all’italiana— well, you’ve come to the right place. Milan may be the capital of Italian furniture design—just as it is for fashion—but that’s not to say that Rome doesn’t get in on the action. The Eternal City is littered with stores, large and small, specializing in the biggest names in Italian furniture design. Most offer international shipping and sales tax refunds. Here are a few of our favorites:
Mobilnovo – Via Anastasio II, 70, 88, 100,103, 113 – Via Sicilia, 267 – Via G. Ferrari, 7
Frattali – Via Aurelia, 676.
Fattorini – Via Arenula, 55.
Stuarr – Via Gregorio VII, 307.
Arcon – Via della Scrofa, 104/108.