Cassina – 90 years of Design Classics

This year’s Milan Furniture Fair in April (Salone del Mobile 2017) seemed to me to be the busiest I have known in the 30 years I have attended this hugely successful annual expo of the world’s greatest furniture designs.

Adding to the excitement were the sheer number of anniversaries of the leading design manufacturers. One of the most significant was that of Cassina – a very special Italian Icon that is celebrating an incredible 90 years of creating design that over the years has been widely influential, of extraordinary quality and at times, huge fun.

The Maralunga, the Laleggera. the Wink, the Cab and an entire history from the early twentieth century classics, through to quirky post modernism and beyond to today’s classics of the future, all encompass Cassina’s history which is an integral part of furniture history itself. Cassina has kept alive some of the greatest furniture classics of the 20th century by continuing to manufacture the works of Classic Maestros like Le Corbusier, Eileen Gray, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Frank Lloyd Wright and many others, strictly to the standards originally perceived in their creations.
Their 2017 collection, exhibited at their renewed Milanese showroom, a project personally curated by Patricia Urquiola, their recently appointed design director, in honour of Cassina’s rich history. Patricia herself needs no introduction to those familiar with contemporary furniture design – she is at the height of her career as one of the world’s leading designers of furniture, bathroomware, interiors and textiles. The new designs were linked with colour and lighting to create a mood of darkened pastels – muddy pinks, rusty browns, retro light blues and somewhat institutional greens.

Patricia Urquiola’s Super Beam Sofa, part of the Furniture Fair installation, is, like many of the newly introduced designs – a modification, this time of the previous Beam but with more generous dimensions and greater comfort. As with the original, the same feature steel beam links the component parts of the sofa, modular padded elements that can be combined in multiple configurations. Patricia has an amazing knack of successfully linking the hard edged industrial with the colourful spongy comfort of home.

However, her feature new sofa, The Floe Insel, is completely new. Inspired by irregular masses of ice that the designer saw on a trip to Greenland, this sofa seems to come out of the floor like sculptural monolithic icebergs. Obviously the comfort level is much higher and warmer – the gigantic cushion like components are soft and flexible enough for the sitter to create his own comfort zone. Visually, it would transform any room with its unexpected shapes that go well beyond those of an ordinary sofa – you could call the sofa parts archipelagos of relaxation.

Sometimes the dinner conversation or wine is so engrossing that everyone just stays on at the table. This calls for a chair that remains comfortable for a long evening but doesn’t look like a fusty old armchair.

The Cotone, designed by the groundbreaking French designers, the Bouroullec Brothers, fits the bill – a strong minimalist aluminium external structure supports a down filled yet stylish inner. The frame colours, copper, red, green and grey/blue give it an edge around the dining table at home or out in the business world around the meeting table.

Another excellent example of freshening up successful designs is Patrick Jouin’s new version of the Lebeau dining table which combines newly available technology with solid natural materials and traditional hand craftsmanship. Twenty two solid ashwood staves are joined by two crowns, attached by specially designed joints and then the table is hand finished creating a piece of furniture that is not only familiar and timeless with a new twist but spectacular as well.

With the wealth of new designs from Cassina and other stalwarts of the design industry like B&B Italia, Moroso, Poltrona Frau, Maxalto, Vitra and Walter Knoll, the job of selecting the future classic icons of design becomes harder every year. I always head to the fair with an expectancy of extraordinary new design and always wonder how on earth these great designers think of some new way to re-invent a sofa or dining table.

2017 certainly did not disappoint and I came away satisfied that the design industry globally is as healthy as ever and a feeling that this year will go down as one of the best I have experienced.

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